By Kristen Cooper, CEO & Founder, The Startup Ladies
The space before and after a pitch or presentation is something most people don’t think about until they get there. Then, they just kind of stumble through it to get to and through the demo. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to better understand who your audience is and build trust with them. It’s what they reveal in those spaces that will help you take the necessary steps to close the deal. Following are some simple and time efficient ways to prepare for the entire sales meeting. You’ll also find some very tactful ways to respond to naysayers and critiques in the “Anticipate and compose strategic responses” section. Thinking through, writing out, and memorizing measured responses will decrease levels of fear and anxiety and replace them with confidence.
A successful sales meeting begins well before everyone shows up on Zoom. Visualizing what needs to be done before, during, and after will allow you to feel much more comfortable during the meeting. This is especially important to do early in one’s career, in the first six months of a new job, and whenever meeting with someone with the kind of power and influence that could dramatically change the course of your work.
Sitting still outside is my favorite place to think through a big ask. However, visualizing important sales meetings comes naturally to me while on a walk, showering, or driving in the car. When I’m in the process of memorizing new content, I often practice that in the car. Visualize the entire flow of the meeting from preparation through to the follow up.
What content needs to be prepared?
What needs to be sent before the meeting?
What background information must be discovered about the prospect?
A personal reminder needs to be scheduled the day before the meeting.
Use the “P.S” in the email to introduce them to my work.
How do I need to show up for the meeting?
What does the prospect need from me?
What questions will I ask that will provide information that I can reference throughout the presentation?
Connect the prospect’s experiences to the problem/solution presented.
If they challenge me, what kind to disposition will I express?
What questions should I be prepared for?
What questions do I need to ask?
What is the minimal acceptable outcome?
Is there anyone strategic who I can introduce them to?
Who can they refer me to?
Even if the meeting goes in a direction that you could not have planned for, you will learn another way someone in the marketplace reacts to your content. You will have the opportunity to prepare a response for that type of situation in the future. What may feel like a loss will help you to win in the long term.
Factors that have nothing to do with you can influence the vibe of any meeting. Regardless, you have the ability to control your positive energy and optimism within the meeting space. While you may not be able to change the way someone feels in that moment, you can teach them how you like to interact with colleagues. Even though others may be having a bad day, they will remember how you carried yourself and made them feel.
Be ready to answer, “How are you?” and, “How is the company?” with a quick response that will make them want to talk with you. Talk about something good that has happened recently.
Take the temperature of how the person is feeling at that moment.
Mention anything positive that you’ve read about them in the press or on social media.
Ask questions about how they are doing and how the company is doing.
Ask if the prospect/company has experienced the problem you are addressing and how they solved for it.
Begin with the end: briefly explain what you hope the prospect will get out of this meeting.
Review the agenda and ask if that works for them.
Rock on with the presentation!
Anticipate and compose strategic responses.
A point and counterpoint conversation won’t be a lot of fun for anyone or establish trust. It’s common in sales to predict these types of questions and concerns a future customer will have. Plan ahead and have responses scripted and memorized. When a prospective customer/client/investor asks or suggests something that doesn’t align with the deal you are proposing don’t be deflated. Avoid being argumentative. Acknowledge that understanding the problem at this stage helps to get to a more refined solution faster. Explain how you/your team considered the very same issue and why you decided on a different approach.
Top 5 Sales Rebuttals
1. “I am concerned about the cost.” - or - “We don’t have the budget.”
Budget: I know you’re concerned about the “price” - we are too, because we want to win the work/account. However, your COST isn’t just the price of X, it’s what you could if you don’t do X. That’s why we take the time to understand the relationship between your goals, your budget, and how you want the customer experience to change so that your revenue grows sustainably.
Growth: You have to decide if the current status of X is preventing you from accelerating growth. If you don’t upgrade to X, then it will be difficult to increase Y. We’re seeing a lot of the competitors in your industry do X. Upgrading now will give you the opportunity to slingshot ahead in the market and offer customers X.
Time v. loss: The marketplace has really changed because of X. Similar companies about your size are evaluating adding/making a change to this line item for next year’s budget. However, there are risks to putting X off. (Define potential risks/losses and explain how competitors are doing something now to either stay ahead or avoid a problem.)
2. “What makes you better then a bigger company?”
It’s true, there are several other companies out there that do/sell X. We’ve validated that customers want Y.
Market gap: The reason we launched our business is because X competitors couldn’t do Y. We’re constantly collecting feedback from our customers and have learned that we also do X better than Y.
3. “I don’t have the time.”
Additional time lost: That’s precisely why we created X. Leaders in your position don’t have the time to do A, B, C, and D. It’s unrealistic with all of your other responsibilities! The amount of time you would lose if you didn’t do X would be Y.
Achievement: We want to help take something off your plate, and help you achieve your goals while getting you get the recognition you deserve with (employees/industry/bosses). Instead of wasting time with a new department or project, our team of experts achieves the goals you set without having to worry about the time and money it takes to do A, B, and C.
4. “We’ve done “OK” without this type of training.”
Potential threat: How much longer do you think it will be before you have a situation like X? <Insert a case study or two that proves the necessity of the product/service.>
5. This is a much higher quote than we were anticipating."
Tech: An important part of your vetting process is understanding what the market charges as well as the range of expertise that’s out there. More experienced firms will identify expenses up front because we’ve built X like this before. We also understand the time it will take to do X, Y, Z. We can build this in phases to accommodate your budget. We could also begin the build in Q so that payments could be made over two fiscal years. I could offer you a 10% discount if you signed the contract by X.
Consulting service: The demand for our services had risen significantly over the last few years because of X. This has afforded us the opportunity to work with clients like X, Y, Z. There aren’t many firms who have trained within organizations that large - we have and we understand the obstacles and opportunities that your X (executives, employees etc.) face daily. We will A, B, C which will guarantee these outcomes over X amount of time.
Close with precision.
If you’ve qualified that this is a viable customer, make sure that you give yourself every opportunity for a next step. Always build these last few steps into every sales meeting.
Schedule the next meeting or set a due date for follow up.
Recap next steps.
Set next due date or meeting time.
Ask for referrals.
Ask how you can support the prospect or company.
Ask if they have any questions before you go.
The ultimate goal is for the conversation to flow without hesitation. By about the fifth time you run through a sales meeting, you’ll develop the muscle memory so that you can glide through the meeting and get the information you need to move the deal forward. Happy selling!