The initial sales meeting is probably one of the most exciting parts of the sales cycle. This is where you go in armed with all your company research and can get to the nitty – gritty of the problems your prospect is experiencing.
I always prepare general questions in advance – this keeps you on track and ensures you cover all the important areas uncovered in your research.
Start by ‘setting the scene’ – explain what you would like to do and why. I.e. Gain agreement to ask questions.
1. Clarify the prospects current situation:
You need to understand your prospects real business issues and reasons for looking at your product/service.
Explore, through open questions – what, why, when, who, where and how – the customers current and future situation.
- How they currently operate and how this is changing.
- What they hope to gain from your product and why.
“Your company is interested in X, why is that?”
- Identify the limitations of change – due to budget constraints, changes in the organisation…
- Most importantly listen to what your prospect says, never assume or guess.
2. Problem questions.
The information gleaned from the situation questions above will present problems that need to be explored.
- Knowing your prospect before the call enables questions to be directed from a knowledge base. “I see you’re relocating, buying PQ Installations, Opening a new office in New York this year. How has this drawn attention to the communication problems mentioned earlier?” Explore this avenue and see if there is a real need.
- “You have a Uk sales force which you said are regionally based? How are they currently managed? Are you happy with the team work/ sharing of experience/ support/ communication that staff are currently receiving?” Explore this. “What improvements would you like to make? Why?”
- If he/she doesn’t have the information to answer your questions ask permission to meet with the person that is directly involved to ensure you are putting together a correct company solution. (There is no cost attached and only company insight to gain, so they rarely say no)
3. Implication questions
These will help develop the prospects needs.
- Your aim is to get the prospect to tell you they have a problem that needs to be resolved and why.
Write down your findings, but don’t offer a solution at this stage, it’s too early.
- Summarise the problems identified and restate the solutions they are looking for. “Currently directors travel weekly to America to attend board meetings. Travel time and associated costs are not seen as effective use of their time or company resources. You are looking for an alternative solution that allows directors to meet and discuss key issues weekly? Is that correct?” customer response “yes, but without loss of time, money or quality of communication”.
- When you have explored and identified explicit needs, which the prospect has agreed to “yes, I would like to resolve these problems because …it costs, it impacts on our customers….” Explain what you need to do next i.e. to go away and discuss with your technical team the prospects needs in order to present the best equipment solution. You want to ensure it will meet all of their current and future needs that have been discussed.
- Establish who else is involved in the decision process – key decisions are generally made following discussion with other colleagues, seldom by one person.
- Find out when would be a good time to meet and present your system /product solution to all parties involved.
- Confirm that you will be summarising the key points raised at the meeting in an email by x date – most buyer don’t make notes about their discussions with sales people, just the price if you give it, so don’t. The prospect will like this as they won’t remember all the key problems uncovered and agreed with.
- Get them to move discussions forward by arranging the next meetings attendees. Get their names.
- You have now placed yourself in a consultative role, differentiating yourself from the competition. He will be interested to know how you are going to add value and what return they will get if they invest in your product/service – the prospect will want to see your pitch.
Avoid feature dumping and focusing on price/competitors pricing structure. There will always be someone that can do it cheaper, your job is to show them you can do it better with minimum risk.
Price is only an issue in the absence of value.
Trained in the internationally renowned Huthwaite SPIN sales program, I have successfully sold to a varied client base over the years with product/service values ranging from 1000’s to millions.
This blog provides a basic outline of my approach giving you the initial tools to hone your skills. I hope you find it useful and would love to hear your views, so get in touch…