Over the years I have observed and participated in thousands of sales meetings as the lead salesperson, as a sales manager, or as a partner jointly selling a solution. The single biggest mistake I see salespeople make over and over again is selling too soon!
This is the final post in a three-part series on How to Lead a Successful Sales Meeting. To recap, the below are the first 2 mistakes salespeople often make leading a sales meeting.
To review, first, we must understand who everyone in the room or on the phone is, then we ask great questions that help us understand the client/prospect’s needs, and finally, after we have completely diagnosed the pain and have a thorough understanding of the situation, we will transition into the “prescribe” phase of the meeting.
My rule of thumb
“Don’t talk about your product/service/solution until at least the last 1/3 of the meeting!”
By the time you have gathered all the intelligence your prospects shared with you by asking smart, open-ended questions, you should begin to put together in your mind a summary of the pain points the customers are facing. Your role in the meeting is to help them solve their problems. You need the information to solve a problem.
Imagine if your doctor walked into the examining room and started out by saying: “Patients your age and your build generally have this problem. I am going to write you a prescription for XYZ medication. I want you to take this twice a day for the next 3 months. Now, what brings you into my office today?”
Your reaction would be the same as mine - a prompt exit for the door (leaving the prescription behind) and likely a call to the managing partner of the practice or at least a call to a couple of friends about the absurdity of this encounter.
Don’t make the same mistake in your sales meetings. Resist the temptation to launch a sales meeting with a bunch of slides that articulate the wonders of your offering. This is a trap and a losing strategy. You cannot recover from this mistake. If you sell before you understand the pain, then you will chase your tail forever trying to overcome objections whether real or not. You have given the power over to the prospect and they know everything about you, but you know little if anything about their real needs. Remember, your prospects are looking for a reason NOT to buy from you. That is the reality.
Don’t Get Dragged Into Selling Too Soon
Finally, your prospects will try over and over again to drag you into selling your solution at the beginning of the meeting or before you are ready.
The best way to avoid this is to assume the leadership of the discussion. If you control the conversation with a plan and an agenda you will have a better chance of framing the discussion in your terms.
Have you ever sat down at the table and the prospect says to you, “So, tell me about your product?” Or, “Thanks for coming in today. Why don’t you start by telling us what your company does?”
You have to be prepared for this scenario and have a plan to sidestep these questions and get control of the dialogue. Here are a few tactics I have coached my salespeople to use over the years:
- “I’ll be happy to go over all of our new products, but we don’t have much time together, so I’d like to start with a few questions to make sure I focus on the products that make the most sense for your business and your current circumstances.”
- “Before I get into our services, let me ask you…”
- “We are a manufacturer of XXX products here in the area and work with clients like A Company and B Industrial Co. I’ll go a lot deeper in a moment, but first I read on your website that you were working on XYZ project. Can you tell me a little more about that?"
But, my favorite and most successful strategy is this; once everyone is seated, grab control of the room by thanking everyone for their time and launch immediately into the agenda. 99% of the time, the meeting participants will sit back and fall in line if you appear prepared and in charge of the meeting.
You know what your value proposition is and what problems your offering can solve. However, until the client has acknowledged their pain and shared with you the consequences of not solving the problem, the timeline the problem needs to be solved by, and who is accountable for solving the problem, you will not be able to present your product or service as a viable and compelling solution.
Sell too soon and you are simply leading an “industry training session” and not a sales meeting.