3 simple tweaks to improve your initial meetings

A big frustration consultants have is with seemingly eager prospects who never actually commit to a project.

The ugly truth is that many of these consultant’s sales meetings are a ‘grey zone’ of business boredom. Even the best ones end up as ‘interesting conversations’ that go nowhere … slowly.

It’s a shame because with a few simple adjustments the whole dynamic can be changed, leaving prospects impressed, wanting more and ready for action.

Here are 3 tweaks you can make immediately to improve your sales meetings:

Tweak #1: Stop marketing and start selling.

Consultants confuse marketing and sales conversations. On the surface these may appear similar, but beneith the surface they have very different objectives.

Think of marketing as establishing your credentials before you even get into a sales conversation. These are the conversations where you lead with slide decks about your consultancy and your process. Boring … do something unexpected instead.

Start with a provocative point-of-view and move into the ‘red zone’. One that you know is going to rock the prospects’s agenda1. Ask them how that fits with their situation, the opportunities and dangers they face and what their current plans are. Check out the internal competition to your consultancy by asking about their team’s strengths too.

This approach will immediately position you as a ‘thought leader’. When you engage the prospect in a ‘red zone’ business critical conversation they begin to feel interested and curious.

Tweak #2: If you don’t have a plan, stay in the car.2

Consultants spend huge amounts of time and money to find sales leads. Then many blow the prospect meeting because they are overconfident and ‘wing it’ with a general pitch for their services. In contrast, successful consultants prepare for sales meetings like they would for any other project.

They write a plan for the structure they want to follow. And this plan becomes the foundation for getting the outcome they want. And they are comfortable sharing their agenda with the prospect.

They’ll start by saying something like: “In preparing for this meeting I wanted us to consider … what I’d like to achieve is … and I though the best structure to follow would be …”.

Then they ask the prospect if that fits with what they want to achieve too.

This approach sets the prospect’s mind at ease and also ‘signposts’ in advance the type of conversation to expect. It allows prospects to feel safe and secure.

Tweak #3: Make a request and notice how the client responds.

So many sales meetings end in nothingness simply because consultants fail to make requests. The best way to gauge a prospects appitite for action is to ask for something. Then wait and see how they react. This is an essential part of sales and the qualification process. Here are a few requests you might consider making:

“If I send you a copy of our report on this. Will you read it before our next meeting?”  This request gentle puts the client on the spot. If they say yes, or no, you can then find out the reasoning behind their answer. It is better to know that prospects are being polite, rather than leave the meeting thinking they are interested.

“Will you commit to making yourself available for a half-day meeting so we can scope the impact of this project together?” This is a far better request than offering any type of proposal. The test here is whether, or not, the prospect will invest their time a) on this project and b) working with you. If they can’t, or won’t, then this project may not be a true priority, or they may not value external assistance. If that’s the case you can begin to qualify what they are prepared to commit to.

“Before I submit any type of proposal I’d like to meet with the economic decision-maker, that’s your boss right? How do we make that happen?” Your contact may not be the economic decision-maker, even if they have responsibility for the project. If they act like a gatekeeper to their boss then this may just be a pet project of their own. Something their boss isn’t aware of, or may not hold as a priority.

For all three cases, if the prospect won’t commit to your request, you must find out what’s stopping them … before you invest more time.

Using simple tweaks like these, to keep your prospect meetings on tract toward your outcome, you’ll quickly move from having ‘interesting conversations’ to closing more contracts.

Let me know how you get on.

1 Get in touch if you don’t how to rock your prospect’s agenda.
2 This phrase comes from the title of a book by consultative sales leader Mack Hanan.