As much as I want to knock the ball out of the park during sales meetings, the question of conduct looms large before I step to the plate. What I say during the meeting and how I say it form an integral part of the sales process. This is when the information gathered about the client can either serve as a boon or a bane. Overtly spitballing information in B2B sales meetings just to prove “I’ve done my homework” isn’t useful.
The manner in which I nock, draw, and loose every bit of information collected about the client determines whether I hit the bullseye or come out misfiring.
In case the metaphorical parallels with archery and baseball failed to deliver my message with sporty gusto, allow me to make what is hitherto implicit, explicit. The buck doesn’t stop at extensive research when it comes to a sales meeting preparation. Yes, that means there’s an equal chance of coming out of the meeting disappointed despite knowing everything there is to know about the client.
Why? I thought you’d never ask.
Draw the Line
There’s a fine line between knowing it all and sounding like a know-it-all, and we’ve met our fair share of the latter if we weren’t guilty of being one in the first place—we’ve all been there. The only reason I allude to the ignominious memories of our overeagerness, the ones you and I have locked away to spare further cringes, is because sales meetings hinge on knowing which side of the line to be on. There’s a right way to convey you’ve done your homework and there’s a wrong way. Luckily, I have just the set of stories to keep you from committing a conversion depriving faux pas.
A Client’s Perspective
Usually, I’m selling to people (selling to a client), but this time around, I was being sold to (being the client and not the seller), which is how I came to know about how salespeople try and fail to impress by talking about irrelevant matters.
Two Sales Meetings I Experienced
My first sales meeting was with a veteran who had 17 years of experience. She possessed sound understanding of my company’s status; I gauged that based on the pertinent questions she asked from the onset of the meeting.
This not only suggested she had done her homework but also showcased her research in a way that tied in perfectly with the additional information required to craft a solution for me. Nothing seemed ostentatious. Even if facts about me were mentioned, they were always relevant and for a purpose.
My second meeting, however, was the other side of the coin. I met with a zealous executive of a burgeoning hospitality company who was keen on ensuring I knew he had done his background checks on me. Therein laid the problem. The focal point of the meeting shifted from solving my problems to naming every detail about my company. After I was told about my clients, my funding status, my value proposition, and competitors, I was made aware of the various team members. I didn’t find the fact and name dropping relevant. It merely sufficed in making alarm bells go off in my head, ringing to the tune of stalker alert!
Now, I don’t mean to vilify. That much insight into my company may make sense only if it is relevant to the content of the sales pitch. Anyway, it wouldn’t take a second to discern whom I called to follow up with the process. However, that’s not important. What’s important is why I bought from the person from the first meeting.
Rather than using information gathered about me as a trump card, it was used to further her understanding about my requirements, how she might help me and, of course, ultimately shape her pitch. When the question of “why should I buy” emerged, only then did some of the research and relevant name dropping surface.
The key was that this person came across as someone who was genuinely trying to help me. Part of being helpful was to make sure that she had done her homework well, which showed up in the questions she asked. It was clear to me that the questions were based on research that she had done. This helped me lower my guard, open up and, at the end of it, get a meaningful solution that solved my problem. Isn’t that what good selling is supposed to look like?
Successful sales meetings require research and good research demands a lot of legwork and diligence; therefore, it’s unfair to let it die in vain due to an urge to impress. Therefore, refrain from fact-dropping just for the sake of it, look for relevancy instead. Even if the information collected about the client does not come in handy at the meeting, it’ll be useful in some way in the sales process. The trick is to get the right kind of conversation going first, a conversation through which you help the client solve a problem. In the course of that, you will see that all the research you have done comes in handy—to find the right solution, to become the trusted advisor, or to differentiate yourself from the competition.