When your dream client agrees to meet with you, they are giving you the gift of their time. Honor that gift by making good use of it. Your client should benefit from the time they spend with you, recognizing both the value of your initial meeting and the potential value of future interactions.
A prospect who doesn't feel they derived anything of value from your conversation may not agree to another meeting, and with no next step, you will not have an opportunity to help them improve their results. Because this is true, your strategy needs to center on value creation. The better off your contact is after meeting you, the greater your chance of being chosen to help them with their initiative.
As professional selling moves from legacy approaches to a modern approach, one change is that we no longer limit discovery to learning from the client. Instead, we also teach the client the things they need to know, clearing up the information disparity that prevents them from making well-informed decisions. A contact who spends the whole meeting answering your questions is not likely to feel better off for having given you their time. Unfortunately for those who still use an outdated sales approach, talking about your company or your solutions—the “why us” method—doesn't often offer anything useful in the way of education.
Using the sales conversation to facilitate your prospective client's buyer's journey can help you answer a far more important question: "What does my contact need to know to successfully pursue their goals, their initiatives, and the better results they need now?" A good starting point is helping them to better understand their world and to recognize the forces that are or should be compelling them to change. A relevant conversation ensures that you and your client both learn from each other.
Your job throughout the sales conversation is to create the kind of value that ensures your client is better off having met with you. To keep yourself accountable, ask yourself a simple question: "What do decision-makers do?" The question answers itself; they make decisions, creating the possibility of positive results or the negative consequences that follow poor decisions. No decision-maker wants to make a bad decision, especially one that harms their results. The reasons leaders and decision-makers develop formal and informal advisors is because they value people who can close the gaps in their knowledge and experience.
Imagine that you are responsible for making a strategic decision for your client, without being able to buy whatever it is that your company sells. How would you go about making the decision? How would you determine what outcomes you need and how best to measure them? What conversations might you need to have inside the company to be able to successfully make the change you are pursuing? What factors would you consider when choosing a potential partner? What concerns would you need to address to feel confident choosing a partner and moving forward with a decision?
This scenario is designed to give you an idea of what value you might need someone to create for you, to help you recognize the value you need to create for your clients. Making a list of things you need to teach your clients about enabling good decisions will change your view of the sales conversation, especially early discovery.
The sales conversation needs to create a sort of symbiosis, with each party gaining something positive. Many salespeople are unaware how much their fate is connected to the conversations they have with their clients. The only way you acquire a next meeting is by creating value in your current meeting—regardless of your product, pricing, or PowerPoint. Wasting time or creating too little value will cause your client to disengage and move on, continuing their search to find someone who offers greater help.
You take your clients where you find them, and even in the same company, decision-makers and stakeholders are often out of sync. Deal-making is largely an exercise in problem-solving, especially for complex deals. Narrowing the conversations to what you recognize your client needs, instead of what you might prefer to share (or what your company and sales process recommends), allows you to facilitate a buyer's journey that is needs-based.