The Gist:

  • The way to a second meeting is a valuable first meeting.
  • The reason clients disengage is because the conversation isn’t one they find valuable.
  • A lot of legacy practices prevent second meetings.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, which means you have a lot riding on your meeting with a new client. That first meeting can end with you impressing your client by using their time wisely and making the experience a valuable one, moving both of you forward in the sales conversation. But if you’re not careful you can repel your prospective client, courtesy of the legacy approach to sales that creates no real value.

How to Avoid a Second Meeting

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How to Avoid a Second Meeting

“All the things you bought for her, could not get a temperature” – Elvis Costello

The less valuable your conversation is with your prospective client, the more certain they are to abandon you as a potential partner. But professional ghosting rarely happens out of spite. Most of the time, the client is trying to protect themselves from a time-wasting experience that they would rather not repeat. In short, getting ghosted may be the natural result of how you approached the sales conversation.

The problem-pain-solution approach to selling has long been commoditized. Interchangeable salespeople share the same no-value, transaction-level information, most of which is just a search query away. Every time they follow up with the same tired questions, the ones that enable the legacy solution approach that has outlived its effectiveness, the client is moved to action—usually the action of ending the relationship as soon as possible. To avoid that outcome and secure a second meeting, you must increase the value of your conversations.

Low-Value Conversations

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Low-Value Conversations

The less valuable your conversation, the more certain you are not going to get another meeting. The opposite is also true: valuable conversations make it easier for your client to agree to spend more time with you in the very near future. You can think of your first meeting as a tryout, a chance to show that you’re a serious contender for the role of future strategic partner. The variables here are mostly within your control and depend mostly on your conversation, even if you do have the misfortune of resembling your contact’s ex-boyfriend.

Recently, I agreed to a video meeting with a sales organization. Once the SDR had qualified me (oh joy, oh rapture), the Account Executive began the conversation by sharing information about his company before swerving into a list of all the things his company could do for me. All of this happened without any conversation about my business, my needs, or even what caused me to agree to the meeting. Halfway through his spiel, tragically, a construction crew mistakenly cut a nearby power line, taking out the transformer and ending our meeting even more abruptly than I hoped. Sometimes, I concluded, the Gods of Sales punish those who punish their clients.

Conversations that include transaction-level facts about your business and its products or services almost always include a premature pitch, broadcasting to your client that your conversation is designed for your benefit, not theirs. Getting to a second meeting means providing your client with a conversation that is designed to benefit them, one that helps enable better decision-making and allows the client to improve their results.

The Problem Isn’t the Problem

For a very long time, you have been advised to find the problem, advice that worked fine in a simpler time. But we’re not in Mayberry anymore, and neither are our clients. You offer your client no help whatsoever when you simply address their problem because the way they address their problems—including the decisions they make—is the real obstacle to success. Yet most salespeople are blissfully unaware that the conversations of yesteryear won’t create the outcomes your clients need tomorrow.

Instead, you provide value by helping your client better understand and make sense of their world, using a higher-resolution lens to improve the view of all their problems. These conversations explain the forces and the tectonic shifts that are moving the landscape in ways that create challenges and opportunities. Well-worn paths may be comforting, but they get messy fast—just ask any parents foolhardy enough to install new carpet before their kids are 30.

Dreadfully Repelling

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Dreadfully Repelling

One reader took offense when I described most first meetings as “dreadfully repelling,” insisting that my hyperbole had gone too far. But it’s a useful phrase, I think. The word dreadful means something like “causing suffering,” the way a lot of us feel when others waste our time. The word repel means that you are pushing someone back or away, but it also means repulsive or distasteful.

You are always better off improving your approach than blaming your contact for their unwillingness to meet with you again. So next time your client disengages, goes dark, or ghosts you, ruthlessly examine the value of your last conversation: was it truly benefitting the client or were they just running out the clock so they could (figuratively, one hopes) run out of the room? The way to get to a second meeting is to make the first meeting so valuable that your client is excited to talk to you again.

Do Good Work:

  • What would you have to change to provide a client with a valuable conversation?
  • What novelty could you provide your client that would differentiate you from your competition?
  • How has your approach changed over the last three years?
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Tags:
Sales, 2021
Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
August 3, 2021
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