There are several things making it more challenging to acquire a first meeting, like the overwhelming volume of emails, voicemails, and other messages your contacts receive. The upside of having data on your strategic clients is that you speed up your ability to contact them for a meeting. The downside is that your competitors have that same information.
When you show up for your value audition (your first meeting), you need to ensure your strategy ensures you get a callback, what you know as a second meeting. If you haven’t yet found a sales approach that will provide these four outcomes in a first meeting, solve that now:
- Create value for your contact in the sales conversation
- Position yourself as an expert and authority, someone who can help
- Answer the question “Why change?”
- Secure a second meeting with an entry on your contact’s calendar.
These rules will make it easier to execute this approach:
- You may not say anything about your company, including your company’s name or anything that might allow your contact to recognize your employer.
- You may not mention or refer to any other company, including your existing clients.
- You may not mention your product, service, or solutions, nor are you allowed to speak about the better results you have provided your clients, including any statements they might have made.
- You may not try to develop any personal rapport with the contact, including asking questions about their personal life.
- Above all, you may not ask your client questions designed to elicit their “dissatisfaction,” “pain points,” or “hot buttons.”
If you cannot execute this approach, see Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative.
If the first meeting is an audition, the second meeting is a callback. Your contacts trust you with their time because you didn’t waste it in your first conversation. One variable that determines whether the contact will develop a preference to buy from you is something we can describe as fit.
One challenge of selling in the third decade of the 21st century is that you are likely to find many contacts and stakeholders who may weigh in on an important decision that will require change. Much of the time, your second meeting is to vet you, determining if you are impressive enough to introduce to the other people who have some stake in the outcome.
If you are fortunate enough to have a new contact in the second meeting, you did well enough in the first that your contact trusts you to perform. Your contact is trying to measure your chemistry, and your ability to be part of their team. Your contacts also want to be certain that you know more than they do about the decision they are facing, including the root causes they need to address.
The only time a contact will provide you with access to a senior leader is when they know you will impress.
Syncing Value and Needs
Too many salespeople lose an opportunity before the end of their first meeting because they make at least one common mistake:
- Pitching their solution early in the sales conversation
- Providing proof that their solution works for their existing clients
- Failing to create value in the first meeting
- Talking too much and saying nothing
Syncing value has nothing to do with your offerings or your solutions. Instead, it is about understanding what conversations your contacts need to have to understand the nature of their problems and what they might need to do to ensure they will improve their results.
If your discovery approach doesn’t include several questions that elicit your prospective client’s strategic outcomes, you are not using the sales conversation to help them better understand their problems. To truly sync value and needs, you also must know the needs of all stakeholders who will be engaged in your sales conversation.
More still, if your approach leaves out value-based questions that would provide you with an understanding of what your contacts value and why, you have a weak version of discovery, the kind that will open the door for a competitor to outperform you.
Building a Preference to Buy from You
Some salespeople believe that their client chooses a company and their solutions. These reps lose deals to those with a better sales methodology, one built on value creation and expertise. Without these two elements, you cannot be a consultative salesperson, and you will lose to people who are.
When you face your competitors in a sales contest, one of you will win the client’s business and the rest will take a loss, and maybe a lesson. Creating value in every conversation is the key to winning deals, especially competitive deals.
My experience reflects this. In one deal, my client shared with me that they had interviewed every competitor in the city and all of them, including the largest companies, had failed to impress. None created the value the client needed in their buyer’s journey. It is easy to create a preference when your competitors fail to create the chemistry and focus on their needs.
The Second Meeting: Syncing Value and Needs
Be grateful for a first meeting, and when you get your callback, make certain your approach is client-centric. Focus on the value you need to create for your client to make a decision they rarely are called to make. You also need to know what your clients need. The first chapter of Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition will help you focus on the strategic outcomes that will differentiate you and ensure you make it out of the second meeting.
Once you are out of your second meeting, you will have high odds you are moving forward in the sales conversation and on your way to a win.