In The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales, you will find one of the most powerful sales strategies for acquiring a first meeting with a prospective client. That strategy is the Trading Value Rule, which states that your cold call request for a meeting must include the value you intend to create for your client in the meeting. This rule underpins the strategy of gaining commitments to keep your deal and your B2B customer's change initiative moving forward, shortening the B2B sales cycle. Without value, sales is broken.
When B2B salespeople hear the words "value proposition," they immediately think about their product or service, and the value their offering creates for their potential customers. The primary reason a B2B salesperson struggles to acquire a first meeting is because, without an effective value proposition, the sales rep's pitch has no mention of what the client will gain from the proposed meeting.
B2B Sales and the Importance of the First Meeting
In the past, the salesperson could successfully ask an ideal customer for a meeting by suggesting they meet to tell the decision maker about their company and to learn about their target customer's business. Like all sales approaches, it was right for its time, a time before the internet. With no internet, the ways to learn about a company's offerings were limited to a catalog, a brochure, or a meeting with a salesperson.
Over time, and especially after the Great Recession, leaders asked their teams to do more with less. This change and the speed of change in our environment caused decision-makers to have more work than time. Leaders, decision-makers, and people with authority and responsibility increasingly refused meeting requests, unwilling to waste the single, finite, nonrenewable commodity that is time. This first sit-down is the start of the B2B sales process.
In this article, we will explore how to create a value proposition for a first meeting with a prospective client. We'll also look at the preparation and the best practices for a first meeting.
The Value of First Meetings
The value of the first meeting for the salesperson is the possibility to create a new opportunity to add to their sales funnel. But a client agreeing to a first meeting is often disappointed because the salesperson doesn't create value for them in the sales conversation. See the Revenue Growth Blueprint.
There are better ways for sales teams to use a first meeting than telling their clients about their company, their clients, and their offerings. The best approach is to use a sales strategy that creates value for decision-makers and stakeholders. This positions the salesperson as an expert and authority in their field, while also educating their contacts about their challenges. When a contact learns something that will help them make the right decision for their business, they find the conversation a valuable use of their time. Here, you can see what you might offer as a value proposition for a first meeting.
Building Rapport and Establishing Trust
When we talk about building rapport, we aren't describing the salesperson's ability to create a personal connection with the client in the first meeting. Instead, we are talking about the business rapport between the salesperson and the decision-makers. By creating value in the first meeting, the sales rep establishes trust. Without the trust that comes from using the client's time wisely, salespeople fail to book a second meeting.
Identifying the Sources of Pain Points and Challenges
The traditional approaches to sales would have the sales professional ask the client about their problems and pain points, setting up a sales pitch about how their "solution" is exactly what the client needs. This lowers the salesperson's status because they should already know what problems their clients experience and what implications they have on their business.
The modern sales approach instructs the salesperson to identify the sources of the prospective client's pain points and the challenges that prevent them from improving their results. By proving they have the knowledge and experience to guide their prospective clients to better results, salespeople differentiate themselves from their competition and create a preference to work with them.
Gathering Key Information for the Sales Process
The conversations that create value for your clients allow the salesperson to gather key information they need to facilitate the buyer's journey. When the conversation is about the better results the clients need, contacts share more information in response to prompts and open-ended questions, providing insights the salesperson needs.
How to Prepare for a First Meeting
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The value of a first meeting is too great to go in unprepared. Preparing for a meeting improves and increases your chance of converting the first meeting into a second meeting.
Researching the Prospect and Their Business
One challenge for salespeople is that they lack the business acumen they need to be a business advisor. By researching your prospect, their business, and their industry. There is never a reason to ask a client any question answered on their website or quarterly report.
In addition to researching the client, research your company's experience with the prospective client's business. Contacting other salespeople to ask about their clients can help you create greater value, which makes the client confident that you can help them improve their results.
Preparing Questions to Ask
As part of your preparation, list questions to ask your client. Make a list of bullet points of what you want to share with your contacts. Taking the time to create the sales experience you want to deliver in your first meeting will pay dividends later.
Developing a Clear Agenda and Objectives for the Meeting
The agenda for your first meeting is to create value for your contacts. The objective for the salesperson is to deliver enough value to prove they are worth a second meeting. The first meeting is an audition. The second meeting is where you create an opportunity.
Prepare to Make a Positive Impression
The first thing you should do to make a positive impression is use your potential customer's time effectively. From the moment you walk into the room, you want to prove that you are credible, relevant, and buttoned up. In our current environment, your clients are looking for certainty.
Avoid Common Mistakes
Don't start the conversation with a history lesson on your company. Don't use the first meeting to talk about your existing clients. Go as long as possible without mentioning your products or services. The first meeting shouldn't be about you. Instead, it should be about your prospective client, their business, and their results. This is how you deliver the value proposition you promised when you asked for the meeting.
The Value of First Meetings in B2B sales
For you to capture the value of a first meeting with your dream client, you must create value for your contacts and decision-makers. The only way you create a new opportunity is by passing the audition and converting the first meeting into a second meeting.
You increase your odds of moving forward with your prospective client by preparing for every interaction, especially the first meeting. If you want your sales champion to bring an executive leader to the second meeting, your contact needs hard evidence you won't cause them to regret it.
Many people underestimate the value of the first meeting in B2B sales. The traditional first meeting is a waste of time. If you haven't already adopted a modern sales approach, one built on sales strategies and tactics that work now, go here to get help improving your sales results.