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Making Your Sales Meeting a Success

Use these tips to master this crucial aspect of the sales process.

Kim Gordon

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Many entrepreneurs face a common challenge as they launch and grow their companies: their first meetings with prospects. Even if day-to-day business meetings are old hat to you, you’ll find that holding new business meetings with prospects and closing sales face-to-face require mastering a different set of strategies and skills. Here are 10 steps to successful meetings thatwill get you off to a great start:

1 .Gather background information. A pre-qualifying telephone call will help you anticipate what your prospect’s needs are. Learn as much about them as possible. As you prepare to meet with a business prospect, become familiar with basic information about his or her company. Then make a list of all the ways your product or service will benefit the company.

2. Set a realistic goal. Depending on your industry and where you’re located, some experts estimate the average meeting with a prospect can cost up to several hundred rands. So it’s essential that every meeting moves your prospect incrementally closer to a buying decision. Before you leave your office, set a primary goal for your meeting. If you’re a public relations consultant, for example, a realistic primary goal for a first meeting may be to set a date for presenting a comprehensive proposal. If you’re a painting contractor, your primary goal may be to provide an estimate for your work and obtain a signature to begin.

3. Prepare quality materials. Create a family of high-quality printed tools that includes everything from business cards and stationery to printed estimate sheets, brochures and presentation tools. Take a look at all the materials you’ll use in a typical sales meeting. Are they well written? Do all the colours, typefaces and creative elements work together to create a cohesive, professional image? Pay close attention to any materials you intend to leave with your prospect, especially if you’re in a competitive bid situation. These materials must help close the sale long after your meeting is over.

4. Rehearse your presentation. It’s a big mistake to bring materials to a new business meeting unless you have practised how you’ll use them. This is particularly true if you’re making a new business presentation to a group. Rehearse your presentation using the visuals and handheld materials. If possible, videotape your rehearsal and examine it critically to be sure your tone is upbeat, your materials are effective and your pace is appropriate.

5. Build rapport using property observations. Imagine you’re in the office of a business prospect. An autographed baseball is on his desk. A photograph on the wall shows a farmhouse surrounded by rolling fields, and a tape of the Beatles is playing softly in the background. By noticing the baseball, the photograph and the music, you’ve made three property observations. You’ve also detected three opportunities to build commonality and rapport with your prospect. Talk about your mutual enjoyment of baseball or your childhood growing up on a farm, or refer to your favourite Beatles song. Any of these will help you break the ice and create a relationship based on understanding and trust.

6. Observe your prospect carefully. During the meeting, is your prospect sitting forward and nodding with interest, or is he or she sitting back with arms folded and head tilted to one side, indicating a lack of connection, boredom, disinterest or disbelief? Be aware of the physical cues your prospect is sending you and respond accordingly.

7. Ask qualifying questions. A new business meeting isn’t a “pitch”. It’s a conversation, an opportunity to uncover your prospect’s needs and to present solutions for meeting them. If you find yourself doing all the talking in new business meetings, you’re probably talking yourself right out of business. It’s just as important to ask good questions and listen carefully to the answers as it is to provide solid, helpful information. One of the most important and often overlooked questions to ask is, “Are you the person who will be making the final decision?”

8. Present case histories. Case histories are stories that demonstrate the ways you’ve successfully met the needs of your customers or clients. Prepare about half a dozen case histories demonstrating a wide range of capabilities, and be prepared to discuss them in your new business meetings. Case histories are great for positioning your company against competitors that offer similar services. Never directly criticise a competitor. Instead, present a case history (in other words, tell a story) that demonstrates the benefits that your customers or clients have enjoyed by working with you.

9. Offer good solutions. In order to successfully close any business transaction, the prospect must be convinced you provide the solution to his or her challenge. It all comes down to two things: how well they believe your product or service will meet their needs and their confidence in your ability to carry out your promises. To close, summarise your suggested solution and answer any final questions that may stand in the way of the prospect’s decision.

10. Take action. You’ve come fully prepared, used property observations, asked great questions, listened carefully to the answers, presented case histories and offered solid solutions. Now it’s time to ask for what you want. It’s amazing how many entrepreneurs take a meeting successfully to this point and then simply stop and walk away without closing for their primary goal.

If you’re having difficulty closing, it maybe because you haven’t provided sufficient reasons for your prospect to buy. In that case, go back to step seven and ask why. If you’ve followed the advice in steps one through nine, your prospect will be eager to get moving and may even help you close. Don’t be surprised if he or she asks, “When can we get started?”

Kim T. Gordon is one of the country's leading experts on the small-business market. Over the past 30 years as an author, marketing expert, media spokesperson, speaker and coach, her work has helped millions of small-business owners increase their success.

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(Video) Get More Attention For your Business

Lindsay Broder, The Occupreneur Coach, explains the importance of communicating your unique skills and the value you can offer clients in this short video.

Entrepreneur

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Demonstrating what you bring to the table isn’t always easy.

Lindsay Broder, The Occupreneur Coach, explains the importance of communicating your unique skills and the value you can offer clients in this short video.

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(Video) How You Can Make Your Next Presentation Memorable

How to make your pitch memorable.

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Carmine-Gallo

From delivering board room presentations to speaking before a live audience, speaking publicly is something most of us will have to do at some point. But if we’re going to take the time to develop and practice delivering a presentation, we want to make sure the content and the “performance” are memorable, right?

In this video, keynote speaker and communication coach Carmine Gallo offers his top tips for how you can make your next business presentation one your audience won’t soon forget. Gallo is author of TALK LIKE TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of The World’s Top Minds.

Gallo recommends following the “rule of three.” Instead of presenting 15 or 20 points, stick with three or four features or pieces of advice. Why? It’s easier for people to remember and stay engaged with what you’re saying.

“It’s almost impossible for the human brain to ignore that group of three,” Gallo says. “We have to know what those three are.”

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(Video) How to Hit the Presentation Content Nail on the Head

Building better business presentations.

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Avoid the glassy-eyed look from your audience by creating a strong presentation that delivers an exciting experience. Pam Slim delves into her process and techniques for choosing content to fill her presentation slides.

“Ask yourself: What do you want people to walk away with?”

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