Success in sales is a game of numbers. Networking builds relationships. Relationships can turn into warm leads, and leads are an opportunity to meet face-to-face with a prospective customer.
Meeting with a new customer can be a golden opportunity or a disaster. Brian Tracy, an expert on customer service, shared some rules for first-time meetings with Geoffrey James, who wrote about them in an Inc. Magazine article, “12 Rules For Great Customer Meetings.” Some may be part of your standard preparation and process, but these tips show how to maximize the all-important first meeting.
- Do Your Homework. Rule #1 is to research your customer and learn everything about them that you can. The Internet has a wealth of information. A customer’s website will have company history, information about the key players, statistics, the latest news in the media and public relations, financial information and products and services. It is a company’s brand, which will show you a little about their culture, feel and values.
- Create an agenda. Even if it’s just a list of questions, the customer can see that you’ve taken the time to get your thoughts together and have set the direction the meeting will take. Make a copy for the customer and leave some space for note taking.
- Thank the customer for taking the time to meet. Be on time—even a little early. Don’t take calls or fumble around for your agenda or a pen. Be prepared.
- Hand out the agenda at the beginning so the customer can review it and get a sense of where the meeting is going. The agenda is a roadmap, with a starting point and destination.
- Follow the agenda to keep the meeting going forward. Ignoring it makes you look disorganized and haphazard. Being too rigid may give the impression you are difficult to work with and inflexible. Take a middle-of-the-road approach and keep things tracking but leave room for discussion and related topics.
- Relax and pace the meeting. Don’t overwhelm the customer or do all the talking. Listen and observe the customer’s body language for clues to his interest and openness.
- Don’t focus on one person. Keep everyone engaged by speaking to everyone, and asking for feedback.
- Determine whether this customer will convert into a buyer. No sense in spending a lot of time with someone who isn’t interested.
- From your research, you should have already identified possible objections. You can diffuse them by bringing them up with your views and solutions. Acknowledging the cons of your product or service can take the pressure off a customer reluctant to bring up objections.
- Don’t bash the competition. You won’t make your product or service better by criticizing the competition. Don’t leave a prospective customer with a negative impression. Your competitors may have a great product, but point out how yours is superior.
- You asked for this meeting because you’ve discovered your product or service can meet the customer’s needs. Everyone likes solutions—ways to save time, money, make improvements, etc. Emphasize how your product can do these things and more.
- Suggest the next step. It could be another meeting with senior team members, a demonstration, or closing a sale. Don’t push, but be sure you ask for their business and follow-up after the meeting.
Not every first meeting will turn into a sale. But planning and executing a productive first meeting can be a first step in a new, mutually beneficial business relationship.
Photo Source: Wylio.com
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