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“Time stays long enough for those who use it.” — Leonardo da Vinci

Selling is all about time. The more you can save on routine tasks and processes, the more you can spend on managing your existing clients and prospecting for new ones.

To make sales, you must spend some quality time with your clients and prospects. When you finally get face to face with a client, you don’t want to rush out and defeat the purpose of being there. You also don’t want to waste time and drag the meeting on too long. You have no choice but to spend the time necessary to do a good, thorough job of convincing your clients and prospects that your solution is the one they need to solve their problem.

That said, certain steps can streamline your meetings and “get the show on the road” ASAP. I think of these six simple rules as the things you must do to prepare for and execute a great meeting:

1. Do your homework.

Do your due diligence in every sense of the word. Learn everything you can about the people you plan to address, from their specific business needs to their favorite sports teams. How does your product or service solve the customer’s problems? How much money do they have to spend? What’s their level of technical expertise? Get very clear on who’s in the room. If you’re mostly speaking to finance people, don’t pitch a high-level engineering presentation. If the CFO loves the local pro hockey franchise, don’t make a joke at her expense. She may just brush it off — or she may not.

2. Address the right person.

Make sure you’re meeting with the person who can make the final recommendation or decisions, not someone several layers below them, or even worse, someone who has no say in the matter. Ask questions and make connections. This should be Business 101 common sense, but it’s surprising how often sales reps flub it when dealing with a new prospect/client.

3. Remember that first impressions matter.

Spend the time up front to look the part. Dress just a notch higher than you expect your clients or prospects to dress, attend to your grooming carefully, and avoid anything that will stain, wrinkle, or otherwise mar your clothing. If someone offers you cookies or muffins, politely decline; and take care with your cup of coffee. Similarly, turn up the politeness knob to 11; speak in even, modulated tones even if they do something to irritate you; and in general act like a lady or gentleman.

4. Temper your criticism of the competition, but do know their weaknesses.

When the client brings up a competitor’s offerings, don’t belittle the other provider. Calling Company XYZ a bunch of talentless hacks probably won’t endear you to your clients or prospects even if it’s true. Admit they’re a fine company, but then show the prospect how your solution solves his or her problems better based on the features you have to offer. You win by proving you’re better, not by putting down the competition.

5. Address their objections.

Well before you leave for your meeting, make a list of every possible objection to your solution you can think of, from quality to initial expense, long-term value, and any rumored bugs (or real ones, for that matter). This shouldn't prove difficult given your expert knowledge of your product line. If they come up with something you haven’t considered, your foreknowledge should help you answer that objection as well. Finally, end with a call to action by asking them to make a commitment to your company’s solution. All too often, salespeople leave out this crucial part of the sales pitch.

6. Put in the time.

I’ve never encountered a single productivity booster that didn’t require an initial investment of time in order to save more down the line, and this method is no exception. Due diligence and addressing objections will always require some time, especially at first; but as you become more familiar with the objections frequently raised, that part will take less time, leaving your homework as the most time-intensive component of the formula.

The idea here isn’t to rush clients; let them move at their own pace during the meeting. But if you hone these tips, you’ll get right to the point with the right people much sooner, so you can quickly, efficiently, and profitably help both your organizations. Then you can move to the next potential partner in line and do the same for him or her.

I’ve never encountered a single productivity booster that didn’t require an initial investment of time.”

Laura Stack | President and CEO, Productivity Keynote Speaker and Author, The Productivity Pro, Inc.



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