Walk into a book store or browse Amazon and you'll inevitably see hundreds of excitable-sounding books talking about "Ten Ways to Get That Sale!" or "The Secrets of a Million-Dollar Salesperson!" The reality is that, despite what these over-the-top sounding books may claim, there are no secret sales tactics or Jedi-like mind tricks to master the psychology of a client meeting. As we hope to now explain, the key to effectively position aspects of your proposal takes robust due diligence, a laser-like focus on customer need, and the ability to be flexible.
Really Do Your Homework
Salespeople clearly understand the importance of conducting due diligence prior to a sales meeting. And thanks to social media — particularly LinkedIn — it is easier than ever to get to know the individual who will be sitting at the other side of the conference table. In fact, LinkedIn offers a virtual treasure trove of pre-meeting prospect and lead intelligence: current position, roles and responsibilities, previous experience, colleagues, and even hobbies.
Become an Industry Expert
Of course, the prospect's motivations and concerns are proportionate to the trends facing his or her industry. If the prospect is, for example, located in the Central Valley in an industry reliant on water, you need to know how water-related issues affect their bottom line. If they're a retailer in Sacramento, you need to understand that their business may be cyclical one; they may only break even in the fourth quarter during the holiday season. Your ability to allude to these dynamics will show the prospect that you are clearly attuned to their needs.
Nail the Value Proposition
The more due diligence you conduct, the more trust you'll eventually establish with the prospect, thereby minimizing the need to resort to the kinds of sales tactics that rely on "getting a read" on the prospect's state of mind. To that end, enter your meeting with a fixed idea on how your product or service will make their lives easier, save them money, and solve a specific business problem. Articulate these things firmly. Back your contentions up with data. Whip our your list of referrals — ideally, satisfied customers who are in the same industry.
Brainstorm Obstacles to Conversion
Before your meeting ask yourself questions like: What product or service flaws will prevent them from converting? Will the prospect "get" our value proposition? If not, why? What price-related considerations could cause prospects to balk? Can our price be dropped? If so, to what acceptable level? Have answers to these questions in advance so you can address prospect reluctance with intelligence and flexibility.
Position Yourself as an Up-selling Ally
Understand that both parties sitting across from each other aren't operating as sold actors. The prospect may need to up-sell your value proposition to his or her boss. He or she may need to run it by their team or clear it with their CFO. An experienced salesperson will intuitively know if the prospect understands the value proposition and wants to make it work. If this is the case, position yourself as a partner to help up-sell to the proper individual.
Call in Back-Up (When Needed)
Similarly, make it known to the prospect that you can turn to your own colleagues to effectively re-frame elements of your proposal. For example, let's say you're trying to sell solar panels to a business prospect. You are a salesperson; you've made your pitch but at the end of the day, you don't work with your customers on a daily basis. That's the job of your customer service staff. Therefore, consider looping in a customer service colleague and have them talk to the prospect. This will add a new and unique perspective to your proposal.
What do you think? What sales tactics have proved particularly effective for your team? What other tactics did we neglect to mention? Has social media made meeting preparation easier or more complicated?