Preparation Is The Key To Great Meetings With Prospective Customers

Preparing for a first meeting with a prospective customer

If you’ve arranged a meeting, whether face to face or online, with a prospective customer you’ll be wanting to give yourself the best possible chance of success. With a little planning and preparation, you can build empathy and rapport with them, gain credibility and increase your likelihood of winning their business. Below are a few tactics that you might want to try.

Set yourself clear objectives. What are you trying to achieve from the first meeting? Depending on the product or service you’re providing, the size of the business being sold to, the value of the contract, decision making process and other variables it may or may not be realistic to expect to secure the sale at this meeting. However, your objective should always be to thoroughly understand their business, the challenges they face and what they’re wanting to achieve, gain commitment and move the sales process along to the next stage. This could be a follow up meeting to talk through your proposal, a presentation to colleagues or even for them to visit your own offices but it’s important that you remain in control. Think in terms of MIL – what you Must, Intend and would Like to have achieved. When you’ve completed your meeting, you’ll then be able to critically review your own performance against your expectations.

Research the prospect’s business. Make a point of researching their business to gather as much information as possible including what they do, markets they operate in, challenges they face, any growth plans they have, accreditations and awards won and contracts secured. This can easily be done by visiting their website, reading industry publications, attending meetings and online seminars they might be presenting at and through various other sources. Reading their blog posts might give you an insight into their vision, values and goals. Advertised jobs might indicate skills gaps, other challenges faced or even diversification into new markets.

Research the individual. Using social media, you can establish what your prospect’s role and responsibilities are. You’ll be able to confirm what level of influence they have on the decision-making process by looking, for example, at their LinkedIn profile and the content they’ve created. This can also help you to identify common connections, gain insight into their career background and highlight any shared interests they might have. Knowledge of this might help in building rapport with your prospect at the outset.

Refer to previous communications. What prompted your prospect to make the initial enquiry? What did they express an interest in when you arranged the meeting? Be sure, with additional questioning, that you can satisfy their requirements through your proposed solution. Give this plenty of thought but don’t make assumptions!

Know your USPs. Give thought to how your value proposition could really benefit them based on what you know and be confident in articulating this.

Be ready to ask good questions. What questions are you going to ask to build an accurate, detailed picture of your prospect’s business and to uncover needs?

Case Studies. Be prepared to talk about how you’ve helped similar types of businesses. What were their issues? How did you work with them to address these? What were the positive outcomes? Being able to give specific figures, for example, relating to increased sales, greater productivity or improved customer service will strengthen the positive impression you’re making.

Know your competition. Through your initial fact find you’ll be able to gather most of the information you need to be able to present a compelling solution to your prospect. However, it’s your responsibility to fully research and understand the strengths and limitations of their existing supplier and anyone else they might be considering. You’ll gain this information over time and through experience dealing with other prospective customers too.

Look for clues. It’s surprising the amount of information that can be gathered when arriving at the prospect’s offices for a face to face meeting. Press clippings/PR in a book in reception, parcels being delivered by a competitor or their delivery van outside, awards and certificates on display and talking to the receptionist can all provide valuable extra insight.

Be punctual. Allow yourself plenty of time for your journey so as to avoid arriving late and stressed. As the old saying goes “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”!

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