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Fred the consultant just finished his meeting with Ms. Big Prospect.  He thought to himself “That meeting was a home run.  I dazzled her with my slides (all 56 of them).  I explained my services in minute detail.  Surely, I wowed her with my expertise.  I was half expecting her to say ‘Great presentation, Fred, when can we start working together?’”

Fred, you didn’t hit a homer.  You struck out.

You committed one of the major blunders in sales.  You did all the talking.

Your first meeting with Ms. Big will be your last.

A Dialogue, Not a Monologue

Remember, your immediate goal is to get Ms. Prospect to talk about her problems. You want to start a conversation.

After exchanging pleasantries, say something like “Mary, thanks for taking the time to meet.  I’d like to briefly tell you what we do and then ask some questions to see if we can help you.  Is that OK with you?  And it’s possible that we may not be able to help after all.”

This takes the pressure off Ms. Prospect.  She’ll be more inclined to open up if she knows she won’t be subjected to the hard sell.

Then, do not (repeat:  do not) launch into a ten minute monologue about your best-of-breed, cutting-edge, next-generation, end-to-end solution.  Rather, give a brief description of your results (not your services).

Kelley Robertson in “How to Master a 30 Minute Sales Meeting” gives an example:   “We specialize in helping businesses like yours improve their call center performance.  We recently worked with another company in the financial sector and were able to help them improve their specific metrics in less than six months without incurring additional costs.”

Notice that he doesn’t talk about his services.  He really doesn’t even describe his business.  He talks about—you guessed it—his results.

Kelley points out in “How to Lose a Prospect’s Attention in 5 Seconds” that asking a question is also a good way to start a conversation.  “Mrs. Prospect, many of our clients are currently experiencing (insert the problem here).  How does that compare to your company’s situation?”

The Services Trap

You may be tempted to talk about your services or Ms. Prospect may ask you about them.

Don’t do it.  You’ll sidetrack the conversation.

Tell her it’s premature to discuss services until you understand her needs better. Focus exclusively on finding problems you can solve and getting to the next step.

Kelley writes “The more time you spend talking about your service, the less inclined a prospect will want to continue that conversation.  The more you focus your attention on their situation and their problems and demonstrate how you can help them improve their business, the more you differentiate yourself from the competition.“

A Six Point Checklist for a Successful First Meeting

  1. Prepare—Research the company and its issues.  Plan your questions in advance.
  2. Converse—Ditch the pitch.  Start a conversation.
  3. Probe—Find her pain by asking questions.  Help her understand she has a problem that needs to be solved.
  4. Summarize—Repeat her answers to confirm your understanding is correct.
  5. Emphasize Results—Talk about your results, not your services.
  6. Agree on Next Steps—Get a commitment to a next meeting or to a proposal.