Preparing for a sales meeting with a prospective client

By Graham Middleton
Raizcorp Sales Guide

It’s tough securing face-to-face time with prospective customers which makes it essential to prepare well. By giving you time in their busy schedule, your potential customer is demonstrating that they are open to doing business with you. That’s almost half the battle won; now you need to make the most of the opportunity.

Three important things to focus on during your pre-meeting preparation are, firstly, making a great first impression, secondly, grabbing and holding the prospect’s attention and being memorable and, thirdly, preparing the right questions.

Making a great first impression
If you’ve managed to secure a meeting with a promising prospect, you may experience anxiety or nervousness and, if you have not prepared properly, this may make the first few minutes of the meeting very uncomfortable – both for yourself and your prospect. Research1 by Princeton University psychologists, Janine Wills and Alexander Todorov, reveals that it takes only a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger. So, what can you do to make the most of this brief window of time?

Dress to impress
Always make an effort to look your best. While casual dressing is very much the norm these days, dressing smartly will engender respect and an inclination to take you seriously. When you are prospecting for business, you need to dress the part. If, for example, you are approaching a business, you may consider doing a bit of research on their dress code. There is also plenty of online advice on grooming and dressing appropriately for various business meetings.

Make eye contact, smile and greet with confidence
Simply making eye contact with your prospect will help them feel more connected to you. Eye contact also projects confidence which will, in turn, build your prospect’s confidence in your ability to deliver. In addition, a smile will make the prospect feel more connected to you. Research2 suggests that a genuine smile is likely to make someone perceive you as being trustworthy.

Leading into your pitch
Ensure you have all your ducks in a row before you walk into the room. Nothing says “unprofessional” more than someone fumbling through their bag fruitlessly looking for documents, or flipping through reams of pages to find certain information, or trying to use a PowerPoint presentation on a laptop with a flat battery. Being well-prepared, organised and in control creates a positive early impression.

Grabbing and holding attention and being memorable
Having made a positive first impression, you now want to follow up with an engaging and compelling sales pitch. Human beings have become rather good at ignoring floods of irrelevant information and focusing on what is important. For this reason, you need to grab their attention, and you can do this by understanding what is important to them. This makes pre-meeting research vital. In order for you to communicate relevant benefits to doing business with you, you first need to understand what their pains or needs are.

Having grabbed their attention, you now need to hold it and keep them interested during the entire process. You can be more engaging, persuasive and memorable by using a few tested techniques. These include using visuals, telling stories (which are more relatable) and engaging in a two-way conversation to ensure you’re on the same page. These techniques are an art and, as a salesperson, you should be constantly working on them.

Being deliberately memorable requires you to put some though into your interaction with the prospect. As Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Consciously planning to make your sales prospect feel a certain way will help you move the relationship towards your goal. You may want them to feel inspired and excited, and you certainly want them to feel as though they can trust and depend on you. You can inspire and excite by using storytelling, and you can convey credibility and competence by sharing your credentials and track record.

Preparing the right questions
You should also prepare a list of questions to ask the prospect during the meeting. These will help you to uncover their needs or pains, and also elicit the right information to help you speed up the sale. It also ensures that the meeting is a two-way interactive session. Things you may wish to determine are the client’s budget, who the decision-makers are, who their current suppliers are, and how you can better position your proposal to improve your chances of winning their business. There are many online articles that provide guidance with preparing questions. A HubSpot article entitled 18 Open-Ended Sales Questions That’ll Get Prospects Talking to You by Tony Alessandra is a good place to start.

Finally, don’t waste your prospect’s time. Try to time your sales meeting to between ten and 20 minutes, and always keep things simple and to the point.