After working so darn hard to set up a meeting with a corporate decision maker, the last thing in the world you want to do is blow it.
If you're like most sellers, when you're prepping for the call an endless debate is going on in your head:
- What should I tell them about us?
- Which of my products or services should I talk about?
- What if I choose one, and they're not looking for that right now?
Since this might be your one and only chance to sit down with this person, you decide you can't leave anything to chance. So, rather than focusing on just one aspect of your business, you decided to share the full breadth of your offering.
Let me tell you what this feels like from the buyer's side of the desk.
Last weekend my husband and I decided to learn about "time-share" vacations when we were visiting Sedona, Arizona. After spending a night in their lovely facility, we had a meeting with a sales rep to explain the concept.
Lisa met us shortly after we arrived in their offices. She genially welcomed us, took us for a short walk around the grounds and then brought us inside for "the pitch." All the while she asked questions to learn more about what might "sell us" on buying from her that day.
When we arrived back at the office, she walked us down a long hall filled with vacation photos. Again, she wanted to know which of these activities were what we most enjoyed doing.
All the while I was appreciating her questioning skills. She effortlessly engaged us in conversation and learned a lot quickly.
Once we were seated in the cafeteria with a piping hot cup of coffee and a bagel, things took a different turn. All around us, other sales reps were engaged in serious discussions with their prospects.
The first thing Lisa did was ask us to make a commitment to her before she proceeded. At the end of our meeting, we needed to tell her "yes" or "no." That was all she asked - yes or no. We agreed that we could.
Then she pulled out her questionnaire to learn as much as she could about our vacation habits. She wanted to know often we vacationed, where, how much we spent, what type of places we stayed at, our dream vacations and much more.
We answered, but I was beginning to feel like I was being grilled. I knew that all this info was going to be used to convince me why I needed to buy from her on that particular day.
As soon as she got enough data, she closed in on us. Out came the pitch book, showing us photos of moderate/low cost hotels. Then came the gorgeous resorts around the world that were part of the time-share group.
Next was a financial analysis: (Cost of lodging) X (# of days vacation) x (# of years we thought we'd be healthy enough to have vacations together).
She compared this extremely high number to the ridiculously low cost of investing in the time-share today. She once again showed us photos of the hotels we stayed in versus their options.
Then she opened a photo album, showing us photos of her family (kids, parents, siblings) and how much they loved getting together annually as these gorgeous resorts around the world. She reminded us that vacations like this ensured our kids would still want to be around us - even though they'd left home.
The 90 minutes flew by quickly. She called in her boss a few times for reinforcement. We were asking unorthodox questions and weren't cooperating properly.
At the end of the meeting, it was clear we weren't going to buy that day. I asked if I might keep her analysis. Much of what she said was really interesting to me and I wanted a chance to think about it.
Her boss, who was still sitting with us, immediately said, "No!"
By then, he'd learned that I was a sales consultant and knew a lot about the sales process. He said, "This is an emotional sale. You either buy today or you don't. Our experience shows that if you leave here, we'll never hear from you again."
I'm sure he's 100% right. The salesperson gave us her best shot. She did a darn good job. But once we got back to Minnesota we probably wouldn't look at the investment analysis again.
But what does this story have to do with selling to the corporate market?
In big companies, people rarely (if ever) decide to change how they're doing things in just one meeting. They need to:
- Involve others in the decision process. Getting management & staff buy-in is often essential for the success of any new initiatives or products.
- Compare your potential ROI figures with their own internal analysis. After all, you are trying to sell them!
- Make sure it's truly worth their while. Bringing in new vendors, service providers or consultants is a lot of work and frequently disruptive to their already overloaded schedules.
As a seller, you need to realize this from the onset. It's going to take multiple calls. You can't spill all your goodies at the initial meeting. You have to think about how to spread them out over time so as to continually advance the sales process.
Key questions to ask yourself as you get ready for the first meeting are:
1. What is the logical next step? Once you know this, you can evaluate all your other ideas in terms of their efficacy in leading to this outcome.
2. What do I need to share with this decision maker to entice him/her to learn more? Look at your examples and stories to determine which is most appropriate to your prospective buyer.
3. What do I want to learn about their organization to ensure my offering can make a valuable contribution? Figure out the questions you want to ask before you go on that meeting. Your ability to engage prospects in an intelligent discussion of their business objectives, issues and needs is critical to your success.
Unlike time-share seller, you will have multiple opportunities to meet with corporate decision makers. If you dump everything on them in the first meeting, they won't have a reason to meet with you again.
Good selling requires good thinking. It's not just showing up and making a good pitch. Everything you do must advance the decision-making process ... one step at a time.
That's all you need to think about. Just one step. Focus on that - not on making the sale - and you'll be much further ahead when you're selling to big companies.