Working Smarter

An Uncomfortable, but Highly Effective Sales Strategy


After spending months trying to meet with a perfect prospect, the last thing you want to do is blow the opportunity. Yet all too often, that's exactly what happens—especially when you only have a short time together.

How can you ensure a great meeting instead? One that leads to that critical next step?

Like many sellers, you probably feel an overpowering urge to cram as much as possible into this one meeting. Your prospects “need to know” about your exciting new products or services, competitive differentiators, top-notch service, unique methodology and exceptional customer support.

So much to cover. So little time.

The Speed Backlash

Whoa! Slow down. Prospects who receive massive information dumps unconsciously erect barriers to derail your sales efforts. This is not what they want from you, yet it’s what they typically get.

How do you know you're getting a speed backlash? Your prospect may do one of the following:

  • They tell you that everything is fine with their current supplier—even if they’re dissatisfied.
  • They raise seemingly stupid, inconsequential reasons why changing from what they’re doing now won’t work
  • They ask about your pricing—and then tell you it’s either too high or there’s no money in the budget.
  • Or, they thank you for the update and promise to contact you when the need arises—and then never get back to you.

Sound familiar? It's the result of trying to do too much in one meeting.

Prospects distrust your motives when you do most of the talking. And, despite all your good intentions to thoroughly educate them about your product/service, they don’t “get” why it’s worth changing.

According to Forrester Research, only 15% of executives feel that sales meetings meet their expectations. As you might imagine, very few of them wanted a second meeting with the salesperson.

That’s a huge failure rate. And, it’s a direct result of the seller’s actions.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. If we accept responsibility for the outcomes we’ve created, we can change what we do in our initial meetings.

Slower Strategies for Faster Results

One of the most uncomfortable things for sellers to do is to s-l-o-o-o-w d-o-w-w-w-n. It’s totally counter to our highly driven, results-oriented sales cultures.

Yet that’s exactly what top performers do. Getting prospects to change is a slow, deliberate process. It takes time to:

  • Demonstrate that you’re an invaluable resource, not a self-serving salesperson.
  • Build a business case for switching from the status quo.
  • Help your buyers navigate a complex decision process.
  • Beat out competitors, especially long-term incumbents.

Knowing this, top sellers put together a one-step-at-a-time strategy that advances the sales process much faster than if they tried to do everything quickly.

It All Starts With That Crucial Initial Meeting

How you prepare for your upcoming conversation is a huge factor in its success. Don’t just hop on the phone, log onto an online meeting or show up at a prospect’s office. Planning for success involves these “don’t-miss” steps.

1. Research

Learn as much as you can before your initial conversation. Review your prospect's website, LinkedIn/social media profiles. Read industry trends. Study buyer personas.

Also, make sure to reflect on similar customers. Some questions to consider include:

  • What were their goals/objectives?
  • What issues/challenges were they facing?
  • What gaps existed between where they were today versus where they wanted to be?
  • What was their “buying journey”? Who was involved? What justifications were necessary?
  • How has your product/service helped them achieve their objectives? What results have they realized?

2. Establish a logical next step

Ask yourself, “What can I realistically hope to accomplish in my initial meeting?” You might say that you’d like to close the deal, but as you know, that’s not going to happen.

Most sales today require multiple meetings with a variety of stakeholders. Interest needs to be piqued, business cases developed, competitors evaluated, buy-in achieved and much more.

The initial meeting is really about creating curiosity—enough so that your prospect wants to investigate more … or include others in a follow-up conversation… or do some sort of analysis.

That’s the logical next step. Doing just this is enough.

But then the question becomes, “What creates curiosity?”

3. Share something interesting

One of the best ways to pique your prospect’s interest is to give a real-life example of someone who:

  • Holds a similar job (Sales VP), working in a similar industry (Manufacturing) and at a similar-sized company ($500 million revenue).
  • Was trying to achieve similar objectives.
  • Struggled with some of the same issues/challenges.
  • Chose to work with your company.

Make this person the hero of the story. As a result of choosing to work with your company he/she achieved these results … then share them.

Remember, your product/service is a tool. Nothing more. People buy it because of what it does for them. And that’s why you showcase a real person who achieved their desired results.

Or … you could share emerging trends or research that impact your buyer and are relevant to what you sell.

For example, I might talk with Sales VPs about Forrester’s discovery of a 85% failure rate on initial sales meetings.

Then I could leverage that statistic into a conversation about how their salespeople are doing. Finally, I could find out what strategies they’re using to try to increase their initial meeting success rate.

Ultimately, this leads to a very valuable and useful conversation for both parties.

4. Plan your questions

Questions are key to your ultimate success. They demonstrate interest and concern. Prospects feel you’re more knowledgeable when you ask good questions.

Good questions also provide insights into customer needs and their buying process. Finally, they’re the basis for developing strong relationships.

Plan at least ten questions ahead of time. Write them down so you don’t forget to ask them.

Let your prospect know that you’ve invested time preparing for this meeting and that you have questions to ask that will help them determine if your product/service might “make sense” for their company.

YES .. This Takes a Lot of Work

It’s not FAST. Sometimes it’s painfully slow.

In fact, it might be so uncomfortable for you that you’re tempted to skip some or all these steps. But you must realize that your prospect’s buying process can't be short-circuited.

If you go too fast, problems are guaranteed to arise, causing your opportunity to evaporate into thin air.

If that happens, you’ll need to find new prospects. And that takes forever too. All those phone calls and emails you need to send. Over and over. Hoping to get another meeting set up. Another chance to lose a deal as fast as you can.

Sales is the art of delayed gratification. The slower you move, the faster the decision. Why? Because you’re doing things right.

After a successful career in the sales world, writing five books, and speaking internationally, Jill is now tackling an even bigger challenge. She's focused on bringing the "millions in the middle" together to solve some of the biggest issues facing our country and the world. Jill truly believes so much more is possible if we can work together.