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3 Sales Meeting Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

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Running effective sales meetings doesn’t come naturally to me. Over time, I’ve learned how to structure them in a way that takes advantage of my introverted nature and my natural awkwardness. But, if you’re still trying to find your own path, you’ll enjoy learning from the conversation I had recently with Jill Konrath.

Konrath is an international sales speaker who was named one of the most influential sales experts of the 21st century by LinkedIn (where she currently has more than 350,000 followers). She’s also the author of four best-selling books — More Sales, Less Time; Agile Selling; SNAP Selling; and Selling to Big Companies — and she’s worked with companies like GE, Microsoft, IBM and Staples.

Konrath has also been doing a lot of work recently on the topic of mastering sales meetings, so I was eager to pick her brain. Below are three common sales meeting mistakes that came up in our conversation.

1. You don’t understand the goal of a sales meeting.

The goal of a sales meeting is to get the sale, right? Not according to Konrath.

“A lot of salespeople think that their goal is to explain their product and service, to tout their capabilities and to differentiate themselves from their competitors,” she told me. “The real purpose of a sales meeting is to generate interest in continuing the conversation and to determine if you or your product or service can truly make a difference to that person and to that company.”

Are you still trying to hard sell on your first interaction with a prospect? If so, you should take a step back and test a softer approach.

2. You don’t really know who your competitors are.

So how did we get it so wrong? How did so many of us come to this mistaken impression about what it really takes to run an effective sales meeting?

In my experience, one big problem is that too many of us copy what we see our competitors doing. They offer a free consultation; we do too. They focus on the features and benefits of their products; we do the same.

The problem, of course, is that your competitors may not be any more effective than you are. They may have different value propositions, or be selling to different types of customers. Furthermore, according to Konrath, you may not really be competing against others in your industry in the first place.

“Your competitor is the status quo, number one,” she said. “The first thing that you have to be able to do is to help people understand why the status quo is not good enough for helping them achieve their future goals or objectives. That should be the number one focus on any initial call. Remember, people are not necessarily buying in the first meeting. In fact, very few do. What you need to do is get people to the point where they say, ‘Geez, we really need to take a look at this.’”

As a side note, there are tools out there that can help with the process of sales call targeting and messaging. Konrath likes Rambl.ai, though there are similar products available to suit different needs/budgets.

3. You aren’t prepared.

During our meeting, Konrath shared a sobering statistic, courtesy of Forrester Research: Of 319 executive-level buyers surveyed, “Only 20 percent of the salespeople they meet with are successful in achieving their expectations and creating value.”

Understandably, according to Konrath “If you”ve got a meeting with an important buyer, and you’re not prepared, the chances of you having a second meeting are really slim.”

So, how do you prepare? Reading up on the company is part of it, as is learning more about the specific people you’ll be speaking with. Using this information to prepare relevant case studies and examples to share in your sales calls is a good idea, as well.

In addition, use your preparation to come up with the specific questions you’ll ask during your call.

Not only will this demonstrate your level of preparedness, it’ll enable you to drive the conversation in a way that gets prospects engaged. Konrath gives the example of the kinds of questions she’d ask a tech company aiming to reduce its time to market:

  • How important is it for you to be able to shrink your time to market on a new product launch?
  • How are you currently handling your product launches?
  • People doing launches [a certain] way, Konrath said she’d tell a tech company, experience “these kinds of problems.” Her question: “Are you guys running into these problems?”
  • What are your objectives related to this?
  • What are you trying to achieve in 2018 in this area?
  • What’s coming up the pike that is related to this? Or how big a priority for you is reducing time to market in your organization  this coming year?

Customize questions like these to your company and its products, according to the research you’ve done. Use them to get prospects excited about your solution. If you can do that, the rest of your sales process will fall naturally into place.

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