You’re in the door. You got the field sales meeting. It’s a done deal!
Not so fast, tiger.
Just because you landed a meeting at the prospect’s site, doesn’t mean you’re a shoe-in. Far from it.
Field sales meetings can derail so quickly you’ll find yourself in the next state before the door closes behind you.
That is unless you prepare, present and follow up better than the other Joe and Jane Salesperson.
And you can. Here are 17 best practices for field sales meetings (or whatever you might call the meetings – onsite, customer facility, face-to-face, etc.)
Before you meet
Preparation is almost always the difference between success and failure in any business situation. What’s done behind the scenes prior to meeting often defines the outcomes. Most of your time needs to be spent on pre-meeting work.
Know the history
Even if you score a first-time meeting with a new prospect, there still could be a history – and you need to know what it was like. You don’t want to walk into a meeting to find out the prospect did business with your company and had issues, and now he or she is ready to unload on you.
Investigate for past relationships between the prospect and your company and/or previous salespeople. If there were issues, you’ll want to acknowledge and address them outright with a list of ways you’ll alleviate future concerns.
Know the future
Similarly, you want to know what prospects are facing in their business and industry. Do thorough online searches well before the meeting and a last-minute check just before you meet for news and/or changes that impact prospects.
For instance, you might find a promotion worth noting, an industry ruling that affects the business, an account gain or loss, new product launch or just a birthday or anniversary. If it’s on prospects’ minds, it needs to be acknowledged in your meeting.
Know how to research
To gather the information you need for the first two tips:
- Read the company website to understand its mission, objectives, values and management structure.
- Find and read all recent company news, blog posts, and social media updates. If your key contacts have blogs and/or social media accounts, read those, too.
- Dig up where the company is in its market, plus who their competitors are and how they’re positioned against them.
Now hold back! Don’t overwhelm – or creep out – prospects with all your insight. They don’t need you to tell them about their inner workings. Use the information for when you’re asked questions or need to help them envision your solution in their operations.
Prepare, practice, review
Your sales pitch should be so well prepared and reviewed that it seems like you didn’t prepare at all. That’s right, you want to practice so much, you look and sound so comfortable that you must be winging it (which you should never do!)
Ask a friend who doesn’t know the ins and outs of your industry and solution to read or listen to your presentation. Have the friend watch or listen for inconsistent language, content that doesn’t make sense and jargon or acronyms they don’t understand or think are overused.
Then test your message:
- Does it address all the requirements and needs you know prospects have?
- Does it demonstrate you know the industry and its demands?
- Is it clear what makes us different and better than other vendors?
- Does it answer questions that will likely arise during the meeting?
Build the agenda
You never want to walk away from a meeting and think, “I totally forgot to tell her about …”
Create a formal agenda, leaving time for it to go off track. Or build a less formal checklist of the things you must cover. With an agenda, you won’t be as likely waste anyone’s time. An agenda might look like this:
- Rapport building (5 minutes): potential topics – regulation changes, weekend tournament, new book
- Define the meeting goal. (1 minute) Restate the goal we agreed to before the meeting. “We’re here today to outline the issues you’ve faced with your software the past six months and the value our solution can add in both the short- and long-term.”
- Main points (20 minutes):
- Ask about goals missed and priorities
- Ask about expectations for performance and value
- Confirm understanding of where they are and where they want to be in a year
- Share the ROI of investing in our solution
- Establish the fit and need for our solution
- Ask for demo date
- Invite prospects to ask questions or request clarification (4 minutes).
- Make the call to action and schedule it (2 minutes).
You’ll almost always need some technology during a field sales meeting – from your cell phone to a laptop. Make sure they’re charged before you walk in. Bring extra power cords or charge boosters.
If possible, get in the meeting area and set up the technology before the prospects arrive. Check that everything works properly and is 100% charged.
Ask prospects if you can arrive 15 minutes before the meeting to set up the conversation. This helps in several ways: 1) You ensure you’ll meet in a conference room, which balances the power dynamic, 2) It keeps you busy with preparations instead being idle and becoming nervous, and 3) You can test your equipment and presentation.
While you meet
Every field sales meeting will have its own feel, ebbs and flows. You’ll have to adjust throughout to handle different situations, such as a barrage of objections or an unexpected visit or absence. These tips for meeting time will help.
Your field sales meeting shouldn’t be a monologue. It’s a conversation – albeit one you choreograph. Give prospects time to contribute to the conversation. After each of your points, pause and make sure the meeting aligns with their expectations.
You might say, “Am I answering your questions?” or “Is this information matching your expectations?”
Go back to the agenda
As you move through the meeting – uncovering needs, sharing information, answering questions – keep going back to the agenda. You want to reinforce that the meeting is moving along, and at the same time, respecting the prospects’ time.
It’ll keep both sides focused on what needs to be accomplished in the time you both allotted for each other.
Keep everyone in the conversation
If a prospect wants more people in the meeting room, you can bet the others have some sort of influence on the decision to buy. So include them all in the conversation, and don’t focus solely on the person you believe is the decision-maker.
Make eye contact with everyone in the room. Make one point, looking at one person. With the next point, maintain eye contact with another person.
Stay ahead of objections
Take those objections you anticipated in your pre-meeting planning and make them part of your presentation. If you admit negatives while emphasizing positives, you can build credibility.
Try this: “Some people initially say our solution costs a bit too much, but they’ve found the quality and timeliness of service is nearly impossible to beat. One of my customers had an unexpected order last month and had to ramp up quickly. We had a tech on site within hours and …”
Bite your tongue
Admitting your drawbacks is one-half of building credibility and making your case. The other part is playing nice when it comes to your competitors. Don’t bad mouth them.
If competitors come up, praise them honestly for what they do well and use it as an opportunity to point out why you’re the better option. You might say, “Apex is an excellent company with high standards and proven record. Based on what we’ve established here, we can satisfy you better because …”
Move to collaboration
After you’ve gathered the information you need, shared the details you wanted and clarified anything that needs to be, take on a collaborative approach.
Ask questions like these:
- How do you see this working here?
- How would you compare what I’ve proposed to what you do now?
- What do you see standing in the way of this working here?
- How do you think we’d need to alter what we’ve discussed so far to make this work here?
End on time
Never, ever hold your prospects hostage to a meeting that isn’t run professionally, effectively and timely. End a few minutes earlier than you promised. Even if they ask to extend the meeting, you’ll want to pull it in.
Here’s why: If you say you don’t have the time to extend the meeting because you have another appointment, you imply you and your product are in demand and sought after.
Just offer to come back later. That gives you time to prepare more, and your scarcity should pique their interest even more.
After the meeting
Ask for a tour
You might actually request a tour before or during the meeting, but you’ll take it after the meetings. A tour gives prospects a chance to show off things they’re proud off and gives you even more insight on how they operate and what they need.
Say, “I’d really like to see the rest of (the floor, facility, your department). Would you mind giving me a quick tour, if we wrap up a little early?”
Set up a follow-up schedule
Colleen Francis, a Sales expert and author of Nonstop Sales Boom, suggests a carefully crafted follow-up schedule. Her favorite:
1st Week: Call and send an email on Day 1. Leave a voicemail and send a LinkedIn message on Day 3. Repeat Day 1 on Day 5.
2nd Week: Take a break.
3rd Week: If you don’t hear back, repeat Week 1.
4th and 5th Weeks: Take a break.
6th Week: If you still haven’t hear back, repeat Week 1.
7th, 8th and 9th Weeks: Take a break.
10th Week: If you still don’t hear back, send a final email and leave a final professional and assertive voicemail, leaving the future in the prospect’s hands.
For instance: “Hello Prospect! I’m thinking this is a bad time for you, and I don’t want to become a pest. So if I don’t hear back from you in the next week, I’ll consider the file closed for now and you can reach out when you’re ready to move forward.”