A successful business meeting is not made by the right tie or a firm handshake, but by honest preparation. You need to get to know the client, prepare questions or choose a case study. Everything you can't forget before the meeting can be found in this article.
1. Know your client and their market
Before the meeting, you need to know exactly how your solution will help the client - and we don't mean the generic sales pitch you have in your sales manual. What matters is how you will help this particular client. In practice, this is detective work where you need to get to know the client, their competitors and their market in detail. In particular:
- your past communications with the client,
- the client's website,
- the client's blog articles,
- the client's social networks,
- social networks of people who will be present at the meeting (especially LinkedIn),
- the client's competitors,
- articles and data about the client's market.
The information you need to obtain is primarily:
- client history,
- the client's products and services,
- the competencies and interests of the people you will be dealing with,
- the state of the client's market,
- industry specifics,
- the state of the client's competition
- and the client's growth potential.
As part of your research, you will also Google the client. Get to know him not only in his professional, but also in his personal life. In this way, you will collect enough topics for the opening small talk. For example, if you find out that the client likes to take the dog to the gym, follow up on that. You won't turn the client off by doing this - on the contrary, they will appreciate that you took the preparation so thoroughly.
A CRM system will also make your initial research easier. It keeps all your client data in one place and keeps your head clear before the meeting. You can try any solid CRM for free for a limited time, so give it a try.
Once you get to know the client thoroughly, work out his main pain points, i.e. the problems he solves. At the business meeting, you should present your solution in the context of the client's needs. Don't repeat the general information they can read on your website, but show the client straight away how your product or service will solve their specific pain points.
2. Prepare questions and answers
After the research, you'll probably have a head full of questions you want to ask the client. Be sure to do this, it will show your interest in the meeting and honest preparation.
Prepare only open-ended questions that the client can't just answer yes/no. Guide them to talk and give you as much information as possible to work with.
In addition to the questions mentioned, you should always ask:
- why the client approached you,
- what problem they need you to solve,
- what their budget is for your solution,
- how he envisions the ideal contractor,
- information they haven't been able to find out from other suppliers.
Compile your questions into a list that will be available at the meeting.
At the same time, prepare answers to the most common questions you expect the client to ask. If you work in a firm where the sales team has been in place for some time, you should have frequent questions and answers prepared from colleagues.
But remember that a business meeting should not be a cross-examination. Let the client talk most of the time, actively listen to him and look for solutions to his problems together.
3. Prepare a case study
Case studies (or use cases or success stories) are one of the most useful business weapons. Think about which of your current clients most closely resembles the one you will be dealing with. Based on specific data, prepare a story about how your solution helped them.
Don't embellish the case study, but base it purely on the truth - because the potential client may contact the client from the case study. It is important to choose a case study about a client who:
- is happy with you,
- is in the same or similar market as the potential client,
- and they have similar priorities - like perfect service, quick returns, whatever.
If this is possible with your solution, also prepare a demo version for the potential client to try out.
4. A mock meeting
Especially for novice traders, preparing for an important meeting is often a nerve-wracking experience. What if you accidentally forget an important question or prepare a bad argument? A mock meeting can help you iron out the kinks in your preparation.
Ideally, try out the meeting with a colleague from the sales team or a supervisor. If you're a freelancer, feel free to choose one of your loved ones. Make sure the mock meeting is as authentic as possible - so give your counterpart basic information about the client.
Before the meeting, also prepare a rough list for your partner of potential problem questions that you expect from the client. Let him watch your reactions and give you feedback on them. In this way, you prepare for unpleasant questions and you are sure that the client will not catch you on them.
As preparation, you can also read our article on TOP business skills so you know what you need to hone.
When you're done, ask your partner:
- what his impression of the meeting was,
- whether you were boring or unconvincing,
- what you should change, leave out or add.
5. Prepare a meeting plan
Based on the feedback and your own impressions from the mock meeting, adjust your current tactics and prepare a specific meeting plan point by point. This will help you to ensure that the meeting is directed towards a clear goal, that you have discussed everything important and that you and your potential client make the most of your time together.
Plan the meeting into steps and set a time estimate for each. If more than one person from your team will be at the meeting, send the meeting schedule to them.
That's it. Now you're ready for the sales meeting. Read about what to do on the spot and how to behave during a business meeting in a separate article.
Check-list of what to arrange before a meeting with a client
- Confirm the date, time and place with the client.
- Plan any technicalities such as preparing the screen, projector, or send a link to colleagues who will connect remotely.
- Get to know the client and their market.
- Write down the client's main problems.
- Prepare questions and answers for expected questions.
- Prepare a case study or demo version of your solution.
- Prepare documents such as offers or contracts according to the situation.
- Try a dirty meeting.
- Develop a specific plan for the meeting.
- And get a good night's sleep before the meeting.