The key to a successful business meeting is honest preparation, but even that won't help you if you overshoot in the meeting. We asked our salespeople how they think the ideal business meeting works and what their methods are that ensure both parties leave the meeting happy.
A few words on preparation
Before you go to the meeting, you need to research the client, prepare questions or prepare use cases. If you're wondering how to do this, we've written a separate article about it. Here, we'll only cover the meeting itself.
The advice in the article is applicable to all three types of business meetings, i.e.:
- the initial meeting - when you first meet a qualified lead,
- sales meetings in the true sense of the word - when the decision to close the deal is made,
- and follow-up meetings - when the sales process is being finalized.
Start the meeting friendly and open
The first impression plays a crucial role in a business meeting and defines the entire course of the meeting. Therefore, enter the room with a smile, get to know the client and immediately sense their mood, for example:
- the boundaries of formal/informal communication
- or openness/closeness.
Business and potential collaboration are better discussed when the client is not a complete stranger to you. Use a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting for small talk. Avoid gossiping about the weather or the highway, though, and instead use the information from the preparation - pull out an interesting fact you learned about the client's business or market.
At the beginning of the meeting, also indicate that you are there to help the client and introduce the agenda for the meeting. Try to build trust from the start, which brings about a happy relationship. And if you don't end up high-fiving, you'll at least take away a positive reference.
The course of the meeting may vary depending on the agenda you have prepared in advance. In any case, your questions and the client's answers are the most important. It is sometimes said among salespeople that the best salesperson is the one who remains silent for most of the meeting. So don't talk about your business, but keep asking questions of the client.
In the first few minutes of the meeting itself, try to get a feel for the client's situation, which is why they are in a business meeting with you. For example, our salespeople start the meeting with a light-hearted question: "Why am I sitting here with you, Mr. XY?" Find out the client's expectations and requirements to assess whether your solution is appropriate for them and how it will help them. Be empathetic and instead of the mindset of "How can I sell this to him?" ask yourself "How will our product help him?"
Let the client talk and constantly:
- listen actively,
- observe facial expressions and non-verbal expressions,
- Correct if the client strays too far off topic,
- and keep a discreet eye on the time so you know if you're on time.
Show the solution in practice
In the world it's called "Show, don't tell". Instead of telling what your product or service can do, show it to the client. In practice, this means that if you are in the process of explaining to a client how your solution will help them, show them:
- references or the use of a satisfied client,
- in the demo,
- on actual data.
You should have references and dates ready in advance so that you can mention them at the appropriate time.
There's a lot of important information that will come up in the meeting, and the more you remember, the easier it will be to do business with the client in the future. There is no right way to take notes during a meeting, different traders prefer different methods. But here are a few proven methods:
- Prepare a form divided into sections and fill it out (for example, salespeople like to use the general comments, questions and action suggestions sections).
- Write your notes directly into the CRM so you don't have to transcribe them.
- Use software that transcribes spoken language into text right in the meeting.
- Dictate everything into the CRM immediately after the meeting - this function is also available in the mobile app of our RAYNET CRM.
Keep the meeting under control
This takes practice. You should maintain control of the meeting, but in such a way that the client feels that he is moderating the meeting. Use the following methods to guide the client towards satisfaction and buying behaviour. You must:
- respond quickly,
- be able to turn disagreement to your side,
- find common ground,
- sense and pick up on buying signals,
- know the client's potential objections and to be prepared to respond to them,
- be able to put consent in the client's mouth.
Agree what to do next and send follow-up emails
Conclude each meeting by agreeing on the following steps. It is important to be clear during the meeting which next steps make the most sense. Ideally, you will have already presented the offer at the meeting and agreed on a date by which the client will give you a verdict. However, you can agree to meet again or to process and send the offer. The decision is yours.
At the same time, make sure you end the meeting on a positive note. For example, summarise everything that came out of the meeting and what you took away from it together.
Each meeting with a potential and current client should be followed by a follow-up email, no later than the next business day. In it:
- Thank you for the meeting,
- summarize the meeting.
- and a reminder of the follow-up steps you and the other party need to take, including deadlines.
Send the follow-up email even if the meeting has indicated that the collaboration will not continue. Even if you just thank the client for taking the time, it's worthwhile. You'll leave a good impression.
Find out how to best set up the sales process in your sales team in our SalesDriver hub for sales managers.
Some general advice in conclusion
1. Avoid potential delays
Time in a meeting is very precious, so think in advance about all the situations that could deprive you of it and try to avoid them. For example, connecting your laptop to the client's projector. Make sure you spend your time in the meeting productively, not solving unnecessary problems.
2. Involve everyone present
If there are more than one person from the client's side of the meeting, involve them all equally. Make eye contact with everyone equally and ask questions over and over to everyone present. Some salespeople make the mistake of only talking to the highest ranking client representative in a meeting with multiple people, which doesn't come across as professional and you will miss out on valuable information.
3. One minute rule
The one-minute rule is simple - if a salesperson talks for more than one minute in a meeting, he or she is doing something wrong. If you talk for a long time, the client stops perceiving you. Therefore, instead of long monologues, ask questions more often.
4. Don't be afraid to change plans
If the client has spoken and is spouting important information, don't be afraid to improvise and adjust the meeting plan on the fly. This information may be more important to you than what you originally planned to get. Feel free to make arrangements at the end to address the points you missed over email.
5. Differences between online and offline business meeting
All the recommendations from this article can also be applied to online meetings with potential clients. While it is more difficult to establish a closer relationship with a client when meeting remotely, even on Zoom or Teams you have plenty of room for relevant small talk, sensing the client's mood or active listening. Also, take advantage of the fact that the client is paying attention to everything on the monitor, and use cassettes or demos to share with them directly.
Preparing for a meeting is made easier with a CRM where you have all your client data in one place. For example, our RAYNET CRM has a sophisticated calendar and thanks to the mobile app you can work with it in the field.