You walk into the meeting. It’s your first time meeting this prospect. You go right into the reasons your product/service is the solution to what you assume is their problem. After all, why else would they have agreed to meet with you? You deliver your product benefits perfectly. You said everything you can think of saying…and yet you leave without a next conversation lined up. In fact, you’re even unsure if you made any progress at all.
So, what happened?
Well, you missed a few steps. Eagerness got the best of you. Lack of planning ate your lunch. You get the idea. You blew it.
Here are 3 steps to not blowing the first meeting. BTW: these apply to almost any meeting – but ESPECIALLY the first one.
We call the 3 steps, “Framing the Conversation.”
Frame the Conversation
It’s important to have a basic framework around any meeting, but especially a first meeting with a future prospect. Go in knowing how you’re going to steer the ship. It comes down to three basic elements:
Step 1: Declare The Purpose of Our Meeting
Before you begin your spiel, make sure you spell out the purpose. You want to go in knowing your prospect and you are aligned. Your one and only goal here is to literally lay out the purpose for the meeting. You could do this in one of two ways.
- Simply state the purpose: “We are meeting today to learn about each other and how we might be able to work together.”
- Frame it as a question: “Why are you interested in meeting with me today?”
Step 2: Explain The Process for Our Meeting
Now walk your prospect through the process for this meeting. This will ensure they feel confident that you know how to lead them through. Start with a time check (“My understanding is we have 30 minutes for this conversation – does that still work for you?”) and then map out the process you will take them through in the next 30 minutes.
It may sound something like this: “Our process is that I will ask you a series of questions to understand your challenges and then I will tell you a bit about what we do. We’ll see if your challenges align with what we do and we’ll both know whether we should continue to a next step. Does that sound fair to you?” or “Does that work for you?” This question at the end allows them to say, “No, I thought you would demo your X9000 today.” or “Yes. And… can I see the X9000?”
Step 3: Call Out The Possibilities of Our Meeting
Bringing up the possibilities for your meeting takes the pressure off the client and allows you to have an open, honest, and productive conversation. Your purpose here is to put possibilities in the air in a truthful way. The bottom line is you don’t want to work with a client who isn’t a good fit for your company or solution. Letting the client know this from the get-go gives them space to hear you out without feeling strong-armed into anything.
You might say:
- “We will learn about each other in the next (30,45,60) minutes and then we’ll both be able to decide if we want to go to a next step.”
- “We might see that it’s not a fit – and if it’s not, I’ll try to offer a suggestion as to who else might be able to help you. Makes sense?”
Bottom Line: You Need a Conversational Map
It’s not enough to understand your product in and out. It’s not even enough to do your client research prep before the meeting. In order to guide a productive and healthy sales conversation, you’ll need to know how to frame the meeting – especially that first conversation. Think of it like a map for getting where you want to go.
Tell me what you think:
- How have you successfully framed meetings in the past?
- When have you seen an unframed meeting go awry?
- What other elements would you recommend for a first sales conversation?