Partners in Performance Blog

Client Sales Meeting Failures: The #1 Cause

Client-Sales-Meeting-MistakesDo your client meetings sometimes get derailed? It’s probably because of this one flaw in your sales process: the way you opened the meeting. You have to take control both at the start by setting the context of the meeting, as well as at the end, wrapping up with clear next steps.

I see this failure to open and close meetings properly happen all the time. And I know you do too. This one thing is done so poorly and inconsistently in client sales meetings, that it’s a #1 cause of “no sale” or a longer than necessary sales cycle. I can’t say enough about how important it is.

When you start opening effectively, you will see a dramatic difference in your desired outcomes. When I have a meeting that doesn’t quite play out the way I intend, it inevitably comes back to this: a poor start and a poor wrap up of the meeting.

More specifically, it comes down to how you as a sales person take control and guide the meeting process. That’s our job, after all, and without taking charge of the sales conversation, we can’t be as effective at making sales.

Taking control begins with setting the context. There are similar terms for this:

  • Framing the meeting
  • Setting the stage
  • Providing an overview

It’s important not just for sales meetings. ALL meetings and presentations, both internal and external, will benefit when you start with a strong context set.

(Tell me you’ve never been in a meeting where you’re sitting there confused, wondering what’s going to happen, why I am really here, and what do they want from me? Of course you have.)

Context setting is tough for people. It requires clarity of thought and planning. It has to be concise, delivered in a conversational tone and it has to clearly answer these questions that are percolating in the mind of your client:

  • Why are we are?
  • What is going to happen and how will we proceed?
  • What am I going to get out of this time spent with you?
  • What are you going to ask me to do at the end?

You’ve likely have heard the expression “Tell them what you are going to tell them – Tell them – Tell them what you told them.” It’s typically a suggested format for presentation skills but it applies equally to all meetings.

Your opening and closing statements are like ‘bookends’ to your sales process. Book ends shore up your books. Setting the context in a sales meeting frames and supports the sales conversation.

Bookends are almost invisible but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Without them your books fall apart. In the same way, your opening and closing only take a minute or so to deliver but they each serve a distinct and critical purpose.

Even I, as a sales coach expert have fallen into the trap of not setting the context properly. Last week I was in a first Discovery meeting with two partners from a professional services company. My typical pattern is to establish rapport and then to take the reins with words of transition such as:

“Is it okay if I take a minute to set the stage for our time together?”

It consistently works like a charm and allows me to set up the meeting properly.

However in this case, as soon as the senior partner sat down he immediately kicked off by describing their current situation. Of course that’s what we want in a Discovery meeting – to learn about the client. It simply would have been better had I framed up the meeting first to set up expectations for what would happen during the meeting and on the heels of the meeting.

As quickly as my ‘driver’ style client opened the meeting, he also brought the meeting to a close and told me to follow up in two weeks. While I attempted to establish a better and more concrete call to action, it didn’t happen to the degree I would have liked. At least not until I reflected on the meeting process afterwards and injected a follow up call to get the process on a better track.

My takeaway is that the next time I meet with a ‘driver’ client (and many are) who takes the reins at the beginning of the meeting, I will respectfully take the reins at an appropriate opening early on and inject a quick context set to set up the meeting for mutual success.

What about you, has this ever happened to you in a client meeting? I’d love to hear from you;you can reach me here or on LinkedIn.

This entry was posted by Tanja Parsley on January 23, 2015 in Closing Skills, Sales Follow Up, Sales Process, Sales Skills. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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