How many times have you walked out of a sales meeting and thought, “Well, what was the point of that? I’ve just driven X number of hours to get here and I’ve come away with nothing.”
All too often, sales meetings can end with no tangible outcomes, resulting in a bad experience for both the customer and the seller. Each party has wasted their precious time and energy, and it can leave a bad taste in your mouth for the next sales engagement. A bad meeting can be the end of the road for many deals.
Or, it can be the other ‘type’ of bad meeting. It can, in fact, be a perfectly good meeting. It’s going well; you’re getting on great with the customer, the conversation is flowing, they are asking about your recent holiday, you’re asking about their kids…and before you know it, your hour is up, and you’re back in reception signing out and handing in your visitor pass. Nothing was achieved, but it was still a good meeting, right? WRONG.
Ineffective meetings waste your time and the buyer’s time. A successful sales rep knows the importance of concise, effective and results-driven meetings.
But how often do companies train their staff on how to hold effective sales meetings?
We’re going to talk through some of the ways in which you can have more effective sales meetings, using best practice meeting processes and tips.
For more info, check out our Meeting Planning Template Pack that gives you all the editable templates (including a Meeting Agenda Template), plus the meeting planning template resources you need to plan your next successful B2B sales meeting.
Successful planning = successful sales meetings
Yep, you guessed it, there’s no magic bullet. A lot of it is in the planning.
One thing that many buyers complain of, is salespeople not understanding their challenges or knowing about their company. Planning prior to the sales meeting can fix this issue easily.
There are a few things to look at:
- Customer company research
- Customer individual research
- Industry research
(For more detail into what to look for under each of these headings, see our pack on Meeting Planning).
The different stages of planning a meeting
There are a number of stages in the planning of a meeting.
Let’s look at the first stage: Pre-Planning.
The Pre-Planning stage is all about taking some time out to think about what you want from the meeting, or, what do you want to come away with at the end of the meeting.
This sounds obvious, but very often, salespeople set up appointments and meetings without having a clear reason why. Setting up meetings is such a common objective for so many reps that they do it without thinking: of course you’re going to want to set up a meeting with your prospect. But we should actually take a step back and think about why we are having this meeting.
So, firstly – ask yourself these questions:
- What has prompted you to set up this meeting?
- What do you want to talk to your customer about, specifically?
- Why will this be of real and tangible interest to your customer (i.e. if your answer to question 2 was ‘Talk to the customer about our new product/service’ then have a rethink as this is likely not going to be of real interest to your customer – in fact, 69% of buyers said the most important thing in creating a positive sales experience was salespeople listening to their needs.)?
- What do you want to leave the meeting having achieved?
The answers to these questions should provide you with a framework to start planning your meeting and working out the questions you want to ask. This information is really critical to ensuring you have a clear objective and focus to guide your meeting structure.
Now, you’re ready to move onto the second stage of planning: the Meeting Agenda.
Creating a credible Meeting Agenda Plan
A robust meeting agenda can be the difference between a successful meeting and a lacklustre conversation – it keeps your meeting on track, it focuses the mind and it holds everyone to account.
Is that random question that someone just asked off topic? You can be polite and redirect everyone’s attention back to the meeting agenda – after all, you all agreed to it upfront so who can argue?
But how often do you send out a meeting agenda prior to meeting with your customer?
Meeting agendas are critical documents for both you and your customer. Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t ever have a meeting without one:
- It demonstrates you are professional and credible, taking the time to thoughtfully plan your meeting
- It shows your customer that you follow a clear and sensible process in all of your sales activities
- It focuses everyone’s mind in the meeting to stick to the key topics
- It helps to stop meetings running over time and straying off topic
- It gives all attendees an opportunity prior to the meeting to add their own points that they want to discuss, in a way in which everyone can be prepared.
- It helps everyone to prepare effectively for the meeting. For example, if the agenda comes out and says that you are going to discuss Q1 sales revenues in the meeting, then you can go away and collate the necessary information prior to the meeting.
A meeting agenda can be sent as an email or a separate document, and is usually sent to all attendees, prior to the meeting starting.
We recommend sending out the meeting agenda at least a day before the meeting to allow everyone time to prepare. Even better, it’s good to send out the agenda when the meeting is first arranged so that attendees have ample opportunity to add their own agenda points to the meeting plan.
Our Meeting Template Pack has everything you need to plan a successful sales meeting, including a Meeting Agenda Template that you can edit in Microsoft Word and share with attendees.
More effective sales questions = more effective answers
When planning out the questions for your meeting, think about the answers you want to receive.
So, a simple way to do this is to write a quick plan of the info you need in order to reach the next step in your sales cycle or process.
Here’s an example:
Sales cycle step I want to reach after this meeting: Getting the customer to agree to taking a sample or demo product to try before buying.
Information I need from the customer to achieve this sales cycle step: I need to know if the customer is working with any other companies on this project, if they are currently demoing any other products, and what results would be important for them to see when demoing the product.
Questions based on this needed information:
- Are you working with any other companies and if so, who? (And what stage are you at with these companies?)
- Have you demoed any other products as part of this project? What were your experiences?
- What would a successful product sample or demo look like? What results would you need to achieve in order to consider the product demo period a success?
This process of reverse questioning helps you to plan out your questions so that you come away with useful and valuable information, rather than just asking a range of generic questions that don’t give you the information you can act on.
Meeting Planning Template
For more support in planning your meeting, head over to our Meeting Planning Template section to get the templates, downloadable resources and guides to better plan your next meeting.