It's my annual gig for the Entrepreneurial Exchange. Always a knowledgable and challenging crowd. And good food, including coffee and cake afterwards. I am a big fan of cake at any event. The subject is the business development meeting, or if you prefer the sales meeting. You want to come out with something for sure, otherwise it's all a waste of time, but what?
Having explained your offering? Check.
Heard about their pain and scoped out a plan to alleviate it? Check.
Flashed a snazzy brochure and left it behind? Check.
Maybe shown a slide or twenty? Check.
Whenever I work on the sales meeting I ask the group for how long, in 30 minutes, they might just chew the fat: about the tennis or the kids or the holidays. The average is five; last night the range was one to twenty. Someone said there was no need for any small talk as you were there to do business. If you are in that camp be careful not to go in, tooled up, and vomit on the table.
Of course you should go into the sales meeting - in fact any meeting - knowing what outcome you might get. It is always surprising how many people seem to go into these opportunities not having thought of the outcome: like going to the airport without a destination. More than that, you need to think about a range of outcomes; there should be many different routes out with good possibilities. Be creative, consider all the ways you might keep the relationship alive, even if there is no deal to be done that day.
But here's the thing: small talk. Do small talk. Lots of it. More than you think you ever could or should. Small talk does more than break the ice: it helps turn, over time, likeability into trust. I'm not saying that you sit back and chat about mutual interests when you are told you have ten minutes, but often we go in with our agenda and essentially hard sell, even when we think we're not. This can seem a bit desperate and is never attractive.
Next time you have an early stage sales meeting as well as doing your homework, shining your shoes and lining up your pitch think about who you are meeting and what they might like to do other than work. And at the outset? Go on a fishing expedition; be interested and engaged; try and get some rapport going (try hard); look to see if they seem like they can be engaged on kids or holidays or Formula One or keeping chickens or en-suite bathrooms. It doesn't matter what the subject is, if you work at it rapport and likeability seems effortless and trust is on its way.
Trust me, if you are trying to sell to me get me engaged with London (my daughter will be studying there and I spend half my life working in the best city on the planet); Dundee United and Arsenal (I support them, in that order); cooking (soup, Thai curry and most recently spicy cous cous); and art deco architecture (I've just built a house with in the deco style).
Closing then is a piece of cake.
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about the author
Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.