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How to make a positive impression at a sales meeting

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Let’s say you have successfully arranged a follow-up second meeting with a client or prospect. You have arrived at their offices and they have come to pick you up from reception.. Now you are faced with a journey in a lift or up the stairs with this person. This is something a lot of sales people genuinely don’t look forward to. A number go to great lengths to sharpen their so-called ‘elevator pitch’.  Others prefer to take it as it comes and choose not to prepare at all for this initial stage of the meeting.

I would suggest that producing a lasting second impression on a client or prospect you have met before is often more important than a positive first impression. I consider the fact that you have managed to agree to that crucial second meeting a sign that they would like to gradually progress with discussions or negotiations and that you have already managed to establish a certain level of trust and understanding. You now have an even more challenging job of solidifying this trust and moving the client or prospect towards closing the deal.

So what should you be saying and doing in those awkward two minutes before you sit down in the more formal context of the meeting room or their office? My approach was always to skip the chit chat about the weather, how nice their offices look and so on. Instead, I would enquire about a recent presentation they have given, an article they have published, a recent event the company participated in or a new product or service they have introduced. In other words, the second impression you should aim for is of a well-prepared person who has thoroughly researched their client/prospect and the company and is genuinely curious about their career and achievements. Steer clear of questions about their personal life at this stage – that may be something to explore towards the end of the meeting or once the deal has been closed. You need to prompt the client to speak about themselves and their achievements. And while they speak, listen, don’t interrupt or change the subject to your own achievements.

Once you arrive at the meeting room, you are faced with a harder task – how to switch the conversation towards the actual topic of the meeting be it deal renewal, discussion of supplying the initial package of services or any other objective.  It is important to be polite and subtle when moving the discussion toward starting your meeting in earnest. Finish listening to what the client has to say and to finalise the discussion in the lift, you can say something like, “That was very interesting. Sounds like a good conference. Do you think you could email me your slides after the meeting?” The client will respond, hopefully in a positive way. Then you can move right on to say, “What I wanted to discuss today is…” A lot of salespeople miss the point of the conversation when a client is giving clues that they want to move on and talk about the actual topic of the meeting. The clues could be lowering their head, falling silent, raising their eyes etc. If you can anticipate when this point may come and change the topic before the clues start to be visible, you are in the win.

After the meeting ends, don’t forget to discuss and agree the next steps. Never leave the meeting ‘unfinished’. The next steps could be arranging a phone call or a third meeting, having the contract sent out to the client for signing, introducing other people from each company to each other etc. When arranging a follow-up meeting, always suggest a date – this makes arrangements more definitive while at the same time providing the client with flexibility to suggest an alternative date and time.

And finally, thank them for their time. So many people forget this simple act of respect and politeness and walk out with just a bye-bye or a ‘speak to you soon’. Thank them a couple of times in fact. People like it. They like to be appreciated . If you follow the steps above, hopefully the impression you produce during your second meeting will be as good as or better than the first encounter and will open up real possibilities of closing the deal.

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