When business owners seek my help with their meetings, they're usually concerned with how they meet internally. Sometimes, however, I hear from a leader who's losing business due to bad meetings with clients.
One business owner said, "Elise, I just got the third complaint from a client who's angry about having my team waste their time in bad meetings. You need to teach my people about agendas."
Of course, meetings that delight clients require more than an agenda.
Angelique Rewers, CEO of The Corporate Agent and the undisputed champion at helping small businesses land big clients, hears similar cries from her clients. Together, we discussed the common mistakes we see and pinpointed four ways you too may be driving your clients bonkers.
Crazymaker 1: Not being clear about where you are in the process.
Anyone trying to buy from you is looking to solve a problem that they lack the time, interest, or expertise to solve themselves. They're seeking an expert who can get the job done.
As Mark Cuban said, "Anybody who reduces my stress becomes invaluable to me. I never want to get rid of them."
And yet, too often outside vendors join a meeting with a decision maker without being entirely sure why they're there.
Arrive knowing the meeting's purpose and desired outcomes every time. Demonstrate you're the expert who understands the larger process and how to best help that prospect now.
"Be strategic. If the prospect is ready to talk with you about their challenge, start by sharing a story that establishes your experience and credibility. On the other hand, if they're just curious about how you might help them down the road, don't launch an old-school sales pitch. That will just damage that relationship."
Crazymaker 2: Failing to take the lead in the meeting.
In mid-January, I talked with a woman from a large corporation that wanted my team to give a series of workshops. "Do you have any availability in May?" she asked--not to deliver the workshops, but to talk with her boss about signing the contract. Her executive team's calendar is booked solid four months out.
Yet despite the value of meetings with decision makers and how difficult they can be to schedule, many vendors show up without a plan. As a result, Forrester sales researchers found that a majority of decision makers feel meetings with salespeople and outside experts are a waste of time.
"So decision makers default to sharing a whole bunch of information, ask you to put together a proposal and send it to them," said Rewers. "But this approach makes the back-and-forth process more time consuming for everyone. What's worse, in most cases the lack of direct communication also means the client doesn't get what they really needed to solve their problem."
Walk in with a plan and take the lead. You may not be a decision maker in a big company, but in this meeting, you're the expert, and you know what you need to achieve. Share your plan for the meeting with the decision maker, then make sure it happens. Remember, they are asking you to solve a problem, so show them you can solve the problem of how to use that meeting time well.
Crazymaker 3: Leaving the follow-up to chance.
If you've ever met with a prospect who expressed great urgency, only for them to go radio silent the next day, you know how quickly priorities can shift. You won't know what that silence means until they resurface. Meanwhile, you don't have the business and they aren't getting their problem solved.
Make sure to schedule the next meeting before you go.
"If I could get people to make one change that would deliver radically better results, it would be changing this bad habit," said Rewers. "Don't just agree to send an email. Get an exact day and time on the calendar for the next conversation."
Crazymaker 4: Not making it a win for the prospect, either way.
Even if you do everything right in a meeting, it's not always the right timing for the prospect. Yet when the researchers at the sales training and consulting firm Rain Group asked about meetings with outside vendors, decision makers said only one in five shared new ideas in sales meetings. What a wasted opportunity!
Prepare to add value no matter what.
"Identify the unique missing link or point of view you bring to the table, which provides an aha for the decision maker," said Rewers. "If they say, 'Wow, we've never thought about it that way before,' then you know you've brought value."
None of us intend to drive clients crazy but too often we do. Follow these tips to stand out as the quality expert you are.