Sales Meeting Blues
The majority of sales meetings miss the mark for both the buyer and seller. A few years back Forrester did research showing that 80% of executives do not find meetings with sales representatives valuable and more specifically that more than three-quarters said sellers were not “not knowledgeable about their business,” “did not understand their specific issues” and “did not have relevant case studies”
Recent research from Xant (formerly InsideSales) on more than a quarter million sales deals shows that only 28% of closed deals are predicted accurately 90 days out. Meaning that on the seller side these sales meetings are not being used to qualify buyers around their interest and ability to purchase.
A big gap for most teams is too much emphasis on a specific sales methodology and too little emphasis on meeting management. Strong meeting management is the best way to make sure a seller can qualify prospects around goals and gaps, tailor each conversations to these goals, and then secure commits needed to qualify a deal around readiness to purchase.
Managing Three-Part Meetings
The easiest way to improve meeting quality is to encourage your sales team to think about a good sales meeting as having three-parts.
- Qualify: All selling starts by finding a critical goal, a buyer gap to achieving that goal and a payoff to solving the gap that would motivate a purchase. Sellers should spend the first part of any sales meeting “committing to discovery” by qualify or re-qualifying prospects on their critical goals. The first part of the meeting is learning “Why” the Buyer is talking to us.
- Tailor: The middle part of the meeting then has to focus tailoring our companies capabilities and client case studies specifically to the buyers goals. Aberdeen has show that Best-in-Class sales organizations are 69% more proficient at mapping products/services to their prospects’ business challenges. The second part of the meeting is making the “Why Us” business case.
- Commit: If we establish fit between the buyer’s goals and our capabilities, the third part of the meeting then has to focus on the steps we will each commit to taking toward making a partnership possible. The seller will need to take follow-up actions to make the case for a purchase, but so will the buyer to build internal readiness to purchase.
The “hard questions” around buyer commits are usually the phase the does not receive enough air time, so its helpful to plan in advance questions that confirm a buyer’s next steps.
Cueing Meeting Transitions
You should have your sellers start to think should about their meetings in three equal time blocks. In a 30-minute discovery call, about 10-minutes of the meeting should be on qualifying, 10 minutes on tailoring, and 10 minutes on commits. In a 60-minute demo and discussion with a group of stakeholders, they can divide the meeting into three 15- to 20-minute parts.
A best practice in managing three-part meeting is to start with a goal-oriented agenda that covers the key meetings sections and transitions. Here’s a generic example:
- Time Check: We set agreed on <time minutes>, does that time still works?
- Agenda: Here were the things I was hoping to coverAgenda and Expected Outcome
- Quick overview of us and the challenges we solve
- Understanding of your key goals and priorities
- Explore alignment with our capabilities
- If the fit is right, then identify the right group for a follow up discussion
- Buyer Goal: Does that all sound right? If there anything specific you wanted to make sure we cover or that you get out of the meeting?
There are two main reasons sales meetings go off track. The first is the buyers often push quickly to a product or capabilities discussion. The second is that sellers often are uncomfortable asking for commits. Give your team simple questions to guide the transitions. Here are examples:
- Finishing qualification:
- When the buyer asks about product, we can say “there are lots of parts of our product, let me ask a couple more questions so I can under your goals so we focus on the right part of the product”
- When the buyer shares a goal in one area, we can say “we have talked about your goals in area X, can we touch on any goals in Y or Z, so I can make sure to share the right capabilities”
- Transitioning to commits:
- “I want to be aware of our time today. We’d talked about your goals and our capabilities, can we now transition to areas of fit and what we each need to do next to deepen the conversation.”
- “I want to make sure we are both using our time well. Do you see ways we could advance the goals X, Y we talked about earlier? What should we do next to explore fit further?”
Committing to practice on managing a three-part meeting will pay dividends far beyond time spent memorizing any sales methodology.