If there is one constant in the copier world, it is the long, unending string of meetings you’ll attend, plan and conduct.
More than once I’ve heard it said: “If our company could sell meetings, we’d never run out.”
As experienced as we all are with attending and conducting meetings, it amazes me how often customer-facing get-togethers are unguided and formless.
I’m not sure why more time isn’t given to instruction on basic meeting structure and etiquette.
As a new copier rep, you’re expected to conduct sales appointments and closing meetings. All meetings have unique goals and objectives, and your dealership may have a standard meeting format. I’ve been on the receiving end of many copier, document management and managed print services sales presentations, and all have the same the broad structure of introduction(s), discussion, proposal, then close.
But the same structure doesn’t necessarily equal the same quality. The following are more observations than recommendations. Think of them as aspects I’ve observed from some of the most productive sales calls I’ve experienced. I do not recommend ignoring the established format entirely; on the contrary, I simply suggest utilizing the points you find interesting.
I’ve broken these goals and approaches into two categories: strategic and tactical.
- Research – This goes without saying. Do a quick LinkedIn search, get some basic information and proceed.
- Prepare – A five to 15-minute review of all your appointments for the day can only improve your meetings.
- Dress – You know this one.
- Be on time – It amazes me how often EVERYONE, both sales reps and prospects, shows up tardy.
- Print the agenda – By far the easiest and most overlooked recommendation. At the very least have a standard agenda template ready.
- Lead – Direct the conversation. Yes, you can use a PowerPoint, but a blank page and a pencil can work just as well.
- Listen – Ask questions. Repeat your understanding of the answer. Confirm. Move forward.
- Solve – Do not sell. Solve the problem you’ve uncovered.
- Take notes – Use paper and pen. Draw pictures and flowcharts.
- Next step – Close for the next step. It could be to sign contracts, or demonstration. Get the commitment to move forward.
- Follow up – A handwritten note is always good; a summary email is great.
- Confirm the amount of time available; e.g. 60 minutes, etc. “I’ve set aside 60 minutes for this meeting. Is this still a good amount of time?”
- Ask, “What would you like to know?” The answer will tell you the absolute minimum content to be covered.
- Review the agenda and ask for additions or questions.
- Present your company value proposition. This is a delicate subject. Some companies have spent thousands of dollars developing a 15-slide company overview. When just starting out, it is easy for you to be overly eager to tell every single historical company datapoint. Please, for the love of all things good, do not inflict a 15-minute lecture about how your company started in the owner’s garage, selling to churches. I’ve been on the other side; nobody is going to tell you this, but these presentations are torture. Get the company intro down to five minutes or less.
- Explain your process. Brevity is the soul of wit, so tell your prospect what you’re going to do in a step by step manner. Five steps is plenty.
- Gain agreement. Ask permission to continue after confirming your prospect has a clear understanding of the concepts you’re presenting.
- Ask questions. “Curiosity is more important than knowledge,” said Albert Einstein. Curiosity is your greatest gift to you and those around you. Use it. Often.
- Close for the next step. Relationships die when forward motion ends. Keep it going, or understand and accept terminus.
Meetings can be mundane, and my suggestions are not the final word. But it is apparent to me that few take the time to put together a standard format for first-time meetings or even heavy presentations. Most seem ad-hoc. Do yourself a favor and assemble a standard, personal appointment structure. You’ll be levels above your competition — guaranteed.