“It’s all about planning and preparation” It’s amazing how many sales people and business owners I talk to who under-estimate the value and importance of planning and preparing for a first appointment. In the early days of my sales career making this change had the single biggest impact to my sales success. Besides, there is nothing worse than leaving an appointment without having the information you require simply because you forgot to ask the question. The objective of the first sales meeting is to build rapport with the buyer and understand not only their needs but the priority of these needs. Planning your appointments and taking a strategic approach helps to • Reduce the chance of surprises in the appointment • Create a more professional impression • Increase the likelihood of achieving objectives, and • Reduces stress Take a couple of minutes prior to every appointment and think about: • What value are you offering your prospect by having this meeting? What’s in it for them? • What would you like to achieve in this meeting (keeping in mind it is often difficult to close the sale in the first meeting) • What situations or events are occurring in their business or industry that could create an opportunity for you • What ‘high-level’ questions will you need to ask to uncover their needs, current problems or areas they would like to improve? For example: “What has prevented you from addressing the problem before and what has changed now?” “What would be the consequences of not dealing with the problem at this time?” • Are there likely to be any objections or reasons that the prospect may not be interested in pursuing any further? If so, what can you say to overcome these objections and move it to the next stage? Have a list of pre-prepared questions written down in front of you keeps your appointments effective and efficient, for both parties. Many of you may think this makes you look unprofessional, however, in my opinion the opposite is true. It makes you stand out from the crowd and shows the prospect how serious you are and how important this appointment is to you. Explain at the beginning of the appointment, the reasoning behind it; that you don’t want any pertinent information to be missed or forgotten. Having these questions written down will also help to: • Improve your listening skills. You give the prospect your undivided attention because you don’t have to worry what to ask next. • Keeps the appointment flowing in the direction you want and keeps everyone on track. Particularly if the conversation or prospect goes off on a tangent. • Obtain all the key information you need to move to the next step. • Keep you focused and stop you from “selling” too early in the appointment As they are talking, make notes and highlight any ‘hot buttons’ or ‘key points’ separately that you will need to go back to. Do not interrupt and start ‘selling’ until you have finished asking all your questions, even when you hear something you know you can fix or when pressed by the prospect. Interrupting stops the train of thought, stops them from sharing further information and stops you from getting a complete understanding of their needs and their priority of these needs. When you have finished asking questions, go back and clarify anything that you need further information on to ensure your complete understanding. In addition, paraphrase the buyer's concerns to indicate your understanding, and clarify the problem that needs to be resolved. For example; “So what you would like to do is improve the conversion rates of your sales team so all members are consistently meeting their budgets, is that correct?” Once you have a complete understanding, you are ready to move to the next stage.