Stand on two feet – tall as you can – feet together. Have someone push you as hard as they can. Make sure you are tall. Did you start to fall over?
Stand back up, feet shoulder width apart…on your toes a bit. Crouch down a little to distribute body weight evenly. Make sure you’re sturdy. Have the same person push you again. Did you maintain your stance this time?
Welcome to the two opening positions in sales. Too often getting a meeting is mistaken for “giving everything away” or “promising everything.” You’re standing up straight, “peacocking,” to get a meeting.
There are plenty of reasons/excuses to do this. Perhaps it’s a new gig. Perhaps we didn’t think they’d bite. Likely we’re in a slump. But make no mistake, positioning yourself straight up is a guaranteed way to get knocked over at the end of the sale.
We feel the urgency of selling, and it’s easy to think there is not enough time, so we rush to a first meeting. The problem is, compared to true agreements and partnerships, meetings are easy to come by, but at certain times in our sales lives, we fail to think that way. So we press… and we cut bad deals… and how many of them are created right from the beginning? And how many are lost for the same reason? Who enjoys having to re-position the opening in the middle of the sales cycle? I don’t.
In today’s sales climate, we face less time to research a prospect, less time with each prospect, but an increase in demands to produce. Because information and contact is freely available, there is a belief that people should know more, understand it faster, and move more quickly to a decision. But while our technical advances are amazing, the human brain hasn’t changed, and all of this information has created hesitancy all across the sales cycle – including the “simple” task of getting a meeting. So how many times have you taken a shortcut and stood straight up to position as the tallest one in the room, only to get knocked down later?
We can all put our hands down. The question should be, how do you combat this? First of all, know their value so when they assign you at zero and decline the meeting, they’ve lost, not you.
Step #1: Set their value.
If THIS meeting will make your career, your year, your month, you’ve already lost. So stop it. Cluster these opportunities. Make sure you have a minimum of ten that are just like it. Lower the value of THIS sale by having at least ten more just like it.
Most common response, “But my account list sucks.” Great, then metrically prove they all have no value, go sell a few, see the deals crash POST-sale, and prove a “book issue,” not a “sales issue.” With clustering and hard metrics to value them you’ll make your point. If this is true, your major problem isn’t the ONE who won’t meet with you, it’s the 199 that you must call on who have no value. Attack that first.
Step #2: Take the position that your solution isn’t right for everyone.
Physiologically, no one wants to be left behind, so this position gives you a leg up, but in reality it’s true. Monopolies don’t exist, but Ideal Client Profiles do, so position yourself with clarity and strength. For example, “We work best with companies that have had these challenges and each of our prospects – clients or not – have found our insights valuable to achieving their goals.” I say this, but be damn sure you bring insights to the meeting.
Step #3: Set the expectation in the request.
The purpose of the meeting is to… (fill in the blank). It’s not to sell them, it’s not to run through a deck (I hope). It can be to tell a brief version of your story and see how it lines up with a brief version of their pain. It can be simply 15 minutes to ascertain if more time is worth it for either of you. There is nothing wrong with stating that you value your own time as much as theirs. Obviously, you need to know what symptoms they have or don’t have to be quick about this part.
What if you have a team of people setting appointments for you? First off, ensure they have a tight script and can’t over promise to set you up to underdeliver. Make sure they understand what is out of bounds as much as what’s in bounds. The reason? You can tell them what to say in certain situations, but I guarantee you can’t cover all of them. And continue to cluster value, as it’s never a bad exercise.
These three simple steps help ensure you have a strong base when you’re setting up initial contact. Want to hear how I happily walked away from three negative encounters with strategic partner prospects with a laugh? Click the video.