As published on Forbes.com
I had the pleasure of speaking at a business conference about aligning sales and marketing to achieve dramatic growth. I asked the group of business owners and executives, “Tell me about a good meeting you have had recently with a potential client that didn’t immediately result in a sale. What made it a good meeting?” These talented business leaders shared some common themes: “We seemed to get along very well. They liked me.” “There was plenty of agreement and head-nodding.” “They want to get together again to continue.” I noted that these are great attributes to look for… if you are on a date. However, they might not be the right things to look for in a business meeting if you’re trying to determine if an opportunity is worth pursing.
Feeling Good vs. Business Value
We all want to feel good and get positive reinforcement. It is easy to focus on what makes us feel good instead of what might be meaningful in a business context. Yes, people prefer to do business with people they like. It is most important, though, that they feel they can value and trust you. I’m not suggesting that you ignore rapport. But, once you have established rapport, you need to focus on four specific pieces of information to determine if the client’s opportunity is worth pursuing.
Steps to Evaluate For Success
I often speak at events and workshops about something I call The Same Side Quadrants. The Same Side Quadrants provide simple framework to collect the right information so that you can objectively evaluate whether or not an opportunity is a good fit for your resources. Focus on these four elements to achieve extraordinary success:
Use the following graphic as a template to capture notes during your meeting. If you forget to cover one of the quadrants, a simple glance at the sheet will let you know what you missed.
This is the easiest area. Issue includes the high-level description of the project or issue your client is facing. Issue focuses on WHAT the client might be interested in doing with you.
Impact and Importance are concepts I write about extensively in Same Side Selling. Your goal is to uncover what happens for the customer if they DO NOT find a solution to their issue. Impact for business customers is usually measured financially. Importance measures the relative importance of solving this issue compared to other things on their plate. If Issue is WHAT they are considering; Impact/Importance is WHY they need to do it. If they customer cannot convince you of impact, it might not be worth pursuing.
You might think you know how your customer would measure success, but what if you are each focused on different outcomes. Disaster can come emerge. Instead, as questions like “Six month or eighteen months after we deliver, how will you and I be able to measure our success? This is a great time to align expectations.
Have you ever pursued an opportunity and discovered someone in the eleventh hour who had never come up in discussion before that moment? Simply asking a question like “Who else has the most to gain or lose on this project? Who has an opinion they will certainly want to share about how we approach this project and how we measure the results?” This will give you an idea of who might need to be included in the process.
How Customers Make Decisions
These quadrants are aligned with how customers make decisions. You can read more about that here. In short, customers first need to appreciate what problems you solve and why they might need what you see. Then, and only then, do they care about the results or outcomes. Practicing the Same Side Quadrants as discussed in this video, can help you achieve extraordinary success.
Business meetings are not social calls. Don’t confuse a feel-good social meeting with a productive business meeting. When you focus on the Same Side Quadrants, your clients will easily see you as a valued resource. The next time you hear “We had a great meeting,” you’ll know how to measure if the meeting is leading to something productive, or if you are confusing meeting with dating.
It’s Your Turn
What do you use to measure if an opportunity is worth pursuing? Take the discussion to Twitter or LinkedIn and share your thoughts.