Years ago, I went to a meeting with one of my sales reps where he was hoping to sell a $50,000 piece of software and some associated services. The sales rep’s goal was “to get their agreement to move forward with the project and purchase.” It was still a bit early in the sales process, so I modified the goal to be, “understand their needs, and if we have a good fit, get their agreement on the next steps.”  We set up the meeting in advance with that plan clearly communicated both internally and to the prospect. Part way through the meeting it became clear that the software solution we intended to sell was not going to be the right fit. We then immediately refocused the conversation to more fully understand their needs, and ultimately got their approval to proceed with a project where the first phase was actually $500,000, with the eventual project being worth over $10,000,000.  Immediately following the meeting, I asked my sales rep, “what do you think we could have done differently?”  He was smiling too much to answer.

Just the other day I was working with a client and asked about a meeting they had with a prospect.  Each person had a different take on the meeting. One thought it went perfectly, another thought it was terrible, and yet another thought it was “ok,” but didn’t see any tangible next steps. That’s when it hit me that they continue to go to meetings and the same things keep happening – or not happening – for them. It reminded me of what Einstein reputedly said: “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Here are three steps you can take to achieve better outcomes from your meetings.

  1. Define Your Goal: It’s a shame how often when I ask “what is your goal for the meeting?” I get a blank stare in response. Set realistic goals for your meetings. If you have a complex solution you are selling, and the typical sales cycle is 90 days, your reasonable goal for the first meeting should probably not be to expect a signed contract. In fact, in such a situation, your goal might be to see if the opportunity is worth continued investment of your time.
  2. Set and Manage Expectations: If you have ever walked into a conference room thinking you are about to meet with one person and find an audience of 12 waiting with a projector for your PowerPoint presentation, this step will help you avoid that disaster. Well before the meeting, set the plan for your team. Then communicate the plans with your prospect and manage expectations in advance. If you expect to meet for an hour and spend a certain amount of time asking them questions, then set that expectation in advance of the meeting.
  3. Review and Adjust: Immediately after each meeting, I suggest you review what happened to see what you learned… bad and good. Ask each team member, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how did that go?” Learn specifically what went great that you should replicate – and what made it great. Next, talk about what you could have done better as another lesson for the future. You just might uncover something you can “fix” with your client before it is too late.  Perhaps more importantly, you will have a clearer sense of what to do and what not to do in the future – and why.

Following these three steps may sound simple, but they will help you become outrageously successful targeting and winning business.  What structures do you follow for success?