The things you do are often more powerful than the things you say.
New business prospects are more likely to increase their engagement level when they know a seller truly cares about them and their business. Think about your own buying habits—are you more likely to do business with someone who cares about you compared to a slick talking salesperson who only cares about making a sale?
You'll never learn what your clients and prospects want and need if you don't take the time to listen to them. Sometimes salespeople are so wrapped up in getting the decision maker to sign the dotted line that they forget the prospect is an actual person.
This is crucial because it's our job to understand our clients and treat them with respect. For us to earn that respect, customer-service skills come into play.
Here are five things to do before and during the first meeting with a new business prospect to demonstrate you care:
1. Research the prospect before the initial meeting.
- Research the person you are meeting on LinkedIn and with a Google search.
- Research the company, visit their website, read their blog, and follow them on social media.
- Research their industry online to identify trends, opportunities, and challenges for the prospect.
- Identify their competitors and research them to gain further category knowledge and insight.
- Sample the product or take a walk through their physical location, if possible.
- Ask them to connect on LinkedIn.
2. Develop needs analysis topics and questions and write (type) them on a sheet of paper.
- Determine which topics and questions are essential and which are just desirable.
- Ask questions that let them know you’ve done your homework.
- Get familiar with terminology from your prospect’s industry and how to use it appropriately.
- Keep the questions handy (don’t think you have to memorize them).
- Asking the same questions to all prospects is the lazy way out and rarely uncovers desired business results attached large budgets.
- Avoid over-preparation. 5–10 quality questions prepared in advance is usually sufficient.
Bonus Tip: After you agree on an assignment with the prospect and discuss their consumer journey, be sure to ask questions about how they measure success. Questions like:
- How would you describe the ultimate measure of success here?
- What return on investment are you looking for?
- Given our conversation about the consumer journey, what are some ways we can measure engagement along the purchase path?
- What would be an early indicator of success?
3. Contract and align expectations for the meeting.
- Send an Outlook invite after the prospect verbally commit to a meeting. Include the agenda, purpose of the meeting, and expectations.
- Ask if other people form their organization should attend.
- Send a reminder email the day prior to confirm the meeting.
4. Take notes during the meeting.
- Use a needs/notes T-bar to separate client needs (also known as desired business results) to separate general information (notes) from the good stuff (needs/desired business results).
5. Ask, listen, ask.
- Pay attention to their responses and ask appropriate follow-up questions.
- Some of the best questions you will ask are follow-up questions.
- When you hear a desired business result, keep asking questions to drill down to the root of the problem, challenge or opportunity.
Take the Time to Care
Setting an appointment with a new business prospect is not an easy task. Take the time to follow these steps to show you care—it will reduce the relationship tension during an initial meeting with a prospect and accelerate the sales process!
*Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in 2019 and has since been updated.