Years ago one of my bosses had a bellyful of great meetings. When he asked about the outcome of various customer meetings and sales calls, every rep seemed to come back with the same evaluation.
He finally couldn’t take it anymore and came out with one for the ages: “Stop telling me you had a great meeting! Tell me what happened! Great meetings are the comfort of the weak seller!”
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While not known for subtlety, he had a point. Far too often, these great meetings were great because neither side really committed to anything beyond general positivity and hope that things might work out some day. No one was disappointed because no one really asked for anything. The rep described his offerings while the client described her goals. Everything was friendly and congratulatory. There was much positive head nodding about things like alignment and complimentary strategies. There was a nod toward speaking again at some future juncture when a budget or objectives will have arrived. Hugs were exchanged at the elevator.
Great meeting. Then….nothing.
What my boss understood many years ago in an era of four-color bleed pages and 15% commissions is just as true – and even more urgent – today. All these great meetings are hurting us three ways. First, nothing actually gets sold. Second, we’ve needlessly extended an already long and meandering sales cycle. And finally, we’ve injected an element of false hope into the pipeline where it doesn’t belong. Hope is a wonderful human quality but a really shitty sales strategy.
Instead of having great meetings, reps should go in with urgent, specific business problems they can help solve. They should have a specific course of action to recommend and be able to say just what that course of action would cost the customer. And they should ask very specifically for the action they want the customer to take.
You may not get a hug at the elevator, but you’ll start having real conversations, better forecasting, account progress and better sales.
Now that’s great.