What is one of the biggest complaints that executives have about sales meetings? Unprepared reps who don't know anything, or enough, about them and their business!
Tracy DeCicco, MBA joined me on a recent #livesaleslab to share what executives are looking for and some ways to prepare.
Carole: Tracy DiCicco has a sales consulting firm that helps tech companies access the C-level. I was really excited to have her on today cause our topic today was, "Researching and Preparing for Meetings."
So Tracy, you're in a unique position to tell us, what is the biggest complaint that executives have when it comes to sales meetings?
Tracy: Thank you, Carole. It's great being on your #livesaleslab today, and of course in the last month or so I shared with you an article from Harvard, about the dissonance that executives feel after meeting with sales people, where the sales people felt they did a very good job, but the executives feel that they were quite ill prepared. And so, I think one of them is that I get feedback from clients, whether it's here or through some colleagues, that you need to be able to prepare well for the meeting with a customer.
Their time is precious, they're very busy people, and you need to be able to prepare for that meeting with that customer; prepare an adequate agenda, you've got the agenda ahead of time, and that kind of thing.
Carole: So walking into the meeting and asking an executive what it is that keeps him up at night is not a good idea?
Tracy: Not a good idea at all. It's a guaranteed way to get thrown out of the meeting in every single case.
Carole: Yeah. I feel like that phrase of "what keeps you up at night", should be banned from all sales conversations. Including, just checking in, following up, and getting a status update. Like, those should all be banned from sales language.
Tracy: Or all human language.
Carole: Yeah, exactly. To sell is to be human...
Getting into the research part of things. If preparing for these meetings is so important, what are some of the best ways to do that? What are some of the ways they should be doing that?
Tracy: To know their financial information if they're a publicly available firm. If it's a retailer, you just shop their stores. If it's another industry, if it's a bank, you need to shop their bank. You need to know who they are. You need to research the people, because these are humans. So, you need to look at their Linkedin profile. You need to do thorough research on their strategy through any sort of public documentation, because you need to assimilate what you think could be some possible pain points for this client that you potentially could solve.
Carole: No matter what it is that you think, because my favorite phrase is, "it's not about what you think." How do you then go about vetting that with the various people that are going to be involved?
Tracy: Have a champion or a sponsor that's relatively high up in an organization, and maybe my meeting is with someone that's even more senior to them. I might work through that meeting champion or that sponsor to get their feedback on if I'm on track with the research I've done, or the agenda that I pulled together, or any sort of feedback or edits they might have to that agenda. So I'll typically get feedback through a sponsor that I have at the firm. Who's typically very highly placed.
Because I want to know that I've gone into that agenda where, even ultimately the even more senior folks I'm meeting with have seen the agenda. The ultimate meeting contact, let's say it's a meeting with the CEO, they need to have seen that agenda as well. And I need to have gotten feedback through my sponsor about any edits to that agenda. So I can know that I'm prepared.
Carole: Like we said at the very beginning, this is their time, this is their agenda, and as the sales person, building that consensus isn't going to happen by just walking into that meeting unprepared. And there's a lot of steps that are gonna be involved especially, like you've said, if you're selling to C-level, eventually to C-level as a lot of companies, especially tech companies, are going after target accounts these days.
One of the things that was actually really interesting is, we talked on the Sales Lab, and we've all had this happen, everyone in the lab has had this happen, where you do your research, you put together an agenda with them, they vet that agenda, they give you edits and suggestions, and you're filling in the gaps, and you walk into the meeting and they say "Yep, we don't wanna talk about anything that's on the agenda. We wanna talk about this." Now what do you do?
One of the interesting things was the reaction that one of the people described on the lab was suddenly getting this deer in the headlights internal conversation going on, and trying to sort of scramble as to okay, what's going on here? Meanwhile, there's this whole conversation that was going on around, and not really being able to cue into that. And actually, one of the things that I shared with them is that the challenge there is maintaining that emotional control. To be able to ask some questions like you had shared a couple, that what happens when that pivot happens?
Tracy: So, personally I try to prepare for all sorts of pivots that I might expect, so you could almost anticipate a pivot. You might even talk with your meeting sponsor about any sort of pivots that may come up. But you wanna go into that meeting pretty much feeling assured, there will be a pivot or two, guaranteed.
And that right there can cause some anxiety, right? If you come into a meeting knowing that there will be some sort of a pivot it deflates some of that anxiety. So you need to prepare around different scenarios, and you need to go into that meeting expecting that there will be some sort of a pivot, and guarantee you there will probably be some pivot, and you need to be prepared to address that pivot.
Now, you don't know everything, so something comes up in that meeting that you truly cannot address, and you're honest with the customer and you tell them you've noted it and will be able to get back to them.
And jump to the earlier part about the prep. A big thing about what I think people need to consider going into any of these meetings is you ultimately, at the end of the day, need to be a thought leader. You need to bring forward meaningful, valuable information to your customer. So you can't just research financials and strategy. You also need to bring forth a point of view on the industry and a point of view to your customer.
I wanted to share that as well.
Carole: And I look at it this way, the more that a sales person can ingrain themselves, and imbed themselves in the world of the person that they're talking to, to create that kind of empathy that they can understand what it actually might be like. That's the gold of all of this is yes, everything that you plan for is probably gonna pivot and change because guess what? Human beings are these dynamic things that they like to change at the last second and you're not gonna even see it coming sometimes.
And so, even the best laid plans are there, but without a plan you can't have any kind of an idea of the context of what their goals might be, whether their goals are gonna align with something that you can help with, or to your own, and then understanding their world so that you can add that value, so that you come with that outside perspective. You've done all of this research that gives you the knowledge. You've put it into context. You've vetted it with them, and as executives, as I've worked with them and been one, you get sometimes so wrapped up in what's going on inside of your company.
What about you?
How do you prepare for your sales meetings? What do you do when surprises come up? How do you advance things to the next step? Share your comments below!