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Preparing For Buyer Meetings
FROM BULLETPROOF SELLING:
No high-performing team on the planet will step into a high-stakes situation and hope they have success. Whether a team of one or one thousand, performing at the highest levels means preparing for who will do what, when, and what happens if things go awry. In the military, it’s called a ‘brief.’ For salespeople, the entire process doesn’t need to take more than two minutes but will easily double sales if conducted well.
From Chapter 15:
Prepping For Bulletproof Sales Meetings
WHILE PREPARING TO step into missions, military troops showed up an hour before a mission was set to kick off for a pre-mission brief.
They willingly showed up to this meeting because it often ensured more people would return alive. Rather than being high-level strategy sessions, these quick briefs went over important timelines and tactics for coordinating efforts between other units, along with reviewing changes going into effect from the latest Lessons Learned captured around the globe.
It’s easy to understand that having the most up-to-date information is important. However, these pre-mission briefs also served to reorient everyone on their upcoming mission objectives. In quickly changing environments, how a mission is accomplished often changes with the weather, geopolitical shifts, and even local traffic patterns. Having the most up-to-date information was often the difference between success and failure.
Unfortunately, few sales teams take the time to brief salespeople for their crucial missions: sales meetings. Sales leaders simply hope things go well when their folks meet with important decision makers or when closing large deals. If we wait until after a sales meeting occurs to review potential problems and failure points, the train has already left the station. That’s using hope as a sales strategy, and we’re long past that in our Bulletproof journey.
Sales teams who fail to plan are planning to fail, which is why the sales meeting brief is so critical.
The Sales Meeting Brief System
Trigger: Occurs just before scheduled sales meetings with qualified decision makers.
Bulletproof Impact: Ensures salespeople have all information and materials needed to ensure success of upcoming sales meetings. Includes a top-line review of the prospect, that prospect’s company, and any pertinent information that will help establish rapport. This custom-built review goes over important information that will aid salespeople in being perceived as professional solution providers.
In our clients’ organizations, we teach and recommend conducting a sales meeting brief before important buyer meetings. It saves lives in combat and saves sales in business. Of course, briefing every outbound call with a salesperson before they picked up the phone would drastically limit the number of calls they could make. That’s why parameters should be set for when this type of sales meeting brief occurs. At the very least, they should happen before calendared appointments with confirmed decision makers.
More important than when these briefs occur is that they do occur. Start by defining your team’s highest-pressure, highest-stakes meetings by size of opportunity, complexity of deal, number of decision makers involved, etc. and immediately begin briefing before those meetings.
Systemizing Success with the Sales Meeting Brief System
Because this brief occurs just prior to a scheduled sales meeting, it should be built into the systems your salespeople use once a meeting is booked or placed on their calendars. For instance, if a sales meeting is scheduled on a salesperson’s calendar at 9am, a sales meeting brief appointment should appear just before it at 8:45. Whether built into your scheduling system or manually entered by your salespeople, if this isn’t scheduled on their calendars prior to the meeting time or before the salesperson departs for a physical meeting, it likely won’t happen.
To systemize the structure of this brief, let’s first review the players involved. In this quick meeting, only the salesperson – or salespeople – meeting with the prospect(s) and the sales manager need attend. If you have inside sales reps whose responsibility is to gather information and schedule your salespeople’s meetings, involve them as well as they’ll have been the last point of contact with the prospect.
Second, the place. If you operate a central office where your salespeople are required to physically report, this briefing can be done in a quiet office before your salesperson or salespeople depart for the prospect’s office or join prospects on the phone. If your team is geographically dispersed, the sales meeting brief can be quickly completed on the phone or before the salesperson and prospect enter a virtual meeting room or phone call.
Third, the time. As with all meetings, the shorter they are, the better. Two and a half minutes is standard for a sales meeting brief; they’re that quick. Again, these briefs are not for discussing company margins, sales quotas, or lengthy account histories. Like football players reviewing the next play they’re about to execute, this brief covers the next few minutes of the game and ensures everyone on your team is on the same page.
Fourth, the format. Preparing for the brief ahead of time ensures it is efficient. This might require an account scrub, looking through CRM notes, and even reviewing social media channels for pertinent information about the prospect that will help establish rapport. Obviously, that data can’t be collected during the brief if we’re trying to conduct it within a few minutes. Fortunately, this prep can be accomplished during off-calling hours or the day before the meeting. In fact, we’ve found it most effective if the briefing data is loaded into the sales brief calendar entry that appears before the sales meeting. This ensures it’s readily available for review during the brief.
Here’s an example of how down and dirty the briefing can be. Seriously, it’s one paragraph. If your sales leaders don’t have the time to prep one paragraph that could make a massive difference in the success of your salespeople, and if your salespeople don’t have 2.5 minutes to get their heads in the game, then hoping everyone executes at a high level may be a better option for your sales team.
In this briefing scenario, the salesperson set the high-value appointment, but hearing the information repeated from the sales manager confirms what the salesperson already learned from the prospect and also ensures account information was added into the CRM or calendar notes correctly. This is what a sales meeting brief sounds like:
“Ok John, you’re going to be meeting with Susan Smith via phone in a few minutes. According to your notes, Susan is the VP of operations of Acme Widget Corp, whose top line was $150 million last year across 350 employees. You’re going to be discussing our HR software platform and determining which version best fits her company’s needs. We’ve been in contact with this account for a year and a half, and this is the first scheduled meeting you’re having with her. Because her budget is qualified for our premium service offering, our asking price will be $45,000 with a target of $42,000. Any discounts below $40,000 require manager approval. I checked with our delivery team and we have the resources available to get that installed as early as the first of the month. According to LinkedIn, Susan has been in her role for three years, lives locally in the bay area, and her profile shows her as being active on a few community boards. You should have your Bulletproof Offer prepped for that premium package and ready to send via email before your call begins. As a reminder, we’ve experienced a delay in email sending due to server issues, so you’ll want to send any mid-session emails a few minutes before you need her to receive them. You’ll be dialing in on 555-555-5555, extension number 37. Any questions?”
While those few sentences don’t seem complicated, there’s a lot of valuable information there. Note that the brief reviews who the salesperson is meeting with, that prospect’s job title, the revenue of their company, number of employees, the type of package the salesperson will be recommending as their initial offering, history of the account, number of prior meetings, budget ranges, delivery/installation timelines, and even professional and personal information about the buyer that might be pertinent to the conversation. Even the call-in number is reviewed so the salesperson can confirm the numbers they’re dialing.
How did we learn to advise our clients research and prepare all of that information ahead of time? A lot of lost revenue from not reviewing that information before our own sales meetings. To define your own team’s briefing items, your salespeople and sales teams can whiteboard the fundamental things that are ‘good to know’ and ‘need to know’ before sales meetings to ensure they are included in your sales meeting briefs.
Additional items unique to your industry and company will quickly become apparent during your sales meetings debriefs, which we’ll cover in an upcoming chapter. As a general starting point, we’ve found the following items to be essential for review to get salespeople’s heads in the game before important sales meetings:
Name of players involved
Everyone’s favorite word is their own name, and Bulletproof salespeople leverage every resource they can to establish rapport. Because a calendared appointment will always involve at least one person from the prospect’s organization, it’s vital to confirm their name and the names of anyone else from their organization who may be attending.
Product or service line to be discussed
Discovery questions to determine product line usually occur prior to a sales meeting, so it’s imperative that a prepared salesperson have one or more specific solutions in mind that they intend on discussing with the decision maker(s) in the meeting. This also allows narrowing of service lines, discount levels, promotional offerings, customization and delivery capabilities, installation specifics, etc. While additional information may reveal an entirely separate product or service line is a better fit, it’s still imperative that the salesperson goes in prepared with all the information needed to sell the most likely product or service line this prospect could benefit from.
Date and location of service and delivery (if applicable)
If your product or service’s sale depends on you or your salesperson or your delivery team being physically present on a certain date if the sale is made (at a wedding, event, conference, etc.), it’s a good idea to go over those details prior to the meeting as well to confirm calendar availability. Decision makers will not respond kindly to their time being taken for a meeting only to discover your company is unavailable on the specific date your product or service is needed.
It is useful to re-orient the salesperson conducting the meeting on total deal value. This is also the place where the sales manager can confirm the discount window the salesperson is authorized to work with and any timebound promotions or discounts your company is offering. If your company leverages deal values to determine which prospects receive preference in limited product or service offerings (for instance, holding multiple dates for service delivery with preference going to the largest deal), overall budget factors into the preference your salesperson can offer their prospect in delivery priority. Again, your salesperson is absolutely encouraged to discover additional budget during their sales meeting but knowing what the minimum range is will qualify this meeting as worth taking seriously and is needed for prepping your Bulletproof Offer, a topic we’ll discuss in the next chapter.
Phone number or location of meeting and who’s making contact
It’s surprising how many sales are lost because a salesperson thought a prospect was calling, the prospect thought the salesperson was calling, or someone confused which virtual meeting room they were supposed to be in. It’s imperative to review who is supposed to be dialing or meeting with whom. While this may seem like a mundane issue that professionals would handle by default, we also know that a mis-entered note in a CRM about a meeting can cause a mistake that creates an irreversible impression in a prospect’s mind. If your salespeople can’t be trusted to fulfill a simple agreement like showing up at the right place and time, what does that say about what it’s like to do business with your company? For that reason, simply confirming the meeting’s details will at least ensure salespeople don’t make a mistake that could at best delay your sale, and at worst may kill it entirely.
These will largely be dependent on the industry you’re selling in and the types of customers your company sells to, but knowing the decision maker your salesperson is meeting with works for a company with international presence that could benefit from your product or service in every one of its locations is a valuable piece of intelligence to know before the meeting as it could impact the volume discounts your salesperson might offer. Conversely, knowing your salesperson will be meeting with a startup company with limited budget but that is willing to entertain a multi-year contract for your product or service because of expansion plans may also affect pricing. Most of these details can be gathered during the initial discovery questions or through online research.
Details about the players involved
If your salesperson was able to connect with the decision maker(s) on social media prior to your meeting – and why wouldn’t they? – then it is valuable to review any personal or professional details that might help establish rapport. Like an intelligence dossier delivered to a Bulletproof team prior to a mission, understanding your prospect’s educational background, career history, and any social media interests will accelerate rapport and therefore, the sale.
If your company relies on pricing sheets, draft proposals, or product samples, now is the time to confirm those things are ready to present, available to send via email, or packed in the salesperson’s kit. While we advocate for the ‘less is more’ approach to schlepping things around, if your prospects expect your salespeople to have a pricing sheet or product sample, ensure your salesperson has it on hand.
While no one can plan for every possible outcome of a sales meeting, it is a good idea to review the most likely objections and outcomes and review what the salesperson’s next steps will be in the event those contingencies occur. The middle of a high-pressure sales negotiation where revenue is on the line is not the time for a salesperson to play jazz with their pricing structure, overcoming objections, or adjusting value-added offerings. In the same way a fighter pilot is not expected to crawl onto the wings of their jet if an engine catches fire but instead practices what to do during an engine flameout, our salespeople should review contingency plans before they’re needed.
It’s at this point, the final part of the pre-event brief, that the salesperson can ask any clarifying questions. These might be around discount levels, customization options, or whatever else your salesperson needs to know to better prepare for success in the meeting. It’s not a time to ask about why they’re presenting to this prospect or go over issues with their CRM or anything else outside of the upcoming meeting. Any questions asked this close to ‘game time’ need to be about the play they’re about to execute and nothing else. If the sales manager conducting the meeting has any Lessons Learned that are so new they haven’t been built into systems but will likely aid success in the upcoming meeting, mentioning those changes last often means they are the first thing the salesperson remembers when meeting with their prospect.
With a solid sales meeting brief that triggers when a buyer meeting is scheduled, your salesperson will be better prepared than most of your competitors and will be able to confidently present your product or service, all while knowing the names of the people they’ll be meeting with, having an idea of the product or service lines that may be a good fit, how soon they can be delivered or installed if purchased that day, whether specific delivery or install dates are available, size of the anticipated budget range that will assist them in putting together any preliminary proposals, how and where they’ll be meeting to ensure the proper person calls or visits the right location, details about the organization to help the salesperson understand the depth and length of current and future sales, and details about the decision maker(s) involved that can help establish rapport and provide talking points.
When all that information can be prepped ahead of time and delivered in less than a few minutes, what salesperson wouldn’t be better prepared for success? A good pre-event brief often reminds both the sales manager and salesperson of a missing piece of paper or pricing strategy they would have otherwise overlooked. More than anything, it sets the standard on a Bulletproof team that sales leaders own as much responsibility for success as their salespeople.
While preparing for your next sale will ensure you and your salespeople are using all the tactics and insights you’ve gleaned from this and other sales training programs, even they pale in comparison with the tactic of delivering more value than anyone else while maximizing revenue for your sales team in every sale.
That’s why our next Bulletproof selling system is so powerful – it delivers both more value than many prospects are even aware is available and simultaneously captures more revenue. It’s the proverbial win-win, and when I mention ‘more revenue,’ I’m not talking about a small percentage uptick. Companies that have implemented the next Bulletproof system have regularly seen an increase in actualized revenue per sale of more than 300%. That’s how powerful it is. To utilize it will require a bit more confidence than some members of your sales team may have at the moment and will also fly in the face of what many of us have been taught about our pricing structures.
Let’s dive into this next system by taking a visit to our nearest luxury car dealer. What we learn there will impact our sales systems in ways we might have never thought possible.