To succeed in sales, you need to be able to acquire a first meeting. That is your audition, and your contact will decide whether you are worth a second meeting. If you cannot book a first meeting, it means your approach sends the message that meeting with you isn’t worth your contact’s time.
Buyers and decision-makers are busy people with many responsibilities. They guard their time because they feel they have too little of it and set the bar high enough to keep a potential time-waster from getting on their calendar. When you can’t get a meeting it is because your contact doesn’t believe you can create value.
How Not to Waste Your Contact’s Time
Creating value in the sales conversation does not mean talking about your company, your clients, or your solution. Your contacts have no interest in a history lesson or a pitch about how you are helping your clients. To create value in the sales conversation, you must educate decision-makers and their stakeholders.
The game you must play to acquire a meeting is “I know something you don’t know.” Your contact has had plenty of sales conversations in the past. Unless you sound and feel like an expert with the ability to help shape the contact’s decision, you may as well stay home.
If your pitch for a meeting suggests you want to introduce yourself and your company or to tell your contact that your solution helps companies just like theirs get better results, you are projecting that you lack the expertise the contact is looking for. When you seem like just another salesperson, you cannot clear the bar to take some of their time.
How to Improve Your Offer for a First Meeting
Let’s make this easy to understand. What does a decision-maker do? If you answered “make decisions,” move to the front of the class. The reason we call them decision-makers is because they make decisions. If someone’s primary function in the business is to make decisions, how might they need help? This is the question a salesperson must answer to secure a meeting.
Few salespeople understand this dynamic. A decision-maker is looking for someone who can help them acquire the information and the insights that can inform their decision. Information that is easily found on your website is not worth the decision-maker’s time. Despite this, many sales reps still use the legacy approach, describing their solution and company history, because it worked in the 1980s and 1990s.
If you are still using a legacy approach to B2B sales, you are going to have a more difficult time acquiring a first meeting and you will fail to get a second meeting. This approach creates little to no value for the decision-maker.
When you ask for a meeting, you must offer something that proves that you have something valuable enough that your contact can agree to give you their time. Take a minute or two and examine your pitch for a meeting:
- What will you teach your contact in a first meeting that they don’t already know?
- How will what you share help your decision maker with their future decision about improving their results?
- Without speaking a word about your company or solution, what counsel will you offer your contact that they will find valuable?
- At the end of a first meeting, how confident are you that you created greater value than any of your competitors?
- At the end of the first meeting, will your contact believe that you are better prepared to make the decision than they are because you have more experience?
If you want to command a meeting, you need to offer your contact a meeting to educate them and help them understand how best to make a decision that will improve their results.
The Executive Briefing
In two books, I provide guidance on how to get a meeting and how to use a first meeting to your advantage. In Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition, I outlined two sample executive briefings and the overall approach. In Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative I offered an example and guide to creating a better first meeting, one that will get you a command performance and your second meeting.
Salespeople who understand that their clients are trying to learn what they need to know to succeed now and in the future have little trouble getting a first or second meeting. Let us call this category of salespeople One-Up, which means they have the knowledge and experience their contacts need to be able to make the best decision for their future results.
How to Be a Trusted Advisor Now and In the Future
For close to two decades, sales organizations have turned to technology for improvement. Over this period, salespeople’s win rates and quota attainment have declined. You are going to see a lot of “gurus” promising that artificial intelligence is the answer to improving sales. This is a false promise.
At some point, you must sit across from your prospective client and create value for them. To do this, you need to be an expert and an authority in your field. You need actual, human intelligence that causes your contact to prefer you over your competitor who believes that an AI-written email is different from the spam your contacts receive every day.
You will differentiate yourself by being able to create value in the sales conversation.
The Single Reason You Can’t Get a Meeting
The single reason you can’t get a first meeting is because you are not providing an offer that your prospective client can say yes to. Without projecting that you are going to be able to help shape your contact’s decision-making, they protect their time by saying no. By improving your pitch, you can book more first meetings, but getting the second meeting means performing in the first.