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04 October 2018

10 Mistakes that Ruin a First B2B Sales Meeting… and How NEVER to Commit Them!

The initial sales meeting is THE key moment in a sale. It’s like an exam, either you pass or you fail. So, it is essential that you stack the odds in your favor and avoid mistakes that could give a poor first impression of your company or even discredit you. In this article, I will list ten mistakes that should not be made in the first B2B sales presentation and advice on how to avoid these pitfalls.

Mistake No. 1 – Arranging a Meeting with an Unqualified Lead

Possibly one of the worst errors for a salesperson is to organize a meeting with a person who, in the end, does not have an actual need. This often occurs in B2B. The salesperson receives a lead from marketing, passes five minutes on the phone with the lead (without analyzing needs) and straightaway suggests a face-to-face or video-conference meeting. By arranging an irrelevant meeting, the salesperson (and sometimes a pre-sales person who has a physical meeting) wastes time in preparing for the meeting, or demonstration, for a person who is only looking for information (perhaps because they are an intern), instead of concentrating on hot leads. Such an unqualified lead could certainly feel valued, but could also be frightened off by such energetic bluster for a simple demo…

What you should do:

  1. Conduct a B.A.N.T. B.A.N.T. allows you to categorize a prospective customer in the early stages by confirming that there is a Budget, a person who has the Authority to make a decision, a Need to change and therefore a proven need/problem, and a Timeline for the project and decision. 
  2. Avoid incentivizing the sales team on the number of meetings alone. While one of the keys to increasing B2B sales is giving your sales team the objective to hit X amount of meetings (telephone, face-to-face, etc.) every month, it is also pushing them to just “set up a meeting.” Remember that time is precious and all the effort spent on unqualified leads is less time available for your hot prospects.
  3. Establish a “simpler” mechanism for prospects who are still in the discovery stage (long-term project) or not one of your targets. For information requests, the contact can be done through a tele-sales qualification unit or a simple phone call. The prospect will then enter a specific automatic marketing process with regular messages (e.g. invites to a web seminar, customer success stories, etc.).

Mistake No. 2 – Not Adding your Contacts to Your Social Networks

The sales meeting does not start when you first shake hands with your prospective customer… it should start right after you get off the phone with them. LinkedIn is an indispensable tool in preparing for your first sales presentation. It allows you to glean very useful information:

  • The exact position of the person and their career. In this way, you can adapt your arguments.
  • Mutual colleagues or contacts whom you could possibly contact or mention during the meeting (e.g. Martin, your former colleague from… sends his regards).
  • The place where they studied, thereby knowing where they come from so you can mention common experiences (e.g. I saw you studied in Denver, I just spent my holidays there…).

It is also the moment to sow the first seeds of what could be a special and more personal relationship with your would-be customer:

  • Like/Comment/Share… their publications
  • See if they have “liked” publications from competitors

Before going to the meeting, you will be able to review their profile and their news feed to find some topics of conversation.

What you should do:

  • You can add the person to your contacts with a message tied to your upcoming meeting. For example, “Hello, in anticipation of our meeting on March 1, I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn so we can stay in contact. All the best, Fred.” However, do not start “harassing” the person by contacting them several times or sending reminders if they don’t immediately accept your invite.
  • Regularly publish relevant news and content on your LinkedIn profile so that you can regularly appear in the news feeds of your leads. This way, you can stay fresh in their memory. You could add them to one of your company’s LinkedIn Groups, such as, for example, my group “Customer Experience Management,” which allows me to send a periodic newsletter to the group’s members.

Mistake No. 3 – Not Personalizing the Presentation

If a lead suggests having a meeting, it is because there is a problem and they think you can help them. It’s not just to have a presentation of your products and services. The error to avoid is conducting a generic presentation without demonstrating to the customer that you have created the presentation with only them in mind. The key is showing that you fully understand their problem and that you have the means to solve it at a good price. As Guy Kawasaki states in his book “The Art of the Start 2.0” (2015), a good offer is the one that finds the way to “get money from your prospect’s pocket to your own.” The idea is not to think how you will sell your product but how you can solve the client’s problem.

What you should do:

  • Add your lead’s logo onto one or two slides in your presentation and personalize the name of the PowerPoint file that you will send later by email. This will show the prospect that the presentation was really thought up for them. If you have a short video, ask your DTP department to add the prospect’s logo into the introduction. 
  • Add one or two slides (after the presentation of your company) where you summarize what the client told you during the first phone call (challenges, needs, issues, etc.), with their own expressions or figures if possible. These slides can be entitled “What we understood about your needs.” This will convey the idea that the presentation is personal and the needs of your client have been considered. It is also the moment to redefine your presentation before continuing. This discussion will allow you to adapt your presentation on your product and demonstration, and use your client’s ideas in your sales pitch. Read also: Why (and how) you should harmonize the sales pitch of your teams. 
  • Look up your prospect’s products, agencies and subsidiaries and the names of personnel on the prospect’s website, and include such information in your demonstration. For example, if you’re selling a CRM solution, add the name of your leads into the contacts list, if you’re selling telephone solutions, send an SMS to your leads’ cell phones.

Mistake No. 4 – Being Late or Slow to Start

Your customer is entitled to be late, this can even help you by putting them in a position where they feel indebted to you for having waited. But, YOU cannot be late. It is essential that you give yourself a margin of safety so you can arrive at least ten minutes before the meeting. Your prospect has offered you their time, you must not squander it!

Whether it’s a video-conference or a face-to-face meeting, always send a reminder to your prospect one or two days beforehand. Be careful, the reminder should not be worded like “Are we still meeting tomorrow?” (this could allow the prospective customer to cancel the meeting due to a heavy schedule). Better is a reminder in the form of “We have prepared a personalized presentation for you and cannot wait to meet you. There will be 3 of us, arriving by car. Should we go to reception when we arrive?” This makes a cancellation much trickier for your prospect. If the meeting is canceled, propose a new date as soon as possible, and, if necessary, a remote meeting (e.g. telephone), in order to avoid extra waiting and then schedule a new face-to-face meeting.

What you should do:

  • Define THE message you definitely want the lead to remember, this will be THE thing that they remember from your conversation. Your presentation and arguments must be developed to attain this goal.
  • Prepare your documents before the meeting and make sure you work through them in a way that matches your prospect’s expectations. Do a quick run-through to rework inconsistencies.
  • Ideally, arrive 30 minutes in advance so you can settle yourself into the presentation and refine your strategy with the help of your colleagues over a coffee.
  • Put your computer on standby to avoid wasting five minutes on booting it up in the conference room. Similarly, if you need Internet access, inform the prospect of this beforehand or set up your cell phone as a 4G router.
  • Copy your presentation and documents onto a cloud storage system, so you can still access them if your laptop crashes.

To help your presentation run smoothly, you can use our Touch & Sell sales presentation app. The presentation is ready to start immediately, all your content is up-to-date, available offline and enhanced with a mobile application in your company’s colors.

Mistake No. 5 – Not Exploiting Informal Moments Before and After the Meeting

The meeting is not the only moment that you should prepare for; the selling begins the moment you step inside the building. There are five key moments:

  • Arrival on the premises and notifying your arrival. You should announce your arrival, and not be found slumped on a couch with a mountain of open files. Your smartphone is more than enough for work.
  • Greeting: you only have one chance of making a good first impression.
  • The walk to the conference room: you should have some small talk on hand to break the ice (e.g. your offices are well decorated, how many work in the building, is that the iPhone X you have there…). This is the moment for building a rapport, making a compliment…
  • The meeting: you should prepare an agenda, a summary of the presentation to be confirmed with the participants. The goal is not to launch into a speech but to reassure the client that you have the solution to their problem.
  • Taking leave and returning to reception: this is often an important moment that should be exploited because the prospect is not on their guard. For example, you can ask questions about competitors, “Have you talked to other people?” / “What are your next steps?”

Mistake No. 6 – Not Offering a Material Item

Even if our business relationships are becoming increasingly digital, you should leave behind some token reminder of your meeting. You should go to a meeting with:

  • Your business cards. Do not say “I don’t have any more”/“they’re at the printers,” etc. This could show that you don’t even know how to manage simple office demands, so, how will you ever manage the client’s project?!
  • A brochure of your company. This is one way of remaining present in the office of your lead, and they might show it to colleagues…
  • A USB drive with the presentation you did.
  • A goody bag (e.g. anti-stress ball, cell phone charger, etc.). Offering a gift, even a symbolic one, will make your lead “indebted,” which could help you during a sales follow-up.

What you should do:

  • Make a “Prospects Kit” that will be systematically given to every new lead, with the brochure, USB drive, goody bag, etc. to be sure you’re never forgotten.
  • Buy a bunch of goodies with your logo on them so they will serve as a reminder of your brand or product. You could even have two types of goody bags, the standard one for all prospects, and the top-range one for key accounts or VIP clients. The aim is to make your lead feel “indebted” to you, as Robert Cialdini explains in his book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”. 

Mistake No. 7 – Forgetting to Confirm the Agenda and Time Available

A classic mistake is not confirming your contacts’ available time and having to race through your presentation to fit it into their schedule. At the start of the meeting, confirm the agenda and the time available to give your presentation. With this, you will be able to adapt your presentation.

What you should do:

  • Have a short and a long version of your PowerPoint presentation ready so you can pass from one to the other according to the time on hand.
  • Set out the essential information to be remembered for your prospect. By defining exactly what you expect from them and what you hope they will remember, you can focus on that topic and prune off any fodder that might obscure the information that should be conveyed. For example, you can define your objective as being remembered in a shortlist for a tender, the goal is then to set yourself apart from your competitors. As a result, you should highlight one or two functions, the price, the business model, etc.

Mistake No. 8 – Speaking Too Much and Not Taking any Notes

The prospective customer is the star of the show. Not your products or you. This is not the place to go through a full-blown sales pitch. The prospect must be convinced that you have fully understood the problem and it is only then that you should present your solution. You shouldn’t put the cart before the horse by immediately offering your solution… the prospect will think you don’t know all their specifics, or that you’re not interested in their actual case, and just want to sell your product. You have to also show your interest in the prospect’s problem by taking notes (notebook, laptop, etc.).

What you should do:

  • Avoid talking too much and interrupting, 60% of the first meeting should be devoted to listening to your leads and their needs, the other 40% to talking about your company and its products. People enjoy talking about themselves and having their problems listened to (they and their problems are the stars of the meeting, not you!). Do not interrupt and always let them finish their sentences. Still not convinced? Remember the last time you talked to your friends or colleagues about your vacation? Their first reflex was not to ask what you did, it was to talk about themselves or their friends by saying “I went there, too”/“my neighbor just got back from there.”
  • If possible, appoint one person to take notes during the meeting so you can write up minutes. That document will allow everyone to compare what was understood and offer a basis for the actions to be taken.
  • At the end of the meeting, do a quick summary of what you understood and what you are offering. Reiterate that you would really like to work on the issue and that your product fulfills this type of demand.
  • Do not forget to be positive and remove all negative words from your vocabulary (e.g. don’t hesitate to call me => I’m available if you have any questions…).
  • If possible, add the idea of ROI (profitability) resulting from using your product, whether rationally (e.g. you could save x hours) or emotionally (e.g. you will no longer have to repeat the same speech ten times, you won’t be wasting any more time, your tasks will be automated, etc.).

Mistake No. 9 – Not Proposing a Next Step

The meeting is coming to a close, if it has been positive, now is the time to bring up a next step. Why not set a date for a subsequent meeting? You have to strike while the iron is hot, especially if the prospect is meeting several companies in succession.

What you should do:

  • Add the question “What are the next steps?” to the concluding or final slide. (source: eloquant.com).

Mistake No. 10 – Forgetting to Make a Report on the Meeting and the CRM

Once back at the office, you should not wait until the day before the next meeting to work on the brief. Start by carrying out a debrief with your colleagues right after the meeting (but not in the corridor, parking lot… where you can be overheard) or send out emails to launch actions and fit in meetings. If you send documents to your lead, you can use tracking tools. There are tools out there to track when a prospect clicks on or opens your documents: Tilkee.com, bananatag.com, qwilr.com, getconga.com, proposify.com, yesware.com, HubSpot, etc.

What you should do:

  • Send a concise synopsis of the meeting to the prospect, reminding them that you would really like to work with them and you are available if they have any questions. You can also send them documents mentioned during the meeting.
  • Record your complete minutes of the meeting in your CRM in order to keep track of exchanges.
  • Set an alert in your calendar or your CRM to send a reminder to the prospect at the right time.

In Conclusion

As you have just read, success in the first meeting with a prospective client is not just about turning up, it is about being invested in the needs of the client and showing that you are the person with the solution to their problem. This means understanding the client’s issues and preparing the finer details that will make the difference by winning the prospect’s trust, showing that their problem is important to you and that you want to devote time to solving that problem.


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