Author Vladimir Gendelman is the founder and CEO of Company Folders, Inc, the standard-bearer of online folder printing. Company Folders is the only printing company to offer a 365-day quality guarantee.
Convincing your audience in a sales meeting to care about what you're saying is a challenge; even the word "meeting" is one that people tend to associate with boring, tedious minutiae.
Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to improve a typical sales meeting. By following these simple rules that I've found work well over the years, you can help ensure the success of your business meetings -- both the ones you hold with your staff and the ones where you make the actual sales.
1. Start and end with a bang.
Start your meeting in a way that grabs your audience's attention and leave them with a good final impression. For staff sales meetings, a good way to start is with a bit of trivia, a brain teaser, a puzzle, a joke or something that gets them thinking and engaging.
Keep the fun and games to a minimum when meeting with potential clients, but try using an anecdote or telling a story. I find that asking clients a question right off the bat (like "What would your ideal marketing package look like?") really helps to keep them actively engaged in the dialogue.
End on a positive note and use the last part of the meeting to reiterate the message you want to convey. Try tying the ending to the beginning of the presentation, such as giving a follow-up detail related to your opening anecdote.
2. Keep it short and streamlined.
Many presenters make the mistake of thinking that long presentations have greater value than shorter ones. But consider how valuable your audience's time is. When your sales team spends time in a meeting, that's time during which they aren't making sales. The same goes for your potential clients.
Too many messages or extraneous details weaken the effectiveness of your sales meetings. A shorter meeting gives you less opportunity to go off on tangents and allows you to streamline your ideas with a consistent tone throughout. In my experience meeting with clients, I've found that 2 to 3 hours is a good guideline, giving them enough time to understand your message without boring them to tears.
3. Stay positive.
Meetings with your sales team shouldn't focus on what's going wrong. If there are negative issues that need to be addressed, that should be the focus of an entirely different meeting. In meetings with my sales staff, I prefer to zero in on how the team has improved, the things they have learned, and what I can do to make their jobs easier. As a result, my team is significantly happier and more motivated.
In client meetings, don't get into the habit of bad-mouthing the competition. There's no shame in wanting to show that you're offering a better product or service than everyone else, but do so by focusing on what makes you special, not what makes everyone else worse.
4. Don't dominate the conversation.
During a sales meeting with your staff, set aside time to answer their questions or ask some of your own. This means you can't just read from a script; you have to prepare for your meeting by going over potential questions, concerns and ideas that might pop up. Have a clear focus for what you want to accomplish so you can steer the conversation back whenever it gets sidetracked.
There have been times when I've made assumptions about a potential client before really getting to know them, and it hindered my ability to make a sale. Be sure to listen to what they have to say and learn about what they value so that you can best direct them towards your message.
5. Know your audience.
When meeting with your own sales staff, try to get to know them on an individual basis. If you at least know everybody's name and what they do, that's a good start. Knowing more about their personalities can help you better present your message in a way that will resonate with them.
My most successful sales meetings are the ones where I take time beforehand to research clients' values, history, and company culture. In the era of social media, this is an easier task than ever before -- but there's a fine line between doing your research and cyber-stalking. For example, it's okay to mention the client's college background, since that information is usually easily accessible. But when you start talking about their elementary school, you've gone too far.
6. Use custom-printed materials.
My company specializes in printed marketing collateral, and I'm constantly hearing from thankful clients who have had successful sales meetings with persuasive, professional-looking materials -- so we use them too. Whether you give them to your audience or just use one for your own notes, materials printed with your logo help the attendees of your sales meeting connect with your brand.
For your sales staff, using custom-printed materials helps build a sense of team spirit. Custom materials also make useful leave-behind items for sales meetings with clients because they allow you to include a wealth of information in a branded package.
7. Acknowledge the entire room.
In one of my very first sales meetings, I forgot to greet someone who turned out to be the most important person in the room -- definitely embarrassing. So here's one last trick for sales meetings to keep up your sleeve: if someone is in the room with you, there's a good reason for it. Acknowledging everyone at the meeting (no matter how small their contribution might be) is an easy way to build trust with your audience -- and failing to do so is an easy way to lose that trust, too.
Ask meeting attendees for their opinions even if they're not part of the sales staff -- they might not have all the answers, but they may be able to offer everybody a fresh perspective or a creative solution.
This is even more important when having a sales meeting with a potential client. If the client has invited someone to sit in on the meeting, remember that this is someone whose opinion the client values.