Planning plays a big role whenever an important meeting is ahead — especially if it’s a meeting with a CEO that could mean a great deal to your company. The executive-level people who will be listening are giving you a chunk of their valuable time, and you need to make sure that you’re making the most of it. You can have the most advanced and shiniest briefing room in the history of business meetings, but if you don’t manage to deliver your presentation flawlessly, persuasively and in a friendly tone, the contract can be swept off the table and the executive can be out of the door in the blink of an eye.
To help you prevent such disastrous events from happening, I’ve tried to put together a codex with a few simple hacks to help you ace every meeting with grace.
Know who you’re dealing with
This point is really crucial in all kinds of meetings, but the higher the stakes of the meeting, the more important it becomes. Assess all the information you can regarding the other company’s business history. This includes getting to know the details of your own history, if you’ve previously done business together. Know about the current state of the industry you’re both in, look up facts about their biggest competitors, find their strongest and weakest points.
As for the individuals, the better the connection you manage to establish, the better the communication. There aren’t any universal tips on getting along with someone (I wish there were sometimes!), but if you stick to honesty, straightforwardness and empathy, underlined with healthy self-confidence, you can’t go wrong. If you want more specific guidance on how to develop rapport with your clients, I highly recommend Neil Rackham’s SPIN methodology.
You need to “push” forward at every meeting, but at the same time, you can’t become pushy. ABC may work in some situations, but for large sales, you’re not going to get it done in one go, so don’t hesitate to schedule follow-on meetings — just make sure something is accomplished in each one.. The rule is not to push, but at the same time, you should be the one to come up with suggestions on where to move next or what the next steps could be. Keep the initiative!
Offer room for involvement
One of the biggest mistakes I see sales people make is talking too much. Even if you’re “giving” a presentation, you need to make it interactive, and you need to be doing a lot of listening. You can hardly have an impact on how much the client talks, we all know that, but you should watch how (and how much) you and your people talk. The language should be clear, straightforward and to the point, but not too dense. Also, it’s not just them who should be asking questions. Prepare your own to get the conversation going, and try building them in such a way that they clearly show how much you already know about them and their business. It shows that you’ve done your research, and that makes a very good impression. Again, I refer back to the SPIN methodology, which is a great way to plan your questions in advance, such that you guide every meeting towards a positive outcome.
Plan and rehearse
Particularly if you’re a veteran, you may often skip this step. That’s a mistake. Just because you’ve done this a 1,000 times doesn’t mean you shouldn’t rehearse. You think John Chambers doesn’t rehearse? You think Obama doesn’t rehearse? You think Tony Robbins doesn’t rehearse? No matter the industry, think of the most persuasive person you know, and I guarantee they rehearse all of their speeches, presentations, press conferences, and everything else much much more than you imagine. You should do the same. And if it’s a meeting with multiple team-members from your side, you should rehearse with the team. Make a rough outline of a script for the meeting. Of course, it can’t be planned word by word, but choose people based on their individual strengths and knowledge, and assign them to talk about their areas of expertise. Put together all the important points you want to communicate, and make sure that they all get covered in the course of the meeting. If there will be more than one executive present, spread the attention evenly among all of them. Approaching and acknowledging everyone in the room will give you a much better score.