By Kate Ranta on Jun 27, 2016 10:26:48 AM
That may sound a little cynical, and it may not actually feel like that at the time, but many sales appointments tend to follow a pattern—especially if the appointment is with a long-standing client.
Here are four steps to follow to ensure your sales appointments are as effective as possible.
Step 1 - Plan Ahead and Prepare Well
If your appointment is with a new client:
- Learn as much as you can about them before the meeting. Were they referred by someone who can tell you more?
- What did you learn during your initial telephone conversation that you can use for research?
- What can you learn from their website, their LinkedIn or Facebook posts, their own marketing, the Chamber of Commerce, etc.?
Obviously you must decide how much time and effort it's worth putting into the first meeting, but it's better to learn before you go than it is to spend time asking what your prospect may think are pretty obvious questions.
If your appointment is with a current client:
- Review the previous meeting(s) and be clear about all items.
- Check that anything you agreed to do/have a colleague do has been done, and you know the results.
- Review long-term goals, and how well you and they believe they are being met.
Your initial sales appointment goal is to go in as an expert on their account.
Step 2 - Set Specific Goals for the Appointment
In selling there really isn't any such thing as a “courtesy” call. Yes, you are going to have follow-up meetings, check on a few things or remind them of something, but all of those types of meetings can and should have a specific intention and specific outcome tied to a current project or a past decision.
You must, therefore, know your goals. It also helps if your client also knows your goals. You can, for example, email them and make sure they know what the appointment is for (what you want to achieve) so they can also prepare properly.
Step 3 - Follow an Effective Meeting Plan or Structure
You may have a preferred way to structure your sales appointments. You may have more than one, because each client has her or his own preferred way of working. If so, that's fine, but review it every so often to make sure your plan or structure is still serving you and your clients well.
If you do not, or are thinking about reworking it, one of the most effective and time-tested sales appointment structures is called SPIN. Your goal as a broker is to win new business and to keep existing business. Clients make purchase decisions when they know or believe that they, their business operation or their staff will benefit from it.
SPIN helps clients make effective decisions.
S - Situation
What is happening now as far as the purpose of the appointment is concerned?
What is working?
What could be working better?
What is missing?
When you know that, you can focus on what actually matters to your client.
P - Problem
When you and your client have the situation clear in your minds, and you know what could be improved or what is needed but doesn't exist, you can focus on the next step.
I - Implication
Just having a problem might not be motivating enough to want to do anything about it. This is where SPIN is so powerful.
Ask what the implications will be of not fixing the problem. If the effects of not fixing the problem get worse, how will that affect your client's staff, their clients, profits, operations, etc.?
When you and your client are clear about the ultimate result of not fixing the problem, you can discuss solutions.
N- Need Pay-Off
When you link the need to solve the problem with the pay-off of using your product, deciding to buy it is a simple logical choice. It may be that your client has to think about it, discuss it with colleagues or do some internal research before he or she can make a final decision. You may have to refine your offering, so the policy you are selling really will solve the problem. What matters is that the outcome of the sales appointment is clear, agreed and will move you both closer to a signature.
Step 4 - Follow up and Reinforce Decisions
If your client has not bought yet, reinforce the work you both agreed to do, so that decisions can be made. You know your client, so you know how to communicate best with them.
If your client did buy, you know exactly what follow-up actions you must do to reinforce the purchase decisions.