Lead the Perfect Business Meeting
Sometimes a great product or superior service just isn’t enough. You may need to seal the business deal with a face-to-face meeting that requires a certain amount of dexterity and interpersonal know-how. It takes preparation, practice and no small amount of leadership.
Should someone suggest that you lay out your plan or your pitch over the phone, in a “snapshot,” you would be wise not to fall for that trap. Attempting to tell your entire story in a two- or three-minute spiel is like trying to jump out of a car at 60 miles per hour. Don’t do it. The result will be one big jumbled mess and a “no, thank you” at the other end of the line. The better approach is to ask to schedule a meeting with your customer or would-be client. This conveys the seriousness of your idea and usually generates a scheduled date on the calendar.
Above All, Sell Yourself
Once the meeting has been set, you will have a platform to not only sell the benefits of your company and its service or product, but also to sell yourself. The only way to do this effectively is to be true to yourself, to your life philosophy and to your personal brand. This is “your” story and, ultimately, one of the most important factors in establishing trust and a strong rapport with those in the meeting.
This doesn’t mean that the meeting should be all about you or your business model. A key to any good, fruitful conversation is involving others in the experience as well. People love to talk about themselves, so before launching into your proposal or your concept, engage the person or persons across the table from you. Let them share their stories, allow them to find their comfort zone. It’s much easier to sell something to someone who is relaxed and accepting than to one who is uptight and guarded.
Determining the Need
By listening to others, you also discover points of commonality, which you can seize upon to improve your selling position. If you know what a person’s interests or weak spots are, you can capitalize on that knowledge.
In that same vein, be sure to ask what a person’s specific business goals are for the year, and what obstacles may block the path. The more open and interested you appear to be, the easier it is to broach other topics that might inevitably lead to a sale or to securing an agreement.
The Doctor Is In
At all times, remember that you are the problem solver, the “doctor” as it were. So whenever you meet resistance or uncertainty, you should have another solution in mind or at least an alternate way of approaching the stalemate. If you don’t have a backup plan at that time, express optimism that…with a bit of thinking…you can come up with a slightly different approach that will satisfy everyone’s concerns.
By playing the problem solver role, you are able to effectively maintain your leadership position in the meeting. This is key because, as the leader, you control the conversation, no matter how subtly. Once you allow others to assume leadership, you no longer control the direction of the meeting or its final outcome.
Most importantly, do your homework. This is true whether you are meeting with an individual for the first time or conducting an internal brainstorming session with your staff. If you don’t know all the answers to the questions you are asking, you should at least know enough to make the question pertinent and thought-provoking. Lack of preparation becomes quickly apparent, and it can rapidly put a damper on a conversation that was filled with promise just moments earlier.
A Journey, Not a Sprint
One of the biggest mistakes that many people make when trying to achieve a sale, obtain approval on a concept or reach consensus on a plan is in believing that there must be a resolution by the end of the meeting. Unless you’re up against a tight deadline, this isn’t necessarily the case. It may take two, three or more meetings to finalize the deal. But the very fact that your idea or your product is deemed worthy of another get-together is a victory in itself.
The fact is, there is not a singular type of perfect meeting. Each is unique and dependent upon the players and many other contributing factors. When you go in with confidence, stay on point and maintain leadership and control, however, the results may ultimately translate into the “perfect” that you are seeking.