How To Sell – Meetings and Presentations

Be prepared for sales resistance

The dynamics you don't know in advance.
The dynamics you don't know in advance. | Source

Get Real In Selling

Preparing For and Having Meetings

"Making the sale is like pissing in a white suit. It feels good, and it shows." National Lampoon, circa 1975, before American Express got their mitts on it.

How To Sell – Meetings and Presentations

Meetings and presentations are the core activities in anyone's learning how to sell. The previous sections covered both online and face-to-face selling because on the front end, the practices and principles are fairly similar. Moving to the next step, the divergence is as great as you might expect, maybe greater.

Now that you have conquered prospecting and other fantasies...

Let's cover what takes place in a meeting. None are ever typical and, depending on the size and complexity of the sale, more than one meeting is often required. Being effective takes some advanced planning, again depending on size and complexity. Don't waste a customer's time by not being prepared. You will be justly rewarded. Either way.

I have a friend who I was once fortunate enough to have as a sales manager. He made his mark as a highly successful inside sales rep and now runs an organization dedicated to that special skill. I mention this to show that it's possible and also rare. Being able to convey genuine sincerity, trustworthiness and likability on a telephone call is a skill few possess, at least to the extent that you can close $100K deals without ever meeting your customer face-to-face. Larry is a great guy and an even better salesman, and I am going to share with you a few of the things he taught me.

  • Always be courteous. There were seventeen of us on Larry's team, and our calls were monitored for management purposes. If we failed to 1) ask a contact if they had "a minute to talk" before launching a pitch or 2) thank them for their time, regardless of the success of the call, we got points knocked off and a lecture. Bad manners, not the technique itself, is what gave telemarketing a bad name. Professionals object to others degrading their profession.
  • Be personable. We were taught to talk over the phone as if we were talking to someone we met casually in the aisle of a supermarket. In some telemarketing campaigns, contacts are so rare, the caller becomes almost orgasmic when he or she gets passed the screener or answering machine. Resist the temptation. The person on the other end is, surprise!, just another person. Treat them as you'd like to be treated. Do not hit them with a barrage of words. They don't feel good, no matter how soft they are.
  • Be clear about the point of your call. I, along with many others, have responded to the confrontational question, "What are you trying to sell?" with the hopelessly ridiculous and defensive response, "Nothing." If you're calling someone dumb enough to believe that, you're calling someone who is highly unlikely to have been entrusted with a position where they can buy or even recommend purchases. "Toilet bowl brushes, but really good ones," is a much better response, and it opens doors. You don't sell bowl brushes, do you? Now, you can make a joke about it. Some purchasing agents have senses of humor. Honest. The worst thing that can happen is that you find out your prospect has no need or interest in your widgets, but you don't want to waste your time on the wrong person anyway.
  • Ask for an agreement, whether it's an appointment, a scheduled call back or even a sale, politely ask for whatever you called to get. Win/loss surveys have often shown that the main reason a customer did not buy was–get ready–they were never asked. So, ask. You might get a flat no, but you have a much better chance of getting a yes, even a conditional one, if you do.

How To Sell – Meetings and Presentations The online equivalent...

The sales process is the same, the same steps, no matter where or in what context you are selling. Some kind of meeting to present your product or service must take place.
It is possible to quote with supporting material by email. I've done it, usually in combination with a telephone call, but you will have to make sure whatever material you send is attractive and professional enough to make a customer comfortable with sending you money. Most manufacturer produced material is, frankly, dull as day old toast. If it has a lot of helpful facts about your product or service, dullness should not stand in the way. If it's the usual partially informative blah, blah, blah, which it probably is, try to use something else or write virtuoso cover letters.

If you draft something personal or try to make your cover message effective, remember, as in the first lesson in this series, that you are addressing a fellow human being, not a sales target or a Mr. Prospect. Be casual without being illiterate or crude. It works. Remember, people by from people they like. Who wouldn't like you? Nobody! Who wouldn't like the sales machine your manager wants you to be? Everybody!

Selling from a website presents a unique set of obstacles and opportunities. Important to keep in mind that a decent percentage of people don't get on the internet much or at all. Even those who do may have a hard time finding you. It's a universe out there in the cloud. Of those who do find you, usually with your help, many will hand their credit card over to a server in a restaurant who will take it who knows where and do who knows what for five or ten minutes, but they will not buy over the internet. Too risky.

Globalization? Read a short, informative introduction: Global Business Today.

The positives, on the other hand, are enormous. There really is a universe out there. Your list of potential customers is immense. Unfortunately, a significant number of online sellers, like all of them, already know this. Look at it this way, you've opened shop on Main Street, Milky Way, Universe. So did everyone else, including your competitors. You won't get 100% of the business, but you should, if your product is worthwhile, of good quality and you have good diligence in learning how to sell in this unfamiliar terrain.

I will leave it to others who have written great books on how to set up web sites and how to optimize search engines (SEO) to help bring travelers and shoppers to useful sites, but I can assure you that help, much of it free, is out there. PayPal and Amazon, I have found, offer invaluable tips and assistance once you partner up with them. They have a stake in your success and want to help.

Many impatient types, like me, set up a website in a rush. It's easy to do these days, even if you don't understand html codes. I'll tell you this, SEO is ten times more important than html, and you will get it wrong many times before you get it right. Hire help, if you can, but use the usual cautions. Make sure they have a visible track record. You can certainly learn it on your own. For me, that's the fun, but if you haven't the time or the patience, get help, either from books, online resources or consultants. They are worth the investment.

How To Sell – Meetings and Presentations Doing the physical meeting....

I saved this for last because I'm most familiar with it and because it's probably the most common and most misunderstood of all three. Everyone knows how to do a meeting. No, they don't.

Let's start with how much time your potential customer has agreed to give you. A recent sales manager suggested we ask for fifteen minutes. "Who doesn't have fifteen minutes?" he reasoned. So, I wondered, how sound is a relationship started with what both of you know is a lie? Or did you imagine the person you are meeting believed you were packing up presentation materials and driving across town, paying for parking and cooling your heels in the lobby for a half-hour, just for the pleasure of a quarter-hour of chat? Subliminally, to them, that's how much you think you are worth. What's wrong with, "It'll take at least a half-hour, but I can promise to wrap in an hour, if you need that..." ? This may give them an out. So what? If they can't give you an hour in the next twenty years, they are probably not a real prospect. Real people make time for things that they need and interest them. The opposite is just as true. If you can't make it interesting enough to earn an hour, they are not going to spend money on you either.

Dress? Of course. But how? A good rule to go by is that you should never dress in a way that puts you at a distance from customers. A CIO will often suit up in the morning. The suit and tie makes it clear that they know IT only in the abstract. A CXO level meeting always warrants a suit and tie, unless you are instructed otherwise. I have been told, "We're on summer hours. No suits." They mean that. You want to fit in. When Rome, same as Oshkosh. In almost every other instance, suits are a negative, at least a small one. All the unnecessary apparel at a meeting with engineers is nice but casual outfits just makes you one on them , the very visible parade of salespeople. Salespeople are frequently well-respected, even more so as they become better known to customers. But the psychological barrier should be reduced as much as you can and not increased by unnecessary apparel. You're working together. Be one of them. Should circumstances find you stuck as the only suit in the room, at least take off the damned jacket. Unless the place is an icebox and you want to make a show of your common sense.

Be prepared to discuss at length the product or service you are hoping to sell. Bring materials you can leave behind. Always have plentiful business cards. They're cheap, and they've never cost anyone a sale. Give one to everyone, including the pleasant gatekeeper in the lobby who makes a point of be assured you do have an appointment with Ms. Chomsky.

(A dynamic salesperson I know once made a practice of showing up in the lobby and asking to see "Mr. Prospect." When the receptionist asked, "Is he expecting you?", the very honest answer was, "I certainly hope so." Humor does not hurt, and this tactic worked for him many times.)

For those of us less charismatic, we need to conduct the meeting with the right tone and the right focus. The right focus is on them. I suggest strong, and practiced this myself for a decade, that you defer any but the most minimal company presentation until your prospect is finished talking. I used to say, "Look, I've got a bag full of material about my company, and it's a really good company, but this conversation should be about you. We can cover all of that later. How are you making out with your (widgets, pornography distributing tool, cosmetic surgery, mind-boggling IT upgrade project)?"

Another good rule to keep in mind is that, without question, the greatest compliment you can make anyone is to ask them about themselves. Okay, so some people don't have a high disclosure rate. So, ask about the company. Ask about Australian rules football. Avoid religion, politics and the New York Yankees, each of which can provoke uncontrollable emotions in any direction. You want to make a friend, not a debate partner. When I sent our some personal emails as I was leaving my most recent job, one guy responded that I was a great partner to work with "even if you are a pinko." He's a cool guy with a cool sense of humor and a passionate conservative. He was joking, but don't think that established conceptions about you and your character don't play a significant role in decision-making.

Always be prepared. Always thank your contact for their time at the beginning and the end of your presentation. If you practice some simple rules, most of which simply fall within the limits of being respectful as you would expect for yourself. If you're product or service is good, keeping in mind that if you're selling for someone else, you have little control, you'll get your share.

Sales is the only profession where top of the line performers sometimes make more money than their managers. If you like it and you're good at it, sales is a perfect profession. Human skills, that is, you being you, are the most valued. You can't ask for more than that, especially when that big sales starts pouring commissions down your gutter.


Short List-Things to Keep in Mind

  • It's possible to be honest without being factual
  • Never sell anything you don't believe in. Your soul is worth more than any sale.
  • Be sincere.
  • Be respectable
  • Don't be embarrassed about making lots of money
  • Once you have it, show respect by spending it freely. Spending makes the world go around.

© 2010 David Stone

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What do you think? 4 comments

David Stone profile image

David Stone 6 years ago from New York City Author

Thank you LillyG, especially for the Central and South American information. I was completely unaware of that.


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 6 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

Thank you Mr. Stone, great hub.

"Another good rule to keep in mind is that, without question, the greatest compliment you can make anyone is to ask them about themselves"

Let me add, if Mr. Prospect is from the South of N.America, asking about the family and everyone's health first, you may be perceived as rude. LOL


David Stone profile image

David Stone 6 years ago from New York City Author

Glad you saw it, pal. I hope you got a laugh or two. We were very lucky guys to have been hired by that guy.


Dave Holdridge 6 years ago

Larry was indeed a great guy to work for and learn from Dave. Enjoying your series!

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