How to prepare and run the perfect prospect meeting

 

Imagine you had prepared seven perfect questions for a prospect meeting. Really insightful, penetrating questions. With a breath, you asked your first and waited – using golden silence. Your prospect considered your question, and answered that the issue didn’t really impact them. Together you explored their answer – you because you want to dig deeper and they because they are being polite and interested early on in the meeting.

But the question still bombed. That’s OK, you have six more – equally penetrating.

And so you ask your second. Despite you both giving the question a decent run, it bombs too. Not because the question was wrong, or poorly asked, only that this issue – the one you had hoped would surgically unsettle them – just didn’t impact this particular business.

Question three bombs too, and you both lose faith. Your prospect moves to “so why don’t you tell me a bit about your products and why we might be interested in them. Having failed to get any traction with plan A, you relent and revert to a simple pitch. You have lost control of the meeting. Who knows if question four was the one – the question that would have created all sorts of rich dialogue about their issues and why they need to find a solution.

For next time, how do you plan and run the perfect prospect meeting that let’s you explore the whole story?

In last week’s show I promised in this week’s show, the one you’re watching, that we would talk about how to build a perfect model of your imperfect funnel, I lied. I was talking to a client today and was convinced to talk about a different subject, completely different so forgive me if you will.

Imagine that you’re in a prospect meeting, you’re meeting a client or prospective client for the first time ever and you’ve got seven really cracking questions that you’re going to ask them. Whether you’re using spin which teaches us to use troubling questions or using conceptual selling which is somewhat more of a bespoke for each opportunity, whatever approach you’re taking you’re certainly going into that meeting armed with some great questions that are really

So you’ve got these seven great questions and you get to question three and it just bombs. Where do you go from there? How do you actually get through your whole agenda? Question four was the one that was going to strike a chord but you never get to find that out because question three you’ve failed three times, you just don’t get to go forward. How can you get your whole agenda on the table to get to ask question four? For next time.

There’s actually more to the question. Certainly we need to get through our whole story with the prospect. We need our whole story to stick as well rather than just appear like a fishing expedition of multiple almost unrelated questions. We need the pattern to start to form oh hang on, you’re honing in on something here; there’s a bigger conversation that you’re around the edges of.

We need that for two reasons, one is so we can actually discuss the core issue and reframe in the prospect’s mind what it is the core issue ought to be rather than some of the tangential issues. The other thing is if you just fail in that meeting right because now the core issue and its contributors just aren’t the issue of the day for this prospect. They will be at some point so you need your story to stick. So the question really becomes how can we create a compelling story around which we can ask lots of questions so that we can get through the whole agenda and that it sticks. So in this week’s show we’ll show you how to run a perfect prospecting meeting.

I want to put three ideas in your head before arguing what we actually need. The first one is let’s get in the buyer’s shoes. Imagine from their perspective they’re sitting in the meeting, they’re listening skills are imperfect and you’re communication skills are imperfect, sorry. The idea transfer is therefore going to be imperfect. So you thought you actually asked the right question and they thought they heard a different question and answered a different question. It’s kind of imperfect, that’s part of the problem.

Also as you’re going around your multiple questions, maybe you have a list of … I keep doing this you’ll see I don’t know why. Let me change that and say you’re going through your list of questions … You’ll see me come back to this in a moment. You’re going through your list of questions, it runs the risk of looking somewhat like a fishing expedition. These are interesting questions but they’re not really taking us anywhere and this might not stick.

The third thing to think about while you’re thinking about the buyer’s shoes, which is the first big idea, is they’re automatically guarded. They know that you’re selling. They’re going to have their filter up a little bit even if you’re warm and charming and you’ve earned the right to be there and even if they’re particularly receptive on this day. They’re still going to be somewhat guarded. So collectively we’ve got an imperfect receptivity, this imperfect communication, this fishing expedition, the guardedness, all of that think from the buyer’s perspective.

Now stay in the buyer’s perspective and think about ideas that stick. There’s kind of two angles to this, one is that your multiple questions had some kind of root, something underneath them. Maybe there’s a root cause, maybe there’s a big picture; there’s something underneath your list of questions but that something won’t be clear unless you make it clear. That has two consequences, one is in the flow of the meeting, again the fishing expedition thing it’s kind of not quite sure where we’re going here. Secondly if a meeting fails then the opportunity for the big idea to stick is going to be really hard if what they got is actually seven interesting unrelated questions. So we need to sort of cohere it both for on the day and for later. The third thought I want to put in your head … The first two were the buyer is a little bit imperfect in their reception of your message, the second thought is that your message has many paths and there is no sort of cohering idea, there is no central idea.

The third thought is around the problem that you’re solving in the market actually does have multiple paths. There’s a core problem that you’re really good at solving. I know you solve many problems but there’s one that you’re a cracker at solving and that problem has many causes, it could be caused by this or this or this. That’s that little whole thing I was standing here talking about. There could be multiple caused for this one core idea. You don’t need the prospect to have all of those causes just any of them that lead to that core idea. Likewise, that problem, that core problem, has many triggers. There could be any number of different circumstances that suddenly bring the problem to the surface. Triggers are different from causes.

Causes are going on and triggers suddenly make the problem an A Lister. Then there’s consequences; because you’ve got this problem, you’ve got these things going on. So our idea is complex but it’s not being received well and it’s not sticking. So what we really need is some way of running the meeting that lets us do, I think, four things.

Firstly, it lets the prospect scan ahead. If questions one, two and three just aren’t striking a chord but question four is going to let them guide you to that point. Certainly let them see the whole picture; don’t keep it a secret.

Secondly it gives you a framework for actually asking all those questions despite my last point. So I get that this is the primary cause for you of this problem but let me just diligently for a minute explore these other ones because I’ve seen them pretty often. Tell me why it is that you think that that’s not causing this issue? And I can diligently explore all of the topics because I found one that struck a chord. That is important because quite often it’s not just the one that struck a chord, it’s a little bit of the others as well. That leads me to point three.

It lets you create a bigger problem, and to point four somewhat re-position the problem to the one that you solve. You might be good at solving this root cause but so could others. Likewise another root cause but so could others and so on. But perhaps your strength is in solving that collection of problems and the problem that they really lead to. That’s quite common. It really lets you, and this is my fourth point, lets you reframe their thinking around what the problem really is that they should be solving.

Let me use Math Marketing’s own sales conversations as a framework for having this conversation so we get out of the theory and get to practical. When I’m having a first meeting I don’t know whether the prospect’s problem has got to be that they lack marketing skills or, I don’t know if I’m going to sell them Funnel Academy for marketing skills or Miller Heiman for sales skills or Funnel Camp to build a combined process for sales and marketing, Funnel Mastery maybe they’ve got multiple constituents or stakeholders whose plans need to be built. I won’t know that from a first meeting, it’s a discovery meeting. So I really need to keep an open mind, but in each case all of those products solve in a different way one core problem, which is my sales and marketing engine is underperforming.

My key elements are sales and marketing, that it’s not an engine. A lot of people look at their problem statement and say, “Man, I don’t have an engine, let alone underperforming.” Well, that’s their version of their problem. The core problem is my sales and marketing engine is underperforming. Now that could be caused marketing’s skills and language aren’t up to par, it could be because sales’ skills and language are not up to par, by the way I’m processed for both. It could be that sales and marketing lack a clear and combined process.

There are a number of different potential sub-causes of that core problem. What I need to do is to flush out what the prospect is doing about each of those root causes and why it is that they’re a problem and the extent to which they’re a problem. If number one is a biggie and number two is not, I need to flush that out. So I need some kind of diagram. Some meetings I’ll be conducting is just a you and me meeting across a table and so I need something like a A3 card, big card stock, we’ll draw on it together because we’re together exploring why, to what extent, this core problem is an issue for you. Sometimes that meeting might be in a white boarding session. So I’ll, forgive my back here, I’ll be on a white board and we’re having the conversation, this is the core problem, these are the potential root causes, tell me how this is playing out, tell me how this is playing out and so on.

Whatever the delivery case I need a discovery tool that allows the prospect to cycle ahead a bit, allows me to explore deeply each of the subtopics, allows me to create a coherent whole, and in the process lets me reframe it away from a point problem that I can solve but so can others to a bigger problem that I can solve and commonly well. That’s what we need in the meeting to help us to achieve and so we need a meeting tool and/or a white boarding tool to have that very conversation.

As you know Funnel Plan is a great way to capture your objectives, your strategy, your velocity and the tactics that sales and marketing are going to use to earn the right to serve new customers. Today we’re talking about the problem and how we get the problem agreed with the prospect and, in particular, the problem as we see it, not just gee what problems do you have because it is potential that we have problems that we don’t want to focus on because we can’t uniquely solve them. Rather we are trying to get them troubled about the problem that we uniquely solve. So it’s a very directed conversation.

In that context therefore, a couple of things on the Funnel Plan I want to focus on. Firstly, what is the problem that you’re solving? The problem analysis tool in Funnel Plan lets you and the rest of your team identify a really long list of problems that you might consider focusing on, to then aggressively wrestle that down to a select few, and finally to choose one that you most want to focus on. So understanding the core problem is a critical start.

Let’s dive now down to the tactics and again I’m going to zoom in because I want to talk about just tactics that relate to gap acknowledged. The end of the gap acknowledged stage is the prospect says, “Gee, I have a problem that I need to solve that you seem to understand deeply.” That’s where we are trying to get them to.

I want to make a point about this particular Funnel Plan, it’s only a sample one, but in this sample one there are a couple of ways to get to the gap acknowledged stage, in fact there are three. In particular they could have responded to an outbound video highly targeted, we call it a VBR video from Miller Heiman. An outbound video that has specifically targeted that we think their pains are, that might have been how we earned the meeting in this example. It might have been we earned the meeting through some sort of weird behavior and then interacting with a digital asset like a white paper or it might be that they responded and came to an in-house event.

An in-house event would have a troubling effect but because we are one on many and not one on one we can’t yet presume that the buyer’s really connected to the problem personally so we still need to meet with them. Likewise the white paper could have been talking about the problem, should be talking about the problem but we can’t yet presume that until they really buy into it. The same thing with the video, it’s a short video that we have to follow up really quickly but we can’t yet presume the buyer’s really bought into the problem. So the gap might have been hinted at, eluded to, sort of acknowledged but not really; we still need the meeting.

So we’re now having this meeting caused by one of those three initial tactics. Now, right now the tactics is personal meeting to explore the costs and consequences of, in this case, failure to innovate because this is a tactic, there was a sample tactic, whatever your problem is, is what you’d put down here.

Now that’s what it’s got so far but it presupposes that the sales person will conduct the personal meeting in the best way they know how. Let’s give them some tools to do that even better. Switching across to the Funnel Plan software I’ve got already my blogging video open I’m going to scroll down to the tactics. This will surface a whole list of tactics because it’s all of the tactics we have in the Funnel Plan and I really only wanted to make a very small change to one of those tactics.

So the tactic that I want … These are all sorted by stage and therefore the gap acknowledged stage is kind of midway through the tactics list. So let me get to the gap acknowledged section and find the tactic that we’re after. Here it is; it’s the first tactic in the tactics list for the gap acknowledged stage. Now, it’s first because we want it to appear at the top of the plan. Let me go back to my plan; it’s sitting up here at the top, it’s not actually first in order the arrows may clear the sequencing here. So it’s the top of this list and I want to make just the smallest change. Personal meeting to explore the costs and consequences of failure to innovate, insert your problem here. In fact, let me just kind of highlight that in that way to make clear that we’re inserting whatever the problem is using preprinted meeting tool or white boarding session.

Frankly, how will I know which one to use? If I turn up to the meeting and there’s four people there I’m going to white board. If I turn up to the meeting and it’s one person there I’m going to use the meeting tool. The meeting tool needs to capture the core problem and the potential causes. You might even include some of the consequences of the problem in that meeting tool.

Remember what you’re trying to do with the meeting tool whether it’s white boarded or done on a piece of paper. You’re trying to get them to jump ahead to their version of the pain, the part that’s hurting them. Secondly you’re using the tool to make sure that you get the right to deep dive into all of the other topics just in case because quite often, yes the one that they went to is the big one but it’s supported by other problems. Thirdly, lets you reframe the problem to a coherent whole and make it stick. Very important. I hope that helps.

In next week’s show, I’ll show you how to build a perfect model of your imperfect funnel. I promise I will do it this time. Until then, may your funnel by full and always flowing.

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