The most common mistake made at that first client meeting….

Some years ago I wanted a small brochure which I intended to hand out to prospective clients with a few appropriate inserts added for good measure. We didn’t have the right skills in-house so I asked around a bit and managed to find two firms who seemed to fit the bill. I invited them in for a chat.

Now, I’m not the kind of guy to beat about the bush when I know what I want. I like to explain my requirements and answer any questions the supplier might have then I want him or her to tell me their proposal. That’s just how I roll and I don’t think I am alone on this.

Anyhow, the first supplier arrived. I was very keen to make it a pleasant and brief experience for both of us so I suggested I explain what I wanted. I even had some examples of other people’s folders  with notes explaining what I did and did not like about each one . Tragically this did not meet with the expectations of my guest one bit.

“How about I just tell you a little bit about my company” he said sweeping my lovingly placed samples to one side. Before I could say “well no, I don’t think so matey” he was off. I think he had covered his clients history from 1957, their turnover, staff numbers and offices and we were just getting to the “and this is our extensive product range” when I managed to shut him up.

I began to explain my needs for a second time until I was forced to take breath, as one does, at which point he was off again – listing out his product range and proudly explaining about their creative design capabilities. It was a nightmare!

I tried one more time with to avail – he had clearly had his sales approach beaten into him and he was going to follow it to the bitter end. Which he absolutely did.

When he finally fell silent I genuinely think he expected a round of applause or something. Instead I suggested he send me a brief email to include price, design, specification and timescales. Then he left no doubt feeling it was a good meeting. It wasn’t.

The second person was exactly the opposite. His opening line was “Is there anything you would like to know about me or my company or shall we get straight into your requirements?” Brilliant! I have used a variation of that opener many times myself since then. He listened as I went through the specification, took notes and when I had finished asked a series of questions. He then produced a couple of samples from his bag that were pretty close to what I wanted and he noted down my modifications. We hadn’t even talked about price and he had got the deal.

Now I wonder: how many times have you opened a sales pitch or a presentation with a whole lot of stuff about you? Do you really think they are interested in how many offices you have, how long you have been going or what your product or service offering looks like? Well here’s the skinny – they almost certainly aren’t.

Next time why not give the poor prospects a chance – ask them if there is anything they want to know about you and if they don’t press on to the bit they really find interesting – their requirements. It will work wonders!

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Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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Posted in Behavioural Change, New Business, Presentation Skills, Sales

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Mike Ames

Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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