4 Winning Strategies for 4 Different Sales Meetings

4 Winning Strategies for 4 Different Sales Meetings

THERE are more contradictory opinions about how to handle an executive sales conversation than there are about how to reduce the government deficit. In the last year, I have heard all of these statements about the “right way” to sell to top executives:

  • “You have to start right away with good questions. Your focus should be on uncovering the client’s needs and priorities.”
  • “You should start by talking about your firm—who you are and what you do. You can’t just walk into a meeting with a prospect and start grilling them with questions!”
  • “The most effective questions are broad, high-level, open-ended ones like ‘What keeps you up at night?’ and ‘What are your top three priorities this year?’”
  • “You can’t go in and ask an executive to tell you about his business. You have to do your homework and know what the major issues are in advance.”

There is a little bit of truth—and falsehood—in each of these claims.

So what’s the right way? Actually, it depends on which of four types of executive sales meetings you are walking into. There are a few basic building blocks of an executive sales conversation—essential tools to help you advance the relationship—and the decision about which ones to highlight and how to sequence them will depend on two fundamental questions:

  1. Who asked for the meeting? You or the client?
  2. Is this an existing client? Or a prospect who doesn’t know you very well or at all?

If you combine the four choices that are inherent in these two questions, you get a two-by-two matrix with four quadrants, shown in the upper-left of this newsletter. Your conversational strategy will be somewhat different for each quadrant. For example, you can’t ask for a meeting with a prospect who doesn’t know you, and then walk in and immediately start grilling them with questions about their business!

Let’s look at each one of these four scenarios in turn.

Remember your basic building blocks for effective sales conversations: 

  1. A point of view about markets, competition, best practices, etc. 
  2. Short, relevant, engaging client examples to describe your firm
  3. Credibility-building questions and agenda-setting questions

If you have not read it, have a look at Power Questions–now the No. 1 book on Amazon in Business Communications. It has over 100 questions specifically for use in client sales meetings.

Quadrant 1: You ask for a meeting with a prospect

You lead off

In this case, you cannot simply walk in the door of someone’s office and kick off the meeting by peppering them with questions. You have to first earn the right—but at the same time, you don’t want to bore them to death with descriptions of your firm and talk too much at the outset. You also have to carefully set the agenda.  So here is the right sequence for this Quadrant:

1. Set the agenda: “I view this as a chance for us to get to know each other’s organizations and, potentially, see if there’s an issue of mutual interest that is worth pursuing. I thought I’d start by briefly describing our firm and giving you a couple of examples of recent client work we’ve done in your industry. Then, I’d like to turn it over to you and ask you about your most significant priorities. At the end of our conversation, I think we’ll both know whether or not it makes sense to continue the dialogue.”

2. Briefly describe your firm and give a client example. Don’t pull out a PowerPoint presentation! Mention your value proposition in one sentence (e.g., “We help companies accelerate their strategy implementation”). Talk about your firm by way of a value-added  “point of view” about the industry, function, or market (50-100 words maximum). Then give a relevant client example (50-60 words—no more!). This should only take about 2-4 minutes at the very most. Repeat: Your introduction should only take a few minutes.

3. Turn it over to the prospect. You point of view and examples should have clearly highlighted some very critical issues that you help clients with. Say something like, “Can you tell me something about your issues and the priorities you’re focused on right now?” If you’ve done some real research on the organization, you can be more specific—e.g., “I know that one of the major planks of your strategy is globalizing all of your key business processes. What demands is this making in your area? What challenges does it present for you?

4. Ask thoughtful, open-ended questions to explore their issues. You must also add value by citing additional examples of client success, best practices, market trends, and so on. Ask about urgency, value, stakeholders, previous efforts to address it, and so on.

Quadrant 2: You ask for a meeting with an existing client with whom you are trying to develop more business.

You lead off

As in Quadrant 1, you asked for the meeting. So the client—even if they know you well—will expect you to lead off. Even though you know the individual, you cannot ask to see them and then start asking question after question! So here is best order to employ your business development “building blocks”:

1. Share a point of view about their business. Provide your client with a set of observations about their business which are at the heart of the opportunity you would like to discuss (“We’ve been working in the XYZ division for over a year, and I’d like to share a couple of observations with you about that business. I think there are some unexploited opportunities there.”)

2. Gauge the client’s reaction. Ask a general question like, “What’s your perspective on this?” Do they dismiss what you’ve said? Are they defensive? Or do they engage in a conversation with you? You’ll know pretty quickly.

3. Ask thoughtful, open-ended questions to explore their issues. You must also add value by citing additional examples of client success, best practices, market trends, and so on. Ask about urgency, value, stakeholders, and previous efforts to address it.

Quadrant 3: A prospect calls you and asks to meet. 

They lead off

This a great Quadrant to be in, because it means a prospect is calling you based on your brand, reputation, speaking and publishing, or a warm referral. Because of this, the order of events changes. In this case you CAN start the meeting with questions.

1. Have the client start by describing their business and problem. For example, you might kick off by saying, “Can you tell me what interested you in meeting with me?”  Because they have called YOU, you have a license to ask questions about their business, their specific issue, and so on.

2. Ask thoughtful, open-ended questions to explore their issues. You must also add value by citing additional examples of client success, best practices, and market trends. Ask about urgency, value, stakeholders, previous efforts to address it, and so on.

3. Describe your own business in response to their questions. Use the same “building blocks” as you would in any other business development meeting: Briefly state you value proposition for clients, share points of view about the industry, describe what you find works and doesn’t work, talk about a couple of brief client examples, and so on.

Related: 10 Habits of Terrible Listeners: How Do You Rank?

Quadrant 4: A client calls you and asks to meet. 

They lead off

This is the most wonderful Quadrant to be in, because it means your client is treating you like a trusted advisor. They have a problem and trust you to discuss it with them and potentially solve it. Again, because the inquiry comes in from the client, you CAN start the meeting with questions.

1. Have the client start by describing the issue they’ve contacted you about. You probably won’t even have to prompt them to begin.

2. Ask thoughtful, open-ended questions to explore their issues. As in every executive conversation, you must add value by citing additional examples of client success, best practices, market trends, and so on, as appropriate for the issue the client has raised. Ask about urgency, value, stakeholders, previous efforts to address it, and so on.

Before any client sales conversation, remind yourself which type of meeting it's going to be. Just by identifying which of these four Quadrants applies most to your situation, you'll have the bulk of your strategy already figured out.

Andrew Sobel
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Andrew Sobel is a leading authority on client relationships and the skills and strategies required to earn enduring client loyalty. He is the co-author of the recently re ... Click for full bio

China's Push Toward Excellence Delivers a Global Robotics Investment Opportunity

China's Push Toward Excellence Delivers a Global Robotics Investment Opportunity

Written by: Jeremie Capron

China is on a mission to change its reputation from a manufacturer of cheap, mass-produced goods to a world leader in high quality manufacturing. If that surprises you, you’re not the only one.

For decades, China has been synonymous with the word cheap. But times are changing, and much of that change is reliant on the adoption of robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence, or RAAI (pronounced “ray”). For investors, this shift is driving a major opportunity to capture growth and returns rooted in China’s rapidly increasing demand for RAAI technologies.

You may have heard of ‘Made in China 2025,’ the strategy announced in 2015 by the central government aimed at remaking its industrial sector into a global leader in high-technology products and advanced manufacturing techniques. Unlike some public relations announcements, this one is much more than just a marketing tagline. Heavily subsidized by the Chinese government, the program is focused on generating major investments in automated manufacturing processes, also referred to as Industry 4.0 technologies, in an effort to drive a massive transformation across every sector of manufacturing. The program aims to overhaul the infrastructure of China’s manufacturing industry by not only driving down costs, but also—and perhaps most importantly—by improving the quality of everything it manufactures, from textiles to automobiles to electronic components.

Already, China has become what is arguably the most exciting robotics market in the world. The numbers speak for themselves. In 2016 alone, more than 87,000 robots were sold in the country, representing a year-over-year increase of 27%, according to the International Federation of Robotics. Last month’s World Robot Conference 2017 in Beijing brought together nearly 300 artificial intelligence (AI) specialists and representatives of over 150 robotics enterprises, making it one of the world’s largest robotics-focused conference in the world to date. That’s quite a transition for a country that wasn’t even on the map in the area of robotics only a decade ago.

As impressive as that may be, what’s even more exciting for anyone with an eye on the robotics industry is the fact that this growth represents only a tiny fraction of the potential for robotics penetration across China’s manufacturing facilities—and for investors in the companies that are delivering or are poised to deliver on the promise of RAAI-driven manufacturing advancements.

Despite its commitment to leverage the power of robotics, automation and AI to meet its aggressive ‘Made in China 2025’ goals, at the moment China has only 1 robot in place for every 250 manufacturing workers. Compare that to countries like Germany and Japan, where manufacturers utilize an average of one robot for every 30 human workers. Even if China were simply trying to catch up to other countries’ use of robotics, those numbers would signal immense near-term growth. But China is on a mission to do much more than achieve the status quo. The result? According to a recent report by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), in 2019 as much as 40% of the worldwide market volume of industrial robots could be sold in China alone.

To understand how the country can support such grand growth, just take a look at where and why robotics is being applied today. While the automotive sector has historically been the largest buyer of robots, China’s strategy reaches far and wide to include a wide variety of future-oriented manufacturing processes and industries.

Related: Smooth Tomorrow's Market Volatility With a Smart Approach to Robotics & AI

Electronics is a key example. In fact, the electrical and electronics industry surpassed the automotive industry as the top buyer of robotics in 2016, with sales up 75% to almost 30,000 units. Assemblers such as Foxconn rely on thousands of workers to assemble today’s new iPhones. Until recently, the assembly of these highly delicate components required a level of human dexterity that robots simply could not match, as well as human vision to help ensure accuracy and quality. But recent advancements in robotics are changing all that. Industrial robots already have the ability to handle many of the miniature components in today’s smart phones. Very soon, these robots are expected to have the skills to bolster the human workforce, significantly increasing manufacturing capacity. Newer, more dexterous industrial robots are expected to significantly reduce human error during the assembly process of even the most fragile components, including the recently announced OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screens that Samsung and Apple introduced on their latest mobile devices including the iPhone X. Advancements in computer vision are transforming how critical quality checks are performed on these and many other electronic devices. All of these innovations are coming together at just the right time for a country that is striving to create the world’s most advanced manufacturing climate.

Clearly, China’s trajectory in the area of RAAI is in hyper drive. For investors who are seeking a tool to leverage this opportunity in an intelligent and perhaps unexpected way, the ROBO Global Robotics & Automation Index may help. The ROBO Index already offers a vast exposure to China’s potential growth due to the depth and breadth of the robotics and automation supply chain. As China continues to improve its manufacturing processes to meet its 2025 initiative, every supplier across China’s far-reaching supply chains will benefit. Wherever they are located, suppliers of RAAI-related components—reduction gears, sensors, linear motion systems, controllers, and so much more—are bracing for spikes in demand as China pushes to turn its dream into a reality.

Today, around 13% of the revenues generated by the ROBO Global Index members are driven by China’s investments in robotics and automation. Tomorrow? It’s hard to say. But one thing is for certain: China’s commitment to improving the quality and cost-efficiency of its manufacturing facilities is showing no signs of slowing down—and its reliance on robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence is vital to its success.

Want all the details? Download the ROBO Global Investment Report - Summer Brings Best ROBO Earnings in Six Years or visit us here.

ROBO Global
Robotics and AI
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ROBO Global LLC is the creator of the ROBO Global® Robotics and Automation Index series, which provides comprehensive, transparent and diversified benchmarks representing the ... Click for full bio