Along with many other aspects of our lives, the internet revolutionized the business meeting. With tools like Skype, GoToMeeting, Zoom and even FaceTime, we can connect with clients in an instant, from anywhere. But nearly everyone agrees that there’s nothing quite like a face-to-face meeting to build relationships and close deals.
In fact, 95 percent of respondents to a Harvard Business Review survey said face-to-face meetings are essential for gaining and maintaining long-term business relationships, and 89 percent believe face-to-face meetings are critical for “sealing the deal.”
But in an era of texts and voicemail tag, it’s notoriously difficult to secure that initial in-person meeting. Indeed, in one study, for every 330 calls made only one appointment was set. Yikes. In this environment, making the most of each and every appointment is critical.
But how? The best place to start is thoughtful planning. Try these five preparation steps before your next face-to-face (or even video chat) and see what a difference it makes.
Step 1: Research Each and Every Attendee
When you know your audience you can tailor the message and better steer the meeting. And we’re talking about a lot more info than the details on your primary contact.
Most purchases are now group decisions, with an average of nearly seven decision-makers involved in a typical B2B transaction. So, there’s a good chance that everyone in the room will have a vote in the final purchase decision.
To get the low-down on the whole crowd, ask for the meeting attendees in advance, then do a quick web search. Check out LinkedIn profiles, make note of titles, and check to see if they have any overlapping contacts, groups or interests. A quick skim of social media accounts and the company website is also a good idea.
If that sounds like a lot of time and effort, I have good news for you. If your CRM is equipped with relationship intelligence automation, you can vastly streamline this effort. As in, automation can pull all this information up for you, no need to Google anything. Even better, some advanced tools, like Introhive, automatically deliver all this information right to your email as a “pre-meeting digest” prior to the big day.
How? The technology uses algorithms to do the basic research for you, pulling in the relevant intel that’s publicly available in email signatures, social media profiles, and elsewhere.
Relationship intelligence automation like Introhive can also show you mutual connections, as well as the strength of those relationships. So you could see, for instance, that your coworker Ryan from Procurement once worked with your primary lead, and he still communicates with her fairly frequently. Good chance for a warm introduction, right?
Step 2: Set a Main Goal and Objectives for the Meeting
Given that it takes an average of 18 calls just to connect with a buyer, once you do secure a meeting, you certainly don’t want to squander the opportunity by being unprepared.
So get your goal and objectives straight ahead of time. And when you’re trying to determine the main goal for the meeting, try to remember that it’s not all about you. While your ultimate aim may be to sell something, it’s unlikely that the client’s primary desire is to buy something. More likely, they’re looking to a solution to one or more pain points.
That means your first goal should be to understand what those are. If you succeed, you’ll be ahead of the game, too. According to 60 percent of executives, their companies do not consistently do a good job of aligning with target customer segments.
In new relationships, especially, figuring out pain points may take a bit of investigative work. You might need to put yourself in the client’s shoes and make an educated guess based on the business and competitive intelligence you’ve gathered.
Once you’ve got your overarching problem to solve (i.e. “turn around lagging customer service”), break that primary goal into smaller, measurable objectives.
Step 3: Plan the Agenda to Support Objectives
Your agenda should reflect a logical progression of content designed to keep your potential clients engaged. And allocate a few minutes near the end for questions and next step discussions.
With each agenda item, you should be able to measure success. In keeping with our step two example, if you start off the meeting with a discussion about issues critical to the client, you should have a list of those pressing needs to work from after the meeting wraps up.
If time allows, I also suggest asking a colleague to put another set of eyes on your draft agenda. A fresh review is often helpful for spotting content gaps or flow issues.
Step 4: Have a Plan B
Of course, meetings—like life—don’t always go as planned. The meeting could start late or get cut short or sidetracked due to valuable discussion.
But you can be somewhat prepared for the unexpected with a contingency plan. To build your Plan B, consider what content could be cut or included as part of follow-up.
Step 5: Plan Your Follow-Up Activities
About 40 percent of prospects become new customers during a face-to-face meeting—but there’s no guarantee it’ll happen during the first get together. So a big step in your prep should be coordinating follow-up activities, like a call or note.
Indeed, one analysis found that sales professionals who attempted to respond to leads within an hour were 60 times more likely to have meaningful, decision-maker conversations than those who waited 24 hours.
And don’t forget that meeting follow-up isn’t a matter of “one and done.” Far from it. Even though 44 percent of sales pros give up after one try, the majority of B2B deals—80 percent—require five follow-up calls. So stick with it!
If all this seems like a lot to keep track of, give CRM data automation a try. I’ve found it really helpful to archive my follow-up communications for future reference.
Get a Head Start on Meeting Preparation
The stakes are high in prospect and client meetings. Why not give yourself and your business development team a head start? Simplify meeting preparation with CRM data automation and relationship intelligence. While saving you hours of research, it delivers the deep insights into attendees and mutual connections that, when paired with your own diligent meeting prep, leads to success.
Request a demo to see the tech in action and learn more about how Introhive can help you get ahead of the meeting curve and build long-lasting business relationships.