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5 Tips for Bringing Your A Game to Every Sales Meeting

In the high-stakes nature of sales, first impressions are everything. And nothing feels — or looks — worse than slipping up when it matters most.

I recently attended a meeting that went terribly wrong, and this hard truth sank in. The sales team had sent executives at the prospective company 10 iPads preloaded with the sales presentation in hopes of wowing them at the meeting and gaining an edge on the competition.

The plan might have worked — except the iPads were delivered to the wrong office. The sales team ended up scrambling to retrieve and charge the devices, and the meeting started nearly an hour late. And they didn’t even get to use the iPads. Instead, they had to fall back on an old-school PowerPoint presentation. It was a salesperson’s nightmare.

The worst part was that this situation could’ve easily been avoided. The innovation didn’t malfunction; a lack of preparation ultimately ruined the pitch. If the sales team would’ve double-checked the delivery, arrived earlier for the meeting, and verified that the iPads were ready to go, they could’ve delivered a killer presentation. Everyone involved learned a valuable lesson or three that day.

Fortunately, you can avoid a similar fate and bring your A game to every sales meeting by following a few best practices:

1. Respect everyone’s time. Whether you’re meeting with the CEO or lower-level team members, don’t flake on meetings, show up late, or let presentations drag on. If you need to present to different people within the company, look for opportunities to combine meetings to avoid repetitive, time-wasting engagements for you and the potential client.

Show that you value the entire company’s time by only inviting people who have a stake in the presentation. Your entire office doesn’t need to show up for a pitch, but you do want a core group that can speak to the prospect’s concerns.

2. Put the theatrics aside, and concentrate on the sale. This ties back to valuing every person’s time. Don’t regale potential clients with your corporate vision, guiding principles, how you got started, or worldwide expansion. Leads are only interested in what you’re selling and how it benefits them, so reference hard numbers such as fulfillment rates and pricing, success stories, and industry trends — not sentimental narratives.

3. Focus on building rapport. Trusting relationships are the lifeblood of long-term sales contracts. Leave a great first impression by arriving on time and on the ball, and strengthen the relationship in every follow-up interaction.

4. Talk in specifics, not jargon. Jill Konrath offered great advice when she said, “Vague phrases about touching base or following up don’t motivate leads to sign a contract or close a sale.” Be clear about why you’re calling, and potential clients will be more inclined to give you a firm response. Never use overplayed words and phrases like “trusted advisor,” “what keeps you up at night,” or the dreaded “just checking in.”

I was pursuing a lofty advertising contract with a leading online vendor about 10 years ago and must have spent months leaving “just checking in” or “touching base” voicemails. When I started leaving more concrete messages that detailed how my proposed solution would increase revenue, I finally got a return call and ultimately sealed the deal.

5. Voice well-informed opinions and suggestions. Delivering superior customer service is a cornerstone of successful selling. But promptly handling prospects’ requests alone won’t land you a sale. Prospects want to know you’re fighting for their interests. Don’t devalue your industry experience and the diverse perspectives you bring to the table. Find a way to respectfully challenge your potential client’s plan if you disagree, and never assume the customer knows the only right answer. This shows prospects that you understand their needs and are thinking three steps ahead.

Your sales force needs charisma, creativity, and innovation to win over big-ticket clients. But don’t get so caught up in being cutting-edge that you forget the basics of great sales performance. When all else fails, exuding confidence, staying organized, and speaking directly to the potential client’s needs will command the room’s attention — and position you as the obvious solution.
Sona Jepsen is the vice president of consultant relations at Fidelity National Information Services. Her department drives solutions for sales teams in consultant-led opportunities.