You finally set the meeting. It was confirmed by your contact’s Executive Assistant. You are on for 10am tomorrow morning. Are you ready?
Pilots are trained to go through a pre-flight checklist in preparation for every single flight they take. It doesn’t matter if this is a 20-minute shuttle flight or a 12-hour transoceanic flight, the pilot (and when required, co-pilot) go through a detailed process of checking every system on the plane before every flight – without exception.
The reason for pre-flight checklists is obvious – even the most experienced pilots can miss something important when preparing for a flight. Since the stakes when flying are life and death, everyone holsters their ego and simply checks the list.
There is also a powerful psychological benefit of the pilot’s pre-flight systems check list. Everyone in the cockpit knows that the plane is mechanically sound before the plane pushes back from the gate and barrels down the runway to lift into the air.
With the exception of the life & death stakes, professional selling is no different. Like a pilot, a sales professional should go through a “pre-meeting checklist” before every sales meeting regardless of how long they have been selling or how confident they feel about the prospect.
Before we begin discussing this process in detail, let’s make one thing clear. A “pre-meeting checklist” is not the same as a “meeting sales plan.”
Just as a pilot files a flight plan to tell the FAA which route he plans to fly, the sales professional’s meeting sales plan sets forth the sales professional’s agenda and desired outcome for the meeting.
On the other hand, the pilot uses the pre-flight checklist to ensure the plane is safe to fly, whereas a sales professional uses the pre-meeting checklist to ensure they have everything they need prior to starting the sales meeting.
Assuming your “flight plan” for the meeting is in place, let’s now make sure that you’re ready to push back from the gate!
1) Review Your Sales Plan
Whether this is a first meeting, follow-up meeting, financial presentation or technology demonstration, take a moment to review your sales plan before the call. Think through where you are in the sales process, and ask if the plan needs to be updated based on your current information.
2) Set Your Intention
Ask yourself two questions: “What do I want to accomplish in this meeting?” and “What do I want to avoid in this meeting?”. Be brutally honest about what these outcomes look like. Then, think through what needs to happen on both sides of the table for the best possible outcome.
3) Set the Agenda
Prior to each meeting, think through what has happened up to this point and what still needs to happen to advance the sale. Create a list of items you think you can realistically address in the time allotted and sort them in a logical flow.
There is a lot more that can be said about structuring a meeting agenda, but for now let’s just say you want to focus first on probing deeper into objections and exploring the customer’s pain points that, assuming you can solve them, build the value of you solution.
Also, be sure to include things your customer wants to accomplish on this list. If you are not sure what they want to accomplish, then add a discussion of this topic to your agenda.
By creating a well-conceived agenda, you will demonstrate you are thoughtful and prepared. It also gives you the best chance to accomplish what you want to accomplish in the meeting.
If the meeting involves just a few individuals, the agenda doesn’t need to written and handed out, but an agenda should always be communicated at the beginning of every meeting. Doing so secures the customer’s “permission” to discuss the topics you’ve outlined, and thereby reduces their anxiety about why you are meeting.
4) Role Play the Meeting
Top professionals call this technique “Positive Visualization”. Before the call, rehearse the call with the best possible outcome in mind. Then do it again. You can do this mentally or aloud – with or without a partner. Role playing will prepare you to be present and “in the moment” during the meeting. This level of preparation will help keep you from being caught off guard by the unexpected.
Pilots don’t push back from the gate, taxi to the runway & takeoff without first preparing for the possibility of mid-flight problems. That is why you should also rehearse what to do if the meeting starts to go sideways. Rehearse your answers to common objections. Anticipate a domineering “know-it-all” trying to highjack the meeting. By doing this, you will appear calm in the face of adversity, which will further enhance the customer’s trust in you.
5) Know The Players
Spend time researching the people who you know will be in the meeting. You can do this by searching their name on the Web and on LinkedIn, and by asking around to people you know. It is also important that you search their company website to see if you can figure out who is NOT in the meeting, who may ultimately influence or approve their buying decision.
6) Check Your Supplies
Practice and preparation are the price of proficiency. Make sure that you have more than enough handouts, marketing collateral or whatever is required for you to have a successful meeting with the confirmed attendees before you leave the office.
Also check to make sure you have a pen, piece of paper, power adapter, and any cables you may need to connect your laptop to a projector via both HDMI and VGA adapters.
This may seem like a lot of work for one meeting, but once you get the hang of it you will be able to do this in less than an hour. Besides, one hour is a small investment of time If you are really committed to being one of the highest earning sale professionals in your industry, right?
Remember this post on your next flight when you hear the pilot say “Sit back, Relax and Enjoy the Flight.” You’ll know the pilot is sweating the details so you don’t need to.
What does your Pre-Meeting Checklist look like? How do you make it work for you?
What was the outcome when you didn’t plan well for a meeting?
What success have you had when you effectively used a Pre-Meeting Checklist and how did it help advance the opportunity?
Be sure to print this topic and bring it with you to this week’s Sales Growth meeting.
Our next meeting is at 7:30am on Wednesday, June 10th, at the Vita restaurant in Dolce Basking Ridge (300 N Maple Ave, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920). We meet for networking and breakfast at 7:30am and the meeting starts at 8:00am. The cost for their excellent breakfast is ~$16.00.
Please confirm your attendance by replying to this email or by accepting the calendar invite you received.
Happy selling this week. Remember, it’s an abundant world so focus on building value and detach from the outcome.