When it comes to big client meetings, sometimes we tend to over-prepare in the wrong area, or under-prepare all together. This tends to lead to frustrating (or embarrassing) results.

On this episode of The Same Side Selling Podcast, Ian Altman discusses the best way to prepare for those important client meetings and a few key areas that people often overlook.


Welcome to the Same Side Selling Podcast. I'm your host, Ian Altman. On this episode, I want to discuss your preparation for big meetings. Oftentimes people come to me after I've given a talk, and they say, we've got this big meeting coming up. What should we be doing to get ready for it? Or unfortunately, sometimes it's, we just had this big meeting, and it was a total failure.

And usually big meetings, the problem is not that it's a big meeting. The problem is that we either over-prepare in the wrong areas, or we just don't do enough preparation at all. And usually, what it comes down to is, we have a different expectation going into those meetings than our clients or prospects do. And so, we've set it up, we've got the right people involved, we're really excited about it, we may have different stakeholders from our company who are showing up, and each person has their own agenda in their mind as to how this meeting is going to go. And that's not a good way to handle a big meeting because we need to make sure that we have alignment. We need to make sure that we fully understand what the client's expectations are, as well as we need to make sure that we know what we're hoping to accomplish in the meeting.

And there are a few key areas that people often overlook when it comes to these big meetings.

The first one is having a clear understanding for everyone in the team of what you hope to accomplish in that meeting. See, if one person shows that the meeting expecting that we're going to win the business and get a purchase order from this client, and someone else is just thinking, we're just looking to move the ball forward a little bit, then you might be taking totally different approaches that just don't seem in sync and the client may be a little bit uncomfortable because they're getting inconsistent messages from different people on your team. Also, if you know what you're trying to accomplish, part of it might be showing up being a little bit skeptical, and you want them to convince you why something is important.

In my prior business, one of the things that we would always do is when someone took their team and traveled from another country to our country, and met with us in our offices on Park Avenue in Manhattan, the first question I would ask them is, I would say, what inspired you to come meet with us today? Because I wanted them to tell us why they were so excited to work with us. And invariably, someone else on our team would say, Oh, let me tell you why they're here. And I would just hold my head in my hands and think, Oh, my goodness, even though we had talked about it in advance, even though I had prepped the team and said, I'm going to be asking these questions, someone on our own team would think, well, I know the answer so I'm going to answer it, and I'm going to look really smart. And we eventually had to figure out a way to not include those key people in these discussions because it would turn the meeting sideways.

So the first thing is we have to make sure that we have a good understanding of what it is that you hope to accomplish in the meeting and that everyone's in sync with that.

The second thing is, what do they need to believe to achieve that outcome. So the client or prospect, we might say, well, they need to feel like we have the best solution. They need to feel like we understand their needs. They need to feel and believe that they're going to get a better outcome with our solution than with somebody else's. They need to believe that it's worth paying more for what we have than for what other people have. Whatever it is, we need to be very conscious about what it is that our clients and prospects need to believe coming out of the meeting if we expect to have a chance of actually helping them achieve this.

The next thing is asking yourself, why would they move forward? What things would happen that would make them inclined to move forward? Now, part of it's going to be what they believe, but also, do they have financing setup? Do they have buy-in from other parties and other people? Those are things that we want to find out? So we want to make sure that we know okay, why would they move forward? Well, if they came to believe x, y, and z and these other two conditions are present, then they would move forward.

And equally important in all this is the notion of why would they not move forward? What would happen that would make it so that it just wouldn't make sense for them to move forward at all? Those are key points that are oftentimes overlooked.

The other thing we need to make sure of is that going into these meetings, you want to make sure that you're asking questions and setting expectations about the meeting with the client so that they don't have the expectation that you're just going to show up and give them a pitch. Because if they have that expectation, then what happens is we don't have any interaction. It's not a discussion. It's a one-way presentation. And I will tell you that if you look back at the best deals you've had, it's not because you give a one-way presentation. It's because you had a dialogue with the client where when you left, the client thought to themselves, you know what, I'm in better hands with them than with anybody else. And that's why what we want to do is before the meeting, we want to set an expectation with them that says, hey, during our meeting, we're going to spend at least the first half of the meeting asking you questions to make sure we fully understand everything, and that we feel confident we can deliver the results that you're looking for. Of course, we're going to leave enough time to answer any questions that you have. Are you comfortable with that approach? And what we've just done in that capacity is made it so that we're setting up a discussion where we're learning about them. Not where it’s a beauty pageant where we present something hoping that they're going to pick us.

The thing we need to understand is that our clients and prospects are most heavily influenced by how well they feel we understand their situation, and you can't demonstrate that just by giving a presentation. Even if you just said, here's everything we know about you, that's fine. But if we figure it out on our own, and they weren't part of that process, they're not going to feel entirely comfortable. We need to make sure that they are part of the diagnosis of their current condition. We need to make sure that they're part of the treatment plan that we're putting in place to treat that condition. And then we need to make sure that we've got a plan set with them that says, here's how you're going to actually acquire this, implement it, and measure results going forward.

And if we do that, that's how we can take these big meetings and make them not so intimidating. And instead, make it so that we're likely to achieve the outcome for the client and for us that we're looking for. But remember, you need to hit those four things. So make sure that before your next big meeting, that you know what you hope to accomplish and that everyone on your team is in sync with that. That everyone's in sync with what the client or prospect needs to believe. We have a full understanding of why they would choose to move forward with us, as well as an understanding of why they would not move forward. And if you have all that information, your next big meeting is most likely to be successful.

If there are other topics you'd like to hear on the Same Side Selling Podcast, just drop me a note to Ian@IanAltman.com. If you're enjoying the podcast even remotely, we'd love it if you take the time to post a review and share it with your friends and colleagues. See you again next week.