During my career in global purchasing I have sat through countless sales meetings. These meetings were presented by both ‘green’ and ‘seasoned’ Sales Professionals. Some presentations were short but sweet. Others seemed to drag on for hours. Some presentations provided specific information I was interested in as a Buyer. Others contained nothing I could use. I’ve also communicated with hundreds of Buyers from diverse industries for their input regarding the sales meetings they’ve sat through. And we collectively came to the same conclusion as to what the number one sales meeting mistake is.
From the Buyer’s Desk I can tell you that the biggest mistake you can make during a sales meeting is to give the same generic presentation to every department in the client’s company. In other words, the supply has the same generic “one-size-fits-all” sales presentation and they use it on everyone, from Purchasing to Manufacturing to the eventual End-User of the products and services. No matter what the client department’s roles, responsibilities and interests are, the same presentation is used over and over again. Why would any Sales Professional want to do that?
If you have a generic sales presentation you use on everyone, it means that a portion of the information you’re presenting is completely useless to any given individual. Either you’re providing technical information to someone who may not be able to comprehend what you’re saying, or you’re providing commercial information to someone who isn’t interested. I’ve personally sat through so many sales meetings that not only bored me to death but the Sales Professional received absolutely no business from my company. And it was due to the fact that I wasn’t hearing what I needed to know about that company. A complete waste of my time and theirs!
Having purchased capital equipment in the automotive industry, the majority of the sales presentations shown to me were filled with countless photos of machines, process systems and technical information. I admit some of it went over my head. It’s not that I didn’t understand the equipment I was buying. But the overboard detailed description of the electronics, pneumatics and hydraulics; the inner working of every machine component; the dozens and dozens of equipment photos . . . please, someone just shoot me! I’m NOT a mechanical engineer. I’m NOT a production supervisor. I’M A BUYER! Show me something a BUYER would be interested in! What are your terms and conditions? What is the “value” of your equipment to my company? What are your preferred payment terms? What is the financial shape of your corporation? What is your warranty? Yes I need to understand what you make, what your equipment is capable of, and if it fits the needs of our current projects. But don’t forget to include the “commercial” items I need to know.
Today’s Sales Advice from the Buyer’s Desk is to develop sales presentations that are personalized to each specific area of the client company. You may in fact end up creating several different presentations. Create a customized/personalized sales presentation for every individual you’re presenting to based on the following criteria: their job title, their role in the company, the department they work for, their corporate responsibilities, their yearly goals, their relation to other departments, their interests and needs. The next time you’re starting to prepare a sales presentation, ask yourself the following questions: Who am I about to present to? What is this person’s job title? What are this person’s goals and responsibilities in the company? Therefore, what would most likely interest them in a sales presentation? And what would most likely NOT interest them in a sales presentation?
So now the question is, how do you even know what the Buyer is interested in and what would waste their time? How do know what to present when you’re in front of the Buyer? How do you know what information to cover? How do you know what the Buyer needs to hear? The answer is simple: Find out ahead of time! Find out a few days before the meeting what information the Buyer needs so they can make a rational business decision about your company. The Advice from the Buyer’s Desk is to develop and e-mail the Buyer a “Pre-Meeting Agenda”. A Pre-Meeting agenda is a Buyer-Endorsed prerequisite for all sales meetings. It should chronologically list the key topics you plan on presenting so you can inform the Buyer of your meeting intentions ahead of time and make sure it’s what the Buyer actually wants to hear.
Ninety-five percent of Sales Professionals don’t send a Pre-Meeting Agenda. Ninety-five percent of the Sales Professionals I’ve dealt with walk into the meeting and start presenting without even knowing if it’s what I need to know. And so many times I’ve had to take control of the presentation because I’m not hearing what I need to know about the supplier and their capabilities. It’s embarrassing for the Sales Professional and it’s not fun for me. But I’m not going to sit there and waste my time on information I don’t need to hear. If I could receive an agenda a few days before the meeting and be allowed to add or remove content from it, then the Sales Rep could spend more time on issues that interest me.
When you create a Pre-Meeting Agenda, remember that most meetings are a waste of the Buyers’ time because they’re usually filled with technical content the Buyer either may not understand or doesn’t care to hear about. Remember that a percentage of Buyers do not have a technical background. So here’s a list of commercial items you could include in your agenda as a start, some of which may or may not be applicable to your company: Your client vendor code number (if any). The types of products and services you provide that are applicable to the client. The types of products and services you’ve already provided to the client company, including when and where. The location of your main headquarters. Number of years the company has been in business. The strength of your corporate balance sheet. Your ability to comprehend and adhere to client specifications. Your ability to ship products globally. Your service capabilities and locations. Your spare parts capabilities and locations. Your standard warranty and payment terms. Your capabilities in project management. Your company specialty and how it can save the client money, improve production and improve quality.
Once you’ve completed your Pre-Meeting Agenda, e-mail it to the Buyer a few days in advance and invite any changes to it. Here’s how your e-mail could look: “Dear Mr. Smith, Just a quick e-mail to thank you again for the opportunity to meet with you. Attached for your review is a proposed meeting agenda covering probable topics for discussion. Please let me know if there are any items you would prefer to add or remove, as well as any specific information you’d like to know during the meeting.” If you get a response back from the Buyer with additions or removals, adjust your agenda accordingly. There’s nothing worse than asking a Sales Professional about something I need to know and they don’t have the answer. But if you knew what I needed to know ahead of time you could bring the answer to the meeting.
Of course if the meeting is only with someone from the “technical side” of the client, then you need to adjust your pre-meeting agenda and presentation accordingly. And if you’ll be presenting to a mixed crowd, both technical and commercial, then contact each person or department and create your presentation to fit each of their interests and needs. The bottom line is to find out what the client wants and needs to hear BEFORE the meeting so that you’re better prepared. That makes perfect sense, right? Then how come only a handful of Sales Professionals are doing it?