The First Sales Meeting Isn’t About Selling
Awww… first dates. They’re a mixed bag—you never quite know what you’re going to get. One day, sparks fly and you feel like you’re on the cusp of a whirlwind fairy-tale romance. On another day, you feel you’re heading for disaster.
So, why are we talking about first dates? Well, you know what they say, sales is just like dating. After all, salespeople will spend most of their time meeting new people, learning about their interests, hopes, and goals, and trying to determine whether they’re a match. Sounds kind of like dating, right?
In this article, we’ll be teaching you how to shake off those first-date jitters and wow your prospects with a compelling first sales meeting. Our sales team conducts 4 000+ first sales meetings every year, so we can confidently say we know a thing or two about introduction meetings. Read on.👇
Your goal isn't selling
Rule number one: forget about selling. It may sound counterintuitive to have a sales meeting that isn’t about selling, but put the sales pitch aside for a moment. Think about it: you wouldn't just sit down on a first date and start talking about yourself, how great you are, and all the value you could provide a potential partner. In the same vein, you shouldn't sit down to a meeting with a prospect and start mindlessly droning on about how great your product is.
To succeed at B2B sales in today’s relational landscape, you should be positioning yourself as something more akin to a consultative guide than a prescriptive salesperson. That means you should be talking less and listening more. It’s by listening that you’ll achieve the goal of these first encounters—building a relationship.
If your sales prospecting methodology is sound, you'll have more than enough meetings to feel ok about disqualifying bad cases. Stop wasting time on bad-fit prospects that you don’t have a future with.
You'll rarely seal the deal in the first meeting, so that shouldn’t be your aim. Instead, your aim should be to get your prospect to want to meet with you again. But, as in dating, you should only really do this if the prospect is a good-fit—ideally, it matches your ideal customer profile. If your sales prospecting methodology is sound, you'll have more than enough meetings to feel ok about disqualifying bad cases. Stop wasting time on bad-fit prospects that you don’t have a future with.
To reiterate, a first sales meeting has two primary purposes: 1) the disqualification of bad cases, and, IF the case has potential, 2) the scheduling of another meeting.
In first sales meetings, the primary goal for our sales reps is to hear more about the prospect and their circumstance, so that we are able to determine whether they would even benefit from our platform. For that, listening is vital. Seek to understand your prospect. The first meeting also serves as an opportunity for our sales reps to make sure that the customer actually knows and understands Vainu's offering.
You only get one chance to make an excellent first impression, so suit up, prepare well, and have a clear meeting structure in mind. Practice makes perfect. For that reason, make sure that you formalize your first sales meeting structure so that you can refine and improve it over time.
The structure of a first sales meeting
Think of a first sales meeting as jazz improvisation. In jazz, musicians spontaneously invent new melodic lines, moving through multiple key changes within a single song. Eventually, following a cue from the bandleader, the piece will come back to its central theme and melody. In the same way, sales meetings can also take unexpected twists and turns as prospects interject and ask questions. That’s not a bad thing or something that you should be trying to prevent. Au contraire, you want your prospects to ask questions. You don’t want them leaving the meeting feeling uncertain.
Nonetheless, there is a risk that the conversation becomes unfocused and futile. As a salesperson, you’re playing the role of the bandleader: it's your job to get the derailed conversation back on track and make sure that you discuss the topics you want to discuss. A solid agenda—your main melody and song—will make it easier to steer the meeting back in the right direction.
Here's the typical agenda of a first sales meeting:
- Introductions (5min)
- Sales deck (10min)
- Needs analysis (20min)
- Identifying use cases (20min)
- Next steps (5min)
Introduction: Break the ice and set the agenda
It's easier to talk business when the other person isn't a complete stranger. A chit-chat moment helps break the ice and sets the tone for the rest of the meeting.
Don't overdo it, though. Today, buyers are way too busy to spend five minutes talking about the weather. Use this time wisely to kick off the meeting, show them that you've done your research on them, their company, and their industry. Highlight two or three key points and briefly introduce the agenda.
You should have a reason for having this meeting, remind them of that.
Use your first call sales deck… wisely
Love them or hate them, sales decks, presentations, slides—whatever you want to call them—have always been a critical tool for a sales rep, even more so when it comes to remote sales.
A good sales deck will generally include information about your company, your solution, how your solution generates value, and social proof of the value of your solution via testimonials. But sales decks can be tedious, and boring. Extremely boring. And that’s because sales decks are usually too generic to accommodate a prospect’s particular interests. Make sure your sales deck is tailored to your prospect—if it’s relevant to them, they’re less likely to zone out.
Here are a few tips for when you’re preparing and presenting your first call decks:
- Have a plan. Tailor the presentation a bit based on the customer's interests and reactions.
- Explain any terminology. Even better, avoid any jargon. Don't assume your audience will understand your company's vocabulary.
- Meetings are dynamic. Interact with the prospect to make sure they're still following you.
- Be engaging and educational. Don't talk about what your audience already knows.
- Practice. Be sure to learn how to present the slides together with your team.
Pro tip: Always include your sales deck in your sales playbook.
Always be helping: needs analysis
This part is the meat and potatoes of a first sales meeting. The aim is to get a complete understanding of what the customer needs your product or service for.
If you're selling complex, enterprise products, you need to know precisely what customers need and what their specific pain points are. By doing that, you’ll be able to create a tailor-made solution that fixes their problem. “Always be helping” should become your motto.
At Vainu, our sales reps typically ask the following questions:
- Why did you take the meeting?
- What are the goals for your company? Challenges? Pain points?
- How's the sales organization? And the marketing team? How do you prospect? What's your sales cycle?
- What's your ideal customer profile? What attributes and data points describe it?
- What's your technology stack? What CRM do you use? What's the quality of your CRM records? Do you have any data cleaning processes in place?
If prospects aren't revealing much, don't hesitate to disqualify the case. That's usually a sign of a bad-fit prospect.
These types of questions should work together to reveal whether our solution can help the prospect. As it turns out, sometimes, it doesn't, and that's ok. Additionally, if prospects aren't revealing much, don't hesitate to disqualify the case. That's usually a sign of a bad-fit prospect.
During the needs analysis, our sales reps try to understand how prospects run their sales organization and what their usual roadblocks are. Based on that discussion, we're then able to highlight how Vainu can help solve these issues and concretely show how Vainu can generate value for the customer.
Some of the most common pain points that we come across when conducting a needs analysis with our potential customers are:
- Sales prospecting problems
- Prioritization of sales efforts
- Account research
- Inefficient CRM usage—too much manual input and outdated data
- Lack of relevant account and customer information in business systems
After having completed the needs analysis, the sales reps are aware of the potential customer’s particularities and are therefore able to make a judgement about which aspects of Vainu’s offering they should be emphasizing and which of the solutions they should be highlighting. In continuation of our earlier example:
- Company search for sales prospecting
- Data cleaning and data enrichment for efficient CRM usage
- Company views for account research
- Account and lead enrichment solutions
Pro tip: Don't give your prospects the third degree—nobody likes to be interrogated. Get your answers through the natural flow of conversation.
Show, don't tell—It's demo time
At some point during your first sales meeting, you need to show your prospect that it’s not all is smoke and mirrors. You need to deliver a sales demo and show, in practice, how your product actually works.
Today, an effective demo is value-based and focused on the use cases that address the prospect's specific problems. That's why the needs analysis is so critical.
It's not about flashy features, however. Today, an effective demo is value-based and focused on the use cases that address the prospect's specific problems. That's why the needs analysis is so critical. Prospects are much more likely to stay engaged and see the value in your prospects if they see how your solution solves their specific issues.
Here are a few tips to wow your prospect with a thoughtful sales demo.
- Know your product inside out—become a product champion.
- Keep the demo short and to the point.
- Only show a taste of what your product does—the idea is to get the customer interested enough to schedule the next step with you.
- Focus on the benefits rather than the features.
- Show a clear path to addressing the prospect's specific challenges and goals.
Immediately after the first sales meeting
The first sales meeting isn't over yet. First, you need to do a little bit of house cleaning to keep your sales operations happy. Scrub your notes to make sure you captured everything clearly and concisely so that even a stranger could read the notes and understand what happened. Next, put those notes into your CRM and update the lead, account, and opportunity record as necessary.
What happens after the first sales meeting
After the first sales meeting, getting a hold of a busy decision-maker is potentially tricky. Don't end the meeting without scheduling your next touch base.
Remember what I wrote earlier? The purpose of the introduction meeting is to schedule the next step if the case has potential. It's essential to understand what the most convenient next step is. If you're fortunate, you might be able to present an offer and set a decision date during the first meeting. More realistically, in B2B sales, your next step will be to agree on a discovery workshop or a second meeting where more decision-makers would be involved.
Practice makes perfect
Actors rehearse, musicians practice, footballers train. And you should, too.
Before your next introduction meeting, take the time to hold a “practice” meeting with a colleague. Or ask a friend to review your pitch. You should also record and view your own demo.
Finally, before stepping into the meeting, do your homework. Ensure you have time to get to know the company you’re planning to meet and understand their industry and challenges. Vainu’s company profiles give you access to the information you need. Having successfully prepared for the meeting will provide the necessary confidence to run a successful session. Break a leg!