The All-Important First Meeting

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Of course sales is hard; if it wasn’t hard, anybody could do it. Where have I heard that before? Anyway, sales is hard and getting harder all the time. The customers are all too busy to see us. They have all of the suppliers they need and, of course, all of those suppliers are exactly the same anyway, so why should they bother to take the time looking for another one?

It has actually become a kind of cat-and-mouse game to even get buyers to see us anymore. Sometimes they are perfectly happy to just to make an appointment just to get rid of you, knowing they will never keep it. Once you make that appointment, chances are the customer thinks nothing of cancelling it at the very last minute, no matter how far you have come to meet with her.

In order to make a sale, you have to meet with a potential customer. If you cannot even do that, how are you going to develop that company as a customer?

In the past, once you had the meeting, and certainly after you made the first sale, you were all set. You were in, and now all you had to do was keep it up. But now things are different: Even if you manage to make that first sale, it might be the only sale you make.

I hear from a lot of you that you are having these problems. That you are having a hard time making appointments, and then when you make the appointment the customer stands you up. So, with that in mind, here are some tips to make sure that you have a successful follow-up plan:

  1. First of all, sales is a process—a linked process, in fact. By this I mean that you have to make sure that one step is linked to the next step. Keep that in mind.
  2. Once you have made the initial contact with the prospect, make sure you are very clear about what the next step is, and get him to agree with it. Stay away from statements like “I’ll call you next week,” or “I’ll get in touch the next time I’m in town.” Instead, state specific dates and times. Always confirm your next date and time, and get the prospect to commit to it.
  3. Also, get the prospect to agree on the next action, the agenda item, if you will. Why are you meeting again? To deliver more information? To deliver a quote, or a quote follow-up? Or maybe to bring someone from the company? There has to be a strong reason to meet again.
  4. Always send the customer a summary of your meeting. This should include what you discussed and what you both agreed to do. Of course, make sure that you include all of the above, and especially make sure that you list what the prospect committed to do for you.
  5. Follow up with a meeting reminder within 24 hours of that first meeting or phone call.
  6. Send a thank you card after the first meeting, whether that meeting was on the phone or in person. Send a card or at least an e-mail. Remember: a card is always better than an e-mail.
  7. Between the calls, send the prospect something of value to them. Share some information about what you discussed or about a topic the customer wanted to know more about. It can even be something personal like about a hobby the person mentioned, or, even better, about some technology he asked you about.
  8. Then send a reminder just before the meeting is supposed to occur. The week before and the day before, always confirm the meeting one more time.
  9. Be creative: The creative guy is the one who gets that sale. If you can think up new, creative, innovative ways to not only get to that potential customer but also engage her enough to want to do business with you and your company, you will succeed.
  10. And finally, be persistent, be polite, but do not be a pest. If you follow these guidelines, chances are the prospect will be there for the meeting at least 70% of the time, which is a much higher average than if you don’t follow this plan. Have a plan for what to do if the prospect is not there. Make sure that she knows that you were there and then set something else up for a follow-up meeting.

The important thing is to have a strategy, a plan. Don’t just wing it. Remember sales is a process and you have to develop and follow that process to be successful.

Keep at it! It’s only common sense.

Some of these ideas came from a web site called



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