In the first blog of this series, we discussed why your deals tend to go sideways. Most often, you can pin it down to a wonky discovery meeting structure.
While rapport building is an important part of your first meeting, it’s relied on almost too heavily. There are numerous techniques to improve rapport building. Most salespeople are comfortable with this part of the conversation which is why the focus of this article is on the meeting opening.
What is a Meeting Opening?
The concept of a meeting opening was first introduced to me when I was at Experian. Our sales trainer Ed Wal used the acronym ITPAM to help us easily structure and script our meeting openings.
Check out Ed Wal’s book on Solution Selling
With sales and sales tech evolving at the pace that is, I believe ILPA has replaced ITPAM.
What is ILPA?
I use this structure for EVERY meeting. Once you’ve earned your first meeting, it’s easiest to start writing out the script in preparation for this. There is a particular purpose and underlying message for every component of ILPA.
First, let’s see what an example ILPA script looks like.
It’s great connecting with everyone. To give you a little background about my role, I work with some of our largest enterprises that have fairly complex marketing programs and teams. These companies are tasked with large goals yet often have limited resources and need to find ways to execute more work faster while still maintaining quality and visibility.
My role is to understand what your marketing and business goals are. We can then figure out whether our project management and collaboration software can help you above and beyond what you are currently doing.
2) Last time we spoke
I know you spoke with Jake and mentioned your interest in
project management and collaboration software. I have also done additional
research on your business but I definitely have some questions that will help guide what I share about Wrike.
The purpose of today’s meeting is to give you a high-level sense of what we do.
In terms of an agenda, I would love to start by asking you a few
questions. I’ll then share more about Wrike and give you a demo of the technology.
At the end of our meeting, we can decide whether this is worth exploring further and I can recommend next steps. Or on the flip side, we might decide this is not worth pursuing or a fit and we can part ways.
Does that work for you in terms of a rough agenda for today’s call?
The script sounds a little different from one AE to the next. The structure, however, is always similar whether it’s your first meeting or last meeting in the sales cycle.
Breaking Down ILPA’s Purpose and Message
Now that we know what an ILPA sounds like, the next thing to understand is the underlying purpose and message.
ILPA is about control but the components of ILPA guides your prospect on how to respond.
Let’s break this down.
Notice that my introduction is not “My name is Emily and I am an AE
here at Wrike!”
That’s not an introduction. The purpose of an introduction is to give your prospect a sense of familiarity to companies you work with so that they can relate to it.
Secondly, the introduction is to ensure your prospect understands you’re there to learn more about the business to figure out whether you can help them (not sell them). Often salespeople forget that our main purpose is to help companies with a consultative selling approach. And by helping companies we are able to sell product or services.
Lastly, your introduction provides your prospect a mirror to how they should provide their introduction. Let’s assume you just say “My name is Emily and I am an AE.”
When you ask your prospect about their role they will say, “Hi I am Maria and I am a Creative Director.” There is so much to learn about your prospect through how they describe their role. We’ll discuss this further in the next blog in this series. You’ve got to start with setting the right tone with your introduction and giving your prospect guidance into explaining details around their role.
2) Last time we spoke
This provides your prospect reassurance that you’re taking this meeting seriously and have done your homework and prepared. This is one of the ways you can nail your follow-up.
It also sets the expectation that you still have questions and you expect them to participate and answer as it’s in their best interest.
Sets the expectation of what the meeting is going to be about and will cover.
Often customer/prospects have unrealistic expectations of a first meeting. Stating the purpose allows you to set the expectation that you won’t be able to cover everything and that subsequent meetings will be necessary to properly evaluate.
Just like Purpose, Agenda is critical for setting expectations.
It sets the expectation that you will have questions because it will help make what you share about your product more applicable. It also sets the expectation that your prospects participation and attention is critical.
Secondly, by stating you will share more about your product and perhaps even show a short demo, it provides the prospect reassurance that they will get what they need from the meeting as well.
Lastly, it’s critical to provide your prospect insight into what will happen at the end of the call. It lays out from the beginning that there will be next steps if they are interested and that you will provide guidance (remember people love to be lead). It also reassures that if it’s not a good fit or their interest in what you do is low, that it’s a perfectly acceptable outcome to part ways.
A Well-Defined Meeting Opening Puts Your Prospect at Ease
Prospect are often very concerned that the salesperson is not going to take no for an answer. This not only puts them in an uncomfortable position but also makes you look like a desperate salesperson.
If you can alleviate this concern up front, it frees your prospect up to truly listen vs. worry about turning you down at the end of the meeting.
ILPA is a simple yet powerful structure that is very easy to incorporate into your meetings immediately and has a huge impact on control. It takes practice, which is why I always recommend writing your ILPAs out ahead time.
If you were to spend 1 hour at the beginning of the week writing out your ILPAs for all your upcoming meetings, it will help you prepare tremendously. It will enable you to think about and decide on what the purpose of your meeting is and what you want to the outcome to be. (Hint: the outcome should always be the next step in your sales process).
Also published on Medium.