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How to Prepare for a Successful Customer Meeting (Template Included)

Selling & Closing

Want to up your chances of winning the deal?  Improve your customer meetings. 

The customer meeting is overlooked all too often, but in reality, it’s just as important as the close.

In this article, I’m going to explain why this meeting is key to winning the deal and how to prepare for it, so it’s far more effective. Then, as a bonus, I’m going to share a template that will earn you the sales meeting in the first place.

Let’s get started, shall we? 

WHY the Customer Meeting Is Key to Winning the Deal

In a deal cycle, each meeting with a prospective buyer is a milestone activity, and if it’s successful, it propels the opportunity forward. 

So the meeting is your moment “at bat.” With each one, you either move the opportunity forward or you don’t. You either edge out your competitors or get edged out.  

So preparation is critical.

You see, the customer meeting doesn’t just include the time you spend face-to-face with the prospect. It also includes the time you spend planning and strategizing before the meeting.

Here’s what you can do BEFORE the meeting to set yourself up for a successful, productive meeting that will propel your deal forward and ultimately win.

BEFORE THE MEETING

The game plan is simple: 5W1H.

What is 5W1H?

It’s something I’m stealing from journalism 101 —the five Ws and one H: Who, Why, What, When, Where, and How. 

And here’s why it’s so important. To be fully prepared for a successful customer meeting, you need to answer these questions:

  • Who are you meeting with? 
  • Why are the two parties meeting? 
  • What is the objective of the meeting? 
  • When and where will it take place? 
  • What is the agenda for the meeting (How)? 

For any given customer meeting, you should be able to answer all of these questions well beforehand.

WHO

The who includes the company, the people, and the team you’re meeting with. In most B2B sales, purchasing decisions are a collective effort made as a team.  Understanding the company — its product and market — and the people who will be making the decision helps you prepare the right set of questions to ask in the meeting and proactively identify any important information you may be missing. 

Once you’ve nailed that down, you’ll find it easier to align and position your solution to the business drivers, the needs, and the objectives that are at the heart of the deal at hand. 

Furthermore, your research can uncover certain tidbits that can help you connect with your prospects in a more personable way — mutual connections, similar experiences, shared local knowledge, etc.

Ask yourself:

  • What does the company do?  Where are they based? What are some interesting and notable recent news about the company?
  • Who are you meeting with?  What are their roles and responsibilities? What personas will be involved in the meeting?  What are their prior work experiences?  What are some of the interests and hobbies that they have publicly shared, i.e., Linkedin Profile?

WHY

The why is the prospect’s business drivers and motivations. 

Now, if your meeting is aimed at initial discovery or qualification, you won’t know their drivers and motivations yet, but you should know how your solution aligns to certain industries or teams or initiatives. Look to relevant and similar key customers and partners that will help inform how to best sell to the prospect.

If you’ve already qualified the prospect and are walking into subsequent meetings, knowing the prospect’s drivers and motivations is critical. ALWAYS understand why your solution matters, specifically to the company and the people you’re meeting. 

Remember, your prospect is likely evaluating your competitors with similar features and functionalities. 

Vendor blur is a real thing. This is your opportunity to elevate the conversation. It’s much more compelling for prospects to buy a product from someone who really understands their goals and challenges.

Ask yourself:

  • How have we helped other companies in the same market or with similar challenges and strategic initiatives?
  • What part of our solution typically resonates with these types of companies/roles?
  • What are some common objections we encounter and what is the best way to handle them?

WHAT

The what entails the purpose of the meeting. And always remember, this is a TWO-WAY street. Are you anticipating a discovery call while your prospect is expecting a product demonstration

Having a prospect walk away from the meeting feeling like they didn’t get what they needed can really hurt your chances. More importantly, it’s a problem you can easily avoid. 

A great salesperson will help the prospect accomplish their objective for the meeting while also accomplishing their own — without losing control of the sales process

The first step towards doing this is identifying whether you have a clear understanding of the prospect’s objectives for the meeting.        

Ask yourself:

  • What does the prospect expect to accomplish in this meeting?
  • What do I want to accomplish in this meeting?
  • What do I need to prepare in order to make sure I can meet these objectives?
  • Is there an internal resource I ought to involve?

If the above is unclear, consider it a BIG red flag. Thankfully, the remedy is rather simple: ask your prospect via email: 

Email template - prepare for customer meeting

HOW

The how includes the tactical elements of how you will execute the meeting. Most organizations have a sales process and best practices to help you maximize your chances of winning the deal. You must also have an agenda that is aligned with the WHY and the WHAT. 

By aligning with your WHY and WHAT, you can easily prioritize your talking points. We’re all too familiar with people jumping in and out of meetings or having to cut it short. So it’s important to make sure you have a plan in place to cover the most important items first.  

Furthermore, a clear agenda helps you steer the meeting back to the objectives at hand, so it’s not derailed by tangents and detractors.

Whenever possible, confirm the agenda with your prospect. Giving them a say in what you cover is a simple way to implicitly gain their commitment to stick to the agenda. And that’s going to give you a productive and successful meeting that results in a Win-Win for everyone.

Ask yourself:

  • Based on my objectives, as well as those of the prospect, what is the best order of operations? What should I cover first?
  • Do I have buy-in on the agenda from my prospect?
  • How much time do I have and what should be the appropriate allocation of time for each item on the agenda?
  • Am I meeting with a few people or a conference room full of several people?  If so, how should I engage in asking questions?

WHEN and WHERE

The when and where are pretty straightforward, but because of that, it’s easy to overlook some critical pitfalls here. 

The last thing you want is for logistical or technical details to cripple or completely derail what would otherwise have been a productive meeting. Access to internet, proper adapters, and working audio/visual are just a few examples. 

It pays to be vigilant with the small details. 

Ask yourself:

  • Will my prospect be able to join the conference call without a problem? Certain meeting tools require a prior install and there can also be security blockers that can keep your prospect from being able to join a screen-share.
  • Will there be multiple people sitting in a conference room?  If so, will I be heard clearly?
  • (if meeting in person) Is the environment at the place of meeting conducive to a focused meeting or will my prospects be easily distracted?

Final Thoughts

The level of research and preparation a meeting needs may differ depending on the type of meeting and even the type of product you sell — but the 5W1H planning approach should be ingrained as a natural part of your workflow. Use it every time you prepare for a meeting. 

This approach will give you more influence in the outcome of the deal than ever before. And you’ll love the confidence you gain from consistently good customer meetings that move the deal forward.

BONUS: How to Earn the Sales Meeting in the First Place

This tip comes from Jack Veronin, Sr. Sales Development Manager at EverString…

Most people new to sales development struggle with passing qualified meetings over to account executives (AEs). If the meeting is unqualified, it’s a lose-lose situation. Not only will the AE not like it, but your meeting won’t move through the pipeline — which means your return on your time spent setting up the meeting will be negative.

Meetings are great, but meetings with the right timing are much better. 

That’s why conversations are so important. If you greet the prospect with energy and enthusiasm and ask relevant questions that tie back to your product’s value, you will earn more conversations. These conversations will get you to the right buying group at the right time.

But here’s the thing…

People won’t give you their time unless you earn it. So even before you get the customer meeting, you need to earn the prospect’s time by making every point of contact hyper-relevant.

One way to do that is to set the tone before the meeting ever happens. 

  1. Find a relevant social post, article, or news item that you can engage them with. 
  2. Then send a message  like this:

Email template - how to earn a customer meeting

The best part about structuring your emails in this fashion is that it sets up all your other outbound activities as well.

Now, when you call into the account or engage them on social, you have a great story to tell that is highly relevant to the solution you are trying to sell.

This is what I mean by EARNING the meeting — and the key is being relevant. Persistence alone cannot save you. Neither can personalization, if used alone.

But persistence and personalization coupled with relevance? That’s how you EARN a meeting. Happy hunting!

 

Ethan Kim is the Director of Sales at Pattern - The Notepad for Salespeople. Trusted by salespeople from companies like Intercom, Campaign Monitor and Outreach. Sign up and save yourself hours per week in mindless CRM updates.