How to conduct a face to face sales meeting with larger clients

As a decorator, there will inevitably be times where you need to sit down and sell your services to someone other than Mrs Jones in her 2 bed bungalow.

Perhaps you’re meeting a local architect or building contractor? Maybe an estate agent or housing development company?

The point is, doing this is outside of your normal day to day activities and therefore can make you nervous and unsure of how to do things.

The following steps are designed to help you conduct successful face to face sales meetings with potential clients.

Although you may predominately use the process for larger clients, they are just as effective when talking to Mrs Jones about her bungalow. So, I’d recommend taking parts of it and applying it there too.

Before the meeting:

Research

As a bare minimum you should make yourself familiar with the client’s website. Ideally you should be spending a good amount of time researching the company and the person / people you are going to meet.

If you spend the first 5-10 minutes asking questions about their company history and upcoming projects when all of that info is on the front page of their website, you’ll just come across as lazy and unprofessional.

Planning

Set out an agenda to plan how you want the meeting to go.

Write down in your notebook key questions you want to ask and what your objectives for the meeting are.

Decide what result you are looking for so that you have something to aim for. Do you want to simply get another meeting arranged with the senior management team? Do you want them to ask you to quote for some upcoming work?

Decide your objective and then build your plan to get to it.

Step 1: Small talk

Now, there are loads of sales ideas that suggest small talk at the beginning is a waste of time, but personally I think it is essential.

Start the meeting with some basic niceties, ask them about their day or what they think of the latest breaking news story.

The idea is to build the first little bit of rapport and try to work out what buying style they have.

If they come back with very short and blunt answers, you know to get straight to the point. If they are warm and chatty, you’ll be able to take a slower and more relaxed approach.

Word of warning!

When dealing with professional buyers, don’t act like a typical salesman.

If you see a picture on the wall of the buyer holding a huge fish, don’t immediately launch into a conversation about fishing.

You might get away with it at Mrs Jones’ house, but a professional buyer will know that all you are doing is trying to build fake rapport and they will put their defences up.

If you are genuinely interested, then just save those questions until you know them a bit better.

Step 2: Share the agenda

When you share the agenda, you take control of the meeting. This is crucial for making sure you get to ask the questions you want and get to sell your solution in the best way possible.

If you let the buyer lead the conversation, then you can quite easily get lead down a path and end up a long way away from your initial objectives.

Here is an idea of how you could share the agenda:

Thank you again for inviting me in, to start I’d like to spend 2-3 minutes talking about who ABC decorators are, what we specialise in and explain why our typical customers tend to choose us for their decorating requirements. I’ll also talk about a couple of things that I believe make us different to our competitors.

Then I’d like to turn the conversation around and ask some questions about your company, the challenges you are facing, any reservations you may have due to previous experience with other decorating contractors and what your goals for your company are.

I can then look to share some relevant case studies with you and the different services we provide.

After that we should be able to establish whether or not we are a good fit for each other and decide on the next steps.

Does that sound good to you? Is there anything you would like to add? Is there anything you are specifically looking to get out of today?

Step 3: Who you are and what you do

Based on the agenda you’ve just set out, you are now going to spend 2-3 minutes explaining who you are, why you are so great, and what makes you different.

Now, I understand a lot of people can get uncomfortable talking about themselves so there is a nice little trick to help you around this.

Talk about why your current customers chose to work with you.

Doing this frames the whole thing very differently. You are telling the client why you are so great and at the same time it also feels like it’s a testimonial from one of your customers.

Write down some key points in your notebook so you are prepared on what to say here, and phrase them in the form of problems that you solve.

For example:

  • Our customers tend to choose us when they are fed up of cheap/unreliable decorating teams.
  • Our customers choose us because they are frustrated with low quality finishes and poor attention to detail causing huge snagging reports that cost time and money.
  • Our customers choose us because they know we value communication and we make sure our clients are fully updated on the schedule and our progress.

As you deliver these statements, look for the reaction of the client. Are they nodding in agreement? Even wincing?

If they are then be sure you remember what got the reaction. You’ll need it for step 5!

After a couple of these you then want to briefly state what makes you different. Again, write these down in your notebook. Thinking of them on the fly is no good here.

Step 4: Discovery

Now you must turn the tables and start talking about them. This may well be the longest phase of the process, but in my opinion, it is the most important.

You need to start digging.

Use the following format. Problem, impact, cause.

Find out what problems/challenges they are facing, then spend time discussing the impact that is having on the company. Now try and establish what might be the root cause of that problem.

Example:

Let’s say your client runs a site of new builds.

Problem: Long snag lists.

Impact: Time/money wasted rectifying issues, which also leads to the sale of the property being delayed, which affects cashflow and jeopardises the rest of the project.

Cause: Lack of care by the decorators. Poor quality tools being used.

Run this process for as many problems as you can find and be sure to really explore the true impact of the problem.

In the example above you may find that the cashflow problem is so severe that they might have to start laying people off, or that they may have to abandon some of the builds.

If you can really dig into the impact of the problem, then it will make your solution all the more important to them.

Remember to note down every problem you uncover as you’ll be tackling them in the next stage.

Step 5: Sell

That’s right, we are up to step 5 and now is the first time you are going to start selling!

Everything we’ve done up to this point has all been to prepare you for this phase.

You have shared the reasons your customers typically choose you and hopefully the client was nodding in agreement at some of them. You’ve established the customers main challenges, the impact they are having and the cause of the issues.

Now is the time to sell. All guns blazing.

Take each problem you’ve uncovered and explain how your solution tackles the cause of it.

Explain about how you continuously invest in the latest spraying technology and dustless sanding equipment to get the perfect finish in half the time.

Or how you thoroughly research and personally test all the latest paints and tools to make sure you are always using the best products for the job.

When done correctly, during this stage you should be like a problem-solving machine. You’ve spent a lot of time uncovering issues and now you are offering bespoke solutions to solve all of them.

It’s a thing of beauty.

Step 6: Summarise

By now you should know if you and the client are a good fit.

Hopefully you are!

Now is the time to summarise everything you’ve discussed and ask if they have any outstanding questions, issues or objections.

Don’t be tempted to skip this stage. It is better to deal with any objections now than later. Get them addressed and make sure you are all on the same page.

Step 7: What’s next?

Finally, you need to be clear on what happens next. Have you accomplished your objective? The one you decided on before the meeting. Be sure to confirm it now.

Try to confirm an action for both parties.

For example, you might agree that they will send you over a form to get you set up as an approved contractor, and you will send them copies of any health and safety certificates you have.

Alternatively, you might agree there and then to have a second meeting and set a date. Or agree to quote for a particular job and arrange the details.

Whatever you do, make sure both parties are clear on what happens next.

Otherwise all you’ve done is have a nice chat and a coffee!

Hope this helps. As always, if you have any more specific questions, feel free to get in touch and I’ll do what I can to help. jonmearsblogs@gmail.com

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