I have spent the last 20 years of my career in B2B technology sales. Almost everything has changed during that time: the Internet, cloud technology, mobile devices, tablets, the consumerization of business applications, and even the way that buyers buy. But one stubbornly annoying thing hasn’t changed: the all-important first on-site sales meeting never goes according to plan.
I am in search unicorn, a myth. I am in pursuit of the perfect sales meeting.
If you’re an outside sales rep, sales manager or VP of sales, please tell me that you find comfort in this Groundhog Day.
The Stereotypical Meeting
Here’s the typical scenario.
I have a prospect—let’s say it’s Pat—who is an advocate of our product and is in Sales Ops. I have shown Pat the demo via WebEx. Pat gets the value proposition and has need. Pat has the budget. Pat wants me to come into HQ and show “a few more folks from the team.”
I know that if this meeting isn’t a home run, there is no next meeting. I need to nail it.
But there is always one stubborn fact that gets in the way of recreating that relevant connection that you made with your sponsor: you can’t control who’s in the room.
It doesn’t prevent me from trying. “Who exactly will be in the room, Pat?” I ask. “What are their names and titles?” I work with marketing to pull together a presentation that will resonate with the audience in the room. I triple check with Pat in the days leading up to the meeting. Pat assures me that it will just be the VP of Sales, another person from the sales ops team and the director of marketing.
I have that presentation on my computer and a hard copy in my bag. I feel confident. But I’m walking into a gun fight with a pocket knife.
I greet Pat, who seems a bit more excited than during our past conversations.
“I’ve convinced a few more folks to attend the meeting,” Pat says.
And in that moment, even though the meeting hasn’t even started yet, I know that perfection has slipped from my grasp.
“We’ve got a few folks from our IT team in the room and the SVP of Marketing, who is big on brand compliance,” Pat says. “I hope that won’t be problem and that you can talk a bit about how your product works for them.”
Pat is talking in that slightly nervous, softer voice. I know what he’s thinking – “Please make me look good.”
Now at this point, a strange thing happens. I hate Pat. But really I should love Pat, because Pat just delivered on even more than I had asked: Pat has pulled together the entire decision-making team on a silver platter for me. Pat’s reputation with colleagues is on the line.
I don’t want to make Pat look bad, but why would Pat expect that I could just whip up the right thing to show folks from different departments while we’re sitting there at the meeting?
I can’t build a sales presentation that is customized to the different audiences in the room at the snap of a finger. Doesn’t he know that I’m just a sales guy?
Well, I’m declaring an end to that scenario—forever.
The Dream Solution
A few years ago, I co-founded Seismic to put some power in the hands of the salesperson. Armed with just a tablet, I can go into a sales meeting and deliver the perfect pitch that resonates with the audience, regardless of who gets pulled in at the last minute.
Sales presentations that build themselves in the snap of a finger based on the audience. Even though it’s not magic, I don’t mind being called a magician.
I close more deals than I used to. So do our customers.
The perfect sales meeting is no longer a myth.
Ed Calnan is the President and Co-Founder of Seismic. He has more than 20 years of experience in sales, sales management and field operations at early-stage, turnaround situations and mature software companies.