A few months into a new sales position with a globally-renowned magazine, I landed a meeting with two executives from a popular household name brand.
Cue party lights! Cue music! Cue champagne!
This was a big deal. I had been working hard to secure time with this brand, and they finally granted me 30 minutes to discuss how we might work together.
To ensure I’d really impress them, I tapped my vice president of sales to accompany me to the meeting. I had never been in a sales meeting with her, but she was a dynamo around the office — engaging, smart and enrolling. I couldn’t wait to see her in action!
However, once the meeting got underway, I realized it was going nowhere, quick…
My vice president kicked off the meeting by spending 20 of the precious 30 minutes we had to go slide by slide through a generic PowerPoint, talking about who we were, what we cared about, and how we work with clients.
Cue crickets. Cue naptime. Cue my mortification.
Can you spot what was missing from these 20 minutes?
My boss had fallen into the classic trap of not centering the client — and, instead, focused almost solely on us, the service provider.
Why doesn’t this work? Let’s think about this both energetically and tactically.
Energetically: Have you ever been on a first date where the person talks about themselves for 20 minutes straight? Gotten cornered at a party with a close talker who doesn’t see the feral look in your eye as you plot an escape route back to the buffet table?
Clients — especially busy executives who have given you a 30-minute window — feel similarly when you flip through a slide presentation, talking all about yourself.
Tactically: Had my boss taken the first part of the conversation to ask the client questions — to discover their objectives and pain points — she could have then catered her presentation to be more relevant for the client. Or, better yet, she could have closed her computer and simply had a discussion (which would have been much more productive for us all).
As you might imagine, we didn’t ever win any business from this client. Despite my efforts to pepper in discovery questions and get the client talking, I was no match for my boss’s determination to deliver her slide presentation — and the damage was done.
So, tell me — how do you center the client in your sales conversations? What questions do you ask to get the intel you need to connect the dots between your clients’ desires and your offers?
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