That Very Important First Client Meeting
By Jill Konrath

Finally, after months of trying to get in to see one of your hot prospects, the day has arrived. The big meeting is set for early afternoon. Sitting by yourself at lunch, you're planning what to cover in your one hour together. This may be the only chance you have to really show your capabilities, demonstrate your expertise or razzle dazzle your prospects with the breadth of your product line. Plus you really need to update them about all the new things your company is doing.

So much to say. So little time! Intellectually you know it's important to focus on your customer and ask questions about their objectives, issues and concerns. But inside you're in turmoil because you "have" to share all this information. "Besides," you think, "What if I don't tell them about all our products or everything we can do for them? If I only tell them about one thing, what if it's not what they need right now? And I really need to impress them with all our capabilities."

What should you do?

If you're like most people who sell, the fear of missing out on a potential opportunity is just too overwhelming - especially when you may only get one shot at this company's business. When you sit down in front of your prospect, even though you have good intentions of being customer-focused, it's virtually impossible to do. Instead, like Santa Claus, you bring in your entire goody bag of products and services and spread them across your prospect's desk. Brochures, samples, case studies and more brochures. They're all out there for your prospect to pick and choose from.

And you can't stop talking, "Stop me when you hear something you like! There's bound to be something I/we do that you'll be interested in." Your prospect asks just enough questions to keep you going and verify that this was the right approach to take.

But is this approach effective? That's what's most important. Does playing Santa Claus work in selling? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding "NO" when it involves dumping your entire goodie bag under your prospect's Christmas tree.

Here are FIVE reasons why:

1. By showing customers everything you have, you enable them to rule you OUT! Your product/service lacks ... (you name it). It costs too much. People don't want to change - and just because they have lots of options does NOT make them want to change any faster.

2. You sound just like a peddler! By not focusing on their needs and asking lots of questions, customers think you're only interested in making the sale.

3. You have NO reason to go back. You've told or shown them everything. Why would a customer ever need to meet with you again?

4. Good business relationships take time to develop. You need follow-up meetings to demonstrate your commitment to helping customers achieve their goals or solve their problems.

5. You're not differentiating yourself from competitors. Customers want to work with sellers who provide value with their ideas, insights, resources, knowledge and expertise. Instead, you become a commodity.

I'm not suggesting you play the Grinch, the miserly creature who totally lacked the holiday spirit of gift giving.

Instead, do what Santa really does:

Find out what's on your prospect's list. What do they really need or want? What goals or objectives are they trying to achieve? What problems need resolution? The only way you can find out what's on your prospects' list is to ask really provocative, insightful questions - ones that get them thinking. Make your own list of questions before your call so you're not tempted to dump your goody bag.

Check your list twice. When you uncover a need or problem, don't jump on it right away. Explore it in depth finding out all the business ramifications and the pay-off for making a change. This means you ask more questions.

Give them what they ask for. Prospects don't want your product or service - only what it can do for them and their business. If you haven't asked questions, you'll never know if you can help them achieve their objectives or eliminate their problems.

When you're establishing a new business relationship, the most important thing to remember is that you just need to get your foot-in-the-door. Finding only one single opportunity you can help with is great. It gives you a chance to prove you're good, competent and worthy of doing much more business with in the future.

So please, don't dump your entire goody bag of products or services all over your prospect's desk. Don't try to impress your customers with your broad product line or the depth of your experience.

Santa wouldn't approve! It's not how he works.

Jill Konrath helps people who sell win big contracts in the corporate market. For info on how to get your foot in the door, create urgent needs for your offering and developing profitable long-term relationships, visit her website at:

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