We all know that getting in front of customers greatly improves our chances of closing business with them, but why has it gotten so difficult to get meetings? This question is something that comes up frequently in my sales training courses.
The answer starts with viewing the world from the customer’s point of view. Most buyers of translation services aren’t sitting around thinking about translation all day long. Unless their title is Translation Manager, the buyer has a lot of other things on her plate besides sourcing translation services. She has other responsibilities, people to manage and is in meetings a lot of day. She struggles to get her own work done once meetings are over. And she may well be doing what was once 3 different peoples’ jobs. Keeping up with everything is a challenge and, assuming she already has a translation vendor in place, she doesn’t necessarily see the need to replace them when she has 4-5 other, more pressing matters to contend with. A meeting takes up pressing time, and unless there is a compelling reason to have a meeting, most buyers will opt out, not respond or say flat out “no”.
Buyers say no to meetings for a number of reasons, all of which are related. The sales person
- Says “I want to introduce my company and services”. Gone are the days when customers would say yes to this. Why would a customer waste extra time meeting with someone when they can get the same information off the LSP’s website, employee LinkedIn profiles, Twitter, etc.? Customers can self-educate about your company and services without the help of a sales person.
- Has not established any value. This is related to the above issue. We need to establish credibility and provide reasons for the customer to want to meet with us. Having strong differentiators or being able to describe how they’ve helped other, similar customers will help do this. Demonstrating industry-specific knowledge (about the customer’s industry) and insights will help the customer see the value in the meeting. If you can do this, the customer might agree to a meeting at any point during the sales cycle.
- Hasn’t sold the meeting. Sales people need to answer the question that’s going on in the customer’s mind, “What’s in it for me”? Offering insights and solutions to common problems are the answer. If the sales person can tie the meeting to helping the customer make more money, get regulatory compliance more quickly, help international employees learn, or whatever their objectives are, that’s a different conversation. It’s just that, a helpful conversation in which you ask smart questions, share knowledge, expertise and collaborate to find ways to do things better than the customer’s current solution.
- Doesn’t recognise that some meetings are more likely to happen later in the sales process. This is especially true for competitive bid situations in which the translation spend is significant or strategic in some way. Customers will be more open to meeting(s) once they have self-educated, you’ve already delivered some value, been helpful and insightful. In this scenario you’re very likely under consideration for winning the project and the customer wants you to present a compelling solution.
- Some customers simply don’t want to meet. Respect their preference. Maybe they are happy to do a Skype call or conference call. I’ve had a number of customers who gave me significant amounts of business over a number of years and I never met them. One of them told me outright to stop asking. They were happy with the information I provided, felt good about things and were happy to give me their business. It is possible to establish value and convey expertise even if you aren’t face-to-face.
- Sounds self-serving and salesy. Nobody wants to meet in order to be sold. They want solutions that can help them achieve a business objective or solve a business problem. If the buyer feels she’s going to get a sales pitch, the answer will likely be a very firm no.
Here are specific things you can do to pave the way to increasing the number of meeting request that get a “yes”:
- Research the buyer’s industry, company, role to uncover trends and issues. You’ll sound more credible and be able to uncover needs. Develop smart questions that uncover customer needs. The buyer wants to solve problems, not hear a sales pitch.
- Ask to schedule a meeting at a conference or trade show. Find out from their admin if/when they are attending shows.
- Develop rapport with someone who has some influence with the the buyer, such as their administrative assistant. You still have to convey value and sell the meeting to the admin. She certainly doesn’t want to schedule something that will waste her manager’s time!
- Get a referral from someone else in the company or a leader from outside the company who knows your prospective customer. The same rules apply here. Demonstrate credibility, knowledge, insights and solutions during the meeting or you won’t get referred again.
Think before you ask for a meeting. Make it worth your prospective customer’s while You will greatly enhance your chances of success rather than torpedoing the relationship.