5 Mistakes Salespeople Make in Client Meetings – #1 No Traction

The face-to-face meeting with a client, especially the first one, is the single most important event in the sales process. Not screwing it up is a useful thing. There are five big mistakes to watch out for in that all important first meeting with a potential new client. They are 1. No Traction, 2. the Robot, 3. the Lex Luther, 4. Total Recall, and 5. the Mulligan. Let’s look at the stumbling blocks that trip salespeople in face-to-face meetings. We’ll remove one each in the next five posts.
Stumbling Block #1. No Traction.
Have you ever been in a meeting where your potential client won’t really answer your questions? They seem guarded and closed. They obfuscate; answer questions with questions, or with a few short words, or just a yes or a no. When this happens we humans we are often guilty of the fundamental attribution error. We attribute our client’s behaviors to their character rather than environment or the context of what’s happening in that moment. We assign their closed energy to who they are rather than to anything we did or didn’t do. Hence, we determine that “Sam is a really reticent person” (character), rather than, for example, “I didn’t build enough credibility with Sam before I asked questions” (context). The first mistake salespeople make in the client meeting is not establishing enough credibility so your potential client is willing to share details with you. Thinking about it from their perspective, they don’t see a reason to provide you with information. When you have no credibility, you have No Traction.

Credibility is often overlooked by salespeople; partly because usually you have it. When your client agreed to meet with you, they extended you enough credibility to ask questions. When your meeting goes wrong due to a lack of credibility, you can’t put your finger on why.

How much credibility do you need? Just enough credibility so the person sitting across from you is prepared to answer the questions you ask. The No Traction mistake is not taking the steps to help your client trust you enough, and relax enough, to answer the questions you need, so you can help.

Credibility has two parts. The first is professional trust, your potential client’s perception or belief that you might be useful to them or provide some value. They trust that you have the skills and the tools to help them move forward on their business interests. The second is a sense of comfort and connection. You appeal to them as a person to whom they might enjoy talking. They believe you have their interest in mind, that you care. Most people need a little of both, faith in your acumen, and connection to you, to be willing to open up. But everyone has a slightly different mix. (For specifics on the building blocks of credibility in these two domains, read this article.

Enough credibility to get your questions answered is a critical to understanding your client’s situation, so you can figure out how to be useful to them. Their perception that you are of use is the key to removing stumbling block #1 that separates potential clients from clients.

See the next post in the series on Stumbling Block #2, Robots!

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