That first face-to-face client meeting is the most important moment in the sales process. There are five stumbling blocks that trip up salespeople in prospect meetings. This article discusses #4 Total Recall. (see #3 – the Lex Luther)
The best client sales meetings don’t feel like a formal meeting. They feel like a conversation between the client and the salesperson, because they are. The best meetings have the ebb and flow of a dialog.
In a training with some salespeople a while back, one of the salespeople, Carl, was receiving feedback about his recent meeting with a client. A meeting that was observed by the salesman’s boss, Don. The gist of Don’s feedback was that Carl’s ardent note-taking, copiously capturing everything the client was saying, had taken him completely out of the conversation. Boss Don pointed out that there were uncomfortable pauses in the conversation where Carl furiously scribbled down what the client had just said, while the client sat waiting for the next question. It wasn’t a conversation, Don noted. It was more a disjointed interrogation.
Sam, another salesperson in the room then boldly stated. “I never take notes in a meeting. I want to pay attention to my client. Taking notes distracts me from being present.”
Sam’s is an admirable sentiment. Being in the conversation with your client is important. A meeting with an empty pause at the end of each question answered makes for an odd meeting.
The face-to-face is the most important part of the sales process for a reason. The reason is that everything that your client tells you, every opinion, preference, piece of information they put forth, every question they ask, is an opportunity. (Carl didn’t want to miss any). The (giant) problem with not taking notes is that if you don’t, you lose the ability to mine the meeting for the dozens of opportunities that surface during the pace of a meeting.
What opportunities? The opportunity to follow up after the meeting with a piece of information, a suggestion, an article, an idea. If you don’t somehow capture the nugget of what’s said, the touchpoint opportunities evaporate like mist in a Las Vegas July. Keep a record, and when you re-read your notes with a creative eye, you’ll discover dozens of touchpoint opportunities; most of which didn’t occur to you while you were in the conversation. This is why face to face conversations with potential clients are so important. We learn. Every drop of information captured in the meeting can help feed the flow of a relationship.
The takeaway is not to not take notes. It’s to capture the information that springs from the chat without checking out of the conversation with your client.
The fourth mistake salespeople make in client meetings is note-taking ineffectiveness. What you capture is the life spring of a nascent relationship with your client. What you don’t record, you lose.
Your notes serve another purpose, in real time. They serve as the improvised meeting agenda; the list of topics that come up that you want to come back too and explore further during the face to face meeting. If your client hints at a problem they’re having that’s different from the one you’re currently exploring, make a note. This is a topic you come back to while you’re together, especially if you or your product or network can help. Understanding your client’s issues is the fertile ground to find opportunities to help. If you don’t make a note, there’s a good chance when the conversation pauses you won’t remember that thing you wanted to ask about. Note it, and it becomes an agenda item for the rest of the meeting.
It’s admittedly tricky to take notes you can later decipher while carrying on a conversation. In it’s simplest terms staying in the conversation means you want to write as little as possible and capture as much as possible. There are a number of tactics to do this better. Bringing a second person to your meeting to be the note-taker or developing symbols; or organizing your note spatially so different quadrants on the page are reserved for different things, are all techniques so you can write less and capture more.
Unless you have the gift of total recall, capturing information during the meeting is critical to making you useful to your client, so you can build a relationship. Plus, good notes are what you need to clear stumbling block #5. Don’t do it, and you don’t even make it to the next hurdle, let alone get over it.
Look for the next post on hurdle #5: The Mulligan.
The thoughts in this post are from Tim’s book Never Be Closing.