Sales Malaise and the Fear of Awesomeness.
Every deal starts somewhere.
An introduction. A referral. A cold call into shark infested waters.
Regardless of how you got in, you're there. Even if it is just for the 30 minutes you begged your prospect to spend with you.
Here's the reality of the situation. You have their attention. Sure you might be co-presenting alongside the chimes of their Blackberry inbox. And of course you're not the only thing that they are thinking about while you're standing in front of them.
But who cares. You are "in".
Start acting like it.
Don't wait for permission to be bold. Don't save the punchline for the second meeting with your customer. Don't plan on another chance to be amazing.
Be that guy right now. Heck, you're standing right now where you've always wanted to be.
But for some reason we have this warped sense of reality where we magically self-destruct. We hold back. Take possibilities for granted.
And it's probably not a "I want to screw up the biggest deal of my life" sort of attitude. You're not sitting there hoping that you fail.
But that's how your acting.
1. Get stealthy. Do your research ahead of time on the players at the table
There's no excuse for not knowing a little bit about the people you are meeting with. After all, they have taken the time to sit down with you.
Take the time to run a Google search for that person and their company. Pop over to Hoovers and search for details about the company they work for. You can also search for that same information on Forbes and Fortune.
Products like IntroMojo and Gist help aggregate and interpret large amounts of social activity so you can make snap (but accurate) judgments about how they think.
And even LinkedIn is a great place to swing by and gather information about prospects. And it's free too.
2. Plan. Know what you want to achieve from the engagement
Keep it simple. What would you like the result of the meeting to be? Both for you and (and more importantly) for them.
You might start off with a list of a dozen micro-results that you want to achieve. That's OK. Pick the one that is most important and bring it up in your meeting.
You might say something like "you should walk away from this meeting with a sense of (insert objective here)". And say it early and often throughout your discussion.
It will keep you on track and keep your prospect focused on manageable activity.
3. Be exciting. Use rich stories and examples to bring your discussion to life
Prepare jokes, stories, and rich analogies that bring your presentation to life. Make your prospect laugh and you're well on your way to holding their attention. Maybe even closing a deal.
You can read a great biography without needing any pictures in the middle of the book to add context. But when they are there, they help you build a closer bond with the characters.
Thats exactly how your presentation should work.
4. Stop assuming. Ask better questions and more often.
Be prepared -- but also come ready to leave your assumptions out of the discussion. Ask questions like "what makes you say that" and "tell me more" to drill down into the reasons behind the reasons behind the reasons.
On one hand, you're the prospect's therapist. Act like it. Ask. Listen. Take notes.
And then repeat that cycle.
5. Summarize the magic. Recap your discussion with a series of simple statements
A simple "here's what we talked about" statement, followed by a 30 second summary, goes a long way to help everybody at the table remember key information about the presentation.
The human brain only stores about the last half-minute worth of history in working memory. By combining the key parts of your entire presentation down a pithy, powerful conclusion, you get the room "remembering" the experience from your perspective.
6. Execute effectively. Follow-up after the meeting and when you have completely key requested activities.
After the meeting, take a few minutes to send a "thank you" email to the people in attendance. Take the time (in a short 2-3 sentences) to recap the discussion and what you are going to be doing on their behalf.
And then do it. Execute.
It's silly how many times sales people just don't communicate what they are doing. It reassures buyers that you are capable of taking care of their problems.
Let's be awesome.
Enough with the sales malaise (a.k.a. "funk") that seems to have descended around us these last few years.
Enough with thinking that you are already doing everything you can do to be an amazing sales person.
Stop being afraid of that extra mile called awesomeness.