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So, you were finally able to schedule that all-important meeting with the sales prospect. Now what? Well, of course, you need to prepare. But what does effective preparation entail? And what is critical during and after the meeting? Many sales people overlook the "easy stuff", often resulting in lost sales opportunities. There are many reasons why a sales person does not get the result they want from meetings with prospects. They may be lazy, too "salesy", or just not very competent in general. Well, regardless of your situation and level of expertise in sales, here are some "easy" things you can do to help your next sales appointment go well.

Before the meeting

· Confirm the agenda and objectives for the meeting. What do you and the prospect want to accomplish? Be specific. The better this is defined, the better prepared you can be.

· Understand who will be attending the meeting. Know their names, their jobs and their responsibilities. You may need to do some research to determine what their role is in regards to the sales process.

· Similarly, know who the decision maker (DM) is. Often, valuable time is wasted "selling" to the wrong person. As quickly as possible, get involved directly with the DM. If the DM can’t attend the meeting, you may want to reschedule so that they can.

· If it has been awhile since the meeting was scheduled, reconfirm to ensure that everything is still a "go" and that the prospect is in a good frame of mind about the meeting.

· Think through the questions and responses that your prospect may have. Look at it from all perspectives, especially theirs. This will help you be prepared to address the prospect’s needs "on the spot", if possible. The less you have to follow up later, the more progress you can make toward a close during the meeting.

During the meeting

· Of course, arrive on time, looking professional. First impressions truly are critical. Many sales are lost in the first few minutes, and the rest of the time is spent, even unknowingly, trying to repair a damaged relationship.

· Have a positive attitude. Clearly state in the affirmative what you want to accomplish with your time together. A wishy-washy start can derail a meeting, making it difficult to get back on track.

· In addition to what the prospect says, be very aware of what the prospect does and how he acts. Tone of voice and body language are the most important aspects of communication. Look for signals to gauge if the meeting is going well or if you need to regroup and get your prospect re-engaged.

· Don’t make assumptions. Continuously check for understanding and agreement. Ask direct questions without making your prospect feel uncomfortable.

· Go with the flow. You have stated goals for the meeting, but you shouldn’t ignore cues from your prospect. You may uncover a new opportunity or bigger need that hadn’t been identified previously.

· As the meeting winds down, confirm what you accomplished, what was agreed to (and where you may have disagreed), and leave no doubt who is doing what in follow up.

· Depart on a positive note, regardless of the outcome of the meeting. Last impressions are lasting impressions.

After the meeting, follow up as quickly as possible and always thank them for their time. Let the prospect know where you are in the process and gain their agreement that you are on the right track.

Too often we gloss over the basics, the "easy stuff", making sales a much harder process than it is already. By consistently practicing sound techniques, your opportunities to close the sale will increase and you’ll be happier with your results.