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How Do Prospects Approach an Unsolicited Sales Meeting?

We’ve all heard of “voice of the customer” feedback. What about “voice of the prospect” guidance? One company found itself in an increasingly crowded, aggressive marketplace, yet had many long-time loyal customers. They were doing something right to hold onto these accounts. They wanted to cash in a bit of the goodwill they’d built up to find short-cuts in their business development process. In this look back, at the end of the feedback interview, a long-time customer offered guidance to help one of his favorite vendors compete more effectively. He spoke frankly about what he expects from a salesperson who’s asking for an audience.

Key Question

Ann: “If they weren’t already doing business with you and had no prior connection to your company, what would a vendor have to say or send to interest you in a meeting?”

Course-correcting Quote

“If a vendor wants to schedule a meeting with me, they need to bring something to me that delivers a benefit. For example, come in with ten topics. If they’ve chosen well, I’ll have a key interest in three of them. I know there’s going to be a sales pitch at the end, but by then I’ve gotten value, so that’s fine. Keep in mind, if a prospective vendor is meeting with a senior person whose primary job isn’t the vendor’s specialty, that executive is probably not going to be up to date on the topic. The vendor might want to skew the list of topics to reflect what’s relevant to that executive’s industry. I’m impressed when someone has done their homework before approaching me.”

The Client’s Quandary

All vendors want to know how to clone their best accounts, but winning formulas (and competitive landscapes) change over time. This vendor wanted to hear what would work today.

Conclusion

This “voice of the prospect” guidance offers universal advice: Come bearing gifts. The strategy is sound, too: Since most decision-makers are bombarded with unsolicited requests to meet, ask your best clients which techniques win prospective vendors a 15-minute meeting.

Bonus: A total of 10 senior executives offered advice during this project. Here’s what a few suggested for successful approaches to cold-calling:

  • “Lead with big names. It tells me you’re legitimate.” [Credibility]
  • “Say right at the start of the pitch what you can do to help us. It can’t all be about you.” [Relevance]
  • “If you’ve piqued my interest by doing your homework about my situation and needs, ask me for an initial telephone interview. Don’t expect to sit in my office for an hour.” [Brevity]
Special bonus: If you want the full list of suggestions, click Contact and send Ann Amati an e-mail requesting the “Voice of the Prospect” pdf.

Ann’s note: I categorize projects as assessments, investigations, treasure hunts or rescue missions. This project was a “treasure hunt.” The challenge was, “How can we get in front of more prospects?” Their loyal customers gave them advice from the buyer’s side of the table.