Arranging the meeting is more vital than the meeting

October 5, 2009
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I had a business meeting in my office last night — Saturday night. The meeting started at 8 o’clock, right after a 2 1/2-hour dinner. There was no alcohol at the dinner. This was business, and everyone wanted to be at their best. And did I mention it was Saturday night?

This meeting came about because I accepted the word of a 20-year friend who not only recommended that I take this first meeting, but who also attended. A group of business people were trying to persuade me to buy into a software product that would help salespeople sell: more, better, faster.

The subject of this piece is: who grants you a meeting and why.

Like any CEO or entrepreneur, I only take the meetings that I deem are important to my company and me. My time is guarded. My time is valuable. These days, it takes a lot to get to see me for an hour.

I’m always open; I’m always eager to see what’s new. But I tend to take meetings through third parties — referrals and testimonials — never from a cold call.

Think about how you try to make important meetings happen — meetings with decision makers, meetings with executive officers.

I’m going to share scenarios with you from this meeting — what happened and why it happened — so that you can try to correct, or at least upscale, the way you make an appointment with, and speak with, a chief executive decision maker.

Here are the four scenarios by which meetings occur:

Scenario 1: The company CEO knew of me, knew that we would be a perfect fit, and chose NOT to call me because he knew that was the weakest way to try to get to me.

Scenario 2: The CEO had a salesman working for him who was a fan of mine and a business friend of mine, but he chose not to utilize that resource because he felt it would not be a very powerful introduction, and that I would turn the meeting down. (Correct assumption on his part.)

Scenario 3: One of the CEO’s best customers is a lifelong friend of mine whose opinion I greatly respect. The CEO asked my friend if he would set the meeting up. I got an e-mail from my friend and a phone call telling me this meeting would be very worth my while, that he thought the CEO’s idea and product were a perfect fit for my business, and that I should take a meeting with him as soon as possible. My business friend indicated that he would like to be present at the meeting, as well.

Reality: I couldn’t turn the meeting down. I respect my friend. He was pretty enthusiastic about the whole idea and was willing to physically be at the meeting. I couldn’t say no.

Scenario 4: This particular scenario did not enter into this process. It is when the person requesting the meeting is a “bigger name” than the person he or she is asking. If Donald Trump called me on the phone and said, “Hey Jeffrey, do you have a little time to meet with me?” or if Warren Buffet called me on the phone and said, “Hey Jeffrey, do you have a little time to meet with me?” I would fly 5,000 miles to make either meeting.

Those are the four meeting scenarios.

1. Make the meeting on your own — where you have to sell like hell.

2. Create a weak third-party endorsement where the air of skepticism is still thick.

3. Have a respected third-party peer actually set the meeting. This is a huge, neutralizing element in the selling process. And it worked with me in this case. 

4. You want to meet with them way worse than they want to meet with you.

Think about how you make your meetings. I know some of you will e-mail me and tell me that cold calls still work and that you make sales from them. But ask yourself seriously: Would you rather have 10 appointments set up by scenario three, or 10 cold call appointments that probably took you 500 actual calls to get them?

Major clue: The stronger the relationship, the higher the listening factor. If you make all your meetings by scenario 1 or scenario 2, the potential customer will still have a high degree of skepticism, and you’ll have to arrive with your sales gun loaded.

When my 20-year business friend walked in with this potential new relationship, I was listening to their every word, gave them my undivided attention, and followed up with a Saturday night dinner, a late-night business meeting and a deal.

The entire selling “cycle” was under eight days.

1. How long is your sales cycle?

2. How powerful are your referrals?

3. How open are the doors to your prospect’s office?

3.5 How open is their wallet?

Free GitBit: For a few more meeting insights go to www.gitomer.com and enter MEETING in the GitBit box. Jeffrey Gitomer can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail salesman@gitomer.com.

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