Blowing the Big Meeting – Here’s How.

How will you get to the right people?  This is the question every sales person should be asking and it seems to be the focus of just about every sales training program or methodology.  Several years ago I had been working to get a meeting with a large healthcare organization in the southeast.  Our team had successfully met with the IT people several times and had established fairly good rapport; however, sales were slow in coming and budget seemed to be our primary obstacle.

Our strategy was to land a meeting higher in the organization where perceived business value might move some budget our way.  Finally, I was granted a meeting with the Vice President of Operations.  This person had the authority to approve money and would certainly be central to a successful proof of concept or pilot type project.  Our meeting started with the Vice President showing up late, but we were ready with our list of promising questions and discovery skills.

After an initial greeting and introduction, I launched into my “solution selling discovery process.” Giving me just enough rope to hang myself, our VP prospect answered the first question.  But as soon as I began presenting my follow-up question, he looked over at our IT advocate and roared, “I thought you said these guys had something important to share with us.  So far all I’ve heard are a bunch of open-ended sales questions.  What is the purpose of this meeting?”  How do you recover from that?

There are all kinds of tricks and strategies for getting that meeting at the top. However, in my experience, this is not the real challenge.  The real challenge, which is not adequately addressed in most sales books, is that of building peer level relationships at the executive level.  We have all gotten the “Big” meeting at some point in our lives, but how many are consistently staying at this level after the first meeting?

© 2011, David Stelzl


4 thoughts on “Blowing the Big Meeting – Here’s How.

  1. Dave – how true!!
    I did the exact same thing a number of years ago with a large firm I had finally gotten to the executive level, went into my solutions findings questions, this gentleman allowed me about 10 mins of open ended information gathering before he finally stopped me and ask what I was doing here and where was the all leading too…
    Never did land the prospect and huge lesson learned!

    Great insight – ty! Love your blogs, they are quick to read and on the mark!

    – Rich

    Rich Dobry – Executive Vice President

    The Signature Group – A Culture of Excellence
    An Employee Owned Company
    8229 Boone Boulevard
    Suite 820
    Vienna, VA 22182
    tel: (703) 748-9531
    fax: (703) 287-0691
    mobile: (443) 250-3400

  2. Dave, sounds to me like you didn’t do anything wrong – more that you were dealing with a person who, shall we say, lacks basic people skills….there’s a name for that type of person but protocol prevents me from mentioning it here. That’s my take!

    1. Thanks Landy – I should have been prepared with a better understanding of his needs and the company’s inefficiencies before getting to that level. I came in with the same questions every sales person asks – I’m sure he’s seen this a thousand times and has become critical of a scripted sales approach.

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