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Don’t Meet!

May 14, 2021

Why what you think works does not… and what to do instead

Practical sales advice based on conversations between experienced training consultants Fred Copestake and Clare O’Shea

Fred – Welcome to this episode in the Don’t series where we are going to discuss ‘Don’t Meet’.  Now this is going to be a very interesting one because the whole point of salespeople is we have got to meet people and talk to them and do stuff. Clare, you brought it to the table. So, you need to explain this in context.

Clare – Don’t meet. Let’s put this into context. We are in lockdown now anyway, so people cannot meet. Although of course people they can. Screen to screen. They cannot meet face to face. But they can certainly meet on a screen to screen call. But let us go back to why I’m saying don’t meet.

Fred – So can I just stop you there?  While we are saying you cannot meet now, which is a different discussion. What you are saying for the purpose of this is that a virtual meeting is the similar. We are going to treat that the same as if you pack your bag, go off, spend time travelling arrive, meet face to face, then repeat in reverse. Meeting virtually is same thing as meeting face to face.

Clare – Arguably yes, but not quite. I am focusing  ‘don’t’ on the face-to-face meeting because of the downsides of that type of meeting. It does have some of the postitive points but many are the same as on screen.

Fred – Okay, well, let us go through why people think it is a good idea. This is probably a long list.

Clare – Yes.  Why salespeople think it is a good idea is usually about the relationship. I can get to know somebody much, much better when I see them in a face-to-face environment, and I can really get to know them if maybe I can invite them to lunch afterwards as well. So, I need to spend a lot of time to really getting to know them. I believe in the people buy from people mantra, therefore the more I know them the better.

But this is mixing up ‘friends’ with your customers. And I think that is the main thing to get across is we should try to meet more people.

Most of us think we are more engaging, and we can influence more people in a face-to-face environment. We think being face-to-face is much is better to influence people. Salespeople think if we go and meet our customers, then the customer will think that they must be very important to us. And then they perceive us giving them high value. Therefore customers perceive us better, because it is like adding value by meeting face to face.

Let us jump to the last point. Firstly customers do not even think about it as a bonus. They are just thinking you are in this area at the same time. So, there is no influence on how they perceive. If anything, I think if you have come all this way so you must be desperate or not very good salesperson. You are not speaking to anybody else if you really want to spend so much time to have that meeting. So, I do not think that psychology particularly works.

The other thing is, do customers really want to spend that much time with you as well? There is a lot of research out there and I think it was you who were telling me on other day about the McKinsey one where it says 65% of buyers are saying it is just as effective to work virtually environment. Having a face-to-face meeting will take more time. It could even take more time just to set it up. So as a customer, you are losing time rather than getting value from the salesperson.

Fred – Just to jump in. It was McKinsey, and it was, end of 2020 that this stuff came out because they had done the research around the virtual meetings. And the thing about that is that when we are having face-to-face meetings, it takes longer. Is this what you are saying? People are thinking that as you are coming all this distance, I am going to have to give you more time in the diary

Clare – I think it is more from the salesperson viewpoint. They have gone all that way so the temptation is to make it into an hour meeting rather than the 10-minute meeting it could be. This is for a more informal meeting.

The flawed thinking about this, particularly face-to-face meetings, is that they take up so much time. So, it is not very efficient or effective way of selling nowadays. I am not saying do not ever meet. Of course.  But I think sometimes we have meetings for meetings sake, you know, those coffee cup meeting where not a lot happens in it. What is the value in that other than trying to play the people buy from people game and they like me a bit better? But if there is no value to the meeting, the customer will not like you and even more so might get a bit pissed off

Fred – It is funny. Somebody was saying to me the other day that they were finding it hard to do business because of not having my coffee cup meetings. They actually called it coffee meetings.

Clare – Yeah?

Fred – Really. Customers aren’t doing those anymore. I was trying to push back and say, well, is that because they are not really seeing the value of just spending time having coffee? Are they still in business? Are they still working? Are they still buying some stuff off your organization? If so, they have worked out that stuff you were doing was not very valuable and that should be a worry

Clare – If adding value and staying connected with them is important it does not have to be a formal meeting. It just takes up too much time.

Let’s face it, many meetings are not planned well enough. They are not thought through, they are not tailored and they are certainly not relevant enough to the customer outcomes. So, focus needs to be on outcomes, selling insights, whatever you want to call it. We want to educate the customer.

 Plan it much better and mix face-to-face with much more virtual. We should have been doing that over the last five years anyway, so hopefully this will happen more now. We do not need as many face-to-face as we think we do. Connect with customers to find out what they need and what their focus is. If they are still buying from you without face-to-face meetings why are you still pushing the old face-to-face stuff?

However, when you do face to face, as I am not saying do not do any face to face ever. Really plan it well, and really think what is the WIIFM for that customer. What is in it for me. What are they getting out of it and make sure it is really focused on them as opposed to focus on the salesperson.

 Too many meetings do not have agendas, don’t have objectives, don’t have a purpose, don’t have an end in mind and they’re just not tailored. So how are they adding value to the customer? In which case don’t meet at all, just don’t bother unless you can really articulate the value proposition of why they should see you. And that is because they agree that it’s worth it.

Fred – Got you. So don’t meet unless it is going to be valuable, unless it ticks the boxes that you have prepped it. You planned it. You have thought it through.

But isn’t that good advice for virtual and even a quick phone call?

Clare – Totally

Fred – Let’s underline this. We are not saying eliminate all contact.

Clare – No, because I think you could have more contact potentially you could have more contact. You can drop in a short phone call. You can have a quick virtual meeting. You can also have several other virtual meetings where you are talking to different people from the customers side or have a virtual meeting where you bring in more people from your own organisation.

Fred – Bring in your R and D, bring in your marketing person, bring in your op’s director. Whatever is relevant. We can have lots more touch points potentially. We do not need to try to set up this big all singing, all dancing meeting, which gets postponed and postponed and postponed because not all those people are readily available.

Clare – Yeah, absolutely. Break all those meetings into lots of smaller touch points. Exactly what you said. It could be some face-to-face, some virtual, use email as well as conferences, webinars, and so forth,

We have all been to those meetings with 10 or 12 people who are only there for a bit relevant to them for 20 minutes or so. I never understand that. They must sit through whole two-hour meeting. It’s pointless. We should be having lots of little meetings, and even better if we have lots of virtual meetings to create more touch points. If you have less meetings, you can have more touch points.

Fred – I absolutely agree.

Clare – And that is good. So, mix it up. We are not saying never meet, but in today’s world, do we need to meet in person? We have mostly got good internet connection you can build relationships screen to screen as well.

Fred – So as always, never say never, but by ‘Don’t Meet’ really we are saying do some of these other things instead.

Clare O’Shea is Founder of Marlow Sales Academy
She was instrumental in the design of the first ever Qualifications in Sales back in 1998 with the first Institute of Professional Sales and continues that interest as Course Director for the CIM Certificate, Advanced Certificate and Programme Director for the Post Graduate Level 7 Diploma in Strategic Sales Practice
Clare specialises in helping salespeople to be more consultative and consultants to be more commercial, by developing the right mindset, process, tools and skills.

Contact: https://www.linkedin.com/in/clareosheasales

Fred Copestake is founder of Brindis, a sales training consultancy.
Over the last 22 years he has travelled round the world 14 times visiting 36 countries to work with over 10,000 salespeople.
His book ‘Selling Through Partnering Skills’ looks at the evolving world of sales and sets out what salespeople need to do to refine their approach. It explores how to take things to the next level through understanding partnering intelligence and using the innovative VALUE Framework.

Contact: https://linktr.ee/fredcopestake