In a post a few days ago, Larry Bodine reprinted Stacy Clark's list of 19 tips for preparing for a pitch meeting. Basically, they boil down to:
- Do your homework
- Ask questions about what the prospect wants
- Follow up
All good, all useful. Lists like this are mainly designed to help attorneys avoid sins of omission -- they're like preflight checklists. You know, #8? Look for spinach in teeth, and remove if present. And so on.
However, in point of fact, these items aren't things the prospect is going to notice. He may, however, notice if you forget or fail to do them. These tips, really, are a list of mistakes to avoid.
But what can you do that will set you apart? What can you do that will get you noticed? Easy. There is an almost-bulletproof tactic for this, that I learned from a senior salesperson almost ten years ago.
Here's what you do. Assuming you have followed Stacy's list, not tripped on the carpet, demonstrated you have done your homework and so on, there's going to come a point when the conversation shifts from chitchat and preliminaries to the real purpose of the meeting. And when this happens, say something like this:
"Well, Mr. Prospect, obviously, we've prepared pretty carefully for this meeting, and we have a lot of material we'd like to share with you. However, in order to make sure that this time is as productive as possible, could you please take a minute, and tell us what you want to get out of this meeting?"
Simple as that. Let them tell you what they want. Ask a few followup questions to clarify. Then, make sure you deliver it, and afterwards, refer to what they said they want and ask them if they got it.
This is incredibly powerful, because it allows the prospect to appear to be the one running the meeting, or at least setting the agenda. It also allows you to find out what really matters to them, and to go after it first. Rather than sitting there grinding through a prepared presentation, you're letting them structure the conversation, and you can begin it by addressing their key issues.
This tactic has several advantages. First, it makes a strong statement, right up front, that you are client-focused. Second, it allows you to lead with your strongest (to the client) capability. Third, it gets the client's attention -- not a lot of people ask this question.
Four out of five times, the prospect will say something like "Well, I'd like to acquire an understanding of your firm." Fine. Then probe. Say something like "Great. We're prepared to respond to that. Is there any special aspect of our practice that's particularly important to you?" Then find out, and tell them.