Today's episode is all about what to do after your initial meeting with a potential client; staying top of mind after your initial meeting. This is one of the biggest frustrations that owners of small and medium-sized businesses in South Florida are facing, and many of their sales directors face this problem as well.
You have what you think is a fantastic meeting with a new potential customer or client.
Your prospect says all the right things. Your happy ears are registering like crazy. You're super excited. And then nothing, more nothing, and even more nothing. No response to your calls or emails. Total radio silence. The more you follow up, the more you realize that this prospect is just not that into you.
Why did this happen?
Well, let's examine some of the root causes and what specifically you can do about it. And don't take anything for granted when building, refining, and optimizing your sales process.
Is your company facing this kind of frustration where you have what you felt was a great initial meeting, but it just doesn't seem to go anywhere?
Product/Market Fit (PMF) or Not?
My first question is:
Does your company have product/market fit?
Product/market fit is the degree to which you know exactly
- Who your ideal customers are
- What products and services they purchase
- The price points that they purchase at
- How often, the frequency, at which they purchase
Product/market fit is super-critical for being able to scale strong demand for many small businesses. With out, they often end up spinning their wheels on wild goose chases with prospects that were never really prospects.
So this gets at the heart of understanding who your business is focused on -- and being very self-aware of why your business exists. Your business model. Your industry. Your ideal clients. And how they purchase from you.
Your Core Buyer Personas
Being able to define and crystallize all of this into a framework of buyer personas is super-critical.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of one of your ideal clients based on actual research and some educated speculation.
When a small business is brand new, sometimes it does not have the luxury of being able to interview or survey its existing clients. It doesn't have the luxury of being able to study the client list and the decision makers for what else it can find out about them.
You could, for example, study your core buyer personas’ LinkedIn profiles, Twitter profiles, Facebook pages, or what surfaces when running Google searches about them.
Your buyer personas are extremely critical to make sure that you're spending your marketing and sales resources in the right way. For a small company that's brand new to this, you really want to prioritize. You can't be all things to all people.
So figure out who your core buyer personas are: your primary and secondary buyer personas. Who is your single most important kind of ideal client? And who is your second most important kind of ideal client?
How do you decide who the most important is, who the second most important is, and who may not make the first cut?
Typically small business CEOs prioritize based on who they think has the strongest economic impact. Which group is going to drive the most revenue? Which group of clients is going to be the most profitable kind of revenue?
So it's critical that you not only have a sense of your product/market fit or at least be working towards that. But you also need to have identified who the one or two most important kinds of ideal clients are that you want to be servicing.
Once you figure that out, you may even come up with the idea of a negative buyer persona: the kind of client that you don't want to have on your client list because that kind of client is not going to be a happy client of your company or profitable.
So you need to segment that bad-fit prospect out as rapidly as possible, to disqualify, so you don't waste your time going out to initial meetings with people that never really should have had an initial meeting.
This is a really tough issue for many small business CEOs and sales directors to get their minds around. Because especially early on, all revenue is good revenue, right? Wrong.
In a digital-first world, where your potential clients are making up as much as 70% of their minds before they ever get to you., you need to spend your resources in the right places.
Staying Relevant in Today’s Buyer’s Journey
In this context, you also need to get found early and often by attracting the right people, in the right places, at the right time, and most of all in the right context.
So prospects and clients see you and your team as subject matter experts and educators. You have to be able to earn that trusted advisor relationship so you're sitting on the same side of the table with prospects and they open up to you about what they truly want.
If your company is absent from the first 70% of the buyer's journey, what that means is another company is teaching prospects what to look for. There's somebody else from another company that's educating them about how they should view the world and how they should compare the different options.
The problem: If you weren't that person, if you're not involved in those conversations, most of the time it's simply too late because prospects have already formed a very strong opinion of what they're going to do.
The only thing that's going to shake their belief at that point is if you undercut the other company, bid cheaper, and sacrifice your profit margins.
And that is a slippery slope to chase down because there's always going to be another company that is more desperate than yours, that's willing to sacrifice today to perhaps possibly have a chance of being able to improve things in the future.
If your company does not yet have product/market fit and buyer personas, these are both super-critical to prioritize with your overall strategy. This way, you won't waste time going out on initial meetings with potential customers and clients that just are not a fit for your business model.
Step Through the Buyer’s Journey for Your Most Important Ideal Clients
You also need to understand the buyer's journey for each one of your core buyer personas, that they go through in between when each first starts to research a problem and when each becomes a paying customer.
Early on, people are looking for information. They're not looking for products or services. They're simply looking for answers to their questions and solutions to their problems, challenges, and struggles. They have a goal that they're asking for help with. That is what they're searching for on Google and Bing, when they ask questions of Siri and Alexa when they ask questions on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
They're not necessarily questions about which company to buy from or which products or services to purchase, which would indicate that they're pretty far along already.
Early on, you need to intercept prospects when they're just starting to ask fairly general questions about symptoms, problems, and challenges -- that can lead, down the road, to your products and services, or at least your product and service category.
So you need to understand their buyer's journey, the active research process that someone like that goes through in between when first researching a broad problem and when ultimately becoming a customer of a company like yours. You need to understand those key steps and stages. How do you understand those?
This is a really important part of building your buyer personas: asking people to walk you through
- how they decide what they look for
- what kinds of questions they ask with keywords and hashtags
- online groups they hang out in ( their watering holes)
- offline events and online events they attend
- blogs they read
- podcasts they listen to
- videos they watch
- who influences them
- associations and trade groups they belong to
- what's keeping them up at 2:00 in the morning
- the steps that they go through in between when they first discover a problem and when they ultimately make a purchase decision
To stay top of mind after your initial meeting is, make sure that you're going out on the right initial meetings in the first place.
Assess the Maturity of Your Sales Process
Next, ask yourself if your sales process has had enough activity, enough customers go through it, so you can iterate and refine over time and get a sense of your product/market fit.
Do you really know who your primary buyer persona is? The most and second most important economic buyer.
And just as important, have you had enough activity go through your sales process to have accidentally signed up the client from hell, that ultimately you had to part ways with, fire them, or whatever you wanna call it? You need to understand who the really bad nightmare client is to make sure it doesn't sneak its way into your sales funnel going forward -- the negative buyer persona.
These are all key things you’ll go through as your sales process matures, assuming that you understand who your ideal clients are, the products and services they purchase, the price points they purchase at, and the frequency at which your most important buyers purchase your products and services. What is the educated research process that they go through?
Mutually Decide Next Steps and Timing
Once you have a good handle on all of this and you've had successful initial meetings, you decide on next steps mutually, on next steps that you’re going to take together at the end of that initial meeting.
Are you dictating those next steps to prospects? Or are you deciding together? Are your prospects coming to their own conclusions?
Much of success with this starts by coming into that meeting very well prepared and setting expectations.
Set the agenda for what you're hoping to accomplish in your conversation today and ask if there's anything else that that needs to be covered.
Active listening is super important. When prospects tell you answers to some of your exploratory questions, make sure you repeat those answers back to them in their own words for two purposes:
- To make sure that you heard their words accurately
- To demonstrate that you actually heard them
No one reasonable expects you to have a perfect memory, so taking notes is perfectly fine.
At the end of that meeting, as you're deciding on next steps, recap what you talked about. You can formalize that by sending a recap email within one business day, regardless of whether it was an online or a phone meeting, or an in-person meeting. In that email, again review what you decided to do next and ask if any clarification is needed.
Focus on Their Reasons and Their Timeline (Not Yours)
It's supercritical that you uncover their pain, their problems, their struggles, their goals, and most of all their reasons for why they need to fix this.
Second, you need to understand their timeline for when they're thinking of fixing this. Not your timeline, not your reasons, but their reasons and their timeline.
This is all part of understanding your buyer personas and what's going on in their minds, so you can recognize that you're speaking with someone and investing the resources in the right kind of person who'd be a good fit client, who'd be well served by working with your company.
Get In During the Earliest Inning Possible (Prior to the Ballgame If Possible)
If you are truly getting found early enough, you are able to earn a seat on their side of the table as a trusted advisor.
But if you're also getting there early enough, you need to recognize when your prospects are in early research stages.
Think about it this way: If I shop for a new car this weekend, and it’s my first time visiting any showroom, and I hadn't looked at any cars in years, I’m likely very early on in the buyer’s journey.
Also, bear in mind that I'm six feet one -- and because of that, my kids are also tall. So things like headroom and legroom in the front seat and back seat matter. I explain this to the car salesperson, but he’s hellbent on closing me on my first visit. I'm like, “What the heck, dude? Just trying to figure out what I fit in. Maybe if things go well, maybe we'll go for a test drive. But I’m definitely not buying today.” Yet he keeps trying to close me.
It’s really important that you don't come off like the tone-deaf car salesperson. You have to understand where your prospects are.
Staying Top of Mind Throughout Their Buyer’s Journey
Even when you're meeting with a prospect that looks like a good fit, but the potential client is just pretty early on, there are a number of ways to stay top of mind.
If you truly understand that buyer persona and their buyer’s journey, more than likely you have content that can help.
If you don't have educational content, that's the first place that you want to start -- creating text content, video content, podcast content, and slide deck content -- all kinds of content that educates and builds trust.
You certainly could use email nurturing that's specific to that buyer persona and where they are in the buyer's journey to continue to educate and build trust.
After that meeting, if it's going to be quite some time before certain prospects are ready to purchase, you can certainly invite people to your events:
- offline events such as conferences, lunch and learns, and breakfast seminars
- online event such as webinars
It's basically the same deal. These events should not be infomercials. Don’t be the cheesy tone-deaf car salesperson all over again.
Your events, seminars, lunch and learns, and webinars are about educating and building trust.
It’s just that now you're doing accomplishing this live, in an interactive fashion, that helps to educate and build trust even more effectively than someone consuming content on their own, strictly from email nurturing.
You can also watch for behavioral triggers. As long as you have the right technology in place, you should be able to see when one of your contacts, one of your leads, revisits your website. You should be able to see when someone has opened one of your emails or clicked on a specific link within your email. You perhaps could even see that person has shared your email message with people that are in other offices.
Technology can also let you see what specific website pages people are looking at. If your website is set up correctly, more than likely there's a bunch of website pages that are educational in nature, that teach, educate, and build trust. Then there are some website pages that are more like products and services, your Contact page, your About Us page, and your Pricing page that indicate that someone's a lot more serious about wanting to do business with your company.
If you have enough traffic volume on your website and in your lead generation, you could even put lead scoring in place that helps you prioritize. This way, when you're looking at a couple of hundred leads, which are the top 10% that are worth most of your attention.
But again, if you're truly getting found early and this person is a really good fit, but their reasons and timeline don't necessarily align with yours, you definitely need a way to stay top of mind.
The best way to do so: understand who they are and where they are. Then continue to educate and build trust over time.
Trusted Advisor Relation or Not?
If you're finding it difficult to stay top of mind after your initial meetings, there's an excellent chance that you have not gained a trusted advisor relationship.
Your content may not have intercepted this person early enough in their buyer's journey to earn the seat at the table, where you're the one that's teaching this person exactly what to look for and helps to frame their outlook on how this person solves this kind of problem.
Again, to stay top of mind after initial meetings and have those initial meetings progress into new clients. Understand who they are and where they are. Then personalize everything going forward based on the intersection of those two pieces of information: their buyer persona and where they are in the buyer's journey.
The Bottom Line on Staying Top of Mind After Your Initial Meeting
So these are some really important tips about how CEOs of small- and medium-sized businesses, and their sales directors, can stay top of mind after initial meetings.
In this episode, you learned how to
- Make sure that you have a strong grasp on your product/market fit or that you're at least working towards it
- Build effective buyer personas
- Map out and understand their buyer's journey
- Assess how mature your sales processes are and whether you've had enough activity go through your entire funnel to draw some intelligent conclusions about what's working and what's not
- Take a more proactive approach to controlling the meeting
- Ensure your prospects have a stake in setting the agenda
- Use active listening
- Understand their reasons and timeline
- Agree together on next steps
- Formalize the conversation about next steps and timing in a summary email
In the modern buyer’s journey, in a digital-first world, it is all about their reasons and their timeline where they see you as a trusted advisor.
If you have content that educates and builds trust, and if you understand whether they're a good fit, but their timeline doesn't necessarily align with right now, continue to educate and build trust with nurturing, events, webinars, and all that good stuff.
Then watch what happens when each prospect is back on your website when interacting with your email message. A lot of times, you can get very strong clues about where each person is and what each person is thinking.
At the end of the day, you need to have these initial meetings progress into client relationships.
It's critical that you and your sales team gain a trusted advisor relationship, so you have more leverage in these relationships, not only during the sales process but after the sales process as well -- when you're looking to delight your clients, so they become promoters that bring you more strangers and fill up the top of your sales funnel.
We've been talking all about staying top of mind after your initial meeting.
I am so glad to have had you with us for this episode of the South Florida CEO Podcast. I am Joshua Feinberg, and we look forward to seeing you back again next time.
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