The biggest missed opportunity in selling


A true story ‘from our files’…

A sales person visited my colleague at our offices to discuss the purchase of a colour printer/fax/scanner. I was on a potentially long telephone call when he arrived and I encouraged them to begin the meeting without me. I joined within only two to three minutes of the meeting having started. By this time, the sales person had already (within seconds I believe) begun gesticulating frantically at the fabulous pictures in the glossy brochure exclaiming ‘How great is that?’
I made my apologies for joining late and sat down. No effort was made to quickly recap (fair enough, it was me that was late) but when I asked him to repeat his company name – “Why do you want to know my company name?” came the response. For those of you who aren’t cringing as you read this – give up now, there is no helping you. However, if you can see that the opening of this meeting could have been leagues better, read on and I’ll tell you how…

First of all, take a look at this video of how ‘not to do it’:

We are sure you spotted the mistakes, all of which we have observed during hundreds of live sales calls in the last 20 years.

Now watch the ‘best practice’ video and use the structure below to perfect your ‘opening of the meeting technique’.

The greeting and handshake

The very first impression your contact makes of you happens now. Stand up straight, smile, ensure your mobile phone is switched off and greet your contact warmly, using their name with a firm, but not vice-like handshake. If you are not comfortable making ‘small talk’, practise some for this part of your meeting to avoid any awkward silences in the lift. Don’t over do it though – small talk is for this point only. Get down to the meeting agenda as promptly as you can.

Exchange business cards & check names

Your business card is the thing that your contact will take away (possibly the only thing) and he may even pass it onto colleagues or his boss. If you have a business card that resembles the back of a cornflakes packet and you feel it is best hidden away inside the front cover of your promotional material, leave it there and get another job. If it isn’t, ensure your card is clean, with no dog-ears (you’d be surprised) and present it to your contact whilst asking for one of his/hers. Check the name on the card and ask what your contact likes to be called:

  • “Are you a Steve or a Steven?”
  • “Do you prefer Rob or Robert?”
  • “Is Samantha OK?”

We’re doing business in the 21st century now so there should be no need to call someone by their surname but if you feel it is required, ensure you know whether ladies are Miss, Mrs or Ms. You never know if your Miss Jones has just been jilted at the altar – you calling her ‘Mrs’ may be just the excuse she needs to tell you the sorry tale over a box of Kleenex!

Time check

Check the time your contact has allowed for his meeting with you. You may have an agenda that requires 2 hours and he may be due to see his boss in 30 minutes. Stay in control from the beginning and ask:

  • “How are you for time?” or
  • “I’ve allowed an hour, how about you?”

Thumbnail sketch

Check first that your contact wants to hear this:

“What do you already know about ABC Ltd? Would you like a couple of minutes on who we are and what we do?”

This should be a fairly standard (across the organisation) 2 minutes on what you/your company does, why and how, to whom and what that means to your customers. It’s a good idea to brainstorm this with colleagues until you come up with something that hits all the right marks. Two thumbnail sketches will never be identical as each person adds their own personal style but the message your contact receives should be consistent no matter who they meet.

The Quantum thumbnail as an example:

Quantum enables companies in the business-to-business (B2B) sector to achieve fast sales acceleration by applying a selection of tools and methods, together with the expert coaching required to fix sales problems fast.

Beyond tools and methodologies, Quantum makes a difference through its team of business professionals who have years of hands-on sales experience and the drive to deliver growth for their clients. The coaches are quick at objectively identifying sales challenges and at providing the solutions and support needed to fix them. Does that give you enough of a flavour?”

This may look like a lot of text but when memorized (at least the key points) and spoken, this doesn’t take longer than a minute and a half and our contact now has a good idea of what we’re about.

Be prepared to included relevant examples and if your contact stops you to ask questions (that very probably will be addressed later in the meeting) then confidently explain that you will be answering his questions soon so you can keep your thumbnail as short as possible.

The purpose

Establish the purpose of your meeting together:

  • I am here to learn more about you and what your organisation needs in terms of ………
  • We will discuss XYZ and then I would like to offer you my thoughts on …
  • We will swap notes to discover if there are any mutual opportunities for both our organisations


What an important step this is. How frustrating to hear that you’ve just spent two hours going through your proposal hoping for a yes at the end of your meeting only to discover that your contact has to go and sell the idea to his/her boss. Not only have you possibly just wasted precious hours but also you now have no control over the real sales process. Your contact thinks you’ve just equipped them to do your job for you! Ask, “Is there anyone else who would be interested to hear about this?” so that you don’t miss the opportunity to include them from the start.

The motivator

A question or statement designed to explain why your contact should answer your questions – not a reason why you are about to ask them! e.g.

  • In order for me to make the right recommendations to you, I need to ask you some questions, is that OK?
  • So I can decide whether you need X or Y, I need to ask you…

You may need to re-motivate your contact during your meeting to remind them that all these questions are for their benefit as well as yours.



Posted on

September 15, 2015