In this series, I take you through eight key steps to plan your B2B sales meetings in a way that sets you apart from the competition.
By building continuous momentum, providing value, and advancing sales at each step, you will ultimately get more (and faster) closed business.
Preparation is the secret to closing sales — and it needs to happen for every encounter with a prospect. Before each meeting, answer three key questions:
Why should this client meet with me?
What do I want my client to do?
How can I provide value in this encounter?
Step 6: Define your advances
“Without a ‘next step’ you are likely working with someone who is fully not engaged. A ‘next step’ is a crucial delineator between real opportunities and pretend opportunities.” — Tibor Shanto
You might say your goal is to get the prospect to show interest, strengthen your relationship or gather useful information. And you may judge the success of this goal on the basis of the prospect’s words, expressions or body language.
While these activities and signs are definitely positive, they’re not enough of a reason to keep investing your time and energy in a prospect.
To keep the momentum going, you need to ensure regular, appropriate advances — which require the prospect to make a significant effort.
Generally speaking, every sales meeting has the same goal — to get the prospect to commit to an advance.
Remember, an advance should:
be specific and measurable
focus on the action the prospect will take
move the sale forward
be reasonable from the prospect’s point of view
The test for an advance is action and energy. If the potential client isn’t taking action, it’s not an advance. If the action they take requires little to no energy, it’s not an advance.
The action and energy a prospect expends during or after a meeting do two crucial things:
It shows you how engaged they are, and
It moves the sales process one step nearer to closing.
Typically, the more energy the prospect is willing to spend, the more serious they are about moving forward. Based on this, you can decide how much time and effort you want to invest in a specific sales opportunity.
In other words, an advance is like a litmus test you can use to qualify your potential clients.
In your enthusiasm for the sale, you might sometimes take on extra work on behalf of the prospect. Unfortunately, this is actually counter-productive as it prevents the possibility of an advance.
For example, let’s say the prospect needs to do an assessment before the sales process can continue. If you volunteer to do it, you’ll learn nothing — instead of healthy collaboration, you’ll end up in a one-sided relationship.
Instead, wait and observe how the prospect responds to the need for an assessment. Are they willing to spend the energy required? If not, you either need to convince them or walk away. On the other hand, if they invest in a comprehensive assessment, that tells you a lot about their seriousness.
By offering to do everything and never getting prospects to do anything, you’ll miss out on the chance to gauge their commitment. As a result, you’ll end up wasting a lot of your time on “pretend opportunities” that don’t eventually pay off.
There’s nothing wrong with offering free services to prospective clients to further a sales opportunity. However, do it sparingly. Keep in mind that no prospect will ever turn down such an offer — because it requires no commitment on their own behalf.
Here are some examples of advances:
Arrange for you to meet with a higher-level decision maker
Schedule a site visit to see the product in action
Agree to meet your technical team for a detailed discussion on requirements
Share sensitive information needed for an assessment
Arrange a group meeting to review a demonstration of your product
For every meeting, you should prepare an ideal advance as well as a few secondary advances. An ideal advance is the highest level of commitment you can reasonably expect a prospect to make by the end of your meeting. Secondary advances are your backup plan.
Write out the exact phrases you plan to use for each advance and practice them — this way, you’ll be able to recall them easily in the flow of conversation.
Here’s an initial question and a couple of follow-up questions that you can use to close an advance.
Initial question: “Does it make sense for us to [ideal advance]?”
If the prospect says “yes”, take the conversation forward with:
Follow-up question: “Great — what is a good next step?”
If they say “no, that doesn’t make sense yet”, it’s time to switch to your backup plan:
Follow-up question: “Okay, no problem. At this stage, most clients like to [secondary advance]. Should we go ahead and schedule that?”
If the prospect says “no” again, ask them what they feel is a good next step — this will tell you where they are in the buying cycle and how far they’re willing to go to advance the sale.
Hi there, I am Maddy. I help B2B & SaaS founders get first 1000 customers and scale fast!
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