They both need structure.
I have a 5 year old daughter and I’ve realized that if you don’t give kids any structure or guidelines/rules they go crazy. I know some friends who allow their kids to do whatever they want and are absolute nightmares because of it. The kids are the ones in control, not the parents. My wife and I give our daughter structure and I’m not saying she’s a saint but she’s a hell of a lot easier to deal with than most.
To a certain degree the same applies when dealing with executives throughout the sales process. If you don’t give an executive any structure they will end up taking control and driving the sales process however they want. This doesn’t help anyone since they don’t always know what they need or how your solutions can really address their true issues.
This is easy to prove out if you’ve ever gone on ‘ride along’ meetings with your manager or VP. I’ve been on both sides of this one so I know. The scenario is the rep is going on a client meeting with their manager who is mainly there to observe and should only interject when needed. If the rep isn’t prepared and there is no structure to the meeting the manager eventually interrupts and takes control of the meeting when they see it start to get off track. The more frequent example is when a rep has a meeting with an executive from a prospective client and goes on it by themselves. If the rep isn’t prepared the executives ends up taking that meeting in wherever direction they want.
Here are some simple things you can do to put structure to your meetings with executives to give you a better chance at controlling the process:
- Write down your goals for your meetings
- Send a “shared agenda” the day before the meeting asking them to send you any agenda items they want to add
- Use the agenda to start and guide the meeting
- Do your research and prepare specific questions in addition to your typical qualification questions.
- Don’t ask about next steps, tell them what the next steps should be.
- After your meetings, send a summary e-mail that outlines the key points to your discussion and ask them to confirm its accuracy.
By the way, if you do these things, Executives will respect you and the process more often than not, just like kids.
Good luck and happy selling.