Prospect coming to town? This gives you a business dinner, live event, or in-office meeting to impress your prospect and show them how much their business means to your company.
HubSpot Corporate Team Manager Ben Nadol says, “Personalization is king."
He continues, "Truly understand the organizational challenges your prospect is facing, and use in-person time to help them understand the capabilities your product or service has to solve for those challenges.”
Nadol advises, “If you’re proactive about being stewards for your prospects during in-person time, they’re more likely to quickly sort out if your product or service is right for them.”
Together, Ben and I fleshed out a guide for making the most of prospect dinners, live events, and office visits. No matter your budget size, we’ll show you how to get the most from face time with your prospects and set your company apart.
Oh, and Ben shares the one thing you should never do during an in-person meeting.
Identify the Biggest Challenge in the Sales Process
When scheduling a dinner with your prospect, start by identifying the biggest challenge in their sales process. Are they struggling to get executive support? Unsure one of your key features will meet their needs? Nadol says, “Determine what your prospect is grappling with and craft a dinner experience that addresses those challenges.”
Invite a customer who has experience making the case for your product or service to their executives. Or include someone from the product team to explain key features. Nadol continues, “It comes down to the core philosophy of being candid with your prospects and consultative throughout the sales process.”
Once you’ve identified the biggest challenge your prospect is facing, you can go to the next step: Inviting the right people.
Invite the Right People
When planning a prospect dinner, Nadol recommends asking yourself, “Is this dinner more valuable if I involve an existing customer or a coworker who can drive a more meaningful conversation?”
If your prospect has specific concerns, invite a customer who can speak to those fears. Nadol says, “Have an existing customer be the lynchpin for that dinner. Or invite an industry thought leader. They might not be deal-specific, but they will offer more value to your prospect.”
Make it About Them
When it comes to planning the logistics of your dinner, Nadol says the one thing reps should never do is lose sight of whom it’s for. He says, “The minute you start making it about the location you’ve chosen or the food you want to eat is the minute you lose sight of the prospect’s priorities. You’re also probably losing their interest and belief that you’re a partner focused on their needs as opposed to a run-of-the-mill sales engine trying to get a deal done and using a dinner to do it.”
Always make the dinner about your prospect, and let that sentiment be a reflection of the rest of your sales style and process.
Take Things Slow
Just as you would on a date, don’t wolf down your food and knock back three drinks before you’ve even received the menus. Arrange for pre-ordered hors d'oeuvres so you have something to graze on as you’re getting settled.
Take your time and pace yourself. You want as much face time as possible with your prospect, so eat slowly, allow time for questions, and pace yourself on drinks.
Holster the Phone
Don’t set your phone on the table. Studies show that even the presence of a cell phone diminishes the quality of face-to-face interaction and serves as a distraction. Instead, keep your phone tucked away and ensure it’s off or set to silent.
The time you’ve blocked off with your prospect is for work. All other phone calls, texts, or emails are only getting in the way of moving the deal right in front of you ahead. Treat this time with your prospect like a formal meeting and use appropriate phone etiquette.
Don’t Start Selling Before Dessert
And by that, I mean the figurative or literal dessert. You don’t want the time you spend with your prospect to be all about business. It’s in your best interest to make sure your prospect is at ease and thinking about anything but business most of the time you’re together. Nadol says, “Prioritize humanity and human interaction over business to get things rolling.”
Wait for shop talk until the evening is wrapping up. It relieves pressure from your prospect and gives them ample time to bring up the topic on their own.
Make the Dinner Memorable
If a classic business dinner is the route you take, here are a few things to remember. Always have a reservation, and try to reserve a prime table or private room. Arrange for special attention or a favorite waiter, and order an item that’s not on the menu for an impressive touch.
Let the waitstaff know ahead of time that you’ll be handling the bill. And as always, be generous with your tip.
Call Them the Uber (or Lyft)
Don’t just pick up the bill for dinner or a show. Take care of your prospect’s transportation as well. When things are winding down and your prospect says it’s time for them to call a car service, politely tell them you’d like to take care of it.
Open the app on your phone and enter their desired destination. It’s the cherry on top of what has hopefully be a thoughtful and memorable time.
The Live Event
Review the Guest List
Most events will have a Facebook page or Twitter hashtag. Follow both to keep track of who’s attending. Reach out before the event and follow prospects on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you get on their radar before they meet a hundred people, you’ll have a greater chance of standing out and making a meaningful connection.
Create an Agenda
Whether your company is hosting a conference or live event or you’re simply attending, Nadol recommends building a custom agenda for your prospects. “Go through the agenda and work with Marketing to understand which events will be valuable for your prospects to attend,” he says.
When preparing for INBOUND, Nadol has his reps create timetables with suggested sessions, directions to each room, and even the length of time it takes to get from room to room. “We direct them on what their INBOUND schedule should be so they can get the most from this huge event.”
Create a Joint Evaluation Plan
Ever made plans to meet a prospect for the first time, only to arrive and realize you don’t know what they look like?
Nadol says this is a basic problem he and his team face regularly. “Imagine a world of selling over the phone -- without video -- and not knowing what folks look like,” he explains. “It creates challenges when meeting people.”
To resolve this issue, Nadol’s team proactively shares a “joint evaluation plan” before meeting a prospect for the first time.
This plan is collaborative and incorporates suggestions from both prospect and rep on what they’ll discuss and where they’ll meet, along with LinkedIn photos. This ensures that both sides know the who, what, and where of your meeting. Nadol says, “This gets the ball rolling faster. You can cover more during your in-person time if you’ve squared this away beforehand.”
Don’t Expect to Close
Use live events to better understand prospect pain points and needs. Listen, ask questions, and lay the groundwork for future conversations. If you try to push a close during an event, you’ll likely overwhelm and drive your prospects further away.
Make the most of the business cards, email addresses, and pain points you glean from prospects at live events. Use an app like Evernote to stay organized.
Their business card camera captures crystal clear images, and the app automatically saves prospect’s names, titles, companies, contact info, and LinkedIn profiles to a single contact note. Business card scanning is an Evernote Premium feature, but Basic and Plus users get a free year of scanning when they connect their LinkedIn and Evernote accounts.
It’s also smart to download your CRM’s mobile app. Take a moment to add notes about your prospect and calendar reminders for follow-up outreach to your CRM as they’re walking away.
Live events are another good venue for introducing prospects to relevant customers or industry thought leaders. Nadol says, “There may be cool cross-pollination strategies for having current clients meet with prospects.”
“If you’re prescriptive with suggested agendas, you can spot commonalities with prospects and get them signed up for the right happy hours, special events, or private meet-and-greets that will be relevant and valuable to them,” concludes Nadol.
The Office Visit
Piggyback on Other Trips
You might not have travel budget to spare, but what if you spot a Twitter post where your prospect announces an upcoming visit to your town? Reach out and ask if they can spare time for you.
It’s a casual way to get in front of your prospect and make a big impression without dipping into a maxed-out travel budget. If the circumstances are just right, you can also leverage trips they’re making to nearby cities or states to offset travel costs. Just make sure your prospect can fit you in before making travel arrangements.
Set Them at Ease
Prospects can feel pressure or nervousness the first time you meet -- especially during in-office visits where either you or they have traveled a great distance.
Nadol recommends starting your meeting with old-fashioned ice breakers. “Go around the table -- starting with yourself -- and ask folks to share their most recent vacation or their favorite sports team. Once you get them talking about something other than work, you can build rapport on a human level before moving on to business.”
Roll Out the (Office) Red Carpet
Make your prospect’s office visit feel special. Ensure workspaces and meeting rooms are tidy, arrange for a fresh assortment of bagels or pastries from a local bakery, and have fresh coffee waiting.
Take them on a tour of your office, give them a swag bag, and introduce them to a few of the friendly faces who’ll be working on their account. It’s a simple yet personable way to make a lasting impression.
Make it Original
Don’t assume your prospect has plans once they leave your office. After the meeting, offer to take your prospect for an authentic taste of the city. Head to a locals-only spot heavy on atmosphere.
If your client is staying for a longer period of time -- say, through the weekend -- recommend a few sites and restaurants. Offer to take them on your favorite nearby hike, recommend a less-crowded ski slope, and make sure you meet up with them for an informal afternoon beer or coffee.
Entertaining a prospect doesn’t have to involve fanfare, but it should be special. Whatever your budget or plans, make your prospect feels valued, listened to, and taken care of. Nadol stresses, “Don’t underestimate transitioning from a virtual sale to a personal one.” Invest in thoughtful in-person interactions and set your sales process apart from your competition.
Originally published Sep 25, 2017 6:30:00 AM, updated September 25 2017