You’ve got five minutes until your meeting with a new prospect and you have zero information at hand.
It took you two weeks to set up this meeting. Canceling is not an option.
I’m big on preparation. But inevitably there are times when my meetings run back to back. I’ll check my email with the 45 seconds I have before my next call begins, and realize I don’t have the notes I need.
At this point, I’ve run thousands of sales meetings and yes — many of those have been had with less than optimal preparation. Rather than provide a lesson on why preparation is key (we all know that), let’s take a look at how to handle the stressful but inescapable moment of running a meeting on the fly.
Can you pull off a professional, seemingly prepped meeting without the resources you typically rely on?
Here are five tactics I use to do just that…
1. Research LinkedIn.
Spend what little time you have looking at the person’s details on linkedin to find common talking points. If you don’t have a business case to discuss, building a relationship through common experience or interests can be the next best thing.
2. Keep a list of reliable, go-to questions.
You should have your go-to questions written down and available for reference at a moment’s notice. It’s better to sound a tad scripted than to sound clueless and confused. My go-to questions include the following…
“An xyz role with many of our clients can mean taking responsibility for multiple tasks. What does this mean in terms of how you prioritize your top day to day activities?”
“How does that fit within your department? Who else is normally involved in this type of decision making?”
“Talk to me about your group’s top two initiatives for 2014? How will those transition into 2015?
“What about tools/tactics you are using today?”
This article on Entrepreneur makes the argument for not only go-to questions, but developing scripts your sales team can turn to regularly for meetings. A simple script for a standard first phone call can make even an inexperienced salesperson feel comfortable with little preparation.
3. Know your sharing tools.
We use Join.me for screen shares during meetings, which is a really handy mobile presentation tool for viewing content. Regardless of which tools you prefer, make sure you know them through and through.
I’ve found that using the pause function on the Join.me screen share allows me to do a little extra research at the beginning of the call. That extra five minutes has saved me time and again — giving me a chance to grab the last minute details I need online.
Even better — a double screen. I love having the extra space for research and resources while I talk.
Lifehacker.com offers some more suggestions on tools to optimize your online meetings. Understand the nuances of these before jumping into a meeting with one, ESPECIALLY if it’s a meeting on the fly.
4. Never apologize.
The client probably won’t notice that you’re winging it unless you point it out. I recently sat in on a Salesforce demo where the rep repeatedly admitted to being unprepared. It’s really difficult to take someone seriously when they’re presenting their downfall front and center.
5. Stick to a schedule and discover.
Trust in your process. You’ve done this before and you can do it again. If you’re comfortable and confident with the schedule you’ve set, then you’ll be able to move through it effortlessly — even with fewer details that you’d like.
Make the goal of the meeting “A quick discovery to see if there is a fit” instead of a full blown walk through. This way the focus is on establishing rapport and a baseline for familiarity with one another. A friendly, inquisitive approach for this purpose will seem natural, rather than unprepared. A discovery call will also set you up with all of the information you need for the follow-up meeting, which you’ll land if this one goes well.
The key to running a meeting on the fly lies in owning your process. No matter how last minute or unexpected, you can run a pretty great meeting if you’ve got these things down.