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4-on-1 isn’t a fair fight in consultative selling! …or is it?

You go to visit a prospect and there are several of them… and only one of you. Maybe you’ve never even seen some of them before.  It happens all the time.  Maybe there are three, four, five or more people, and you are flying solo.  It can be pretty scary.  What’s the best way to handle this?

Even seasoned professionals will tell you it can be disconcerting, and we hear this frequently in our Consultative Selling Skills workshops. With four clients in the meeting, you can have four different personalities, four different objectives, four different agendas, four different sets of needs, and too often, four different reasons not to buy.

Yet the four-on-one group meeting provides you with a very effective way to differentiate yourself. It is a great time to use your facilitation skills.  It is a great time to demonstrate how client focused you are.  And it is a great time to present your company in a favorable light.

It starts with introductions. In our sales training workshops there are three things we encourage participants to learn about each person there—their name, their role in the organization, and what they want to get out of the meeting. Do this if there are two people there or six. It is critically important. You need to know who you are talking to and you need to know why they are there.  You go first and model the behavior. Then ask them to follow your lead. Ask them for their role as opposed to their title. Titles can be misleading, and for some people, embarrassing.

Write down their names. Try to memorize them as introductions evolve. Capture their objectives in a few key words. Thank each person as you do it. When possible, use their name when you thank them, and if you can banter just a bit during the process to set the climate, that can help.

Know your audience. We’ve all heard the horror stories about very senior people participating in these kinds of meetings and not getting attention, or junior people dominating a meeting to the chagrin of everyone else.  Know your audience—it’s a key tenet in our Consultative Selling Skills workshop.

If it is a presentation, then review the needs you learned previously right away and explain how you learned them. Check with the rest of the group to see if there are other needs or areas of disagreement. But get everyone on the same page early.  The last thing you want is to present against the wrong set of needs.

If there is disagreement, defer to your host. Ask him or her how they would like to proceed. Let them make those decisions.  (“Mary, we seem to have some disagreement here.  Could you please clarify this?”…)

Do everything you can to address each person’s objective (e.g., “Frank, you were interested in the transition process, let me explain how we can do that” or, Pam, you wanted a clearer explanation of the fees; I’d be pleased to do that now…”).

If you can’t address someone’s agenda, acknowledge that and assure them you will call or send them the information or even meet with them separately. But don’t discount anyone; they’ll be sure to express their dissatisfaction to the team after you’ve left when they debrief the meeting.

It’s all about facilitation. It’s your ability to use your process skills to make it work. Even if it’s a needs determination meeting and you have multiple participants, be sure to involve everyone.  Draw out those who are reluctant to speak and do what you can not to let anyone dominate. Make sure that everyone participates and has the opportunity to express their needs.

Conclude the meeting as if it were one-on-one. Check in to see if anyone else has anything to add. Thank the group for their time. Clarify the next steps. Use their names when you say goodbye. Be gracious and appreciative. Do these things as you would in a one-on-one meeting with the large group and you will stand out.

Make it a good use of their time. The bottom line is to realize that everyone is there for a reason. They will appreciate it and you will reap the rewards moving forward.