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Big Client Meeting Ahead? “Ready, Set, Rehearse!”

Why is it that professionals in other fields—  sports, entertainment, law, aviation, medicine, etc. — routinely practice and rehearse their skills in as-realistic-as-possible simulations, yet salespersons rarely rehearse client presentations, let alone unscripted client meetings?  From the salesperson’s perspective, the stakes are just as high, and often the circumstances warrant thorough preparation.  This blog post urges you to rehearse, video record and debrief  important future client meetings, and offers some tips on how to do it well.

Surprisingly, impromptu client-dialog meetings can be managed, too—  if you’ve anticipated some likely different pathways and practiced directing them toward making the sale.  Get a knowledgeable colleague to play your client, and do a real-time simulated meeting with the camera rolling.

Even if the actual meeting goes very differently than your rehearsal— which will often be the case— you’ll benefit greatly from having practiced.  First, the dry-run will have forced you to be more buttoned-up, not only on product selling points but on meeting facilitation, too.  Second, you’ll simply feel more confident and better able to handle whatever happens, psychologically ready for the curve ball as well as the fast ball.

When watching the recording, pay attention to meeting process— how the discussion is conducted.  Be conscious of the sequence of events:  meeting positioning;  situation analysis (questioning the client);  offering recommendations;  resolving client issues;  closing and next steps.  Arguably even more important are the skills you’ll use:  introductions, rapport building;  agenda setting;  (supportive) questioning and (thoughtful) listening for needs;  presenting solutions to those needs;  and using exactly those same skills in resolving objections.  (For more on process issues, see our blog on “The Problem Solving/Selling Connection,”  Friday, Dec 09, 2011.)

Be a ‘fly on the wall,’ observing your own process behavior in facilitating the simulated meeting to both the client’s benefit and to yours.  Use the video to judge your efforts at being an expert referee as well as an expert player in this selling ‘game.’

An important caveat:  if you’re not accustomed to seeing yourself on video, don’t view your first few rehearsal videos alone.  Many salespersons are irrationally hard on themselves, and go beyond objective, constructive criticism by dwelling on inconsequential (often trivial appearance and habits) issues.  So, ask a respected colleague— ideally, whomever played the client— to view the video with you and serve as your ‘reality check.’

Here’s how valuable the rehearsal video is:  none of the above tips and techniques matter nearly as much as simply making and viewing the rehearsal video in the first place.  Without any coaching or instruction, you already have enough common sense, good judgment and selling expertise to learn from your practice, and thus to be better in the actual client meeting.

Today’s video technology simply, easily and cheaply gives us the magical gift that 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns longed for: “…to see ourselves as others see us.”  Why not put this now-commonplace miracle to work for you as a salesperson?