Take care to prepare — or dare to go nowhere.
By Alex Dripchak
Successful salespeople know that preparing for finalist meetings is serious business. With everything at stake and do-overs not an option, the choice is clear: Take care to prepare — or dare to go nowhere.
So what are these sales stars’ secrets? Start with these seven tips.
- Plan ahead for the hard(est) questions.
The last thing you need in a finalist meeting is to be stumped by a question. So rather than try to pray it away, play it awry: Simulate the hardest questions that could be asked and then battle-test your responses. In planning ahead, you’ll not only take weakness off the table, you’ll be ready with cogent responses that showcase strength.
- Look for prior ties to your company.
Find out if your prospect might have worked with your company through a former employer. You can start by checking your CRM system against their LinkedIn profile, and then if there is a past connection, asking their account manager about the relationship. If they were a satisfied client, see if they’d consider putting in a good word for you. And if they weren’t, get to the bottom of what went wrong, lest you walk into a firestorm in the finalist meeting.
- Enlist your internal champion’s involvement.
You can talk up your market presence all you want, but it’ll have a lot more weight if your internal champion agrees to tout it for you. Additionally, if they happen to have a use case or peer study, ask them to share it firsthand. Bottom line, the more you can position yourself as the director behind the camera rather than the star of the show, the better off you’ll be.
- Focus on your delivery as much as your content.
No matter how revolutionary your product or service may be, it’ll get lost inside a long, monotonous soliloquy. So work on really energizing your delivery, particularly on your key differentiators, and then practice it a few times. Personally, I like using something I’ve dubbed the PET technique, which accentuates the power of pauses, emphasis, and tone.
Also, if you’re presenting as a team, be sure to mix in new voices with different speakers. You can do this to introduce or highlight specific information, as well as wake up any attendees who may have tuned out, especially if you’ve lapsed back into a soliloquy.
The point being here is that how you deliver your messages is as important as the messages themselves.
- Agree on the agenda in advance.
Fact is, you can spend hours on crafting a powerful presentation, but it’ll be all for naught if you fail to align your agenda with your prospect’s priorities.
Now, you’re probably thinking that you’re perfectly capable of creating a meeting agenda, and moreover, that your own priorities are important, too. Even so, make sure to agree on the agenda in advance and then prepare your messages and materials accordingly.
- Arrange for some uninterrupted setup time.
More often than not, your setup time is probably co-mingled with participant arrivals, introductions, and the requisite chitchat. But the problem is that this can compromise your attention to detail, leading to hiccups (e.g., technical issues or disorganized handouts) during the meeting.
The good news is that there’s an easy fix: Simply arrange for some uninterrupted setup time with your internal champion. Even a few extra minutes on your own can go a long way toward a polished presentation.
- Take extra precautions when videoconferencing.
Chances are, some of your finalist meetings are taking place via videoconference, especially given the current pandemic. So when that’s the case, work to head any technology or connectivity issues off at the pass. For example, dial in with your phone in case your computer acts up, and temporarily disable pop-ups like scheduling updates or meeting reminders.
Also, consider the full range of potential problems in advance, including issues with lighting, sound, resolution, or your background. Heaven forbid, for instance, that your audio or video is wonky (and thereby distracting) or that you unwittingly have something embarrassing sitting out where everyone can see it.
Finally, as the legendary NCAA basketball coach John Wooden said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” So when it comes to your finalist meetings, take care to prepare — or dare to go nowhere.
Alex Dripchak is a sales and career-readiness expert based in New York City. His professional experience includes serving as a relationship manager at Mercer, a global HR consulting leader, and a sales manager and outside producer in HR software at the tech giant Oracle. He is the author of “100 Skills of the Successful Sales Professional” (Business Expert Press, 2021) and
the co-founder of Commence, a breakthrough college-to-career skills development program.