When is a “meeting” a sales call?

Let me give you a hint…it’s always a sales call.

Recently I have been doing some consulting work with an organisation and as part of this project we invited an external consultant to come and give us guidance in relation to what we had in mind. This was not a “free consulting” session rather a sales opportunity for the consultant. Our objectives were to give the consultant information about the current situation, explain what we want to achieve, send them away to work out what we need to do and then receive a quote to do the work specified.

The person arrived on time and we got into the subject of the meeting. We had around 7 main items to discuss and this was supported by some background information and explanations of future plans. After much information sharing it was over to the consultant for some comments. Most of what we got was something like “item 3 yes we will do backups” “item 5 we already talked about” and so on. This approach did nothing to enhance the perception of competence that they ought to have been trying to build.

OK, we do some more talking (and probably do too much talking) and it seems time to close the meeting. We ask for their proposal/guidelines to achieve what we want to do and suggest that they go away and consider our issues and formulate their plan of attack. The consultant then asked us if we would be able to send them the details that we had written on the whiteboard as a guide for the discussion.

Some comments from me -

  • the consultant took NO notes at all
  • the consultant wanted us to send them the information that they needed to gain our business
  • they supplied an email address that was closer to the teenager end of the naming spectrum than the business end
  • some of the information that they provided was factually incorrect (product models and version numbers)

Tips

  1. All meetings such as this are sales calls
  2. You must take notes. Even if you have perfect recall it is polite to make notes of what the client has said and the information that they have given you. At least you have the opportunity to get the facts straight and provide a response that meets the clients expectations.
  3. For goodness sake get a decent email address if you are a one man or small business. A good email address does not include the name of your ISP. It does include the name of your business or your branding. It is really low cost to have at least your email hosted by a service provider. This blog is currently hosted and email supported for under $10 per month. Surely your business can afford that!
  4. Get your facts straight. I made notes during the session then researched the product and version numbers before the consultant had driven to the end of the street.
  5. Perception is reality. In this case the business owner and myself have doubts regarding the consultants capabilities. Whatever their proposal will be it will be carefully cross checked to assess its credibility and accuracy.

This consultant was recommended by a trusted business contact and it was likely that they would simply have been given the job (virtually without question). That may not be the situation now.

the demoguy…

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