By: Jeff Hoffman
Field salespeople have one major advantage over inside reps: Establishing relationships with your prospects is far easier when you’re sitting across the table from them rather than talking to them through a computer screen.
But face-to-face meetings come with their own challenges.
Thanks to subtle body language cues you’re probably not aware of, it’s much trickier to disguise any nervousness or anxiety. You also might feel thrown off by presenting on your prospect’s territory, not your own.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve developed three highly effective ways to make in-person meetings go smoothly. Once you see for yourself how successful these are, you’ll always use them.
1) Arrive Early
Ask your prospect if you can arrive 15 minutes early to set up. This has several benefits. First, it guarantees your meeting will take place in a conference room, rather than their office — which will balance the power dynamic.
Second, this strategy ensures you won’t spend your pre-meeting time sitting in the lobby waiting for someone to come get you. Your nerves will be much calmer if you’re focused on getting ready.
Third, it lets you settle in and familiarize yourself with the space. You can figure out how the projector works, which whiteboard markers to use, and where you should sit. Knowing these things in advance — rather than learning them while everyone’s in the room — will make you more confident and less likely to fumble during your presentation.
Lastly, when the attendees walk in, they’ll subconsciously feel like you’re receiving them in your office. You’ll instantly seem more authoritative and credible.
Wondering how to phrase this request? Try something along the lines of, “I’d like to get the room ready before our meeting. If I come at [time], is there someone who can show me to the conference room?”
2) Request a Tour
During the initial small talk phase of the meeting, casually request a tour. Hear me out: People find it much harder to act aggressively or unfairly toward you when they know they’ll be showing you around their company in an hour. Plus, a tour gives them a chance to show off what they’re proud of. You might even get additional insight into their priorities, motivations, and challenges.
This is also a great opportunity to get referrals. While you’re walking around, you’ll probably run into someone your contact wants you to meet. A face-to-face introduction is extremely powerful — and you’ll be getting that intro hours, if not entire days, before the competition.
I usually phrase this as an aside: “By the way, I’d love to see [the rest of the office, the floor, the plant]. If we end early, can you show me around?”
The prospect says sure, usually thinking, “Salespeople never end meetings early.” Well, you will.
3) Finish on Time
On a similar note, never let your meeting run long — even if the customer asks for it. As soon as you go over, you lose control. The extra time is for your prospect, so they’re the one driving the conversation. And that’s the absolute worst time they could be in charge. When the discussion ends, they should remember you as the authority.
Let’s say your prospect says, “I know we only have 10 minutes left, but this is really interesting and I’d love my coworker Brad to jump in. Can you stay a little longer?”
Reply, “I’m glad you want to continue, but unfortunately I have another meeting.” Then look at your watch and add, “If you want, I can actually come back in a couple hours.”
This response accomplishes two things. You imply that your product is in-demand and your time is highly sought-after, both of which raise your status. You also get two additional hours to prepare for your second meeting. (Always treat a request for more time as a second meeting, not a continuation of the first.)
It took many meetings for me to hit on these strategies — they’re not intuitive. Luckily, you don’t need to go through the same learning process: You can start using them right away.
This blog originally appeared on Jeff’s Hubspot Blog in 2017.