by Debra Partridge
Imagine that it's 10:45 a.m. and you're sitting in a darkened conference room with three other people watching a PowerPoint presentation. You're halfway through your second large cup of coffee with a double shot of espresso, trying desperately to stay awake. After 45 minutes, the presenter is only on slide 32 of his 50-slide PowerPoint deck. Your brain doesn't want to focus. You keep thinking about all of the other things you could be doing right now. You can no longer absorb anything the presenter is saying because it all sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher.
Do you enjoy being in this situation? Do you think your clients do? You can save yourself and others from boring and time-wasting presentations.
I used to create a PowerPoint presentation for almost every client meeting. I would spend hours making sure I had everything in that deck-the history of our company, our office locations, the logos of our key customers, an overview of all of our business lines, a couple of impressive case studies and a partridge in a pear tree!
Unfortunately, in many of the meetings, it took me so long to get through the deck that we never had enough time to talk about the client's needs. I wonder how many clients I lost because I focused on my PowerPoint crutch instead of listening to the customer's needs.
Today, I rarely-if ever-prepare a PowerPoint presentation for a meeting. Instead, I use a process called dynamic meeting preparation. The process has six simple steps:
Step 1: Have one goal, and only one goal for the meeting. Your goal always should be to advance either your relationship or your business dealings with the client.
Step 2: Frame the meeting. Tell the prospect exactly what your goal is for the meeting. Too often, we justify the first meeting with, "We're not here to sell you anything. We're just here to get to know you." If that really is your goal, then you won't get to the next step, you'll just have a nice chat and waste everyone's time. Instead, tell the client exactly why you are there.
Step 3: Prepare for half the time and twice the time for the meeting. When is the last time a sales meeting went exactly as you planned? By being prepared for half the time, you will be sure to hit your key points and not get sidetracked with anecdotes or dialogue that doesn't get you to the next step. By preparing for twice the time, you will be able to spend more time learning about your client's needs, or even be able to start work on your investment strategy.
Step 4: Prepare tough questions ahead of time. Think about tough questions they might ask you and also prepare some that you will ask them. Think of questions that are strategic, financial, technical, process-oriented or relationship-oriented.
Step 5: Adapt to the client's thinking style. Make sure you are prepared to communicate to their preferences, not yours. If you can't determine their thinking style, be prepared to cover all four thinking preferences. (Read more about this in Mary Corbin's Aug. 13 post "What's Your Client's Thinking Style?" in FPA's Practice Management Center blog.)
Step 6: Prepare your materials. Based on the five steps above, determine what the best presentation materials might be. Do you really need a 20-page PowerPoint, or can you get to the next step with a one-page description of your business model and a list of ways you can help the client?
Getting that first meeting with a new prospect is a huge win for you. Don't waste your time doing the wrong things before the meeting. Instead, do your research on the prospect and be prepared for a dynamic meeting that is almost guaranteed to get you to the next step.
Do you have any additional steps for preparing for meetings? If so, start or join a discussion on this topic at FPA Connect (Connect.FPAnet.org).
Debra Partridge is a certified GrowBIG® facilitator, coach, instructional designer and writer for Bunnell Idea Group. She has more than 30 years of experience in sales, sales training, leadership, team building, mentoring, coaching and facilitation.