Handling client meetings in the pre-sales stage

Handling client meetings in the pre-sales stage

Objective: to stage your meeting

1 – You

You are:

The technical expert

  • You have the knowledge, so you don’t need to justify yourself
  • You are not subject to the doubts brought on by a sales conversation

The advisor

  • Your role is not to sell. You are there simply to give advice and do your job as a consultant.
    Therefore your advice does not have the same value/weight as the propositions of a salesperson would.

The coach

  • Pass on knowledge, continuous improvement, develop towards increased profitability
  • Often the opposite of a sales pitch, where you tend to want to stay in charge as much as possible.

The change manager:

  • Analyse risks and resistance, communicate and pursue dialogue.
  • You listen to the operational/organisational problems of the client to work out a possible path of
    development (for instance a discovery report)

The business enhancer

  • You are at the beginning of some new requirements, you are supporting a future sales procedure and the
    operational relay of the salesperson.


2 – Scenarios



You are proposing a strategic solution:

  • The stakes, key factors for success
  • Organisational aspects
  • Expertise, references, skillsets
  • Merits
  • Rephrasing, persuasion, preparation for the closing

The demonstration

You are presenting an aspect of the solution, it’s a tactical step which plays the part in a wider process.

  • Difficult exercise, quite different to the other presentations
  • Should be scripted and rehearsed
  • Personalise with the client’s information
  • Put the merits of the scheme at the forefront

The ‘strategic’ Steering Committee, which deals with the future and development


You are departing from your operational viewpoint to engage with new avenues of development and prepare for change.

  • Open questions, listening, rephrasing
  • Action plans
  • Change management


3 – Fundamental principles

How will your audience deal with the information?

  • What quality of attention will they give?
  • Depending on their role and their experience
  • Depending on their emotions and feelings

Structure your demonstration like a play

Use a script and divide it into scenes

  • Structure your script to tell a story (introduction, development, and conclusion)
  • Stage it in a way your audience will be familiar with

The use of aspects of the sub-scene which speak to the client for examples or to give clarification

Direct your efforts

  • 20 % of your scenes will create 80% of the impact on you audience
  • Not all of your audience will find the same parts important.


4 – Tripping yourself up

Some common errors

  • Getting lost or missing the mark
  • Using too many acronyms
  • Being too technically focused
  • Teaching or explaining instead of presenting
  • Criticizing the practices of the audience or of their profession
  • Losing the audience’s attention
  • Using somebody else’s presentation.

Unexpected factors     

All it takes is an error of several seconds to discredit a part of the meeting, or even the entire thing.

  • Loss of confidence, of attention, of motivation etc.

5 – Techniques

The Explain-Present-Summarize technique

Explain to your audience what you are going to show them.

  • Get up, move away from your keypad or your notes, switch to a blank slide or hit the ‘hide screen’ key.

Show them

  • Use your slides, your presentation aides, your experts…

Then explain the benefits

  • Get up, move away from your keypad or your notes, switch to a blank slide or hit the ‘hide screen’ key.

Use the explain-demonstrate-promote for each scene, or even each sub-scene


The technique of alternation

Flipchart or whiteboard

  • Opening: explain

Main PowerPoint or demonstration

  • Present/ Demonstrate

Secondary PowerPoint or other documents

Organigram, chart, lists, graphics, images, videos, but no complete sentences.

  • Sub-scenes or conclusion
  • Rephrase and summarize the benefits

The triangle: You pass from one to the other in a precise order which you have planned beforehand

The techniques of presenting the benefits

Why would a client want to implement the solution you have just shown them?

  • Context, data, specifics regarding client’s company.

Which elements allow you to prove that your solutions have already been successfully implemented elsewhere?

  • Measurements (Return on Investment), client references, experts in the sector.

Use the blank slide technique to present a benefit before giving proof, or demonstrating it, of after a

How to use your arguments successfully:

  • An advantage is something which benefits the client.
  • An advantage must be personalised for the client.
  • An advantage is a beneficial solution for the user.
  • An advantage is something which benefits the company as a whole for a decision-maker.

Use different types of arguments:

  • Arguments regarding my company’s status (size, age, type of clients, organisational structure etc.)
  • Arguments regarding the skillset of my company (expertise, certification, our success story, quality etc.)
  • Arguments regarding the proposed solution (advantages for the client, set up, flexibility etc.)
  • The arguments regarding the client themselves (resolving a problem he has already faced for instance.)

6 – Emotional intelligence

Techniques aimed at attracting the attention of your audience (EI)

General IE Techniques.

  • Standing/ seated, using questions, using first or last names, drive and enthusiasm, roleplays,

Primary IE techniques:

  • Tell a story
  • Use a presentation aide: flipchart or whiteboard, video, even a second PowerPoint.

Supportive IE techniques

  • Props, images, current events, humour, associating your message with an expert, facts and figures,
    curiosity and drive

7 – Quick wins

Simplify it:

  • Make it easy to follow for your public (hook, short sentences, simple words.)
  • Articulate, speak slowly, use silence.
  • Have a simple structure to make it memorable.
  • Make it accessible: it must be comprehensible for your fellow salespersons.

Promote it:

  • Stakes, key factors to success
  • Context: benefits and pressure points
  • Orientate it to the client
  • Summarize/ listen to the client

Make it dynamic:

  • Reenergise your audience every 20 to 45 minutes.
  • Operational benefits= massive added value (in the language of the client.)
  • Use a variety of IE techniques.


8 – Control your audience

Knowing how to respond to a client means:

Identifying who poses the question

  • His power, his role, friend or enemy (according to the power-map you’ve made beforehand).

Weigh up the question. Is it?

  • Personal vs. common interest
  • Following a strategic objective vs. speculative
  • To help or to hinder us
  • Technical vs. organisational
  • Focused on the profession vs. the solution
  • Change vs. conservatism

Rephrase the question before responding:

  • Brief response, return to a point you have already explained, give a simple example.

A question is a potential objection:

If they raise an objection reply with ‘indeed….and’


The different kinds of objections

Insincere and unfounded (provocation)

  • Deal with these quickly (10s)
  • Favour non-verbal communication
  • Don’t deal with them fully, just kick them into touch

Sincere but unfounded (incomprehension)

  • Deal with these slowly (1-2 mins)
  • Rephrase proposal thoroughly
  • Explain your proposal

Sincere and well-founded (a factual objection)

  • Spend a medium amount of time on these (30s-1min)
  • Refocus back on the advantages for the client
  • Convince them

Objections should also be dealt with differently depending on the person who raises them.

What attitude you should assume:

  • ACTIVE LISTENING= repeat key words from the audience
  • SYNCHRONISATION= contextualise your responses to the audience
  • EMPATHY= Return to the points which seem important
  • CURIOSITY= Ask questions if you don’t understand, rephrase answers to check understanding
  • PROCEDURE= Prepare, structure clearly, time it, break it down, rehearse…

Take note: Allowing discussion at the right moment is a crucial element for your meeting

  • The development of the client’s opinions must stem from you
  • Preparation and rehearsal of your presentation are fundamental
  • Using the aforementioned techniques highlights your expertise, draws interest and gives rhythm to your
  • The better you know your audience the more convincing you will be.


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