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Building an effective sales strategy: Part 2

Preparing for a customer meeting and leading it effectively

Pear’s Partner, Pepe Agell, learned the importance of mastering sales during his entrepreneurial journey with Chartboost, a mobile advertising company. Pepe led Chartboost and built sales and go-to-market strategy for the company from its earliest days to its acquisition by Zynga in 2021. He is now a Partner at Pear VC, based in Barcelona and focused on Pear Europe.

This is the second part of our three part series on building an effective sales strategy, focused on three essential stages of the sales process that founders need to master. Before diving into part two, don’t miss part one!

Once your outbound sales efforts have been successful, it’s time to prepare for the meeting and lead it effectively. That starts with thinking carefully about how to use the short amount of time that you have with a client. My suggestion is to allocate your time according to the Pear Guide for Sales Meetings.

The Pear Guide for Sales Meetings

Now let’s double click into some of these steps. Here are a few of the strategies I find effective:

1. Before you even meet with the client, try to diagnose their needs, priorities, and budget. This will set you up for success in the meeting.

Aim to walk into the meeting with a solid understanding of the client’s needs. This will allow you to better understand the opportunities that exist within the company you’re selling to. Specifically, you should:

Learn the basics of the company: make sure to look at the company’s website, Crunchbase profile, and social media pages like LinkedIn, Youtube, and Twitter to understand the stage of growth and number of employees.

Assess the client’s strengths, problems, and pain points: take their products for a spin so you can understand the benefits and challenges first hand. Try to assess how your product could add value to what they’re already doing. If it’s a larger public company that you’re selling to, you should listen to their earnings call or read their investor relations report to learn about the company first-hand from its leadership.

Determine whether it would be beneficial to add a C-level team member in the meeting: as you grow, you can leverage the meeting opportunity to include a VP or C-level executive from your side. This might push the client to include an executive or ultimate decision maker from their side as well, making it easier to close the deal.

2. Set yourself up for success before a virtual meeting begins.

Test the Zoom or Google Meet settings 5 minutes before the call begins. Make sure to setup your tabs for the meeting and turn off all notifications on your phone. You should send a courtesy email with a reminder of the dial-in information. And finally, make sure to send any relevant documents or materials to attendees ahead of time.

3. Kickoff the meeting with introductions and take some time to connect personally with attendees.

It’s a good idea to hop on a little early and make small talk with attendees as they’re logging on. Having a good rapport with your clients can go a long way in relationship building.

Once everyone logs on, introduce yourself properly and let others on the call introduce themselves. You should quickly verify the end time of the meeting so you can pace the meeting appropriately.

From there, I advise going through the agenda and sharing your top-line goals with the clients. You should also inquire about any goals they might have for the meeting. This is an important step, but I wouldn’t spend more than 2-3 minutes in total on this. Then dive in!

4. Discover and learn by using the SPIN method to uncover what the client’s true needs are.

Now that you’ve learned as much information as possible about the client and their needs ahead of time, you can put your best foot forward in the meeting. I like to follow the SPIN method to lead a client meeting.

The acronym SPIN refers to the four types of questions that guide sales conversations: Situation, Problem, Implication and Need. You want to breeze through the S and P questions, and really focus on the I and N questions to get the most out of your meeting.

S: Situation Questions – these questions help you understand the basic facts around the client. In my experience, the questions that fall into this category add very little value to a meeting, and most of these questions can be answered in your own background research ahead of time. My advice is to spend as little time as possible here. Example of a situation question: “How many people do you have on your team?”

P: Problem Questions – rather than focusing on situation questions for a long time, you want to jump into problem questions as soon as possible. Problem questions probe clients on the challenges they’re facing in their day to day and with their current product solution, if they have one. You should be careful not to offend the client, in case they were the one who previously decided on the tool or service being used. Example of a problem question: “What are you missing most in your current solution? Does your current tool ever fail?”

I: Implication Questions – after assessing the problems the team is having, you can really dig into the implications and consequences of those problems on their business. This helps to demonstrate why they need to make a change. Example of an implication question: “What’s the productivity cost when the solution fails? ”

N: Need Questions – these questions are designed to uncover the core needs of the prospective client, the benefits they are looking for out of their next solution, and to guide the client to see the benefit of your product or service as a better solution. Example of a need question: “Wouldn’t it be simpler if the process were automated?”

5. Summarize the learnings and then dive into a demo to share information about your company.

Quickly read back what you heard from the client. Example of a read back: “To make sure that I captured your needs correctly, you are currently missing an automated solution?”

From there, it’s time to dive into your presentation of your company. Share your screen and give a demo to your clients, if possible. Throughout the demo, you can link back to the client’s needs. Example of this: “To your point that productivity costs are high, we believed in keeping costs low by [XYZ solution].”

It also helps to share use cases and case studies of other companies and how they found success with your product.

6. Leave time for answering the client’s questions and to do a proper close.

Summarize your findings and some key points. I find a three-point summary works great, but I try to never make it longer than three points.

Thank everyone for their time, and follow up on next steps. Try to have concrete next steps, and again, no more than three.

You should verify that all goals were met and that the clients don’t have any outstanding questions about the product. Log off the meeting (and make sure everything is logged off, like screen sharing).

7. Send a quick follow up note.

After a sales pitch, schedule a few minutes on your calendar to send follow up notes. I recommend make it a bit fun and memorable (i.e. add a picture of the meeting, or your team using the customer’s product…). Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good – timeliness matters, and it’s better to send a good follow up email quickly vs. a perfect follow up email a week later.

Make sure you also save some time to debrief with team members on your side to plan next steps.

In conclusion, you want to be prepared walking into a client meeting, and you should be extremely thoughtful on how you spend your time in the meeting itself. In part three of this series, we’ll dive deeper into how to craft the perfect sales pitch.

This is part two of a three part series on sales. Stay tuned for more!

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