A great way to boost your chances of realizing a successful outcome to an important client meeting is to include your resident technical expert, aka domain or subject matter expert. That’s the person (or team) in your organization who has the most comprehensive and intricate knowledge of the goods and services you’re out there on the frontlines selling. That individual could have a title such as systems engineer or solution architect. Whatever their title, they can add value to your customer meetings, bringing credibility and that certain something extra you might need to gain a competitive edge and complete a sale.
But before you bring them in for that all-important meeting, avoid these common pitfalls:
- Assuming that just having your technical expert in the room will bring you that sought-after credibility
- Thinking your technical expert won’t need any coaching or prep work for the meeting; that they will just know what they need to do
- Deciding that their attending the meeting will be as important to them as it is to you
Prior to promising the client you’ll bring in an expert—and definitely prior to bringing in that expert—take the following steps so that your expert’s presence is a great asset, not an unfortunate liability.
Don’t Pick a Wild Card
Choose carefully, making sure the expert you pick is one that will gel with the client. Once you’ve identified that person, meet with her or him to discuss things like their role and what you expect from them as far as participation. Make it clear how you’d like them to contribute to the meeting.
Remember, while you are well-versed in the “rules” of client meetings, your expert does not necessary possess that kind of knowledge. It’s more likely that he or she is used to being the focal point of meetings—perhaps running them or presenting to the C-suite. So get them up to speed by making them an integral part of any and all prep you do prior to the client meeting. This should include things like:
- Essential data about the client
- Relevant facts about the client’s company
- Attendees’ names and titles/roles
- The client’s needs—and how you plan to meet them
Do a Run-Through
During your prep meeting, run through your opening and how you’ll introduce your expert. Take the opportunity to engage in role playing: Even a short role-playing session will prove invaluable. Lastly, it’s extremely beneficial to preview for the expert what additional topics could surface during the client meeting, along with any objections the client might bring to the table.
Rules of the Game
Experience has shown us that holding client meetings can be like doing a high-wire act with a feather in one hand and an anvil in the other. Things can get out of balance quickly. Of the utmost importance, of course, is how you interact with the client. As we said above, your tech expert could be a client-meeting newbie; you don’t want them inadvertently committing any faux pas when it comes to client interactions. Take preemptive measures by setting ground rules for your expert to adhere to. At the top of the rules list are:
- Your expert follows your cues
- Anything off the cuff is kept to a minimum
After your successful client meeting, debrief with your “plus one.” Let your expert know how invaluable their contribution was. Keeping them abreast of developments with the client will not only make them feel more included in the process, it will bridge-build between you and them. And there’s nothing wrong with solidifying trust between your department and theirs. This step is not only an investment in future meetings, it will help make it enjoyable, productive, and comfortable to go forth together into a beautiful working relationship.