Do your homework

By Aaron Clevenger, vice chair, Generation Next
Muncie Power Products Inc.

This article was originally published in the October 2021 edition of Generation Next Edition.

Have you ever sat down to take a test and thought, “This won’t go well”? Maybe you didn’t set aside enough time to learn the material prior to taking that test. Homework: many of us dreaded it as students.

The truth is that homework doesn’t end after classes are over. Being a good student is just as important in the professional world as it was when we were trying to ace our biology courses. Understanding who you are meeting with and being prepared with a plan can make all the difference. In the September 2021 issue of Generation Next Edition, Governor at Large Anne Sutton shares that one of her top tips for efficient and effective meetings is to invest time at the front end – preparing for the meeting (view the full article). Today, I am going to expand on this with strategies that have worked for me on meeting readiness.

Things to consider: are you meeting with a current customer, or are they a prospect? Will you be spending time with an internal colleague? Each of these instances requires a unique approach.

Current customers

The current customer may be looking for ways to grow together and expand upon their sales with your product. Being in sales, I have several resources at the ready to help with this process.

  1. Take a look at their current sales and identify areas that may be down or nonexistent.
  2. Review their website to identify products that could benefit them not already purchased through you.
  3. Once you’ve identified those areas, research the competition within that realm and identify what sets you apart. Add these items of discussion to your meeting agenda.

Your prospects

The prospect needs you to identify where you can outshine the competition. Before your initial meeting with a prospect, you need to really research who they are and what they stand for. A website or LinkedIn profile can assist you.

A website can help you identify what they do and what services they provide. Knowing this before entering a meeting can help with an ice breaker: “I noticed through your website that you build custom dump bodies.” This builds credibility with the prospect because you’ve taken time to get to know them. It can also help alleviate an awkward and lengthy introduction where they have to describe what they do.

The website can also provide a mission statement so you know what type of people you are meeting as well as their company goals.

Websites and LinkedIn profiles can also help point you to your best point of contact. Once again, add items to a meeting agenda. If this is your first meeting, try not to add too many topics of conversation. You are there to identify areas of pain in which you can help ease. Your ears should be the most active body part in this meeting.

Remember - you are not there to talk about pricing. It’s natural for a prospect to want to drive their operating expenses down, so that is always going to be the first wall they erect. Your product and your service should outshine the cost savings.

Know your competition and what makes you the better fit.

Office colleagues

A member of your team may need you to outline a path forward on a project or opportunity. A supervisor might need to understand why a project is beneficial to the company. Know why you’re there and the goals you’ve set. Never show up to a party empty handed.

A supervisor will want to see that you’ve done your homework, whether it’s spreadsheets, powerpoints, or a portfolio. Try to understand a colleague’s role in the company and what might be the best angle to present.

For instance, I would approach an engineer, a sales representative, and an operations manager differently. An engineer wants product to function properly, a sales representative wants to see margins, and an operations manager wants timely and effective (and cost effective) solutions.

Your homework should be based around what motivates them in their role. Understand who you’re talking to and research accordingly. Once again, add topics to your meeting agenda.

The meeting agenda

I expanded on why it’s important to understand who you’re meeting and discussed strategies to get there, but I also want to drive home the meeting agenda as well. Sending a meeting invite not only locks in your time, but provides the recipient with an idea of your goals. This keeps the conversation on track and allows invitees to do their own homework prior to meeting.

Your preparation can result in more meaningful conversations while eliminating the need to hold additional meetings. So, do your homework and ace your next meeting!