Join Mike Gamson for an in-depth discussion in this video How to run the meeting, part of Selling to Executives.
- The meeting time has finally come, and you are ready to run this meeting. Your goal is to earn the trust and respect of this executive and to gain her buy-in for the forward progress that you want to achieve. How you do that is going to be a series of very subtle moves and subtle thought processes that when linked together become something very, very powerful. Start with the small talk on your way in. Don't take too long on the small talk. It's important. It's casual. Everything's finding their places and sitting down.
It's very natural. But don't let it extend too far. You're on a time clock, and it's yours to manage. Next, think about where you're sitting at the table. Empower yourself with that seat choice. Make sure that you've got great eye contact with the executive and that you're in a position where you feel comfortable. Think about what's in front of you at the table. Most folks don't. But I would bet the last time that you met with an executive, there was almost nothing in front of her. There wasn't a stack of presentations.
There wasn't a laptop. Maybe there was a notebook and a pen. Your job is to come across as a peer, not as a subordinate. So if you put a laptop and a stack of presentations in front of you, which are your weapons to remember what to talk about, you're denigrating your position relative to her unnecessarily. Keep that stuff in your bag. If you need backup material and you need to show a presentation, you're ready. That's great. But don't start that way. You want to start as peers. On the same thought of being a peer, don't over-apologize for the amount of time you're taking of hers.
I've seen countless reps open meetings with a obsequious "Thank you so much for all the time that you've given us. "I know how busy you are." When you say that, what you're saying is "I'm not busy. "My time's not valuable, and yours is." Completely unnecessary. Your time is valuable. You're an expert, and she needs your expertise. She has a problem and you're going to solve it, and you're the best at what you do. Respect yourself by showing her that you respect your time. It's great to thank someone for their time, but just don't go over the top.
Be natural about it. You've picked your spot at the table. You feel good. You've established yourself as a peer. Now it's time to take control of the meeting. Be the person who moves from small talk to objective setting. Don't let someone else around the table take that power away from you. Whoever sets the objective of the meeting is now in control of the meeting. And it gives you the opportunity once you've set your objective to check in with her. Make sure you're aligned. Are we here for the same reason? Is there maybe a surprise coming? Which sometimes happens.
And you want to find that out in the beginning of the meeting, not after you've burned 30 minutes. Once you have control of the meeting, the rest of this is yours. Think about the meeting not as a pitch or as a presentation, but as a conversation. You know, as an executive, when I engage with a peer, no one's ever breaking out a presentation and walking through slide one through 26. We have a conversation. We engage with each other. We're thoughtfully engaged in a series of points and counterpoints, as you do with your colleagues.
That's the dynamic that you want to create that will unconsciously put this executive at ease that you are her peer. This is what she does all day long with the rest of her executive team, and you want to mimic that pattern. She works with her subordinates differently. They come in and they pitch to her. They break out that presentation. You want to be in group A, not in group B relative to that. One of the ways that you can really reinforce that is don't go over the top dumping data on her. A lot of times we get so excited about what we know and how we can help them that we want to tell them 20 ideas.
Here's 20 big data points. Be selective. Use your insights thoughtfully. Pick one or two things that you think she might remember. Because remember, the value of the conversation is not what we put in; it's what she takes out. It's all about that pull-through. And so if you overdo it on data points, there's just no way that she's going to remember. So one or two selective points. And if you need to go further and use a visual image, before you reach for that PowerPoint slide and you slide it over to her, I'd encourage you to think about something different.
There's a model that we all are used to unconsciously from being in school. When you were a kid, you sat in a class, the teacher was at the board. There was a power differential between you. If you pick up a marker and you go to the whiteboard in a room with an executive, you are suddenly in charge. You are mimicking the dynamic between a teacher and a student, and you're the teacher. That's where you want to be. So imagine drawing a picture of the insight you want to share. Imagine using that dynamic to further the point you make and to further the relationship that you want to have.
So the meeting's flowing well, you've nailed all the subtleties, and you've realized you only have 10 minutes left. This is where you want to make sure that you're managing the clock thoughtfully. You want to go back to the original objectives that you set up in the meeting and that you had checked in with her on to make sure they were her objectives as well. And you want to remind them, "We've got about 10 minutes left. "I want to make sure that I respect your time "and that we meet the objectives that we set out together." Just that check-in is a great tool for bringing the conversation back in case it's drifted, 'cause sometimes that minute, 30 or minute, 45, a conversation can drift naturally.
You're bringing it back, you're reinforcing that you're in charge, and you're making sure that the objectives are met. And then last, time to lockdown some action items. This is where it's so important you are able to gain the buy-in on what you were there to do. Make sure that you have a very specifically delineated set of things, not too many, one or two, three if you absolutely have to, that are going to happen next, that you've got a name of a person who owns it. And most importantly, that she's giving you her buy-in to continue to be engaged.
When you take control of a meeting, good things can happen. I remember once I was working with a rep who was in the biggest deal of his life. He couldn't get to the executive that he wanted to reach, and he asked me to engage. He did all of the right steps and helped me with an outreach to his prospect executive. She was a senior executive at one of the largest professional services firms in the world. When the meeting day finally came, it would've been easy for him to sit in the background and let me and his prospect engage and take over the meeting, but that's not what he did.
He empowered himself. He remembered that I was just an actor in his play. He directed my activities. He literally told me what he wanted me to say, and he made sure that his objectives were met. I felt comfortable in his control. He rose is my estimation as a result of that, and the meeting was very successful. Remember to take control. And even when your executives are there, don't defer to their hierarchy. This is your meeting, your opportunity, and your moment.