Getting face-time with a customer not only builds the relationship, but it allows you to ask direct questions and see nuances in the customer’s or prospect’s responses that can give you more insight into their needs. But developing creative sales meeting ideas isn’t the easiest thing to do. Recent research by inbound marketing firm HubSpot found that only 29 percent of prospects want to learn more about an offering by consulting a sales representatives. Most prefer to find information online.
So, once you’ve gotten your foot in the door and the customer knows who you are, a little creativity can help you land that follow-up meeting. Here are six creative sales meeting ideas—and when to use them.
If you are working on relationship-building and have a quick list of information points you want to gather and share, ask for a small amount of time — and stick to it, says Dave Mattson, president and CEO of global sales and management training firm Sandler Training.
This sales meeting idea works best for specific, focused goals and to help deepen the relationship, so be specific about why you would like to drop in. So, if you want to drop off samples or take a look at a workspace so you can better propose a solution, a short drop-in is a perfect next get-together. Bringing some delicious treat or snack can also help, says Gerald Acuff, CEO of Scottsdale, Arizona-based sales consultancy Delta Point, Inc.
Sharing a meal is a great way to get face-time with customers and prospects. Acuff tries to find out what type of food his colleague likes and seeks out new restaurants to suggest they try. “I don’t know many people who don’t appreciate a free lunch now and then,” he says.
This more leisurely type of meeting is best for getting to know the client and having time to ask questions and get information away from the office. Sometimes, it’s easier to speak freely when you’re not in a cubicle or in a place where others can overhear.
Find out the trade shows at which your customer or prospect is exhibiting and suggest a meeting. While they are likely to be busy meeting with their own customers, they’re already in “meeting mode,” and may be able to find some time on the schedule for you, Acuff says.
Depending on the amount of time you can book, this type of meeting can be appropriate for a follow-up to get more information to make a sale or, for longer meetings, a full demonstration or sales pitch. If you’re exhibiting and offering trade show-related deals, you may also find the incentives enough of a sweetener to close the deal.
Lunch and learns — lunchtime gatherings where people eat as they listen to a seminar or presentation — are popular training options. Work with your customer or prospect to arrange such an event at their firm, delivering your own expertise, suggests Conrad Magalis, marketing manager at Advance Acceptance, an equipment leasing and financing firm based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
For example, a catering firm owner might deliver a session on how to choose the best food for any business event and bring along samples. Tap your own expertise and teach the group something they’re interested in learning to position yourself as an expert in front of your customer or prospect.
Meeting up on personal time may seem unconventional, but it works for Lynne McNamee, president of marketing firm Lone Armadillo Marketing Strategy & Consulting in Plano, Texas. “If the contact lives nearby, and you’re able to identify areas of interest, especially volunteer interests, ask about helping out on a cause that is close to that person’s heart,” she says. Ask for recommendations about great organizations with which to volunteer or show up at a charity event that the company is organizing.
This type of meet-up is strictly relationship-building. A veiled attempt at sincerity that is really a sales attempt will likely backfire, McNamee says. Focus on the good works and bonding potential.
Hosting an intimate event for a few customers or prospects or a bigger outing or gathering as a “thank you” or “get to know you” opportunity can be a fun way to get face-time with customers and prospects, Acuff says. Let your imagination run wild — or as wild as your budget will allow. Rent out a movie theater for a private screening. Book an event venue and bring in a catered meal. Or, simply host a private party with refreshments at your place of business.
This format is flexible and can be used for casual relationship-building or even delivering a presentation as part of the event. Attendees likely understand that hearing information about your business or offerings is part of the expected agenda.
Looking for great food ideas for your next meeting? Start here.