Sitting in on the Meeting
Have you ever been in a situation where a prospect tells you that they need to talk to the rest of their committee before making any decisions? Committees are notorious for shooting down projects, so you should be ready to address the situation upfront.
Unless you’ve prepared your prospect to give a stellar presentation and to fight for the project on your mutual behalf, there will be nobody at the committee meeting to address questions, objections or misunderstandings. This puts your proposal at high risk of being rejected. Wouldn’t it be a lot better if you could be in the room during the meeting? After all, you’re the expert, and you’re best equipped to explain the benefits of your offering and field any questions or comments that may arise.
In my experience, people don’t want vendors to attend internal meetings because they are afraid they’ll monopolize the meeting and listen in on confidential information. Here’s an example of a conversation you might have with your prospect to get them to agree to let you sit in on the meeting:
Prospect: “I’ve got to take this to the committee.”
You: “When does the committee meet?”
Prospect: “Every Thursday.”
You: “How long does the committee usually meet?”
Prospect: “About an hour.”
You: “How many topics are typically discussed at the meeting?”
Prospect: “About a half a dozen.”
You: “Okay, so if everyone gets to the meeting on time, you've got an hour to talk about six topics. That's roughly 10 minutes a topic. Am I correct?”
Prospect: “Yes, that’s right.”
You: “What do you think the chances are of my attending that meeting?”
Prospect: “Well, unfortunately we don’t usually let vendors sit in on committee meetings.”
You: “Okay, let me ask you this: Do you think there’s anybody in the world that's more capable of addressing questions on this project than I am? If you want to get your project approved [notice I say “your” instead of “my”], the best thing you can do is get me in that room. And I'll make a deal with you: If you have 10 minutes for each topic, you get me in the room at whatever point in the agenda you want me. Invite me into the room just for that agenda item and I'll leave immediately after talking about my agenda item. I will not exceed my allotted time and I will not be present during any confidential discussions. So I can sit in the lobby, you can bring me in on minute 20, and I will be out of there at minute 30, graciously thanking you and your colleagues for inviting me to the meeting. I'll get out of your way and you guys can get back to business. I can assure you that in three or four minutes, I can make a compelling case to make sure you get your project approved, and in the next four to six minutes, I can answer any questions that come up in the wake of that little presentation. Honestly, if I were in the room, I think you'd have a greater chance of getting your project approved.”
If you put these types of parameters around your requested participation, you might actually get invited to that meeting, and you’ll have an excellent chance of emerging from that meeting with everyone else primed to say “yes” when the vote to approve the project is taken after you leave.
And by the way, even if your internal champion is unsuccessful getting you a seat in the room, he or she might still get permission to have you dial in (or be called) at some point during the meeting so that you’re able to give a concise overview and address any questions/comments in real time.
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