Getting a meeting with senior decision makers is often a stumbling block for SMEs and startups – so how do you go about getting that first meeting which could change your business?
You may have a market-leading product or service, and you may have a great marketing machine but sometimes you just need that one key meeting to take things to the next level.
While no-one can guarantee you’ll get that meeting every time, there are three simple steps you can take to dramatically improve your chances of success.
Calling your target is always an option. However, I would recommend that you email in the first instance.
Firstly, it gives you an opportunity to convey your messaging effectively. Secondly, it’s also more likely to help you get past the gatekeeper, if there is one.
Crafting an email subject line is vital as it’s the one line which initially captures their attention and get them wanting to read on.
In the past I’ve had subject lines offering me a free coffee for say 30 minutes of my time. While I like coffee, going out for coffee isn’t the best use of my time as a business owner.
On the other hand, subject lines reading ‘Our product will save you money’ scream of a sales pitch and immediately get deleted.
But if the subject line includes something which is important to me and makes clear the rest of the email will contain insights or information useful to me, then I will open it.
For example, a subject line of ‘The latest research shows what business leaders’ top three priorities are’ is much more likely to capture my attention.
It’s more likely that I’m going to get something of value from that email, so I will read on.
The thing that every modern business doesn’t have enough of is time, and by asking for a meeting you’re asking to take away even more of the thing they find scarce.
In return for their time you need to offer them something approaching tangible value – not just a slide deck of your offering.
You may think you have a wonderful product and the offer is compelling, but for them it will be just another sales pitch.
You will have a greater chance if you offer insights which help with their thinking. It’s about offering value to the person you want to talk to, and this may or may not relate to your offering.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s usually better if it has nothing to do with your offering.
It shows the other person that you are interested in helping them, rather than simply selling to them.
Make sure you do the right research about the person you’re hoping to meet with – and it’s not enough to do a quick scan of their website.
I’d recommend doing a short PEST analysis before you write your email.
A PEST analysis is when you look at the things in the world which are important to them in four categories – Politically, Economically, Socially and Technologically.
Knowing what is important to their sector, to their organisation, to their individual role and if possible to them personally is the first step in knowing how to tailor your communications to them.
From this you should be able to find a theme around what’s important to them. Then you can write a compelling statement of the value you will provide to them in the meeting.
Now you are truly starting to demonstrate customer-centric thinking.
Having started to think about your customer, you can start to frame your email.
We use a formula called an I We U, which has about an 80 percent success rate.
The ‘I’ – is the intent of the meeting, the ‘We’ is the process or the informal agenda of the meeting (hint: keep it short) the ‘U’ is the value that the other person will get out of their meeting with you.
Sometimes, just the ‘U’ is enough to get the meeting.
It takes time to do your analysis and think about what the other person will value, but the alternative is sending out generic sales emails which have around a 1 per cent hit rate (if you’re lucky).
If you would like more help planning for that first meeting then download our free client meeting planner template.