This article originally appeared on the Prime Design Solutions website.

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(The audio for this podcast is no longer available, but it is summarized below.)

You might consider it to be the most crucial part of a business’s marketing efforts–the face-to-face sales meeting. This is the opportunity for a potential customer to:

  • Become educated on your products, services and expertise
  • Determine whether or not you are someone they might want to work with
  • Commit to engaging your company as the selected vendor for the topic you are pitching

With so much on the line, preparing a solid plan for this meeting simply makes good sense. Here are the seven steps to a perfect sales call.

Step 1: Research and Preparation

Some 82% of sellers are out of sync with the needs of the buyer. This can result in focusing on issues that are irrelevant to the buying party. Your first step is to research the customer, their competitors, their industry and anything that is affecting it. This means you won’t have  a set script to follow each and every time — your pitches won’t be generic — although you will have a foundation of points you want to make about your product or service.

  • Research the account prior to the meeting.
  • Learn something about the person and their business before the meeting.
  • Create an outline of the agenda to the client before the meeting.
  • Have three value-added points prepared.
  • Bring all materials, brochures, contracts or any other printed documentation that might be needed. Don’t forget your business card.

Putting in your due diligence:

  • Makes a good impression
  • Begins building trust
  • Moves the discussion along quicker
  • Helps differentiate from competitors

Answer the three important pre-call questions:

  • What is the goal of the call?
  • What do I need to find out during the call?
  • What’s the next step after the call?

Step 2: Introduction

  • Observe the prospect’s office décor (e.g., trophies, industry awards, pictures, hobbies, family). Is there anything you can use as an ice-breaker as the meeting gets underway?
  • Find out the names of contacts in the account and write them down. It’s easy to forget names of the people you meet, especially if they’re not the principal contact.
  • Bear in mind that the more the other side is talking, the better things are going. Ask very specifically about their business goals, and what challenges they face.

Step 3: Qualification

  • Find out who the decision-makers are. Ask the person you’re meeting with if others will be involved in the decision. If your contact is not the main decision-maker, make sure your information can be conveyed accurately to the person who is or anyone else who will be involved. Your call to action should be clear — whether that’s having a follow-up meeting or having the prospect go to your website for more information.
  • Ask what process they normally go through when considering a new vendor. Some companies have a very informal way of hiring new vendors, while others have a strict procedure. In short, you don’t want to miss an opportunity because of a failure to adhere to a procedure like filling out a form.
  • Find out how and why they made the decision for their current product or service (assuming they are replacing a product or service). If you are replacing a current vendor, find out if there is something about the previous vendor’s product or service they would like to change.
  • Find out what their time frame is, and determine the budget. We suggest putting those things together, because people like talking about time frame, but don’t like to talk about budget — combining those issues seems to make it easier for prospects to discuss budget.

Step 4: Surveying

Sometimes closing a sale involves a multiple face-to-face meeting process. Depending on the situation, surveying can happen on-site, or before the meeting, over the phone. Surveying means you ask open-ended questions (who, what, where, when, why, how, how much, tell me about it, describe for me). This helps them open up and keep talking, and helps you get a feel for the organization. Surveying can include questions about:

  • The corporate structure
  • The prospect’s role at the company
  • What’s important to them
  • What risks they perceive
  • How you can help solve their problems
  • What they think about your company
  • What they like and dislike about their current vendor
  • How industry trends are affecting them
  • “What if?” questions
  • What they would like to see from a vendor and salesperson in the area of support after the sale
  • What their short-term and long-term goals are
  • Determine next step, such as creating a proposal or scheduling a follow-up meeting
  • Establish a specific follow-up schedule

Step 5: Presentation

This is where you make your pitch.

  • Prioritize the prospect’s needs, and talk about benefits to the customer. 
  • Use layman’s terms. Again, you’re in the role of educator and want to make it easy to understand. Avoid acronyms and other industry jargon.
  • Link the benefit to the prospect’s needs. Keep the presentation focused on the customer’s needs.
  • Involve the customer in the presentation. Again, keeping the customer talking is important.
  • Summarize the prospect’s needs and how your product or service meets those needs.

Step 6: Closing

This is the last piece of the face-to-face meeting, and it can go a variety of ways. Your goals in closing include:

  • Get the customer to identify all possible problems that might be solved by your product or service.
  • Get the customer to identify the value of solving the identified problems.
  • Get agreement that the proposed solution provides the values identified.
  • Ask for the order (“Why don’t we go ahead with this?”). It may be that your prospect is ready to go ahead and sign a contract or sales agreement and get started immediately, but the more common scenario is that he or she will require time to think about it, and possibly confer with others who need to be involved in the decision. In that case, find out when you might get back in touch to follow up.

Step 7: Customer Maintenance

This is after the meeting, or even after the sale — it refers to how you enhance your relationship with the prospect or client.

  • Write thank you letters. Even an email will do.
  • Earn the right to ask for reference letters and referrals.
  • Establish a schedule for follow-up calls and customer visits. This could be a regularly-scheduled phone call, meeting, or whatever it is you need to do to continue providing good service.


In sales, you’re making the logical and emotional case for why people should buy your product and not someone else’s.

All salespeople should have good answers to the following questions, which essentially makes up your unique selling proposition. The answers may be different for different prospects and target audiences, but you should be prepared to make a compelling case for:
1. Why should I read or listen to you?
2. Why should I believe what you have to say?
3. Why should I do anything about what you’re offering?
4. Why should I act now?