Every meeting is either won or lost. There are no “good” meetings.
You’ve lost the meeting when you leave with a compliment or a stalling tactic. The parody version is “Let’s talk again after Christmas… Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” Still, we accept the more subtle versions every day:
We spent a bunch of time setting up (and going to) a meeting, and all we got is worthless wishy washiness. How did we get ourselves into this mess?
How to screw it up
I’d bet my socks you’re falling for one of two traps:
- You’re asking for their opinion about your idea (e.g. fishing for compliments)
- There’s no commitment to a clear next step
How to win
You win the meeting by getting what you came for. Depending on the stage of your company, you came for either facts about the customer’s life or some commitment to advance the relationship.
Commitment (sales guys call it “advancement”) can be cash, but doesn’t have to be. Some strong signals of commitment are:
- Permission to contact again and/or clear next meeting (giving you time)
- Introduction to decision-maker (giving you social reputation)
- Commitment to run a trial (giving you business reputation & install time)
- Pre-purchase (giving you theoretical cash)
All of these are wins. A win I had recently ended with them asking to buy 50 speaker intros to lock in the current pricing. After another ones, the guy said, “Hey, do you have 10 more minutes? I want to introduce you to my boss.”
A lost meeting can often be saved by just pushing for a commitment at the end while you’re being brushed off with a compliment. For example, if someone stalls with the potentially good, “I can introduce you to some people when you’re ready,” try getting the specific conditions of what ready is and who they can introduce you to. It’s gone from wishy-washy to a more concrete commitment.
If they say your idea is great, ask if you can come in and work through some wireframes with their team (asking for time). If they say they’re eager to give it a try, ask if they’ll use the beta and be one of your case studies for launch.
But don’t be annoying
You aren’t trying to strong-arm folks into handing over their wallet, but you are trying to cut through some of the polite rejections and find out if they’re actually going to become a partner/investor/customer or not.
If they aren’t excited, then good news: you got the information you came for. Assimilate it, decide if it matters enough to change your strategy, and then keep on keeping on. The goal isn’t to convert every single meeting–it’s to learn from the meetings whether you’re on the right path.
 I’ve actually been told this. I was so clueless that I excitedly re-entered the office and told the team, “That went great! We’re going to talk again after Christmas!”