Your POC meets you at the elevator and they guide you to the conference room—in which you find nine people. There were only three on the invitation, and you researched them thoroughly. So, who are the other six? What’s their stake? And who’s the big cheese? Is there a big cheese? Even if you pitch like your life depends on it, sometimes the wrong people in the room, especially if not responded to quickly, can sour a done deal.
Let's start with the basics.
Engage the room
Shifting your focus from what you’re selling to who you’re selling to is the best way to get your meeting attendees engaged.
Let’s face it - You’re pitching to a group of busy executives who are time-poor. Bursting through the doors and booting up a PowerPoint presentation is the fastest way to lose their attention. It may not seem fair, but for enterprise buyers with other concerns on their minds, the decision whether to tune in or drop out is made fast. Get the vibe of these people early, unless you want them multi-tasking through your demo/pitch.
This is key in virtual rooms (which is more the norm now), particularly, if there are participants who are not on video. Requesting that everyone be on video can go a long way in limiting distracted participants. If you can drive the conversation to mimic one that is face-to-face, prospects will be less likely to multitask. They may not want to, and that’s ok. But it’s worth a shot to ask!
Once you have their attention, try one or more of the following strategies to hit the ground running:
Once your meeting is up and running, and you see people in there you don't recognize, use a combination of strategies. Here are a few that are my general back pocket strategies to keep the room headed in the same direction.
Strategy: Ask questions:
Ask questions about your prospect’s biggest challenges and major areas of concern. Even just checking in every so often to make sure everyone is following along can help better maintain focus.
Strategy: Listen and adapt:
Use the feedback to inform your presentation/demo as you move through it. If, for example, a decision maker told you that downtime has been a key concern with the incumbent, bring that up when you speak about your architecture, and provide real-world examples of customers who’ve successfully adopted similar architecture for your product; and then bring up numbers that substantiate it. Your audience will be more engaged, seeing that your presentation is not just a one-size-fits-all script but a living, breathing conversation that adapts to their individual business needs and concerns.
Strategy: Know who will take the final call:
In some companies, decision-making involves a long consideration process with multiple shareholders; in others, it boils down to a single decision-maker. There are many intricacies involved here that you can try and glean from your POC and sales enablement teams. How hierarchical is the decision-making process? Who are the key players? Does decision-making happen by committee? Or do key C-Suite folks have the power to make the final call?
Even with all these strategies at play, there can be disruptions. This brings me to my next set of best practices.
Work The Room
Here are some people who might be listening in on your pitch. Each of these can potentially derail a pitch meeting/demo, but if you are able to manage their expectations and set up additional meetings with them before or after, they can become valuable champions:
CIO or CTO: The key strategy here is preparation. C-Suite leaders are the obvious top of the food chain for any new technology initiative. These individuals lead the strategic helm and help define tactical goals to ensure smooth and secure operational success. Engaging executive technology leadership is critical because top-tier representation is necessary if you hope to gain any footing.
Procurement/Sourcing: The key strategy here is delegation to the right sales enablement folks. When enterprises need to adopt a new application/product, they look to Procurement or Sourcing teams, if available. These teams exist solely to ensure that best practices are followed for any new tool acquisition, which maximizes purchase value and contract negotiations. Procurement and Sourcing investigate options, document application requirements, negotiate contracts, secure purchases, and help kick off implementation.
Ask about the process up front, and connect them to sales enablement teams to work out the details outside of your meeting. Once these folks get going in the meeting, it can be difficult to bring the conversation on track.
Be honest about all the commitments on both sides. Greater transparency allows for more efficient contract negotiations.
Finance, Compliance, and Legal: The key strategy here involves taking it offline. All company purchases eventually make their way through these teams. Address any of their concerns via email (in detail) and not in the room as you aren't equipped to, anyway.
IT: The key strategy here is building confidence. Since application deployment is essentially the management of technology and information, IT is well-positioned as the collaborative bridge between all these different teams.
Connect your technology lead and/or solution architect with counterparts in these teams to hammer out details and have their technical discussions offline.
In the room, simply show them how this has been done before, and smoothly.
Each deal is different and can involve a changing lineup of stakeholders, each with their own agenda. Navigating these can be likened to a game of Wizard's Chess (Pro tip: Watch the Harry Potter series!).