In this exclusive series, Making Your B2B Business Meetings Pay Off, tED magazine offers best practice essentials for before, during, and after B2B meetings. We examine what works well and what needs improvement to make sure you are getting the most out of the time and money spent to attend them.
by Bridget McCrea
For at least one NAED distributor, whether a B2B sales meeting is productive or not depends on the vendor in question. Larger suppliers, it seems, don’t always want to know what they’re doing wrong in this regard – or how to fix the prevailing issues. “All they really want to do is talk about new stuff and how to grow their business with us,” says the distributorship’s vice president, “rather than trying to figure out the issues that are keeping us from growing.” The problem, he says, is that until the hurdles get cleared out of the way, projected growth numbers simply can’t be attained. “That’s a big issue for us – suppliers not willing to listen to our struggles and figure out what’s keeping both of us from growing together,” says the vice president.
The issues don’t end there. He says that when he attends NAED or Imark Group meetings, many times the manufacturer’s representative is from a different region of the country and therefore completely out of touch with his distributorship’s core mission, goals, and needs. “When I get to a meeting and get face-to-face with the West Coast regional manager, I know he’s going to be totally disinterested and not up to speed on my company,” he says, adding that roughly 25 percent of the distributor’s meetings involve people who have no ties to his company. “He’s basically there because someone told him to be there. These interactions are just totally unproductive.”
The Right People in the Right Place
In light of these and other issues, the vice president says one of the best moves suppliers can make to improve B2B sales meetings is to simply starting sending the right people to these events. “It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how few suppliers actually follow this advice,” he says. Another good strategy is to kick off pre-meeting communication about 2-3 weeks before the meeting in order to determine key discussion points and an agenda. This can be done via email, he notes, and should center on key issues and opportunities.
“This pre-meeting correspondence gives the other person a chance to run down the key points within his or her own organization,” he explains. “That way, when the meeting starts, you can really get down to talking about the issues and the associated resolutions.” Only then can both parties shift the conversation over to future growth and opportunities. “In order for a B2B meeting to be productive,” says the vice president, “everyone needs to be on the same page and focused on similar goals. Without this, the interaction is just a waste of time.”
Lost in the Shuffle
Many times, even the most productive meetings become ineffective after the event wraps up and everyone turns their attention to the next pressing task. And even when very clear action items are assigned to individual attendees, those tasks don’t get completed in a timely fashion. “That’s my biggest beef with 80 to 90 percent of our suppliers,” the vice president says. “They’ll have four action items and we’ll have two, for example, and when I follow up a week later literally nothing has been done on their end. The outstanding items never get resolved. It feels like we wasted our time at that national meeting because they never did dig into what our real issues are.”
Having previously worked for a manufacturer, this vice president has an insider’s view of exactly why sales meeting follow-up is so sporadic. At a national meeting, for example, one rep will sit it on 30 different meetings. Count on four action points from each, and you wind up with 120 “things to do” after the meeting. Concurrently, the rep’s own to-do list is stacking up and anxiously awaiting him or her upon return to the office the following week. “That’s when reality hits them in the face; they’re a week behind and have to get caught up,” he says. “As a result, they never get to the pile of 120 things to do after the meeting.”
But remember, says this NAED member, that he too has a laundry list of things to do when he gets back to the office on Monday morning. “I’m going to 20 different supplier meetings myself, so I need something to remind me to follow-up and/or take action on certain points,” he says, adding that email reminders are always appreciated and distributed accordingly. “I’d like to see follow-up emails that hit on the top 2-3 high-profile items that I was most interested in promoting to my own team. We’re all busy once we get home and back to work, so that alone would be a great starting point for holding more productive sales meetings.”
This is part two in a seven-part series. Read part one here.
McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.netTagged with tED