Exclusive Features

Making Your B2B Business Meetings Pay Off: Part 5

tED magazine is continuing this exclusive series, Making Your B2B Business Meetings Pay Off, by interviewing a series of distributors and manufacturers who participate in B2B meetings. They tell us about what works best and what happens when the meetings do not go well. This series allows you to learn from the best practices and the mistakes to get the best return on your meeting investments.

by Bridget McCrea

No one likes to have his or her email inbox filled up with messages that require acknowledgment and/or action, but for one manager, the email approach works extremely well for meeting follow-up. “Sometimes email is literally the only way to follow up,” says the manager for a Wisconsin-based NAED member. One of the distributorship’s segment managers, for example, is already at his computer, sending out follow-up emails, before the other meeting participants have left the building. In those messages, the manager lists everything that was covered in the meeting, the action points that were agreed upon by the participants, and appreciation of those individuals’ time and attention for the meeting. 

“In the case of a product presentation there may not necessarily be a big need for immediate follow-up,” says the marketing manager, “but if we’re considering new lines and/or products, we use email as a way to make sure what was talked about actually takes place.” This is important, he notes, because once the meeting is over people move along to the next task, quickly forgetting the key points and commitments that they discussed. 

To shore up the process even further, this manager uses Outlook reminders to let recipients know what steps needs to be taken to solidify the opportunities discussed during the B2B meetings. “I set Outlook reminders for myself when I send out the reminder emails to my recipients,” he explains. “That way, even if someone has ignored my messages for a couple of weeks, they get time-stamp reminders within Outlook.” This proactive approach to keeping everyone on task often elicits comments like, “Wow, how did you do that? I completely forgot about this and then this reminder popped up on my computer.”

Using Technology as a Tool 
To distributors that are dealing with unproductive meetings, the marketing manager suggests using an online, cloud-based application like Evernote or Dropbox for collaborating and sharing information. This can help keep ideas “fresh” and ensure that they’re not left by the wayside as day-to-day projects take over your business partners’ mindshare. “Sometimes all someone needs is a ‘poke’ to get them back on track and thinking about your shared goals and visions,” he says. “There are a number of automated methods you can use to achieve that.”
  
When working with business partners, this distributor also tries to set up multi-company meetings that allow it to hit several different vendors at once. “We’ll set up shop in one location and then over the course of two days, just try to have suppliers come in, sit down with us, and hammer things out in terms of planning for the next 12 months,” he says. To assess and review vendor performance during those meetings, the distributor uses a score-carding system that rates suppliers based on factors such as on-time delivery, shipping completion, and pre-paid freight policies, to name just a few. “We use the information on the score cards and compare it to historical information,” he says. “That way, we’re making decisions based on facts and not just gut feelings all the time.”

No Drop-ins, Please 
In assessing some of the mistakes that suppliers make when it comes to B2B sales meetings, the marketing manager sees drop-in cold calls as a big no-no. Yet some vendors insist on “dropping in unexpectedly” to introduce themselves, their companies’ new product lines, and other opportunities. “Having a rep call us just because he or she is in the area and available – and expecting to be able to sit down and do anything productive – is a complete time waster in our eyes,” he says.  
 
A better approach, he says, is to take the time to schedule the meeting in advance, share a prospective agenda (even an informal one), and then follow the key points on the agenda during the valuable meeting time. “Rather than making courtesy calls when they’re ‘in the area,’” he says, “supplier reps should take the time to prepare in advance to really be ready to be productive both during and after the actual meeting.”

Up next in our Making Your B2B Business Meetings Pay Off series: There are always two sides of the story. Stay tuned to read more soon.

This is part five in our series. Read part one here, part two here, part three here, and part four 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 bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net

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