Long-term deals

Conduct effective customer meetings

When Lipps sits down for a meeting with customers, like most leaders, he has an agenda. But before he gets to his agenda, he turns the tables a little bit.

“I start the meeting off by saying, ‘We have a really nice agenda here and a great day, but this isn’t my meeting — it’s your meeting. What do you want to talk about? You probably have one or two top things that’s on your mind that you want to make sure gets covered or you have a question about me or anything. I’m just going to take notes on what you have to say before we even get started. I’m not going to show you any slides. I’m just going to listen to what you have,’” Lipps says.

“Instead of showing a sales presentation or jumping in with an agenda, you just say, ‘This is not my meeting; it’s your meeting. You tell me what you want to talk about and what are the top couple of questions on your mind.’”

Lipps says that one of your biggest goals in building customer relationships should be to talk less.

“I always had a rule, and I said this in meetings, that when the customer’s talking, you’re winning,” he says. “When you’re talking, you’re losing, so how do you get the customer to talk?”

Asking those opening questions accomplishes that, and, inevitably, that ends up being an hour-long discussion, so it’s important to use that hour wisely. Whatever customers say, take notes, but don’t address their questions and concerns right then.

“You actually say, ‘I’m not going to answer the questions — I’m just going to write them down, but I’m going to try to make sure during the day we answer it,’” Lipps says. “You’re not there trying to defend yourself. You’re writing it down.”

After you’ve listened to them, then look at your agenda.

“Review your agenda, and ask if you think the agenda will answer your questions,” he says.

If it’s yes, then you’re set, but if the answer is no, then make modifications to incorporate what the customers want to learn into your agenda. Then you go to it. Work through your agenda with the customer, but then bring it full circle at the end of your meeting.

“At the end of the day, I come back to the questions,” Lipps says. “I said, ‘Well, these are what you said you wanted to talk about and get answers. OK, in our second meeting, we talked about question one. Did you get your question fully answered there? Are you satisfied? Do you need more explanation? Would you like an engineer to come out and talk?’”

Taking this approach is going to win your customers over and make them admire and respect you, as well.

“I guarantee you that if any company would start out every customer meeting about reaffirming what they want to accomplish or what questions they want to get out of it and readjusting their agenda, it will be the biggest positive experience a customer can get,” he says. “Way too many companies talk at the customer, try to communicate stuff to the customer all the time, which may not be even in line with where the questions are. You always win if the customer talks and if you’re able to talk about only their concerns. Everything else is wasted breath.”

And his success rate demonstrates that.

“It’s just amazing about when we get customers to come in, and we follow that format, we get about a 90 percent win rate out of the deal,” he says. “People love our products, but they end up saying, ‘That’s the kind of person or company I want to work with because they’re not sitting there telling me what I should do or how I should do it or telling me a bunch of stuff I don’t want to hear.”