One of my pleasures in life (I don’t do guilt) is to settle back on a weekend morning and read the papers. I am sufficiently old school in that they are physical papers rather than images on my smartphone. I like to see the full spread in front of me rather than scroll through, plus, to my knowledge, no one yet has successfully lined the bottom of a guinea pig cage with an iPhone.
At this time of year, the pages are full of, “Gift Guides”. I love these. Whether it’s the Guardian offering me the chance to buy an artisan woven hedgehog home (£29.99) or Vogue’s suggestion that I buy Pomellato Bracelets (what?) for my chums (nine grand each), there’s no end to the opportunity to buy stuff that you don’t want and don’t need.
It occurred to me that the business equivalent of those Gift Guides is the Credentials Document. Except that I hate credentials. They substitute for focusing the conversation on the prospect client’s business. However, I understand the need to organise the story of one’s company so the key elements are in one place and that, for intermediaries and RFPs it is useful to have everything at hand. Trouble is, if you’re not careful, you can get a bit ‘gift guidey’ with your creds and end up bunging in everything in a bid to appeal to all readers/prospects. And credentials meetings then become a plough through the slides with the gem that the prospect might be particularly interested in, ‘this year’s must-have,’ getting lost in the clutter.
To avoid the passing of a leisurely hour with no action at the end of it, the pre-requisite is that every credentials meeting should start with this agenda:
- What you (the prospect) said you wanted to cover (this is to force the meeting host to have contacted the prospect in advance to establish what issues are important and relevant to cover in the meeting.
- What we have done to prepare for today’s meeting (to force yourself to have conducted research into the business issues the client is facing and where you can help best)
- What experience we have in your sector/with your issues
- What three key issues are facing the prospect (to force you to have a point of view)
- The consequences for your business if these issues go unaddressed (to create a commercial imperative for the client to act and to put – where possible – a price on inaction)
- How you believe you can help and a suggested next action (to force a trial close and to generate a next meeting)
Plus: what is your desired take-out from the target prospect audience? What do you want them to think, feel or do? Ideally, you want them to leave feeling exhilarated, stimulated and wanting more. Not thinking, ‘very nice, but not for me’ or worse, not thinking about you at all.
And if they ask for a proposal at the end of a meeting? Surely this is good news? Sadly not. It’s not always a good sign. It can be a way to get rid of you but to make you feel better. If the prospect says, “Send it to me”, this is not necessarily positive.
You can check out the seriousness of the prospect by:
- Proposing you come back to present your proposal rather than emailing it
- Ask them to come to you for the presentation
- Get more clarity on what they want you to include in the proposal
- Asking who else needs to see it (and invite them to the next meeting)
And if you get push back on those, then you’ll know that you’re trying to sell Pomellato bracelets to someone with a hedgehog house budget. Time to focus your attention elsewhere. And that’s my gift to you.