The Best Question to Ask on a First Sales Meeting

Sales Training

On this Q&A episode: "What's the most effective question to ask a prospect on a first meeting?"


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*** Enhanced Video Script ***

I'm not sure there's any single right answer, but I’ll share with you the question I like to ask prospects entering the first meeting. But before I do, I want to share a few thoughts on how to make sure the first meeting is successful. After all, what we really want is a successful meeting that results in a sales opportunity.

I always like to start by thinking about the call objective. The call objective is, what action is a customer going to take because of this meeting? That’s important because you often hear people say, "Well, I had a good meeting," or "We really had a great relationship," which is great, but we also want to know what actions is the customer going to take, how is this going to lead us to a sales opportunity? 
An example that would relate to a first meeting might be: because of this meeting, the customer will describe a business need or a problem that I can help them solve. That's very tangible. They're describing business need or a problem that I can help them solve. But unfortunately, I can't just walk in the door and ask the customer what business need or problem do you want to solve today? 
I must develop a level of trust and openness so they're willing to share and discuss their situation with me. That starts with great pre-call planning. So, as part of pre-call planning, I need to research the account and the person I'm meeting with in advance of that meeting. As it relates to the account, I want to go to their website, I want to look at press releases. If they're a public company, I want to look at investor presentations, maybe we'll look at their job openings. 
What I'm trying to do is get a better sense for their business, what do they do? Who do they sell to? What industry are they in? And what priorities or initiatives might they be working on? Then I want to think about the person I'm meeting with? What's their role and responsibility? What are their interests? 
I like to start by going to LinkedIn first because their LinkedIn profile is just a great starting point. You can see how long they've been with the company, how long they've been in their current position. What groups they belong to, and you can also get a sense of their interests. You can now go in the meeting prepared and have a high-value sales conversation.

By the way, the customer is going to give you credit for your call preparation, because they're going to see that you're prepared and your pre-call planning is going to result in a customer that's more receptive and open to sharing needs with you as opposed to a customer who is annoyed by your lack of preparation, or knowledge, or understanding of their situation. 
So, the number one priority for that first meeting is to build a relationship that creates openness from your customer. This includes asking the right questions, actively listening, maybe sharing some comments, interests and sharing insights that relate to their priorities. You want to build rapport and you want to build trust. And with that as a context, you can now use your questioning skills to help them identify a business need or problem you could help them solve. 
This brings me back to the question that I like to ask, which involves helping customers focus on their priorities. One of the things I like to ask is, if you could wave a magic wand, what would you do differently or better six months from now? And the point of this question is it allows the customer to really elaborate on their priorities and share with you what business need or problems they want to solve. 
Based on what they share with you, you can now go back and develop a solution that's responsive to their needs.


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About Norman Behar

Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD,, and Selling Power.