Execute Flawlessly: Your Playbook for Building a Pre-Meeting Survey That Gets Results

Execute Flawlessly: Your Playbook for Building a Pre-Meeting Survey That Gets Results

In his book Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, former Allied Signal CEO Larry Bossidy said it best: “Execution is the missing link between aspirations and results.” How true this is. Execution clearly sets the good apart from the great.

So, how can you structure and execute a pre-meeting survey that generates the best possible results, while positioning yourself as the true professional that you are? Although the questions will vary based on your offering and the potential buyer, every great pre-meeting survey should include six key categories.

In this final installment of my three-part series on pre-meeting surveys, I outline the categories and provide example questions that are intended to help you execute flawlessly:

Meeting objectives

It’s astonishing how few salespeople start a meeting by asking executives what they’re hoping to accomplish, especially since the answer points the meeting in the right direction and aligns all parties. A simple pre-meeting survey question in this category may be,”What are you hoping to get out of our meeting?”

Business drivers

A question about business drivers helps surface the underlying purpose of the meeting. I regularly hear two answers: (1) the company’s current solution is old, antiquated, and increasingly problematic, and (2) the company is moving in a new direction, and requires new expertise or capabilities. Whatever the answer may be, this simple question can work wonders: “What are the key business drivers that have led you to look for a new solution?”

Functional requirements

This question is very specific to your business and solution. For example, you may work for a software company whose solution has 20 different capabilities. Asking the executive to prioritize those capabilities by most and least important will help you determine how to prepare for your meeting. It may also help you qualify the “close-ability” of the opportunity and quickly determine which of your competitors may present the biggest threat. Functional requirement questions are typically in the form of a matrix of choices, starting with, “Please rank the following functional requirements by importance.”

Competition

All sales leaders have experienced this: losing to a competitor without even knowing there was a competitive situation. For some salespeople, asking the “competition question” is just too uncomfortable. Although some executives may chose not to divulge this information, others have expressed to me that they have an open-book policy, and feel that knowledge of the competition helps to drive a more structured sales process and more competitive pricing. One thing’s for sure, though: you definitely won’t get an answer if you’re not asking the right question. Consider a simple, multiple choice question: “Who are you using today?” or “Who else are you considering?”

Time frame

Time frame questions are easy for an executive to answer, and often require a simple, multiple choice checkbox. Although providing date ranges as potential answers may seem like the best option, I have found that an answer of “0 to 3 months” or “12 to 18 months” is far too broad. My suggestion is to ask specifically for a date: “When are you hoping to complete your evaluation?” or “When will you be making your selection?”

Influencers

From research firms to consultants, there are many resources that help support executive decisions. My research shows that the influencer with the most impact is an executive’s own personal network. An answer to this question about influencers will provide insight into how executives will make their decisions. It may also show you where you stand walking through that executive’s door. For example, if the executive answers that Gartner is a big influencer, knowing how your company stacks up on the latest Magic Quadrant is critical. Try a simple multiple choice question: “What resources will you tap into to help guide your decision?”

Now that you have your plan in place, there are a number of great online tools you can use to build and deliver your survey. Many of these tools have free offerings for short surveys like the pre-meeting survey. I recommend www.surveymonkey.com or www.surveygizmo.com.

As we close out our series on the benefits, rules, and structure of the pre-meeting survey, it would only be fitting to end as we had begun, with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

Happy hunting!

If you missed the first two pre-meeting survey installments, you can find them here:

Sales Innovators Rule: The Pre-Meeting Survey Will Set You Apart
Perfect Your Approach to Pre-Meeting Surveys With These Six Steps

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Ryan is the founder of DoubleCheck Research a win-loss analysis firm focused on helping solution providers improve their win rates by turning buyer insights into competitive advantage. Having devoted more than 15 years in the research and advisory space working with leading retail and manufacturing companies, Ryan is no stranger to enterprise B2B buyers. At Gartner, he served as Area Vice President, Supply Chain Sales, where he directed a team of 34 field supply chain account executives and managers. Ryan and his team were responsible for servicing over half of the company’s global supply chain business. Prior to Gartner, Ryan served as Vice President of Retail & Manufacturing at AMR Research where he headed a team responsible for new business generation and client management. It was here, during an analyst call with a frustrated CIO, that he first recognized the gap between the executive’s buying process and the provider’s sales approach. After witnessing this scenario play out time and again, DoubleCheck was born.

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