by Steve Adubato

A few columns ago we explored the problem of a VP of customer relations who monopolized 26 minutes of a 30 minute sales presentation. Yet, this is not the only mistake made by those who go out and pitch prospective clients on their products or services. There is another aspect of sales meetings that often gets overlooked. Exactly who should be included in a sales meeting?

Too often when presentations are made to a prospective client, the ratio of those on the sales side compared to the prospect’s end is ignored or misunderstood. For example, say you have five people on your sales team presenting to a prospect, and there are only two people from the prospect side. The ratio is off. The dynamics to have the kind of engaging, interactive conversation in which your team is doing most of the listening is also way off. Bottom line? You are not likely to make the sale. Some questions to consider.

Q—How many people should participate in a sales meeting?

A—It depends on the situation. When the meeting is confirmed, ask the prospect exactly who will be attending the meeting from their team. This will help you understand who is in the room and who you will need from your organization. How do people match up in terms of skill sets and areas of interest? It’s often not about how many people, but rather who should be going to the meeting. Go back to the scenario where the prospect had two people at the meeting and the sales team had five. I say bring no more than two on your end to match up with them. In fact, if one person on your team can handle the situation, go with one.

Q—But don’t you want to show the prospect your team’s expertise by having lots of people there demonstrating it?

A—No. Your job is not to “show your expertise.” You wouldn’t be in the room having the meeting if there wasn’t a decent chance that something could come of it. They’ve already looked at your web site. They know who you are and they know about your services and products. What they really want to know is you and your people. They want to see how you mesh and how easy the conversation is and what it would be like to work with you if the deal gets made.

Q—What happens when you have too many people representing your organization?

A—The more people you have in a meeting, the harder it is to find an area in which you can contribute. Your people are stepping on and talking over each other. In addition, the more people you have the more time your people are talking, which means there is less time for the prospect to be talking about their needs, challenges and problems. Getting the prospect talking is key to a successful sales meeting and closing the deal.

Q—How do you ensure that your team’s message gets across in a sales presentation, regardless of the number of participants?

A—As I mentioned in my earlier column, the key is to identify a lead communicator, or “quarterback,” who will keep things moving. Every person must understand their role, but the prospect must also understand why each person is at the sales meeting and what you bring to the table. Yet, you don’t want to prove your worth by being overly aggressive and talking too much. No matter what role you play in the sales meeting, you should go into each situation with two key points that you want to make and, more importantly, something tangible you will take away about the prospect and his world. Remember, less is more.