80/20 Rule: Get 80% relevant in 20 minutes
[Ok, I admit of twisting the 80/20 rule a bit here]
Even though this article is written with a specific activity in mind – solution demonstration, the methods below may be applied to any type of a business meeting. Needless to say, you can never spend enough time getting prepared for an important meeting. But as SEs, we don’t always have the luxury of an exhaustive preparation. So if you are in a time crunch, I am providing a quick 20 minutes recipe that will not only make your presentation relevant to the audience, but also help you deliver it in a persuasive and consultative way. (Please note this discovery is in addition to the actual demo setup and any transfer-of-knowledge process from the Account Executive)
As you go through each discovery, keep taking notes in a format that will be easy to refer during the meeting. I have instituted a “demo prep form” – One pager that I print and keep in front of me during the meeting.
Audience Discovery (7 mins)
Hopefully you know the names of all attendees including the champion, decision maker(s), influencers etc. Look them up on LinkedIn (Make sure your LinkedIn settings allow them to see that you viewed their profile and did your due diligence. This also gives your audience to learn a bit about you before the meeting). Quickly glance over the following for each:
– How long have they worked at the company?
– Where did they work before joining this company? Only one level deeper should be sufficient unless there is something really interesting about their past experience.
– Are there any recommendations? Is there a pattern that highlights their personality, strengths, behavior from what recommenders are saying about them?
– What school did they attend? (Great opportunity to connect if you share an Alma Mater)
Website Discovery (4 mins)
Homepage: Look for only headlines here. Whatever is most prominent on the home page, write it down. Most likely the homepage represents key topics your prospect is most focused on.
About us: Quickly glance over the history, mission, vision statements. If your solution aligns to any of this, BINGO! Make sure your value proposition is presented to reflect “their words”.
In the news: Especially for larger companies, quickly view at least the last 3 published headlines.
Management: It’s always good to know the execs, even if you may not be dealing with them directly.
Solutions/Products: Write down a few of the product names and versions. Make an effort to use their specific product names, verticals they focus on and technologies they use, instead of the generic terms.
Social Discovery (4 mins)
Briefly review the top 2 pages of their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. Write down any key announcements, awards, news mentions etc. If there is a topic that is repeated across all channels, you can bet it is top of mind for your audience as well. Again, if your solution is/can be aligned with this topic, leverage it.
Lastly do a quick search for your prospect on YouTube. You may find relevant information about who they partner with, what their customers are saying, any industry analyst reports, etc. See at least the last 4 published videos on their own channel and observe the topics for each.
Technology Discovery (5 mins)
If the qualification and discovery were done correctly, by now you should know the complete technical landscape. These may include:
– What systems or applications are already in place
– What integrations are needed
– Any migration requirements
For web applications, you may use tools like http://builtwith.com/ to see a bit more under the covers.
There is an element of “art” in this type of a quick-discovery. The information you gather itself is not important, but how well you incorporate it into your presentation is what matters. Contrary to the belief that you have to spend hours trying to prep for a meeting, I have learned and seen that even a little bit of effort, when utilized effectively, can go a long way in making a presentation relevant. The audience always appreciates when you speak directly to them, include their language, and care about their success. Essentially, by using knowledge about them, you are helping your prospects connect-the-dots better and empowering them to make a more intelligent decision.