For the sales trip meetings themselves, the following guidelines are advised:
- Be clear in your own mind what your objectives are for the meeting, and as appropriate set them out to your host: a review of mutual business to date, the customer’s account of their own company performance, market understanding (including such central elements as local pricing), key product, shared business objectives including sales targets both for particular projects and for overall business.
- At the same time, allow the meeting to take unexpected turns: they may lead to something advantageous.
- Above all, do not force the pace: particularly on a first meeting or at the start of a relationship, and especially in a range of cultures, the person you are meeting is likely to wish to assess you and establish a sense of trust. (A sales person keeping an appointment with a bookseller in a Middle East country reported that he had been politely kept waiting for most of a morning while other visitors came and went. The bookseller then took him to lunch at home, and dropped him back at his hotel, promising to pick him up the following morning. At the meeting the next day the bookseller placed a very substantial order for exactly the series that had been the publisher’s main focus.)
- Be ready to address problems raised. These may relate to sales and marketing support, customer service, distribution and shipping, and credit control.
- Use the meeting to gain market knowledge, information about the local industry, and intelligence about competitor activity.
- Present product in a focused, relevant and informative way; learn from and be responsive to the recipient’s reactions.
- Ensure that order processing and shipping instructions are clearly noted, in order to avoid costly mistakes and an adverse effect on the relationship.
- Discuss marketing support: the publisher’s plans, the customer’s, and possibilities for joint activity.
- Note all the key points, in particular those relating to the all-important post-trip follow-up, which should be addressed within, say, two weeks of the visit.