3 Steps for a Successful ‘Big Deal’ Meeting

You’ve done it. You’ve landed a meeting with a top leader or executive at work. Whether you’re pitching a new product, suggesting a process change or requesting a budget increase, this is your time to show leadership what you’ve got. But to do that, you need to understand how these meetings work.

Meetings with top leaders or executives reflect the intensity of their jobs. They nix the small talk, cut through any excess information and ask pointed questions to evaluate any proposals.

Landing such a meeting is a big deal, not only for your organization, but also for your personal career. Everyone wants to nail these meetings, but how do you do it?

Here are three steps to make sure your big meeting is a success.

  1. Prep with a purpose

All the prep work should be done with your end goal in mind. What is the action step you want the executive to take at the end of the meeting? Form your presentation, questions and stats around that goal.

Company leaders possess an uncanny ability to recall data regarding their organization. They’re also focused on the future growth of the company and constantly weigh how implementing new initiatives, products or services will affect that growth. In order to persuade them to approve your proposal, do your homework and understand not only the current data, but also how your proposal can accelerate the desired growth.

Once you’ve completed your research and meeting prep, cut where you can. They don’t want to listen to extraneous information. They want to know what you want, why you want it and the value it brings, so get to the point. Any information outside of that should be left out of your proposal.

Execs are extremely professional, but they’re also people. Take some time to learn about him or her and memorize a few personal facts so you can make a personal connection when you meet.

  1. Keep it conversational

Leadership expert John C. Maxwell said, “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.” Your nonverbal communication sends a message as loudly as your proposal. You’ve worked your way up to this meeting and deserve the time to make your pitch. Empower yourself by selecting a seat that puts you on the same level as who you’re meeting with and maintain eye contact.

While everyone is getting settled, use one of the personal facts you learned to establish a quick connection. Make sure you keep it short and sweet, though. You’re the one managing the clock and need to maximize your time on what matters.

Create space for conversation. Executives in particular prefer to have conversations instead of watching a presentation. When you make a point, anticipate a counterpoint ­– either challenging your data or suggesting another solution. Don’t get discouraged by this. Instead, consider it an opportunity for you to problem-solve together. Plus, you’ve done your homework, so you can confidently suggest why your solution is best and present the data to back it up.

  1. Remember to follow up

Even after your meeting, you can continue to influence the executive or leader with a handwritten thank-you card or a gift. Although it may seem that the days of writing thank-you cards are well over, the opposite is true. In fact, it’s backed up by research.

Psychology Today highlighted a study on the effect of thank-you notes by Amit Kumar, assistant professor of marketing in the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, and Nicholas Epley, professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Their research found “that people expressing gratitude underestimated how pleasantly surprised recipients would be to receive a handwritten ‘thank you’ and how positive the expression of gratitude made recipients feel. On the flip side, people who wrote thank-you letters overestimated the potential awkwardness that someone receiving a heartfelt thank-you note would experience.”

Here are three tips for writing a great thank-you card:

  1. Keep it short and sweet. Thank him or her for the opportunity, recap your conversation in one or two brief points, and say that you look forward to working together.
  2. Use professional ink colors, preferably black or blue. If your handwriting isn’t easily legible, ask someone to write the note for you, then sign your name. If the recipient can’t read the note, it’s not worth writing.
  3. Underneath your signature, include a postscript — like this one! – to reiterate the key point of your proposal.

Another way you can thank someone is by sending a small gift with the handwritten note. Maybe you discovered the leader loves coffee. Send a bag with a note that reads something like, “I remembered you love Colombian blends and thought you’d enjoy trying this.” They will appreciate that you noticed and remembered something specific to them as a person. Big win!

You’ve landed an important meeting for a reason and now it’s your time to shine. Keep in mind the Boy Scouts have it right: “Be prepared.” With some hard work and practice, you’ll crush it!