I strongly recommend you prepare at least 10 questions before an important meeting to ensure that the meeting gets going. Once a conversation starts it is easy to respond and ask the logical next question. The ten pre-prepared questions are to ensure you do not freeze and the meeting never gets started.
A good opener, after you have introduced yourself, and your purpose in having the meeting “ I am here to better understand your requirements related to ……” is just to ask “What is your role & responsibility”?
At some point you will need to ask “What are your key business outcomes you are looking for from ……” and / or “What process improvements will deliver these improvements”?
I can’t really help you much more than this. You need to think through, what is the Value Proposition that I am selling; what business changes would underpin that Value Proposition and explore with the executives (by questioning) the needs or requirements for change he is expecting from the procurement and implementation of your product.
To use a simple example a car salesman might ask a combination of the following:-
- Is this going to be your first car or a second car?
- Will you be using it or your wife? (Proceeded by “are you married?”)
- How many children do you have?
- Do you have pets?
- What is the car for, every day use or for weekends?
- What is your current car?
- Why are you changing it?
- Etc., etc.
What you are trying to do is build up an understanding of usage requirements and then you can start asking:-
- Do you have a particular budget in mind?
It is no different whatever you are selling, understand the usage requirements and then the willingness to spend and then you have the information you require to either craft a solution proposal or walk away from the business. Why walk away? if after a full and professional requirements gathering process you cannot achieve the outcome they are looking for at a budget that is acceptable – walk away. If you cannot change one of the two dimensions Requirement Scope or Price Expectation so that your company is happy to do business with the customer and you have a reasonable chance of satisfying the customer. Walk away. In the long run it is better. One unhappy customer has the same impact on your reputation in the market as ten happy customers. If you explain why you are walking away to the customer in terms that they can appreciate; “I cannot satisfy your requirements with my current product at a price point that will give you an ROI.” Then at least next time you will have a reputation for professionalism and honesty.