Are all Business Meetings Sales Meetings or Why is Sales a nasty word?

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

“Sales? Me?” “I hate sales…” Ever heard or thought this? Even the most experienced sales people may tell you that not every meeting is a sales meeting, and as one of my favorite CEO’s said “I think in many (customer) meetings you don’t and you should not sell”

And yet, I still contend that every business meeting is a sales meeting. So let’s backtrack a moment and start with differentiating between a professional meeting and a business meeting.

I’ll start by claiming that every meeting with a customer should be looked at as a business meeting, even when discussing a professional issue – stay with me on this!

A professional meeting is relatively straight forward – whenever you discuss your profession, it’s a professional meeting. Even a brainstorming session can be considered a professional meeting. If you are engineers and discussing how to resolve an engineering problem, it’s a professional meeting. However, if you are an engineer, discussing an engineering problem with a customer, and you are representing a company that wants to sell to this customerthen it’s a business meeting—even though you are discussing your profession. Anyone in sales who has been to a customer meeting with a very technical engineer, who wants to tell the customer about every little bug or problem in the technical solutions, is probably nodding their head now in agreement. When that same engineer is at ‘home’ discussing technical issues with colleagues – it’s a professional meeting, but when he needs to get in-company prioritization on product development from another team and they are discussing resources it’s a business meeting.

Let’s take a look at some other examples of professional meetings and business meetings; If you are a singer and discussing the new vocals, arrangements, editing or mixing – it’s a professional meeting. A marketing team discussing best messages, a sales team discussing strategy, a graphic designer discussing design- all professional meetings.

It becomes a business meeting when you are meeting to discuss business, in this context business includes anything having to do with resources (human, physical, monetary) and approvals. In addition, all meetings with potential customers (or an existing customer that you want to eventually re-sell something to) should always be considered a business meeting.

Think about it.

If you are a singer, an author, or an artist and you are meeting with your agent to discuss, yes- your business, then it’s a business meeting. You want to “sell” your agent on the idea of representing you, getting you more exposure, lowering fees, better deals etc.. Ok – the agent is there to do the “selling”, but in the context of your meeting, you are trying to get that agent to do something different.

A job interview? No matter what side you are on, the prospective employer or employee – you are selling – your company or yourself. You both have an objective of having the other change an initial perspective (or strengthen it if it was positive to begin with) and take action.

When a doctor needs approval for a new process she wants to introduce into the hospital ward, it’s a business meeting and she needs to be prepared to sell her idea.

What happens at team meetings and internal meetings? If you need your colleagues to cooperate, prioritize your project, and your team members to buy into an idea or process then you need to influence them to take the desired action you want.

Let’s get back to my favorite CEO’s comment; “I think in many (customer) meetings you don’t and you should not sell”. I know that at every customer meeting he attended he was focused on the end result - creating a trusted partner relationship with the customer for extended repeat business and growth. I’m sure that at every customer meeting he wanted something to happen that would move him closer to his ultimate goal. This can be as basic as wanting to strengthen a relationship and create a more personal bond. Or getting information, changing a perception, educating, raising awareness, impressing - getting a grant or approval- passing an exam, introducing a new concept- securing a raise — and of course, getting an agreement to purchase something.

I call all of these sales meetings because one side wants to influence the other to make a change toward an ultimate business goal- that hopefully will be mutually beneficial.

Let’s assume we agree (just for a minute) that every business meeting is a sales meeting. How does this affect the way we do business?

Top sales people are always on the lookout for what can