Sales strategies should never be underestimated. It is easy to damage the trust of a prospect and put at risk any current or future business opportunity. You will note from my recent blog – Why My Blacklist is Longer than my Whitelist – just how easy this is.
Your sales approach needs to encompass your sales strategy, the products or services you offer, and the prospect you are pitching to. It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong sales technique. It’s all about finding a method that works for you and your business, and ensuring the greatest possible conversion rate from prospect to customer.
Although this blog is targeted towards the first face-to-face meeting, it applies equally to all types of introductions, whether by phone or email. We all know, first impressions matter.
Do go in prepared, don’t go in complacent
You know your business, your pitch, your product inside out. You may have held the same meeting a hundred times before and converted every time. If so, great. But don’t get complacent. At one point or another, someone will turn you down. This can be a huge knock to your confidence. The better the salesperson, the greater the hit.
It’s a case of remembering that each customer is unique. Preparation is not only about knowing your business; it’s about knowing the customer’s business. Businesses spend a significant amount of time researching their market, customers and competition (present and future). This is all to avoid a situation where they become complacent with their business. As Andy Grove once said, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive”.
Do understand what the customer hopes to achieve, don’t go in assuming you already know
The best way of securing the interest of your prospect.
Prospects have any number of reasons for scheduling a meeting with your business, or agreeing to a meeting you have proposed. In the past, I’ve held meetings for no other reason than to learn about the sector that the business specialises in, and had no interest in procuring their products or services. This may seem a bit harsh, but if they make a good impression, they’ve created a relationship for future opportunities.
My pet hate is, introductions aside, when a salesperson jumps instantly into the sales presentation. This is more so with junior sales executives, who are often fearful of diverting too far from the approved sales pitch. Often, you’ve lost me at this point. I’ll be fidgety, checking my phone, and making subtle hints throughout, waiting for those 6 magic words – WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE?
As I prepare well for meetings, the likelihood is I already know about your business. I’ve trawled your website, client list, partners, core values, and anything else I deem important. So, it’s about understanding what the customer hopes to achieve from this meeting. If they want to learn more about what your business does, use the pitch and ask specific questions. This will make the meeting more valuable. If they want to know about pricing, they’re already interested, so no need to dwell on how your business was established by Bob Smith in 1968, in his garage with nothing more than a phonebook and notepad – we don’t have the time, and probably not all that interested!
Interestingly, this leads us on to the next point…
Do listen, don’t do all the talking
You’ve understood what the prospect hopes to achieve, and have started to build a rapport with them. The temptation is to ask lots of questions to get the answers you need to help convert the sale. But it’s amazing how much can be learnt, and how many of your questions can be answered, just by letting the prospect speak.
As above, if the prospect is well versed in what your business does - the more talking you do, the more likely you are to slip up. On several occasions, I’ve had to question inaccurate statements made by sales directors, and I’ve called them up on it; “but your website says this…”, or “your colleague on the phone said that…”. It is incredibly difficult to redeem yourself from such situations. If you can’t accurately describe your services, or be truthful about what you offer, then you’ll lose the prospect. The more you speak, the greater the risk of this happening.
Do be clear about your post-meeting actions points, don’t leave with the prospect not knowing what’s next
Your primary aim in this meeting is to sell the prospect your product or service, whether now or in the future. If you have followed the guidance above, hopefully you will both conclude the meeting with a feeling of accomplishment. Time well spent.
Creating a post-meeting action list will ensure objectives and expectations are met. Set clear deadlines and keep the prospect up to date. There could still be time for them to change their mind, and this will be tempting if there is no clear plan of action. Make the transaction as painless as possible for them. This will not only help close the current deal, but will ensure their repeat business.
Do enjoy yourself
Introductory sales meeting should be fun. I certainly enjoy them. It gives me the opportunity to discuss an area I’m passionate about, meet new people, and learn about different businesses. This passion comes across in meetings (I hope without overkill), and goes a long way in building long term business relationships.