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Sell From The First Sentence!

Updated on August 7, 2011
Inventurist profile image

Ed has been an entrepreneur and business owner/start-up generator for 15 years. He has also been a shotgun coach!

It is my pleasure to meet you, and mean it!
It is my pleasure to meet you, and mean it!

Eye Contact, Firm Handshake, Engage Now!

I'm not saying you have to overwhelm someone to sell them - but you better be prepared and take the offense to control the dialog and get where you want to go. Preparation, knowledge, and a value proposition that is communicated properly, sends the right message without bullying the prospect or making them feel challenged.

Before you make the call (phone sales work the same way), before you knock on the door, before you start the process - know these minimum aspects of the sale:

  1. What is it you are selling? Not just that you are selling a widget, but with this widget what is it that the is going to improve the customer's life, make something better, save someone money, or improve some aspect of their business? This is what knowing what your are selling is all about. If I sell you, a carpenter, a better hammer, what am I really selling you? I'm selling it because it will improve the speed you can drive nails, accuracy for how you may strike the nail and it weighs half what a regular framing hammer weighs. With all these improvements in efficiency, you can now drive a third more nails in the same time-frame with the same effort - so you get done faster and have more energy when you are finished. Now you have a value proposition for the carpenter that is understandable, right?
  2. Who is your customer? You can make all the appointments you want with the purchasing agent for the company - but if the line manager or the carpenter on the job is the one making the decision on widgets, you are wasting your time and hers. Knowing who this is ahead of time will be of great value to you. Figure it out by making some inquiries by phone ahead of time, asking others who you know within the company or making field calls. Being familiar with the field operators make you more a part of the "family."
  3. What are they buying? Back to the value proposition, not to the specific product. Think about this again - not that you are selling a roll of duct tape; you are selling a product that allows the proper bonding of dissimilar items, or, Alabama Chrome! In other words, you are selling an outcome. Car salesmen don't sell Honda Accords, they sell dependability, comfort, economy, efficiency, etc. So what is your prospect buying? Make sure your value proposition identifies how well your product will meet their needs.
  4. When are they buying it? Timing is often more important than anything. Early is always better than late, and consistent is very important. Selling on the first call is very unlikely for items that cost over $100. So your expectations must be realistic. If your timing is perfect, it won't matter how much something costs - you may walk right in just after the other supplier pissed off the buyer or ran out of product, or sent crappy product or died. Always be ready for the sale. You never know when it might come up.
  5. Beware of the immediate need. If you walk into a situation where you anticipated the need for multiple calls in a sales cycle and the opportunity is immediate. Those caution ears better start sticking right out the sides of your head - be sure to handle any company required credit checks or approvals before that sale - otherwise there is a good chance you won't be cashing any commission check on this deal.

Now that we have a handle on our prospect, their specific needs, their specific application, when they intend to buy, how much they buy, what they normally or expect to pay, and who makes the decision to buy. We don't have to waste anybody's time - we don't have to play any games - if we don't want to. Sure, we still have to respect whatever rules are in place as far as introduction of new product or supplier is involved. We have brought with us all the supporting documents we will be required to provide.Our appointment is with the decision maker. Our product fits the need, the price and provides a value proposition better than what is currently being offered. What did we forget?

There are a couple of items we may not have been able to foresee or may not be obvious to someone not active within the company itself. Items like, "we only buy from companies that are on our approved supply list" which requires testing, evaluation, analysis or some other requirement. There is also the one that cannot be cracked easily, "My Brother-In-Law, Sister-In-Law, Sister, Brother, Uncle, Father, mistress....whoever it is....sells us those and has for 40 years." I really hate that one - and really love winning that order later - and I will!

Assuming we don't have a family member or relationship we have to deal with, let's move forward on the sale. Show up on time, dressed to the level of the person we will be selling to if not a little bit nicer. In other words, when I am selling industrial products to men working in the engineered wood business, I would dress in khaki work pants and a dress shirt - but not jeans and t-shirt like the guys I am calling on would be wearing. If I am only going into their office - I upgrade to a sport coat. If I am calling on a medical office - not the hospital but the office - a minimum is dress slacks, dress shirt and unless it is hot as blue blazes, a sport coat and dress shoes. Sure, other reps show up in scrubs, so I decide to set myself apart. Scrubs work at the hospital where I am likely to need to have them on if I have to follow a prospect into the O.R. to continue the discussion.

Hygiene questions aren't discussed anymore but need to be apparently. I've seen a few reps actually show up without shaving, without washing their hair, look like they are still sleeping off the night before, shirt not tucked in (that is why they have tails) and ball caps turned backward. Really? Professional people don't want to associate themselves with this style of salesman. What I mean is, someone may buy something from this guy - once...but don't count on repeat sales here.

Shaving doesn't mean you have to not have any facial hair - it means you have to shave off what you aren't growing. 2 days growth of hair stubble means you really don't care about the customer, the job you are doing or what anyone thinks. Be assured, other people do think and often that they don't let the slummer know what they are thinking.

Show up on time. If you care about a sale, don't dilly-dally. Be there on time for your appointment. The buyer was kind enough to give you a moment of your time - be sure to utilize it to your benefit. If you see you are going to be late - call a minimum of 30 minutes ahead, tell them you are going to be late and state about how late you will be. Understand, if you were scheduled to be there at 10 and have one hour to meet with your prospect, now you are going to be 10:15 - you only have 45 minutes AND DON"T GO OVER. Respect your prospect's schedule. At a minimum, offer to come back again when you can talk more - attempt to close the sale then leave.

Stay on task. I had a prospect I used to call on that had a nice 10 pound bass on the wall behind him. I never said anything about that bass although I loved the fact it was there. He became a good customer over time and finally one day I was going off for the weekend fishing. I mentioned it to him in passing - again not mentioning the bass, just that I was going and he said, "I don't fish." Astounded, I had to ask then why there was a bass on the wall behind his desk. "If a salesman comes into my office and starts talking bass fishing, I figure he doesn't really have anything to sell me. As soon as he mentions the bass - I turn off listening until he leaves!" Glad I stayed on task!


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