One of the best parts of my job is not the speaking or writing, but traveling in the field and selling. Sometimes my own products, and sometimes with sales reps from a variety of industries. When going on sales calls for the first time, there are a few things you can do upfront that can make a big difference later on in the sales cycle. It's not rocket science or some kind of magic sales secret, just plain common courtesy and common sense.
- Introduce yourself around the office. Common sense says that you should introduce yourself to the receptionist or anyone else you pass on the way to your sales call. But it doesn't always happen. Many salespeople will ask to see the person with whom they have an appointment without giving the person they're talking to the time of day. Yet the receptionist has valuable information about the company and people who work there. Always remember to say, "Thanks Steve, I appreciate your help." It sounds like a little thing, but ends up going a long way. Great salespeople end up knowing a variety of people who work at the client's company because they understand that you never know who's going to be promoted and can assist you in the future.
- Break the ice. Do you know what gets your prospects excited and passionate about their work and life? Did you notice the family pictures they have around their office or the plaques hanging on the wall? Or maybe it's the signed football sitting in a glass box. Ask them about the things they find important enough to have surrounding them all day. Those objects are there for a reason. Or do you really believe your prospects wake up in the morning and just can't wait to see your presentation?
Let me give you an example. The other day I was sitting in on a follow-up sales call. There were at least 30 pictures hanging on the walls, but one stood out. It was a picture of two people skydiving, taken from the plane.
I turned to the owner of the company and asked, "Who's the skydiver?" At that his eyes widened with excitement and his face lighted up with enthusiasm. "That's me the first and last time I jumped out of a plane!" I asked him what it felt like the moment he was airborne (sometimes these things take a gentle prod). He then went into a big story about his post-jump excitement; his euphoria was palpable. The transition to the sales call was easy, "Well, that's how excited you'll be when we install these six machines," I said jokingly. We all laughed and the meeting continued, but the atmosphere was quite different from when we started.
- Review your time frame. Even though you might have confirmed the length of your sales meeting before the call, it's always good to do it again. You might not be aware that timing has changed for the customer. The following statement will set you straight: "I know we set aside an hour for today's meeting. I just want to make sure that still works for you."
Now, some people might be saying, "Why are you asking that again? You already got the time, and the customer might tell you that now he only has 30 minutes." The answer is courtesy. Also, if the customer's had a crazy day, his attention is not going to be focused on you. I've gone on calls with reps who dive right into their presentation, no nod to time, no ice breakers, and I'll watch the customer squirm in his chair and look at his watch as if wondering; "How long is this going to take?"
When you value the customer's time, it shows that you also value your own.
- Ask, "Do you mind if I take some notes?" Before going into your qualifying and fact-finding mission, ask permission to take some notes. First, the customer will be impressed that you want to learn about his goals and needs. Second, it tells him that what he says is important, and you don't want to miss any key points. I sometimes put the word "LISTEN" in big letters at the top of the page to remind me that no one ever listens themselves out of a sale.
- Say thank you and follow up. After the meeting, face the customer straight on, look him in the eye and say thanks, and mean it. Also, e-mail or mail him a follow-up letter going over the meeting points from your notes and next steps.
Sometimes we forget how important common courtesy is, the basic little things we should do that can make a big difference in the way we sell and the relationships we build.
"Knowledge, ability, experience are of little avail in reaching high success if courtesy is lacking. Courtesy is the one passport that will be accepted without question in every land, in every office, in every home, in every heart in the world. For nothing commends itself so well as kindness; and courtesy is kindness."
-- George D. Powers