The initial approach to a prospect is the most crucial part of the sales presentation. All the selling skills in the world won’t matter if you don’t get your foot in the door.
Up front I state my name, the company I represent — Sunteck, and the particular transportation services I’m there to sell. Unlike a lot of salesmen and saleswomen, I don’t beat around the bush. I’m a big advocate of concept selling. I tell the prospect, “I’d like to share an idea with you. I’m in the transportation business. I’m assuming that you’re always looking for ideas that will help your company ship or receive goods in a way that will make your company more efficient, more service driven, and more profitable. I’d like to run some ideas by you.”
This statement is a big attention-getter and opens the door. It creates immediate interest. Of course you have to substantiate your statement in your presentation.
The first moments of your sales call should create initial interest by making a statement. “Sunteck is in the business of providing solutions for a variety of different transportation needs. Technology is moving very fast, and I deal with many companies similar to yours. You need a transportation provider which not only can handle your current needs, but is also working on your needs for the future.” Another great opener is, “Our main goal at Sunteck is to enhance your productivity.”
Early in your initial meeting be sure to mention the names of several of your satisfied customers. This is done to establish credibility. It lets the prospect know that Sunteck’s shipping solutions have benefited leading logistic decision-makers that came to the well-informed decision to trust you and your ideas. I always make it a point to discuss other customers in their industry who are working in similar environments. I wouldn’t, for example, mention how we handle an account like Microsoft to a small locally owned computer software company. Their problems are so different that the prospect won’t be able to relate to an organization that is one hundred to one million times bigger. When I speak about familiar customers who have found the solutions to similar shipping problems through Sunteck, I get the prospect’s immediate attention.
When you use a prospect’s competitors or companies in similar industries as examples, it creates an opportunity to use another great opening approach. “Mr. Fulton, I’m Dave Dallas with Sunteck. Has Sean Clancy mentioned my name to you?” It doesn’t make any difference what the prospect answers, this breaks the ice. In fact, even when I don’t have a referral, I’ve been known to mention the name of one of the prospect’s competitors who’s a client of mine. Now, it’s highly unlikely that his competition would have talked to him about me, but again, it’s an icebreaker. And you can bet that he’s interested in all the transportation services that are available to his competition.
If I know beforehand that the prospect knows little about Sunteck and nothing about me, I sometimes send a short bio-sketch and a few magazine and newspaper articles that have featured Sunteck or were written by me. I provide something tangible to the prospect that adds a new dimension to the relationship. Rather than simply sending them a brochure about Sunteck, I personalize it, and at the same time the articles express something about me and my philosophy on transportation.
There are too many freight sales reps in the U.S. today to even come up with an accurate number. I think it’s important for your prospect to know about your qualifications. Tell the prospect about yourself. No grandstanding or patting yourself on the back, just an informative look at your career and the customers you’ve helped. It lets the prospect know that he’s dealing with a professional. It tells him that he’s not dealing with the run-of-the-mill freight rep. In the transportation business there are two kinds of sales people: those who add value to the client’s traffic department, and those who seem to mishandle every shipment or transaction their company is involved with (late, damaged, billed incorrectly, etc.). Let the customer know early on that you fall into the first category.
Of course, when the moment of truth arrives, you’ll have to find the best way to make a good first impression. Take into consideration the particular dynamics of your prospect’s age, position, and gender in comparison with your own. Accommodate and welcome the differences.
Every prospect will react differently to what you have to say. Some prospects will give you all the time in the world, while others believe making time for a ten minute meeting threatens a crisis. Some are skeptical, while others are freethinkers who pride themselves on being open to new ideas. The point is you can’t win everyone over with a single script designed to handle the first few minutes.
Usually there is an advantage to beginning an exchange by focusing on your own observations and experiences. Doing so takes some of the pressure off of the prospect, who’ll be expecting you to try to “draw him out.”
You can always find something that will serve as a positive conversational starting point that has to do with the way your prospect has chosen to decorate his or her surroundings. It may sound corny, but it’s a fact, people say a lot about themselves in the way they decorate their offices.
First impressions are lasting impressions. By using the advice in this chapter you‘ll put the customer at ease and give them confidence in Sunteck’s ability to handle their demanding logistic needs. In the process, you’ll develop a lot of new customers and lasting friendships.
“The better your relationships the shorter your sales cycle and the more money you will make.”
Here are fourteen additional suggestions that will help you create a winning first impression.
- Believe in yourself. If you don’t believe you can win the prospect’s confidence, you’ll self-destruct in the opening moments of your first sales call.
- Develop and maintain a positive attitude. The first thing a new prospect notices is if you’re upbeat and positive.
- Visualize the first meeting with your prospect before it takes place. It will help you become more assertive and confident.
- Shake hands firmly, but don’t overdo it. This applies to men and women. A weak handshake creates doubt in the mind of the prospect.
- Be conversational. Speak as though you’re talking to an old friend.
- Don’t prejudge the prospect. Everyone is different. Respect their differences.
- Qualify the buyer early, preferably before your first face-to-face meeting. Don’t waste your time on someone who has no impact on the decision about whether or not to use Sunteck.
- Believe in Sunteck and the services you sell. If you don’t, the prospect won’t either.
- Know the prospect’s industry before you make the call.
- Know the prospect’s business before you make the call.
- Look professional. Your appearance is the first thing the prospect notices.
- Be prompt. Lateness tells the prospect you don’t respect his or her time. In our industry, it’s particularly telling. How can the prospect expect Sunteck to be on time with his shipments if you can’t make it to your very first meeting on time?
- Use humor early. It’s one of your most effective sales tools. Laughter signals approval, so make your prospect laugh. Keep in mind, what is humorous to some, misses the mark with others. Keep your humor PG13.
- Be sincere. Sincerity wins customers – insincerity loses customers and prospective customers.