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. If you don’t handle the situation correctly, the first impression can be the only impression!
Up front, state your name, the company you represent and the services you’re there to sell. Try not to beat around the bush – make a strong statement like, “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 then have to substantiate your statement with an excellent sales presentation.
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 your solutions have benefited leading logistic decision-makers that came to the well-informed decision to trust you and your ideas. Make it a point to discuss other customers in their industry who are working in similar environments. When you speak about familiar customers who have found the solutions to similar shipping problems through your services, you’ll get the prospect’s immediate attention.
If you know beforehand that the prospect knows little about your company and nothing about yourself, it can pay off to send a short bio-sketch and a few magazine and newspaper articles that have featured your company. Providing something tangible to the prospect can add a new dimension to the relationship.
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 begin 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 your 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.”