Every now and then I’m asked to speak to a group of young salespeople, most often in financial services or real estate. Most of them are eager to know selling techniques, ‘power closes,’ and they’ll even ask for a script. I won’t fault them for their enthusiasm, and the truth is a lot of people are better of with a script until they gain some confidence. However, when dealing with less experienced salespeople in those industries, often there is need for more than just some training in the salient obvious parts of the sales process. Most salespeople who are still fairly new to the profession will usually need to be taught how to take advantage of the much maligned cold call, but today we’re going to go over another area where inexperienced sales people often lose a good number of sales: in-person meetings. We’ve all had it happen early in our careers. We get the appointment, show up for it, and then lose the sale more through negligence or a lack of professionalism than lack of virtue in our product or service.
1. Know your material
There’s no substitute for product knowledge coupled with a thorough knowledge of your industry. For younger salespeople in particular, prospects can be reluctant to close because they’re concerned that you don’t know what you’re talking about it. It’s not fair, it’s not right, but that’s how it is. You can develop your experience by being a better student of your material and your industry than your peers are. This isn’t everything, but it can help a great deal in establishing your credibility.
2. Have a clearly defined sales strategy
Most people are attracted to others who know what they are doing. People seek out services because they need an ‘expert.’ When you know what you’re doing, it will come across to your prospects and clients. Now, this doesn’t mean you should just wade right in and start throwing product information at them before it’s time, or that you should say things just for the purpose of showing how much you know. That will just make you look like a wise-guy and it won’t make you any friends. You can easily distinguish yourself from other salespeople by just spending time asking the right questions that don’t just push your clients toward a close, but which reveal their true needs and thus arouse their curiosity about how you might meed those needs. Your strategy should be broken down into clearly defined steps, and you ought to have a definite plan for each step. For my consulting and speaking business, my process breaks down like this:
Initial contact – This can happen by phone, in person, or even online. This is where you start getting to know them.
Develop Interest – I don’t try to close them on the first call. I look for ways I can use my network to help them achieve success in addition to the value I can deliver through my service. Why? I actually get referrals from prospects who never even did business with me, simply because they saw that I was genuinely interested in their success.
Book the presentation – I set up a definite time to meet with the prospect or a group of prospects, and make sure that my calendar is clear for the morning or afternoon of the presentation. This isn’t always necessary, but part of my booking process is making sure that no snags, distractions or surprises get in the way.
The close – I ask for the sale, simply and directly. By this time I’ve established the value of my service, and made it clear that I can significantly increase their sales for the long-term, so it’s not a hard close. If the sale doesn’t close, I don’t poison the well, but instead keep a good rapport and touch base with them once in a while, because they might have something my other clients need. This is one of the reasons why I tend to get referrals from prospects who never closed. Remember, a rejection at the close isn’t always ‘no forever,’ and it’s always an opportunity to grow your network, if only to be of greater value to your clients.
Delivery – When it’s time to come and speak, or conduct a Live Training Event, I come prepared and leave it all at the podium. When I take on a consultancy, I make sure to be even more thorough than what is apparently required. In between the close and delivery, I also look for ways to improve my service. The result is a very satisfied client.
Followup – I check back with the client to see how things have progressed, and will even come in to go over sales data and get feedback from the sales staff. For some clients, I’ll even do some coaching with a few of their salespeople, and at this point I’ll find out if there’s any other ways I can help them through my network of contacts.
3. Be good at small talk
Few things can give an impression of incompetence like a salesperson who’s bad at small talk, because it just makes him seem nervous. Nervous people are usually perceived to be uncertain of themselves. In a sales situation, this can easily translate to the perception that you’re unsure of yourself and your product. If you aren’t sure, you can’t expect them to be. The start of a meeting is where you want to build rapport, so develop confidence in talking about current events, your community, and so on. Also, eliminate those ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ that can creep into your speech. I can never says this enough: Join your local Toastmasters.
4. Have a well-developed ‘credibility declaration.’
Prepare something you can say whenever someone says ‘You look young,’ or asks how long you’ve been worked in your profession. You can even make this statement part of your introduction and nip the ‘experience’ objection in the bud.
5. Start the meeting with an agenda outlining what you’re going to go over.
Since you need to stand out from the pack, pay attention to the little details, and your prospect will have fewer valid objections.
6. Display prominently, but tastefully, certificates of achievement and awards in your office
7. Use strong, positive body language
A lot of what we communicate is non-verbal, so your body language can reinforce or contradict what you’re trying to say. You will typically look more confident if you:
Sit/stand tall with good posture.
Lean forward to listen when your prospect speaks, and maintain positive eye contact.
Be sure your chair puts you at eye level with others. Never have it lower.
To greet people, walk toward them with your hand outstretched. A good, firm handshake works wonders.
8. Look the part.
Like the ancient saying goes, ‘People see your outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.’ Your prospect can’t see that golden heart of yours, or your keen mind, so you need to be mindful of your appearance. We cant do much about our age, height, or looks, but we can control our wardrobe and demeanor. Invest in quality professional attire, and keep your hair and fingernails well groomed. That neon blue nail polish that was a hit in high school may not fare so well in a meeting with middle-aged bankers. Long ago, for my first day at work in the financial industry, I came to work in a bright royal blue suit, with an equally bright red shirt and pair of red snakeskin shoes. The president of the company wanted to fire me, but my supervisor convinced him that I’d dress more conservatively going forward. Unfortunately for me, this was the same day that the first Spiderman movie opened, and so it was that I was stuck with the nickname ‘Spidey,’ even though I had resigned myself to wearing dark suits and shoes.
9. Create a concise bio that you can use with your information package.
This can be be a one-page summary, with a picture that you can include with your introductory package. Include your education, experience, major achievements an a few testimonials from satisfied clients. When a client has high praise for you, ask them if you can quote them. If they grant you permission, write down what they said, email it to them later, and get their approval. A few such testimonials can give your credibility a significant boost.
10. Be sure to have a similar bio on LinkedIn
A lot of prospects and clients are tech-savvy, so the last thing you’d want is for your LinkedIn profile to be too different from your bio sheet. Even though the facts may be the same, a major difference in presentation can be seen as deceptive.