I got up this morning with a feeling of dread in my stomach, combined with a flood of thoughts of what I needed to do today, “I’m all jitters and nerves. My boss says I have to make 20 new prospecting calls by end of day, and I don’t want to do it.” I froze, and decided to do something else for a little bit to get up my courage. Maybe I’d write a proposal, research the potential client, re-organize my desk, answer pressing or non-pressing internal emails, go get a cup of coffee, or maybe text my friend. All to avoid the inevitable…talk to a stranger.
This is just one example of what I hear when I’m training Signature Worldwide’s Client Center Sales program and ask what the participants feel about approaching a potential client. Most people have this mindset when it comes to approaching clients. It’s the big, bad gremlin who might bite your head off and simply say, “No” the second they hear your voice, or hammer at you with frustration, because you’re an unneeded distraction during their day.
To be in sales it takes fortitude, drive, and preparation, but the rewards are tremendous. Most people say it’s not sales anymore. It’s consulting, coaching, inspiring, and being a trusted advisor. However, at the end of the day, the company needs to meet the bottom line to thrive. If you’re making commissions, the motivation gets stronger, but building the skills and endurance are not always easy. The facts are that sales reps must make sales to keep their jobs, take care of their families, pay the bills, and buy all the things they need or want. It’s all relevant. There are a few percentage of sales people who enjoy the cold call process, like my brilliant father, who I’ve spoke about in my last blog, but for the most part, it’s the boxing ring they do not dare step in.
First of all, it’s important to start viewing your potential clients a little differently. They are not strangers. The old saying, “Strangers are friends you haven’t met yet,” rings true. My wise salesman father takes precedence again. He started advising me when I was just a small girl of six. I remember following him around the grocery store, gas station, or anywhere else we ended up, mesmerized by his ability to talk to anyone. He had no fear. One day he saw my little face looking up at him with awe, and he leaned into me and snuck a smile, whispering in his heavy Brooklyn accent, “Lissa, you talk to people like you know ‘em 20 years, and they melt!” “Huh,” I thought to myself, ‟Maybe I’ll try that.” I have been doing that ever since. I don’t know any strangers.
I’ve found that the hardest hump to get over during the selling process is Approaching a potential client. It is the first impression, so how you handle it can make or break the sale. Here is a little trick from our Client Centered Sales program that really works in securing an appointment with a potential client. Mindset is key. Keep these tips handy to help get yourself in the right mindset to prospect.
1) It’s about knowing there really are no strangers, and believing in your heart that you have something of value this potential client needs to help their business thrive.
2) Have it in your mind that the only purpose of the call is to set up an appointment.
3) An empathetic approach is necessary. Think about what it’s like to be in their shoes, and how many calls they may get from other sales people, and how much pressure they may be under. Your job is to help alleviate that pressure.
Below is a simple process to getting more appointments, which will help you get over the hump of approaching a potential client. The key word here is just Ask.
- Ask for more appointments. No matter what the industry, just dropping by, as all sales people know, is not the most effective way to get anyone in your good graces. It’s important to show respect from the beginning, and that comes from valuing their time.
- Ask for appointments toward the end of the hour, such as 9:45am. Most people set appointments at the top of the hour like 9am, 11am, 2pm, etc., so more people are bound to be available if you ask them at the :15 or :45 mark.
- Ask for a 10 minute introductory appointment. This way it will only take 10 minutes of their time, unless they have questions. “Unless they have questions,” is the key statement here, as this is what we’re hoping to get. Here is an example.
Salesperson – Could we meet Friday morning at 9:45am?
Client – How long will this take?
Salesperson – Just 10 minutes, unless you have questions.
At the end of your 10 minute pitch, you must honor what you told them, and say, “My time is up. Do you have any questions?”
The answer will come in three ways.
- Yes, I do have a few questions.
- No, I don’t have any questions.
- Yes, I have questions, but I don’t have time now to discuss.
We’re always shooting for the “Yes,” so if it’s answer one or three, you will be advancing the sale. If you get number one, and they have more questions, you are now on their time. This indicates that you have peaked their interest. If you get number three, you can respond, “Okay. When would be a good time to set up our next appointment to answer all of your questions?” When is an open-ended question that gets you to the next step in the sales process.
This method has proven to work more effectively in getting more appointments, which of course, gets you closer to the sale. It’s the little things that really matter and, asking for an appointment that is only 10 minutes in length, shows that you not only value their time, but will set you apart from the competition, who are not likely to be doing it.
So take a few breaths before you call, get in the right mindset, figure out your agenda, be empathetic, and start asking for more appointments on the :45 or :15 today. You will see how these little things can make all the difference.