The sales process is a lot like running a hurdle race. You have lots of competitors running with you and there are a few things standing in between you and the finish.
Hurdle #1 – The First Impression
If I look at you, would I be able to assume you’re one of the best in your field? Are you well groomed or not? Are your clothes wrinkled or pressed? Do you wear a golf shirt everyday, or do you go the extra mile with a dress shirt and tie? Do you smoke? (Stop!) We infer a lot (probably too much) about people when we first interact with them. That first impression sets the tone. Don’t do anything here that will turn anyone off or massively decrease your chances of moving forward. Its sad to see someone fall on the first hurdle.
Jim Rohn said, “God looks on the inside, man looks on the outside….isn’t that good information? Of course, once people have had a chance to get to know you, they’ll judge you based on more than what they see….but at first….they’re gonna take a look!”
Don’t fall on the first hurdle.
Hurdle #2 – Quality of Communication
Do you use words and phrases that make you sound tentative, inexperienced, or desperate? Even if you made a positive visual first impression, you can still fall on hurdle #2 by scuttling the whole opportunity with low value speech. The primary reason buyers don’t want to see you is they have to assume up front that you’re probably a waste of time. I can’t tell you how many prospects have started off a sales call by telling my sales rep “they don’t have much time.” They’re trying to mitigate the “damage” up front. History simply can’t let them be positive about your arrival.
So if they’ve given you the time of day, and you’re sitting there at your first meeting, choose your words wisely. Have an agenda that is internalized through lots of practice.
Canned presentations are a great way to make sure you cover every base with confidence. Could there be a link between the impression that salespeople are a waste of time, and the fact that most of them are WINGING their presentation? I believe there is.
We give our salespeople a script and expect them to follow it. Sure you can argue it’s a bit disjointed or awkward at first, but how good were you the first time you ever swung a golf club? How proficient were you at working the brakes the first time you drove a car? It takes practice to become smooth at just about every task you try to master. The good news is once you’ve internalized the script and agenda in sales, you can perform without thinking about it…allowing you to focus on the client, instead of what to say next.
Go find out what the best people in your industry say and do at an initial meeting. Write that down. Practice it yourself over and over and over. It won’t be too long before your internalized script is outstanding.
Hurdle #3 – Being a person of consistency
As a buyer, why would I meet with a salesperson when I believe there is almost no chance I’ll ever see them again? Salespeople as a group are notoriously flaky. At my company, we train our salespeople to visit a prospect at least 8 times, on a regular schedule, taking something of value to show the prospect each time. This approach gives them a chance to build a relationship with the buyer and present new solutions that create true value, rather than trying to simply cut the price on existing products. It takes 5-8 calls to get most of our accounts open. Do you know how many salespeople are gone by the 3rd call? Almost all of them.
It’s easy to stand out when you’re there for the long haul. Work a consistent plan, and prove that you’re interested in the buyer, and its only a matter of time before they start questioning why they’re still working with the incumbent and not you…CLEARLY, you’re the better fit based on what they’ve seen on the last several calls. That can’t happen in 1 or 2 calls.
The relationships you develop are almost 100% dependent on the amount of time you spend with someone. If its acceptable in your industry, I would highly recommend you make a sales call at a regular interval, not just when a client calls. There is magic in the consistency. The people you call on have likely never seen someone do this before. I can tell you from personal experience, the perception of you will change quickly from “another salesperson” to something interesting and special. You will become remarkable because they observe you working a plan, when all the other salespeople they’ve encountered clearly do not.
So how easily can you clear these hurdles?
If you’re not sure where you stand on these things, ditch your ego and ask someone (or multiple someones!) you trust to give you an HONEST appraisal. Its not about criticizing, its about making sure you’ve got your best foot forward. High achievers crave constructive criticism from valuable advisors.
If you have no trusted advisor, ask yourself these questions:
1.) Can I tell from your physical appearance that you are a person that cares about details? Do you look like someone that is the best in your industry?
2.) Does the way you speak make others feel like you are friendly, confident, and knowledgeable? Do you know your sales process inside and out?
3.) Do you get into your car each morning with a clear agenda for the day? How often do you accomplish that agenda?