If you are in outside sales, the first appointment with a prospect is vital to your success in eventually selling them your product or service. Just think, the first time you meet someone is a chance to create a lifelong customer. This person has agreed to meet with because you’ve scheduled an appointment with them over the phone. Either your timing is great and they are looking for your product or service, or they are open to new ideas and want to hear what you have to say. An opportunity to sell your product to a company a person should be viewed as an opportunity to begin a partnership. Sales are rarely a one-time event where you have no relationship with the customer after the fact. Treat your prospects and customers like friends and build your relationship with them accordingly.
People do not buy from people they do not like. Let’s repeat that. People do not buy, from people they do not like. The old school of thought on sales lends itself towards being a “hard closer” and essentially tricking the prospect into buying your product. This isn’t feasible anymore and if you approach your career with this mentality you will surely fail more often than not.
Ask them about themselves. Someone’s favorite subject is always going to be themselves. If you can’t pick out anything in their office like a college banner or a trophy, discuss their work history. Ask questions like:
- “How long have you been with the company?”
- “How has your role changed since you’ve been here?”
- “What did you do before this?”
Questions like this are professional in nature but give you a chance to build rapport outside of the discussion on your product/service. Let this conversation go on if the prospect is enjoying it. This is your first chance to show them you are easy going and will make a great business partner if the opportunity is there.
Set the Agenda
Setting the agenda is everything in the sales cycle. You want to give the prospect a great idea of what your process looks like so there is no confusion as you move forward. After building rapport, thank the prospect for inviting you in and explain what you had in mind for the appointment. This is also your chance to ask what they had in mind.
The first appointment is not a time for you to cram product features down their throat and show off your product. The first appointment is about developing the need for your product or service, and discovering pain points around what the prospect is currently doing.
A customer with no pain in their current situation, most likely will not buy your product or service. Please let that sink in. Someone making a purchase means that they care less about the money they are spending, and more about the product or service they are receiving in return.
Pain might be that their current process is wasting time, money or both. Understanding what someone’s pain is around their current situation is how you will continue to move the process forward and earn their business. In your agenda you should mention that you’d like to discuss the following:
- Their current situation and what’s not working (their pain)
- What it might cost to solve those issues (potential budget)
- If anyone else needs to be involved in the decision making process
- What the next step is your sales process
- Ask if there’s anything else they’d like to cover
Ask the Right Questions
After you set the agenda, it makes for a very open conversation and also ensures that you don’t waste their time or your own. Do not begin the appointment by showcasing your product or service. This is your one (probably only) chance to dig for pain points, and motivate this prospect enough to continue the sales cycle with you. If they feel that your product or service can potentially solve their current issues, they will almost always give you a chance to see it through.
Ask open ended questions. If they mention something that’s wrong with their current situation, drill down on it. It may seem negative but it’s the only way you can motivate them to change it! Ask things like, “How long has that been going on? How much do you think that’s cost you this year?” These types of questions will inspire them to make a change.
Schedule the Next Step
After you have gotten at least 3 pains and qualified this customer to be a good fit for your product or service, always schedule the next step. Do not leave the appointment without securing a date/time for your next meeting. Whether it is a walk-through of their office, or a time to bring a specialist back for another meeting, do not leave without scheduling it. Decision makers are busy people and it may be hard to get a hold of them again after you leave.
Those are the basics. Look for our follow up articles on building rapport and qualifying prospects. Make sure to enter for email updates and receive these articles right to your inbox!