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An Awkward Start to a Short Relationship

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Let’s start with the obvious…every salesperson wants to sell his/her services to their particular market. That’s a given. However, that’s all which is pretty much a certainty. Acquiring and holding profitable customers is the end game for Sales people, Business Owners and other Managers. Too often the optics is flat wrong. For many, the sales process winds up being a static two dimensional problem rather than the moving and three dimensional process that it is. At least every other blog entry I publish, I go out of my way to state that selling requires more planning, effort, smarts and dedication than probably any other position in your company. If it looks easy, it is because someone has spent a very long time figuring out the ins and outs of the process and continually puts his/her best foot forward. For most of us though, selling is a little bit like cornering that big game tiger only to find out that it is you and not he who is cornered.

 

Our title today focuses on the beginnings of new relationships that frequently die due to factors mostly under our control. Given the fact that it is very difficult to get a first conversation, we must become masters on how to maximize the first few minutes that likely will determine our near-term success with our prospect. Whether that first contact is from picking up the phone and dialing or a chance encounter in person or through some other method; what are you going to say that gets you too the next interaction? Let’s take a minute and talk about what should happen in the first two minutes of your first attempt to acquire that new prospect:

  1. Who am I?—be very brief but state your name, company and what you do. 15 seconds
  2. What is my unique value statement?—what is it that I do which can make it advantageous for you to listen? 15 seconds
  3. Who are you?—unless you already know the answer, you want to ask if your target feels the pain of not enough sales, what their business is, how they acquire business, their market area and the key question…do they have a problem that you can solve! This establishes need. 60 seconds
  4. What’s next—every interaction should be a win for both sides. What you want to win here is the next action. What is appropriate in this interaction? It may be an exchange of cards, set an in-person or telephone appointment or something else. An inducement by you should be a restatement of your Value Statement now overlaid on their business problem. 60 seconds

This process, when done properly is smooth and flowing. It may not lead to an immediate prospect because not everyone is in the market all the time. But, if the timing is not right, take a business card and ask when should you follow-up with him/her? This process is direct, succinct and wastes little time. In the construction/real estate business you will find that people appreciate directness more than the more popular consultative approach. In sales, time is the only commodity perennially in terribly short supply…don’t waste it! Let’s convert our four points above into a real encounter:

Salesperson: “I’m Bob Winter from ABC Refrigeration. We’re the guys that specialize in installation and repairs particularly in the retail store arena. We have devised a process for value engineering HVAC installations in Retail that significantly beat industry pricing a great deal of the time and deliver better life cycle costing for the tenant/owner. We can help you be more competitive.”

“Is your company involved in retail construction? Could you tell me a bit about where you work and any challenges we could help you with? Did you have any issues with your HVAC design and installation the last time? Are you open to hearing a different approach for your next project?”

“I appreciate the information you shared. What’s on the horizon for you? We’d like to get out ahead of the next project and would like to bring you up to speed while you’re not under a lot of pressure. Could we setup a time for me to demonstrate how we can help your firm have an edge on your next bid/project? I’ll be sure to bring one of our HVAC calculators to leave behind that you’ll love to play around with.”

Be relentless in the pursuit of the perfected sales process lest you wind up with an awkward start to a short relationship!

Allan J. Feifer

For New Business America

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