First impressions matter, and there is no escaping that. When you first meet with someone, whether you are at a networking event or having the first meeting in a sales conversation, they can walk away from the experience with one of three feelings:
- Completely turned off by the experience
- Neither engaged or disengaged by the experience
- Confident in your ability and looking forward to the next conversation
Most salespeople fall into the lukewarm middle of this bell curve. You’ve been in the business long enough that you don’t make the simple missteps that immediately drive a prospect away, but you might struggle to consistently knock your meetings out of the park. Prospects might try to exit conversations with you early, or you might get the sense that they are going through the motions of the sales process not out of actual interest in what you have to offer but out of some form of polite obligation.
If you step back and think about your own experiences with other sales people, you have probably encountered someone at every point of the spectrum. You’ve probably been approached by a salesperson at a retail store and even though they were kind and knowledgeable, you never really wanted to keep talking with them. You’ve probably had a sales experience at a similar store where you came in thinking you wanted one thing, but the salesperson was so engaging that you left with something completely different simply because of their recommendation.
A lukewarm sales experience can dramatically limit your growth potential, especially as competition for high-value clients continues to increase. The good news: You can train yourself to hit the positive end of the bell curve. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Prospects tend to place their confidence in confident people. If you don’t command respect from both prospects and clients, prospects will immediately begin to lose trust in what you have to say. For example, if you were promised 30 minutes for a meeting but when you actually meet the client says that you actually only have 10, be willing to walk away from the conversation. Offer to reschedule the full 30 minutes for a meeting at your office rather than accepting the prospect’s initial judgment that you aren’t worth more than 10 minutes.
- Learn to educate and create intrigue in your first sales meeting. In other words, challenge your prospect’s thinking and teach them something about their business or industry that they either don’t know or are currently overlooking. When you start a relationship like this, you build trust and interest simultaneously, setting the stage for your prospect to look forward to what you have to say next.
- Wait out uncomfortable silence. When you rush to fill every lull in conversation with dialog—especially when you ask the prospect a question—you appear nervous and unsure of yourself. Sitting back to let a question land and to give your prospect time to think and answer indicates that you are in control of the conversation and don’t mind pushing through some difficult moments. It seems minor, but talking too much can undermine you in a big way.
- Practice, practice, practice. When I was first starting out as an advisor, I was naturally introverted and avoided meeting new people. My manager made it a requirement that I had to go across the street to a bar/restaurant three days a week and was not allowed to leave until I had met five new people. It took work, and it was uncomfortable, but it helped. Even when you’re a seasoned professional, practice is still important. Set your business up so you get more opportunities to sell, and don’t be afraid to work with a sales coach so that you can learn more from each one.
Inspiring confidence in your prospect from the first impression onward is a skill that takes practice. If you perfect it, you will be able to capitalize on more sales opportunities and lay the groundwork for a steady pipeline of referrals. Turn the heat up on yourself and push for improvements.
This article originally appeared in LifeHealthPro (now ThinkAdvisor).
Photo by oatsy4o used with permission under Creative Commons license.