“What’s the purpose of this call?” I asked the young salesperson before we approached the prospect.
“I’m here to make a sale.”
“Oh, and what are you planning to sell?”
“I expect this guy could use some life insurance.”
“What’s brought you to that conclusion?”
“Well everybody needs life insurance and if he’s like everyone else, he doesn’t have enough.”
“So you haven’t actually met him yet?”
“Hmm. Let’s chat for a minute before we go in.”
In the past, the sales manager’s mantra was ABC: Always Be Closing. That doesn’t work today, in fact, I’m not sure it ever did in any ethical sales interview. Customers resist being sold. It’s offensive and annoying. But they would like your help in buying.
Customers aren’t looking for you to be their friend; they are looking for guidance and advice from someone they can trust. The Internet has made research easy so your prospective customer has likely done some homework before you’ve arrived. They know about your company; what it does; what it sells; how competitive your prices are; and what your other customers have to say about you. They may already have a sense of what they need or want. What they may not have is the nuance, those unique benefits you can offer them that your competitors can’t, how their personal needs align with what you’re selling.
If you’re selling a commodity, they can buy it online. They don’t need you. If you’re selling a more complex product or service that requires customization they want to work with someone they can trust. They might buy from you on the first meeting (although that is statistically unlikely) but not unless they trust you.
So your overall purpose is to help. Your purpose in the first meeting is to build trust. How?
- Arrive on time
- Balance confidence and humility
- Give them credit for their intelligence
- Ask plenty of questions
- What do they need?
- What do they want?
- Do they have a budget?
- What’s their timeline?
- Is anyone else involved in the decision?
- What’s their decision-making criteria and process?
- What’s their dominant buying motive?
- Summarize what you’ve heard and confirm your understanding
- If appropriate, schedule the next meeting to which you will bring a solution
If you know your purpose, you can state it up front: “My purpose in seeing you today is…” and then get agreement that they have the same purpose in mind. If not, there’s no use wasting each other’s time.