You’ve scheduled an appointment with a prospective buyer and, like all top performing sales reps, prepared for your conversation by identifying your objective planning your questions and everything you want to tell them.
That’s a great plan. Right?
It is, IF you get that far.
Even with a scheduled appointment, you might get shut out in the first minutes (or moments) if you aren’t prepared for a productive start to the conversation.
You see, your prospect has some immediate, and often subconscious, questions in their head that must be answered quickly.
Before you can talk business; gain their willingness to participate and share the information that really needs to be discussed; and listen to anything you might have to say, you need to set the stage for a productive conversation and answer these 3 questions:
- Who are you? Yup, even if your name is on their calendar or you’ve met with them before, they need to be reminded who you are.
- What is this about? Don’t assume the purpose of the conversation is remembered or known.
- Who is this about? They want to know if this is going to be about YOU pitching at them or is it focused on them.
Think about when you are connecting with someone who scheduled time with you. Are these some of the things you want to know as quickly as possible?
How though? How can you consistently and powerfully ensure the start of your conversation opens the gate to a two-way conversation?
With an easy-to-remember framework you can adapt to each situation.
We call it the 3-Step Start.
It seems simple doesn’t it? Slow down and help the buyer transition from whatever they were doing before you contacted them. Use a proper greeting that includes your personal name and company name if necessary to give their brain time to focus on you.
- Explain WHY you are connecting
The start of a conversation is no time to assume anything. Set expectations and clarify the purpose or objective for the conversation with the buyer. The key here is to make sure the “why” is focused on What’s in it for Them? Not just you.
Tip: Ask them what their objective for the conversation is to sync expectations and outcomes.
- ASK to engage and get them talking.
There are two types of questions to use early in the conversation: time and connection questions!
Time Questions: Be mindful of time and either confirm the time scheduled or how much time they have available. If you skip confirming time available, be prepared to be shown to the door or possibly face a rushed or abrupt end to a phone call.
Connection Questions. This isn’t “small talk” — its purposeful questions to break the ice, gauge their mood or style, and connect with the person before the business.
This is where research pays off. You may ask them something personal (not too personal, but maybe specific about a hobby, interest, etc.) or a question relevant to them or their role at work.
Tip: If the response to your Time question indicates there isn’t much time, your best next step may be to ask for another time or quickly adjust your objective to fit the timeframe they have allowed.
It seems pretty simple, and sometimes that’s what we need…a simple approach to start conversations. You may find that the order of the steps varies and that’s okay.
What’s key is answering the 3 questions at the start of your sales conversation to earn the right to move forward in the conversation…and sale.
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