The Conversation Opener That Closes Sales

Did you know that the start of your sales conversation has a huge impact on the end of your conversation? Let me illustrate with this example.

Last week, I was anxiously awaiting a two-week in the works sales appointment with a service provider for my business. It’s a service I needed. I was excited. He walks into my office, plops himself on the chair over there, opens up his notebook, pulls out a piece of paper and that was a form, I could see that he was going to fill out and he says, “Well, I like to just jump right into things.” And he starts firing off all these questions to me about my business. Personal things about revenue and cash flow, number of employees, how we’re structured, etc. And I’m sitting there as a recipient and thinking, “Wait, how long is this meeting going to be? What is it that he’s driving at and how was that going to affect the scope of what he describes that he can do for me and fees and such? And hey, who does he think he is?”

Engage & Set Expectations

Instead, he could have engaged me, set expectations for us to get on the same page and earn the right for the information exchange that needed to follow. That’s why I propose the 3-Step Start. It is a framework that you can use for every conversation with you and your buyer getting on the same page as quickly as possible and very importantly, building enough trust to earn the right for an open information exchange to follow.

The 3-Step Start – Greet, Ask, Explain

Here’s how it Works. The first step of the 3-Step Start is Greet. We greet and do the social exchange of “Hi! Glad to see you today! I’m Nancy Bleeke. So glad we have this time together.” And then pause because psychological reciprocity will have them introducing themselves and starting to talk. So, we set up that this is a conversation, not a sales pitch.

Then we can explain the purpose of us having the time together. What’s the objective? What’s the agenda? And then we get to get them making it a shared agenda by asking, “What is it that you wanted to make sure you accomplish today or what are your expectations of what our time together will do?” And now we have a shared agenda and it’s not them wondering, “What’s going on? What’s going to happen at the end? What’s my part in this?”

And the third step that we need to accomplish right at the very beginning is asking. We need to ask about time. Either clarifying the amount of time we have scheduled or setting up the expectation for how much time we have whether it’s 5 minutes, 20 minutes or 60 minutes and getting their agreement upfront so that their mind is not thinking about that, wondering when they’re going to get out of there or wondering when they’re going to leave.

Ask Connection Questions

In a normal exchange you might switch the ask and the explain. Often, you can do your greeting and then roll right into asking them about the time committed and setting that expectation, asking them connection questions to connect with them as a person. That doesn’t mean you need to get into personal things. It’s still giving them an opportunity to talk and for you to gauge how their pace is, the type of information they like to talk about, are they more analytical or more people-feeling? And are there some clues as to what’s going to be important to them. Some people call that “small talk”. I call it “smart talk” because that’s an opportunity for you to learn something that will help you set up your questions and the rest of the conversation with context and with adjusting to the way that they communicate.

Earn the Right to Move Forward

So, the 3-Step Start – Greet, Explain, Ask or Greet, Ask, Explain is what’s going to allow you to get on that same side of the table with that buyer, to start collaborating and starting that information exchange that needs to take place in any sale and very importantly, it’s going to earn you the right to move forward into questions, into them being open with information because they’re going to understand where they’re going, that this is something you’re doing together and their barriers are going to be knocked down. So, don’t be like Chris and jump right into things. Instead, make the time to help break their preoccupation and bring them into the conversation with you and then you’re both going to move forward productively.

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