Over the last twenty years, Rainmaker has accompanied a large number of clients on meetings with prospects we created for them. We do this to evaluate them against a benchmark of behaviours and techniques we have witnessed to be most effective. Even once you are eye-to-eye with a prospect, it is essential to adjust your behaviour if your initial approach was from ‘cold’, as opposed to meeting with someone who initiated the contact. This Intelligent New Business Guide summarises a key point we have learned and clients who follow it achieve better conversion percentages.
The principles that govern first contact by phone or email also apply face‐to‐face. Say who you are and what you do in just 10 seconds. Provide a brief statement of the reason you are here and recap the process that’s brought you together in a further 10 seconds. Then say why your business can solve their challenges better than any other provider, touching on what makes your company special and different, again in 10 seconds.
Of course to do this needs prior thought and rehearsal, but in the age of soundbites and Twitter, we are all becoming more adept at communicating with economy. So after approximately 30 seconds you are now ready to stop talking and start listening with your first carefully chosen open question (who, why, what, when, how), a question that you feel from your prior research gets to the nub of the issue.
Hello silence, your old friend
Whilst of course it’s good to be fired‐up about your proposition, don’t show off and don’t let your nerves or your enthusiasm break silences; be strong enough to let them happen in order to let the other party do the talking and focus your concentration on their answers. Your job now is to ask further directional questions to encourage their discourse and to steer it towards the place where you suspect your company’s value, once fully revealed later, will have the maximum impact.
Deliver your calling card, establish your credibility quickly, then shut up about yourself and let them do the talking. Most of the time if you do this, everything else will slot into place. Asking pertinent questions based on your inferences about the challenges they face, positions you as hungry for the business and shows you’ve done your homework. The prospect will see you and your company as a problem solver (which is what you want), they will also at some point start asking you questions about your business, stimulated by a real desire to know.
As a closing technique, we at Rainmaker believe there is none more compelling than the ‘indirect close’. As you may know, this is where you get the other party to close you. It is typified by the statement – ‘so what do you think we should do next?’ or ‘where do you see this conversation we’re having going next?’
The most effective salespeople do not appear to be ‘selling’ at all. But the only way to get to an indirect close is to ask a lot of open questions and to resist the temptation to climb on a soapbox about yourself and your company.