How do you open a first client meeting

Whenever sales people ask me this question during my sales seminars, I tell them…

Perhaps what is more important is to consider what questions are in the customer’s mind at the beginning of a meeting. Prospective customers won’t consider what you have to offer unless you satisfy three subconscious questions. If you don’t deal with these questions at the very beginning, they’ll spend the whole meeting trying to find the answers and won’t really engage with what you say. Here are the customer’s three subconscious questions.

1. Do I like you as a person?
No one likes doing business with a salesperson they don’t like. Smile and call the customer by their name, Mr/Mrs Jones to start and, only when appropriate, by their first name. Also demonstrate that you are there to talk about them, not to give a product/service dump.

I always start a meeting by commenting on something interesting about the customer. Have they just secured a big contract, won an award or launched a new product? (Research the company and relevant news items on the internet). Start by saying, “I noticed that you have recently…” Read Dale Carnegie’s book (the new version) ‘How to win friends and influence people in the digital age’. You’ll soon get the idea. Best sales training book ever. Should be compulsory reading for all sales people.

Also use sincere praise. Everyone likes to be praised for what they have achieved. Don’t overdo this or you become insincere. For example, if a production manager tells you that she has increased output by a substantial amount then praise her with words like; “That’s quite an achievement in today’s business climate. How were you able to make such a large improvement?” They’ll love you for it.

2. Are you a credible supplier I can trust?
Have you delivered similar solutions for others? Name drop other customers with what you’ve helped them achieve. Justify taking up their time – how you can be of value to this person and their company – how can they also expect to gain. Show interest in the things that are important to them, like reducing their costs, increasing their efficiency, safeguarding their markets etc.

3. Do you understand my business?
A salesperson must demonstrate that he understands the customer’s business and aspirations (in relation to what is being sold). This is in addition to product or service knowledge, though that is less important.

If you understand the customer’s business you’ll know what’s strategically important to the boss. If you don’t understand you have little to offer except your product/service which bosses really aren’t that interested in. (They want to know what’s in it for them!)

Here’s an example:
The best approach is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Imagine you’re selling an executive coffee/tea vending unit to chief executives for use in their own office. How would you conduct the meeting? What’s important to them?

What do they want from you, the sales person?

1. Someone they can talk to easily and who they like personally.

2. Relevant product benefits; who else bought this vending unit and what did they say about it. Impress me. Make me confident in my purchase.

3. Someone who clearly understands their needs:
– Beverages served quickly at a temperature that can be drunk immediately.
No waiting for drinks means shorter meetings, something every busy chief
executive wants.
– To release their secretary from drinks duty, to do more important work.
– A real coffee taste that my visitors are certain to enjoy every time.

I wouldn’t mind a cup myself!
Good luck.

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