Step 1: The approach
After a great deal of preparation, it is now time to communicate with the prospect, either by telephone, face-to-face contact, or some other appropriate method of communication. This initial contact we refer to as the start of the selling process. All the effort you have put in so far into researching and qualifying and being successful in getting the all-important meeting can now be applied to the presentation strategy. If your approach is effective enough, you may be given the opportunity to make the sales presentation to the prospect. If your approach is not effective then the opportunity may be lost.
The three important objectives of the approach are:
- First, we want to build rapport with the prospect.
- We want to capture the prospects full attention.
- We want to move carefully into the needs discovery stage of the sales presentation.
In some instances, the first contact is made with the prospect with a telephone call, during which we are trying to schedule a meeting in order to have the opportunity to conduct our ‘pitch’ or sales presentation.
Gone are the days where the prospect will see a salesperson unannounced, so your ability to skillfully manage your telephone communication skills is paramount to your success in getting that all important meeting. This is where you apply your “elevator statement” to capture the interest of your prospect in your products or services and gain the prospect's commitment to meet with you. Plan in advance what you are going to say, have it all laid out in front of you, have your schedule open (paper or electronic) and suggest some convenient times to meet, once you have convinced them to meet with you.
The Telephone Call Process:
- Plan in advance what you are going to say.
- Politely identify yourself, and your business name.
- State the purpose of the call and explain how the prospect can benefit from meeting with you.
- Show respect for the prospects time by telling the prospect how much time the meeting will take up.
Confirm the appointment with an email or a follow-up phone call nearer the time. Always try and get their e-mail if you can so you can then point them also to the links (web page etc) in your e-mail signature. Some prospects may be wary of giving out their e-mails because of the fear of email blasts and unsolicited newsletters.
You may experience some resistance from prospects, after all, most decision makers are very busy. Be persistent and persuasive if you genuinely believe that meeting the prospect will be mutually beneficial.
Credibility is critical to your sales success. Credibility is an impression that people form of you very early in the sales process. Sometimes little things can erode your credibility before you even have a chance to prove yourself. Arriving late for the all important meeting, and spending 60 minutes on your sales presentation when you said it would only take 30 minutes, or forgetting to have sent the prospect some important information before the meeting, all can shoot your credibility down in flames!
Credibility grows when the prospect realizes that you are a competent person who can add value to the sales process.
Step 2 - The Presentation:
An effective approach sets the stage for the sales presentation. Once you have established rapport with the prospect, captured the prospect’s full attention, you are ready to move from the approach to the needs identification process. Although there is no set formula to follow during this phase, there are two tactics that are used by successful salespeople to introduce this phase.
- To state (or restate) the purpose of the meeting;
- Getting permission to ask questions.
This now brings us to the most important area of the sales process, the selling approach and the types of questions that you use to progress the prospect through the “sales funnel”.
The effective use of questions to achieve needs identification and needs satisfaction is the single greatest challenge facing us as salespeople. The types of questions asked, the timing of those questions, and how to pose them greatly impacts your ability to create customer value. Questions span the entire sales process, and today they are the tools you must use to gather information, probe, confirm and persuade.
See also the S.A.S.C.O. selling approach.