Selling is never easy. In this day and age, where the internet and social media have made catchy slogans, funny images and viral videos the new normal of marketing you could say that sealing the deal with potential clients face-to-face has become a lost art.
There is a fine line between being over eager to impress and the desire to clinch a sale when you meet a potential client for the first time.
We have all been on the receiving end of a “sales pitch”, and we understand all too well what really turns us off when faced with a pushy salesperson.
So before you head out to that client meeting, consider the following five things you can do to make sure your potential customer doesn’t count you out before you’ve even had a chance to begin.
1. Do your research
You will need to put a bit of background work into this, but don’t think you have to know everything about a potential client – this is about being well-informed and interested, not being a stalker!
Have a few questions prepared, but don’t rely on their website alone when gathering information; sometimes even a good website is not as up to date as you think.
If you can, it’s always a good idea to speak to other people in the same industry to get a feel for the type of company they are and the person you’re meeting. The trick is to not treat your meeting like a job interview, but to demonstrate genuine interest.
2. Arrive on time and be prepared
It goes without saying that you want to make a good first impression, so showing up late and unprepared is definitely not the way to do it.
Timeliness and preparation is key when it comes to setting the scene because this is where the potential client will form an impression about you and your product or service.
If you are going to blow the deal, chances are this is where it will happen. Research suggests that “we make a reasonably accurate assessment of a person from observing just a few seconds, or a ‘thin slice‘, of their behaviour. From the evidence gleaned in not much more than a few glances, we decide whether we like another person …”
Consider your presentation objectively, and think about how other people will perceive it when viewing it for the first time. Remember also that first impressions include early conversations that you might have had over the telephone, or emails exchanged prior to meeting in person – keep all written communication professional.
3. Consider your presentation style
Speak clearly, but not too much. It’s worth having a few talk points about your business and how you can serve their needs. If your potential client is a talker, that’s great! If not, and they are the type to sit back with their arms folded, be prepared to run the entire meeting.
Building rapport is quite a difficult balancing act.
Avoid robotic presentation mode because it can come across as insincere and pre-rehearsed. Can you recall your reaction to those unsolicited telemarketing calls and their dreaded scripts? If so, don’t fall into the same trap. Do whatever you can to promote a conversational environment.
A good way to get someone to open up is to ask open-ended questions (i.e., questions they cannot simply answer yes or no to.).
Don’t rush into things and become comfortable with natural silence which gives others a chance to speak. Also, you may be hit with a curveball if there is not total buy-in, so be prepared for that.
4. Listen intently
You landed an appointment because your potential client is interested in what you have to offer. However, know that they will have in their mind this constant refrain: “How can this save me money and time?” Pick up on any key concerns or questions. Be ready for objections and turn them into positives.
There is nothing wrong with taking a few notes or repeating what has been said to confirm your understanding. This demonstrates that you have been listening.
Body language is equally important so good eye contact, nodding to confirm you are listening, and switching off your mobile phone when you are in the meeting are key.
5. Don’t be in too much of a hurry
Rushing to seal the deal is a no-no because while you have targets, you will fall at the last hurdle if you push too quickly. In order to close a mutually beneficial deal the client needs to have confidence in you and what you are offering. This starts with intently listening to their needs and providing a solution that is the best deal for them.
In practical terms, agree on what you are both going to do and then follow-up in a timely manner. When you set a follow-up date and detail next steps, make sure you do it when and how you said you would.
A great way to reinforce a good first impression is to follow up your meeting with an email, thanking your potential client for their time and confirming next steps.
In conclusion, while these five things may not be a foolproof way to seal every single deal – some people really do push a hard bargain – they will go a long way towards setting you up for success.
Closing deals are an art in themselves, and as with all skills, the best way to get better at it is to do your homework and practice, practice, practice.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Karen Hoogenbosch is the Director of Animal & Odd-Bod Creators Pty Ltd, a company in Melbourne, Australia, that specializes in high quality custom made corporate mascots and costumes. Having worked with a range of high profile clients and hundreds of community based clubs, Karen knows firsthand what it takes to make a successful sales pitch – and more importantly, seal the deal when the time comes. She loves the process of mascot production, from the initial point of contact from a new client right through to the photographing of the finished product and the client’s launch of the mascot! Connect with @AnimalAndOddBod on Twitter.