I hadn’t been in a situation this uncomfortable for years. I was outnumbered, they were closing in. I thought about dropping the shirt I was holding, but they were on me in a flash.
“Shall I grab that in a medium for you?” one shop assistant asked, as the other started picking out matching pants.
I’d just popped in for a browse, and I was bombarded with sales chat.
My company FMG is built on putting people at ease when opening a sales conversation so there aren’t many things worse than a hard sell in my book. I really don’t get why so many salespeople hit their clients with a hard sell so early in the relationship.
First call jitters
You can’t assume in your first meeting that prospects are ready to buy, so going in all guns blazing will not only lose you that sale but also potentially a profitable future relationship.
That first meeting is as much about getting to know the prospect as it is about selling. And it’s about them getting to know you and your product or service. Your prospect needs to feel that they can trust you, that you really understand their situation, and that what you’re selling is genuinely suited to their needs.
That over-eager shop assistant made the mistake of assuming they knew what I needed and decided to guide me down a certain path – like it or not!
In many ways, your first meeting with a cold sales prospect is the same as someone walking into a shop for the first time. They only have a vague idea that you might be able to help them at this point so don’t just sell them the things that are overstocked or the items that earn you the most commission.
Ask the right questions to ascertain what’s going to make the customer happy.
Plan, plan, and plan some more
There’s only one way to make that work: plan your first meetings meticulously and arm yourself with buyer-centric questions to determine and understand what their needs are and whether your product or service will help your prospect reach their goals.
I’m not trying to tell anyone how they should sell here. However, we could all do with a reminder that really listening to prospects talk about what they’re trying to achieve helps formulate a tailored sell that won’t come across pushy and have them running scared.
Here’s some things to remember about your first meetings with brand new prospects.
1. What does your prospect really need?
If you are meeting with prospects who have been generated from a cold call, then the initial phone conversation should have uncovered some of their pain points or the things that you can fix that they’re struggling with most in their business.
However, nothing beats getting your client to talk about their needs. Asking them questions about this is the first step in formulating a really tailored sell that won’t come across pushy and lose their attention.
2. Are you offering your prospect a new solution?
Remember that the person who set the appointment for you may have only got part of the story from the prospect, so this is a great time to determine their current situation, what they are currently doing to try to solve their problems and why they are interested in a different solution. There’s no quicker way to get shut down than to go in with an angle they’ve already tried.
3. What stage of the buyer’s journey are they at?
It’s great if you go into the meeting knowing when your prospect is ready to act. However, often you won’t have this information, so finding out exactly how far along the buyer’s journey they are will help you decide on the right sales strategy to take - whether you need to close at that first meeting or whether it is a longer process and involves other decision makers within the organisation. Either way you want to build their trust make sure that you are there when they are ready to buy.
So, knowing all this, how could my shop assistant have done things better?
Maybe he could have quizzed me on my plans for the weekend or upcoming holidays to find out why I’m buying new clothes. Although, I’d have still been guarded and on edge, to be honest.
The best approach would have been to allow me space to breathe and browse before gently opening up a natural conversation. Like most people, I like to begin the buyer’s journey slowly, and on my terms. Not getting bamboozled with sales patter as I’m frogmarched to the till.