As a salesperson, it’s imperative that you buy into the solution you’re selling, and understand how it can address key pain points that your prospective customers are dealing with. After all, sales is all about radiating trust and confidence, and helping prospects see that you understand their situation and are there to help.
That being said, even if you possess that self-belief in your business, it doesn’t mean your prospects will — at least not in the early stages of the sales process.
In fact, when you first meet with new contacts, it’s likely you won’t have much time with them. They may have forgotten exactly what they wanted to talk with you about, who your company is, or why they cared about the business topic in the first place. Whatever the reason, initial appointments early in the sales process are often maddeningly short — 30 minutes if you’re lucky.
When prospects do grant you that time, how can you make the most of it? Here are 12 tips that should help you qualify prospects, and show some value to secure the next appointment:
- Brainstorm a simple, three-point agenda. The goal is to know exactly what you want to cover before you walk in the door or pick up the phone. With 30 minutes or less, don’t waste a moment.
- Prioritize your questions. This will allow you to get the information you really need up front. That way, if the meeting is cut short, you’ll have the details needed to show why your prospect should schedule the next appointment.
- Don’t be late. This might seem obvious, but promptness is key when you don’t have much time. If it’s a phone appointment and the prospect doesn’t answer, leave a voicemail, keep trying, and don’t be afraid to ask an assistant to help you find your contact.
- Relax, but be professional. Keep it friendly and fun so the prospect will want to talk to you again, but make sure the meeting is helpful and respectful, too.
- Ask thought provoking questions. For example: What’s held you back from addressing this business situation? The goal here is to acquire (and deliver) insight into the prospect’s situation that will leave you both interested in continuing the conversation.
- Make insightful points that demonstrate you grasp the situation your prospect shared. For instance: It seems like the recession has not only constrained you, but the market you’re targeting has as well.
- Share suggestions that make the conversation valuable. Prospects will remember if you bring particularly insightful or helpful information to the table and will want to meet with again – soon.
- Stick to the scheduled time allotted. Allow the prospect to see that you respect their time and deliver on your commitments. This will make prospects more likely to squeeze in future appointments, even if they’re busy.
- Maintain a quick pace throughout the conversation. It doesn’t matter who you’re selling to — everyone is busy. The less you linger, the more prospects will feel as if you can get through your whole agenda on time.
- Schedule the next meeting before ending the conversation. This is critical. If you forget this step, it will make getting on the prospect’s calendar infinitely more difficult.
- Act with a sense of urgency. Try to schedule the next meeting sooner, rather than later (i.e., this week or next, rather than three weeks or a month from now). You don’t want to lose the momentum you’ve created.
- If possible, end the call early. Don’t rush the meeting, but if you cover everything before the scheduled time is up, give prospects the gift of their time back. They’ll remember you for it!
The bottom line is that while 30 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time, it’s actually a sufficient window for an initial appointment. Your goal here is to qualify the prospect, find out more about their situation, show some value, and get the next appointment.
If you follow the 12 tips above, I have no doubt you’ll be able to accomplish that goal with greater frequency!