The 7 most critical steps you must cover when meeting a sales prospect
You are excited. The hard work of prospecting and networking has paid off. You are ready to meet with a new prospect for the first time and you are on fire. You know how to ask effective questions – you have it in the bag (so you think) only to come away from the call having fallen flat on your face. Ouch! Not what you expected. What went wrong?
There are several things that could have gone wrong.
- You failed to build rapport
- You failed to get their perception of you, your products and your services
- You failed to establish credibility
- You weren’t talking to the decision maker
- You didn’t follow a sales process like the Bi-Sell-Cycle™
Step 1 – Build rapport
Learning how to build rapport with a prospect is fundamental to the sales process. It’s used to build trust and confidence quickly when meeting with a prospect for the first time.
Rapport is having a sense of connection with others. It’s a connection that makes you both feel as if you have a lot in common or you understand each other well. You know the feeling – you meet someone for the first time and you hit it off like a house on fire. You feel as if you have known that person forever. That’s rapport!
Rapport is a very powerful tool that every successful salesperson has in their sales tool box and one that allows them to achieve more sales.
People do not buy from people they do not like. It’s as simple as that. Unless you get into rapport quickly with your prospect, they won’t trust you and you will struggle making a meaningful connection with them. Without making a connection upfront, it’s unlikely you will move forward in the sales process leading to a positive outcome.
Step 2 – Set the agenda
If you don’t know the prospect and are meeting them for the first time, it’s not cool to barge in and start pitching your products and services up front – even if you have managed to build rapport. You want to get approval to move to the next step. They may not have remembered that you even had an appointment (especially if it was the result of a cold call.) You may have met them at a networking event and they only vaguely remember your previous conversation.
So you want to reassure them by highlighting why you are meeting and how long it will take. Whew – they might think, it’s not going to take that long. They will appreciate you for it. It’s as simple as saying ….
“I know you are a busy person and so to keep our meeting to thirty minutes as agreed, may I suggest we cover the following (whatever your agenda is). Is that OK with you?”
Bang! There you have it. Approval to move on to the next step which is to get their perception of you and your business.
Step 3 – Get their perception
After you have built rapport, and have their approval to move forward, it’s critical you also get their perception of who you are, what you do and who you represent. There’s a very good reason for this and avoid this step at your peril.
Imagine you have met a prospect for the first time, given the best sales pitch of your life only to find out at the end they don’t want to do business with you because of a bad experience they had with you, your company or your products and services previously. Alternatively they may have heard negative feedback about you, your company or your products and services through the grapevine. If that happens, you have just wasted your time even being in the meeting. Imagine spending time with a prospect to find this out at the end. You have just wasted their time and yours!
You want to flush out what their perception is at the get go. If it’s negative, it gives you an opportunity to clear this up quickly before you move on. If it’s positive – yeah… you reinforce what they have already told you. If they don’t know anything about you – then that’s where you get to use your elevator speech.
To establish what their perception is, all you need to do is ask a very simple question.
“What do you know about our organization?” (you, your business, your company, your products and services?) … or … “I am curious about your perception of us?”
Asking this question flushes out what their perception is of you is.
If that perception is good, then all you need to do is reconfirm what they have already told you. “That’s a common perception and yes you are correct we do….”
If that perception is neutral and they don’t know much about you, that’s a good thing because then you go straight to the next step which is to build credibility.
If that perception is negative, then you need to uncover the reasons for why they feel that way. It’s the same as dealing with an objection up front. Once you know what the objection is – then you can deal with it accordingly.
Why prospects would give you negative feedback?
There are four reasons the prospect would give you negative feedback when asked about their perception of you and what you have to offer.
- They are not interested in moving forward because you failed to establish rapport or uncover a need
- They are using this as a tactic not to engage with you as they are not looking to change suppliers, don’t have a budget or are not in the market to buy
- Their perception is based on a misunderstanding or false information they have received for a variety of reasons
- They genuinely had a bad experience with you, your company, your products or services
Like managing any objections, be prepared to deal with the feedback you get. Clear up any misunderstandings quickly and reassure the prospect that whatever their perception is, this is no longer the case. The way to do this is through the next step which is to build credibility.
Getting their perception up front allows you to get the negative stuff out of the way up front or to reinforce the positive so you can move on with the sales process unencumbered.
Step 4 – Build credibility
Building trust and confidence is essential to getting to the next step on the Bi-Sell-Cycle™ which is to find out more about the prospect, their business and their needs. The credibility step is to reassure them that they are talking to a person who has a track record in helping customers succeed.
This step is where you get to use your value proposition, elevator speech and testimonials to reconfirm the results that you typically get with your existing customer base. You might do this verbally with a short 30 – 60 second commercial or you might show some evidence in the way of testimonials.
Step 5 – The Bi-Sell-Cycle™
Once you have covered these first four steps, you are ready to move into the buying and selling cycle (Bi-Sell-Cycle™). The Bi-Sell-Cycle™ is an effective model that matches buying behavior with a selling process underpinned by effective communication skills. By following a proven system to match buyer behavior with a sales process, this significantly increases your ability to get results and grow your business.
A big rookie mistake is to launch into the buying and selling cycle and pitch products and services without first building rapport, getting their approval to move forward, getting their perception and establishing credibility first.
Step 6 – Establish the next step
Once you have met with a prospect for the first time, you want to come away with something at the end of the meeting. That is to:
- Arrange another meeting
- Prepare a quote or proposal
- Arrange a presentation
- Close the sale (if you are in a position to do so)
You might need to arrange another meeting to include the decision makers. Alternatively you may need to bring a subject expert with you to further discuss their needs, explore the impact of doing nothing and establishing their target goals.
The prospect may ask you to prepare a quote or a proposal. If you do have to prepare a quote or proposal, you must be able to demonstrate value and tie your solutions back to their needs, their target goal and what the impact would be if they do nothing (their problems will get worse or they will miss out on the opportunities before them.)
If you are asked to prepare a proposal, you may want to present this in person. If so, ensure ALL the decision makers are there if possible. Simply ask the prospect, “apart from you, who else is involved in the decision making process?”
In some circumstances, if you have established the prospects needs, they understand the impact of not taking action and you know what their target goals are, you might be in a position to close the sale on the spot. This usually only happens when there is some urgency for the prospect to buy or they have investigated possible solutions so they are comfortable with making a decision on the spot. This is more the exception than the norm.
Step 7 – Follow up
Captain obvious I know – but it’s amazing how many people spend all this time prospecting or networking, get in front of a prospect and fail to follow up.
On a final note
Following these critical steps in this exact order during a sales meeting will significantly increase your chances of converting a new prospect into a customer.
In A Nutshell
- Build rapport
- Set the agenda and get approval to move forward
- Get their perception of you and your business – clear up any misunderstandings around their perception
- Build credibility
- Start the Bi-Sell-Cycle™ (buying and selling cycle) to uncover their needs, explore the impact and assess their target goals
- Establish what the next steps are
- Follow Up