Opening rather than closing is the most important phase of the sale. Initial interaction can set the agenda and establish a relationship of trust and value. The sales person should therefore possess gravitas and lead with insight to communicate business value and positive intent. But this must never manifest as being pompous or bombastic. The very best sales people are humble and customer-focused in how they establish credibility even before they've met their prospect face-to-face.
When engaging with senior people always be slightly early and show respect for their time. Provide context before detail and demonstrate insightful knowledge of the customer and their industry (domain expertise). Senior executives are always busy and easily distracted so you only have a limited amount of time to engage effectively. Lead with why the conversation is important and show that you've done your homework. Then get to the point and adopt an evidence-based approach by providing powerful examples of the business value you deliver for relevant clients.
Mentioning features or functions of your product, service or solution will immediately brand you as a sales person. Instead focus on the business outcomes that need to be delivered, understand the problems and implications, and act as a subject matter expert who can help them manage risk. Methodically ask intelligent questions designed to create understanding of the customer's operational environment, business drivers, required outcomes, power-base and decision-making processes.
Here is a powerful challenge. In your next few meetings with prospects don't mention your product, service or solution unless they specifically ask you. Lead by being fascinated by them. How will you open with insight and earn the right to ask questions? Finally, make sure they do at least two-thirds of the talking - you should actually aim to talk no more than 25% of the time.
Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at www.TonyHughes.com.au or his sales methodology website at http://www.rsvpselling.com/.
Main image post by Flickr: Brett Jordan
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