Today’s post is by Justin Zappulla, managing partner at Janek Performance Group.
As the old chestnut says, you have only one chance to make a first impression. And, in today’s time-crunched business world, your first opportunity might be the only one you have to get further in the sales process – so you need to know how to impress right from the jump.
These are the things you need to keep in mind.
- Research prospects and customers, and prepare well in advance of the meeting.
Most of your time should be spent researching the client and the people you’ll meet. Yes, there will be a discovery process as part of an initial contact. But you want to be able to use discovery to really drill deep into a client’s needs, objectives, and situation – not just rehash the basics that are surface-level and easily available.
Also, think about this: The more you come in knowing about a buyer, the more likely they are to be impressed, because you’ve demonstrated that you’ve done the hard work to get to know them as much as you can before the meeting.
- Ascertain buyers’ communication style as quickly as you can and adapt to it.
There are four fundamental communication styles – expressive, business-oriented, visionary, and cautious/skeptical. One of the keys to making a great first impression is to determine which one is predominant for the buyer and adjust accordingly.
For example, an expressive communicator will enjoy small talk and chit-chat before getting down to the purpose of the meeting, whereas the business-oriented communicator will want to get straight to the point and the relevant information.
The communication style speaks not only to the flow of the discussion, but the content and evidence. A visionary communicator will want to hear how your solution fits in the grand scheme and vision of the future, so imagery of what their life or work will be like after the purchase resonates powerfully with them. Conversely, the cautious/skeptical buyer will be much more likely to raise objections or challenges, and will need space to reflect on what you’re communicating to them.
- Be authentic.
Most people are able to detect when someone is being insincere or inauthentic. So it’s important to speak and act as you would in a normal situation. If you put on a pose or try to be someone you’re not, the buyer can pick up on that – and this can plant seeds of doubt as to your honesty and whether you’re hiding some critical information they need to know.
- Rehearse the conversation beforehand.
You know how comedians, public speakers, and professional athletes make their work look effortless and easy? It’s because they’ve practiced – sometimes with hundreds or thousands of repetitions beforehand – until it’s become second nature to them. While you likely won’t have the time to do that yourself for every single meeting (or even most of them), the takeaway is still the same: Run through your opening, your main points, your intended questions, and your next steps as frequently as you can.
- Set a pre-meeting agenda and distribute it ahead of time.
Even if it’s short, write an agenda and give it to the people you’re meeting in advance. Not only will it show that you’re on top of things, it will help the buyer know what to expect and allow them to perform their own preparations for the conversation (such as questions they want to ask, what they’re hoping to gain from your solution, etc).
A positive first impression sets the stage for building a fruitful, mutually beneficial relationship that progresses through the sales process and sales pipeline and continues even after the sale. Utilizing these strategies and tips will help you achieve your objectives.