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Chartwell Seventeen Advisory Group Inc. | New York, NY

If you’re not sure of the answer to this question and you’re still reading – Make sure no one catches you reading this.  Especially the boss!

Like most successful sales people, I am sure you have rehearsed your various presentations over and over.  You have role played the various stalls and objections with others in your training classes.  Just when you think you have it all down to a science, you call on your prospect or existing customer and BAM! You get tossed around like a kite in a hurricane.

What happened?  There’s only one answer: The customer is in control of your sales call, not you.

David Sandler said: “There are no bad prospects, only bad sales people.”  What the heck did he mean by that!?!  In my past life (when I was a sales WIMP), I had met some pretty unimpressive prospects.  I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt; 95% of the prospects you meet will be very reasonable people.  Sales people allow prospects to act in a manner taught to them by the stereotypical big mouth, obnoxious, fast talking, pushy salesperson.  Their only defense against these low lives is a very defensive controlling posture.

Be in control

You can be in control of the sales process without offending your prospect/customer.  In fact if you are the professional you should be, your prospects will find your style of selling comfortable and refreshing.  No need for a strong defense here.

Make your prospect comfortable with you

You have heard that “first impressions are the most important”.  That may be a stretch, but it is not far off.  If you don’t want your customer to treat you like every other stereotypical sales person they see, then don’t look like one.  Don’t dress like you just spent your last year’s income on clothes you picked out on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  I didn’t say wear cutoffs and your Def Leopard T-shirt, but don’t make your prospects uncomfortable by dressing better than they do.  I don’t care what the folks in the 60’s and 70’s said, a tie is not always appropriate when selling to today’s buyer’s.

If you don’t know how your prospect is going to be clothed on the day of your appointment, call his/her assistant and ask.  “Excuse me Chris, will it be casual day when I meet with Roger next Wednesday, or does he usually wear a coat and tie?”

Don’t use your industries “buzz words”, unless you are absolutely sure that your prospect uses and understands them.  The big danger here is that you will make your prospect terribly uncomfortable when you say, “the XG98 is much more tolerant the BS3”, if they have no idea what you are talking about.  It doesn’t make you look smart; it just makes your prospect uncomfortable.  Chances are they won’t ask either.  They will just write you off as someone who is always trying to look smarter than everyone else. 

You should be sincerely, more interested in the prospect/client than you are in yourself.  To often we are so worried about what we have to sell and present that we don’t seriously concern ourselves with our prospect’s issues, wants and hurts.  That’s called “I” centered selling.  What we need to continuously concentrate on is “buyer” centered selling.  Ask your fact-finding questions and listen not only for the intellectual answer, but the emotional answer that is even more important.

We have two ears and one mouth.  Use them proportionately.  Don’t try to plan your next verbal attack while you are trying to listen.  Rather listen, understand and validate to your prospect/client that you understand by paraphrasing back to them what they just said.  Do this before you respond with another question or answer. 

Build trust

Wouldn’t it be great to just sit down with a new prospect and have an open and honest conversation with them without all this "gamesmanship" taking place?  You could then intelligently decide whether it made sense to do business together or not.  If “not”, wouldn’t you want to find that out as soon as possible?  Of course!

Create a verbal contract with your prospect before you start any meeting that gives both of you a crystal clear understanding of what to expect during this next interchange of ideas (your sales call).  This contract classically contains several topics, not the least of these being allotted time and the prospect’s agenda.  What do they expect to get out of this discussion?

Ask questions that indicate you really do care about your prospects problems and issues.  If they understand that you understand by the questions you ask you will build up their trust and confidence in you.  Once this takes place the need for a defensive system goes away.

There are several other ways to build trust and confidence in your suspects, prospects and clients.  I will add to those I have mentioned above, in future columns.  Remember, if you act like a typical sales person, you will get treated like one.  You will succumb to what we lovingly refer to as the “buyer seller dance”.  This is simply a battle of control as to who is going to lead the dance, with the sales call being the dance.

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