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Sales Solutions
Beginnings vol 8, issue #11
November, 2011

Yesterday I experienced an occasion for which I've waited a longer time than I ever thought I would - the birth of my and my wife's child (and lest you think me nuts for writing this the day after such a day, do know that I wrote and sent it Sunday. You're just getting it today). I finally understand what my friends and family have been telling me all these years about what it's like when a person you contributed to creating looks you in the eyes for the first time - and you into hers. It is, of course, a coincidence that I am writing a newsletter that will likely be published on the first full day my child begins her life. But given that it is, I thought I'd use this "beginning" as the theme for this month's issue.

Much of my writing is about selling skills, techniques, and strategies. Yes, you do need these tools, but you'll never get to use your full arsenal of them to close business unless and until you've developed an open, trusting relationship with your prospects. Just as achieving that kind of relationship with your children as they grow into adolescents and adults starts out with the quality of your interactions in the very beginning of their lives, achieving the kind of profitable relationships you want with your prospects as they move though a sales engagement also starts out with the quality of your interactions in the very beginning of that engagement.

You have two opportunities to ensure that those interactions are of high quality: (1) with your very first contact - whether it be a phone call, an in-person meeting, a voice message, or an e-mail, and (2) with your first in-depth meeting or conversation (sometimes #1 and #2 are one and the same). Are you making the most of these two opportunities? What kind of impression do you make with your first contact? Do you come across as sincerely interested in helping the other person address a problem he's having or achieve a goal he's set, or do you come across as someone who wants to make a sale? The former approach is a higher quality one, and will do more to help foster that sense of trust so critical to moving the opportunity in the direction you want, than will the latter one.

In your first in-depth meeting or conversation, you have an opportunity to further develop your budding relationship and to establish your credibility, as well as that of your company. One way to do that is by developing a comfortable rapport with your prospect, which allows you to then create a bond with him. Don't pitch your product, but also don't hammer him with a series of closed-ended questions. Instead, ask open-ended questions, and not just about the prospect's business issues and objectives, but also - and especially - about his personal issues and objectives. Why? Because it's not businesses that buy products and services, it's people who do. And often it's not the sales person whose company has the best solution that gets the business, it's the one who has taken the time to understand what the concerns, issues, worries, and evaluation criteria are of the individual key players, whose personal agendas may not align 100% with that of the company. The ones who engage in these high-quality conversations, the one builds those personal connections, and demonstrate that they genuinely care about meeting those individuals' needs, are the ones those individuals are going to want to do business with and who will - unless a competitor has some insurmountable advantages over you - more often than not vote to award their business to you.


Think about what you do and say both during your prospecting and at the beginning stages of a sales engagement. Is it high quality? Does it draw out the prospect, open him up, and get him to share with you his needs and goals? If so, you're getting you sales engagements off to a good start, because you're both gathering valuable information and building a trusting relationship - two ingredients found in most successful outcomes. If you're not getting this from your prospects, consider modifying both your prospecting approach and your initial meeting approach. For some practical tips, review The Importance of Establishing Trust, Open and Closed, and The Complex Sale, Part 1.

Good Selling!

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