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Module 10: The Sales Approach

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Initiate the Relationship

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Initiate The Relationship

During Every Sales Approach
What is the worst pick-up line you’ve ever heard? How did the person on the receiving end react? Chances are he or she was not very impressed.

During a sales approach there are also certain opening lines to avoid-and others that will be more successful. While sales approaches can vary widely depending on the selling situation, there are a few standards that always apply.

If the salesperson can’t be bothered to learn something as basic as your name, it sends the message that he doesn’t care about you, and it gets the relationship off to a bad start. In e-mails, double check that the customer’s name isn’t misspelled or mistyped.

For telephone or in-person approaches make sure you’ve figured out how to pronounce the prospect’s name during your preapproach research.

Ask contacts who might know (a receptionist, for instance, or your referral source) if you are unsure. And if the prospect has a difficult name, and you can’t get a confirmation on pronunciation, avoid using his name in your opening lines.

As sales consultants Andrew Sokol and Ike Krieger say, during a sales call, “Don’t be interesting; be interested.” [1]

In other words, don’t try to impress your customer by spending a lot of time talking about your qualifications or how wonderful your company or product is; instead, show your prospect that you are genuinely interested in getting to know him and in understanding his needs. The only way you can do this is to listen.

Ask questions and then let your customer do the talking.

Show the customer that you are really listening by adopting a listening posture: look the customer in the eye and lean forward or incline your head while she’s talking.

In any sales approach you should restate the essential points your customer brings up, both to check for accuracy of understanding and to show that you are paying attention. [2]

Be Ready
Have you ever heard the term “elevator pitch”? It’s a concise description of a product or service that should take no longer than an average elevator ride. [3]

Every salesperson has an elevator pitch for the product or service he is selling. That way, he can tell people about his product in under sixty seconds.Most listeners don’t have the time to hear all the details about a product or service in the first minutes of a conversation so the elevator pitch provides just enough information so the audience knows what he is talking about and wants to know more.

In other words, “An elevator pitch is an overview of an idea, product, service, project, person, or other solution and is designed to just get a conversation started.” [4]
Your elevator pitch comes in handy when you are making an approach on the phone or in person.

It’s the perfect opportunity to tell someone about your company and product or service in less than sixty seconds so that you can engage her in conversation. Remember, an elevator pitch isn’t a sales presentation; it’s simply a way to begin an interactive conversation and get to your ultimate goal-a meeting.

Approaching by Telephone
Establishing rapport can be a challenging task when you make your approach by phone because you can’t read your customer’s body language or other visual cues, and she can’t read yours. There is also the possibility that you will catch your prospect during a busy or inconvenient time.

For telephone approaches, it’s best to be brief and direct and to save small talk for your in-person meeting or for a later, scheduled phone call.

Your prospect will probably decide whether or not he is interested in what you have to say within the first twenty seconds of the call, so it’s best to be direct and get the essential information across early on. [5]

You might say something like “This is Shamika Lorenz from Selling Solutions, a firm that specializes in helping businesses reduce their selling costs, and I’m calling to let you know about an upcoming seminar for small business owners in your area.”

Such directness also conveys honesty and lets your prospect know that you won’t waste his time. [6]

Because you want to get your prospect’s attention in the first twenty seconds, it’s important not to stumble over your words or sound like you are rambling. After you have given your name and the purpose of your call, offer a reference point based on your preapproach research.

For example, “I read that your start-up has recently opened a new downtown location.” This will personalize your approach and help establish your credibility. Next, lead into a general benefit statement [7] that will address your prospect’s “what’s in it for me?” question.

Keep in mind that asking for permission helps build trust and allows the customer to feel in control. [8] However, it’s important to think about the way you phrase your question. When you open with something like “Did I catch you at a bad time?” all your customer has to do is agree with you, and the call is over. On the other hand, if you ask whether this is a good time, a yes response will work in your favor. [9]

Your customer is only likely to say no if this really is a bad time, and if that happens, you are well positioned to say “I understand. Would Monday at 10:30 be a better time to talk?” [10]

Don’t start off by asking, “How Are You Today?” This common greeting is one you probably use without thinking twice about it.

But opening a sales call this way over the phone (when you are contacting a busy stranger who doesn’t know why you have called) can be off-putting and will probably come across as insincere. [11]

Don’t launch into prolonged explanations, as sales coach Sharon Drew Morgan says, “Your prospect is obviously not sitting by the phone waiting for a call from you.” [12]

You want to be personable when you call, but you also want to keep in mind that for busy decision makers, phone calls are interruptions, so the more business oriented the interruption, the better. [13]

Approaching by E-mail
While an e-mail approach is less personal than an in-person or telephone approach, it might be your best method.

This in turn depends on the type of sale in which you are engaging. Internet marketing coach Sean Mize says of his business, “I generate 2,000 subscribers via the Internet every single month, so to contact all those individuals by phone, unless I have a huge telemarketing room, would be impossible.” [14]

Write E-mails in Different Styles and Tones

Online marketing expert Daegan Smith suggests crafting about fifteen different e-mail templates so you can choose between them when you want to get in touch with a prospect. [15]

You can think of it a little like building up your wardrobe so that you have different things you can wear on different occasions: you wouldn’t wear the same clothes to a baseball game that you would wear to a business meeting. You also wouldn’t send the exact same communication to all your prospects. The bottom line is that you want the e-mail to be as personal as possible.

Do Send a Well-Written E-mail

Keep in mind that an e-mailed sales approach is still a first impression, even though the communication doesn’t involve any immediate contact. While the e-mail should be personal, it should be more formal than the personal e-mails you send to friends.

You want to sound knowledgeable and credible, which means paying close attention to your word choice and style. Give the e-mail the same attention you would give to a business letter. This also means reading the e-mail several times before sending it to check for spelling and grammar mistakes, just as you would with any other business correspondence. [16], [17]


Don’t Get Discouraged

In B2B sales, it often takes about twelve e-mails before contacts reply. [18] If your prospect doesn’t respond right away, just assume that he is a busy person with plenty of other distractions that come across his desk every day.

If you continue to send your e-mails regularly, eventually the message will register with your prospect. Of course, you don’t want your e-mails to be an annoyance either, so consider including an “unsubscribe” option somewhere in the body of the message for the prospects who truly aren’t interested so that they can request to be removed from your e-mail list. [19]

Make Your E-mails as Personal as You Can

If you have a number of e-mails drafted, select the one that seems most appropriate to the specific prospect you want to target, and include your prospect’s name in the heading and body of the e-mail. [20]

This will set your message apart from the average, impersonal “junk” e-mail that people get regularly.

Online Social Networks
In some cases you will be able to leverage your online social network to approach a prospect. For instance, if you are a Web site designer and you attend a Webinar on increasing Internet traffic to business’s homepages, the other Webinar participants are potential prospects, and you might decide to contact them and ask to be added to their LinkedIn networks.

Do Make a Comment When You Add a Prospect

According to marketing specialist Leslie Hamp, even something as simple as “I noticed we were on the Webinar together, and I’d like to add you as my friend,” will work. [23] The point is that you want to give your approach a personal touch.

You can think of the networking tool as a facilitator, something that gives you the opportunity to connect, but it is still up to you to do the work of socially interacting and leveraging your connections.

Aim for Quality over Quantity

There are so many new and interesting social media programs available that it can be tempting to join multiple sites; but if you are a member of more than two or three social networks at one time, you will probably find your efforts spread too thin.

You can get the most out of your social networking by focusing on regular contributions to the few networks of which you are a member, rather than by trying to maintain your profile and connections on a number of sites.[24]

Contribute to the Community

In social networking situations, you want to build a good rapport by earning the trust and respect of your customers and colleagues. This means considering ways you can participate in and contribute to the online community. Virtual office administrator Sue Canfield says, “Social networking needs to be about building relationships-not primarily about self-promotion.” [25]

For instance, if you decide to start participating in a news-related social networking site like Digg.com, start rating and commenting on other users’ postings before you begin bookmarking your content there. [26]

Don’t Let Your Language Get Sloppy

As with e-mail approaches, pay attention to your language.

Use a higher level of formality when you contact business prospects than you would use when you send social networking messages to your friends; avoid slang (like “u” for “you” or “btw” for “by the way”). [27]

Don’t Make a Sales Pitch

Even though a social-network approach looks different from an in-person or over-the-phone approach, the purpose is the same-establishing rapport, building trust, and helping your customer discover needs and opportunities-so avoid making your sales pitch during your initial contact.

You can post a link to your company Web site or blog where you make a direct sales pitch. This way you are offering your prospects valuable information without coming across as pushy. If a prospect is interested in pursuing your services, he has the resources to follow up on his own. [28]

Online Social Networks
Approaching Your Prospect through Social Networking


Use the Following to Make Social Networking More Effective



Do use social networks, especially those that focus on the professional community, as a way to connect with prospects and customers.

Do make a comment when you add a prospect or customer as a friend or connection.

Do focus on quality of connections rather than quantity.

Do contribute to the community.

Do use professional social networking features

Avoid the Following When Using Social Networking as a Tool to Make a Sales Approach



Don’t let your language get sloppy; always use proper spelling and grammar.

Don’t make a sales pitch. Use social networks to get in touch and make connections; you can follow up to set up a meeting or phone call to explore your prospect’s needs.

Don’t post personal photos, videos, articles, or comments to a professional social networking site such as LinkedIn.

Don’t post any inappropriate language, photos, or videos on your personal social networking pages such as Facebook. It’s a good idea to remove any inappropriate information as employers, prospects, and customers can see your personal brand 24/7.

Approaching a B2B Contact
Some managers and buyers are extremely busy, so your first contact with your actual customer might be at a trade show or industry event.

There are three points to keep in mind when approaching a B2B Contact: the opener, follow the customers lead and be sincere.en John Koss, a sales executive, wants to approach buyers from his mega retail clients, he heads to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. He makes a number of sales approaches at the trade show and then travels to interested buyers’ corporate headquarters, where he gives his sales presentations. [29]

Do Use a Strong, Attention-Grabbing Opener

You want to get your prospect to like you in the first minute of your sales approach, and you want to give him a reason to keep listening to what you have to say.

Be up front: introduce yourself and explain the purpose of your call (including the general benefit statement you have prepared) early on. Then, as in any sales call, ask permission to continue. [30]

Take Your Lead from the Prospect or Customer

When deciding how to balance small talk with business, it’s important to take your lead from your customer. They may opt for a more formal, businesslike approach and will only be interested in socializing after a transaction or meeting is completed. [31]

You can read his reaction to gauge the most appropriate style to use. The bottom line is that you don’t want him to feel like you are wasting his time. [32]

Susan Greco, writer for Inc. magazine, tells the story of a meeting at the Consumer Electronics Show between a salesperson and a buyer. The buyer started the meeting off by saying that she didn’t have much time and just wanted a quick overview, but the seller, who was naturally chatty and personable, missed these cues. [33]

Don’t Use Opening Lines That Send the Wrong Message

Avoid insincere openers or openers that convey a lack of confidence in yourself or your product. Here are a few examples of opening lines to avoid:

“Would you be interested in saving money?”

“I was in the area visiting another customer, so I thought I’d drop by.”

“I heard that you’ve been having trouble in your customer service department [or in some other area] lately.” This opening will also put your customer on guard. [34]

Approaching a B2C Contact

In B2C sales situations, there is sometimes a greater temptation to focus immediately on selling and to forget about rapport building.

In most B2C situations the salesperson hasn’t invested time in researching the prospect, and he might figure that this is a one-time sale. However, relationship selling is as valuable in the retail environment as it is in the B2B sales environment.

Salespeople who treat their customers as people before they treat them as sales prospects are the ones who get good customer referrals and repeat buyers.

Talk to Your Customer

Everyone wants to be recognized. Have you ever walked into a retail store, looked around, and left, without an employee ever talking to you? How does an experience like that affect your buying decision?

You might agree with sales consultant Donna Seigel who says “Frankly, when [the salespeople ignore me], I’m not inclined to ever go into that store again.” [35] Engaging your customer might mean the difference between making or losing a sale. Even if you don’t know the person, you can make small talk: compliment the customer or discuss the weather, local news or events, or sports. [36

Treat Your Customer Like a Guest

Make your customer feel welcomed and comfortable when she comes into your business. Earl Taylor of Dale Carnegie & Associates, says, “The specific words you say are different, of course, but the motivation and attitude should be that you are truly grateful for the opportunity to interact with this individual” [37]

Making the customer feel at home means not only interacting with him but also going out of your way to help him.

Don’t Ask “Can I Help You?

“No, thanks. I’m just looking” is the customer’s automatic response to this question, so the question itself actually comes across as a polite way of giving your customer the brush off: [38]“I won’t bother you, and I don’t expect you to bother me.”

Instead, ask a question that will get your customer talking. An open-ended question like “What brings you into International Jewelers today?” will be a more effective way of engaging someone.

Don’t Pressure the Customer

What is the number one fear customers have about talking to salespeople? pressure. In fact, some customers will go out of their way to avoid salespeople for this reason. Let your customers know that they don’t have to worry about pressure when they buy from you.

As in all selling situations, take your cue from the customer by listening and asking questions to uncover her needs.

Don’t Prejudge a Customer

You’ve probably seen the scene in the movie Pretty Woman where a character walks into a high-end clothing boutique and the saleswomen turn up their noses at her because she doesn’t fit the right customer image.

Her character returns the following day to spend a few thousand dollars at several stores, embarrassing the salespeople who treated her so poorly. The moral of the story for a salesperson?

Never make assumptions about a customer based on the way he looks, speaks, or dresses. Treat all your customers with respect and care. [39]

From Contact to Sales Call
You might be thinking at this point, “Fine. Now I know how to establish rapport, but how do I turn the call into a sale?”

The transition from the approach into the sales presentation will vary, depending on the selling situation. In a B2B sale, your approach might lead to a face-to-face meeting, which might be an information-gathering session where you learn about the customer’s needs in greater detail, and you might not actually make your sales approach for several months.

On the other hand, in some B2C sales, the salesperson might be able to launch into her presentation in less than a minute after meeting the customer.

There is no formula that applies; the important thing is to understand the environment in which you are working. Sometimes it makes sense to move directly into a sales presentation, and sometimes it doesn’t. “You don’t have to shoot every time you have the ball.” [41]

KEY TAKEAWAYS


In all sales calls, make sure to listen to your customer and ask for her permission before continuing with your approach.

Use your elevator pitch to engage your prospect and secure the opportunity to make the complete sales presentation.

When making a sales approach over the phone:
Do give your name and the purpose of your call in the first twenty seconds;
Do remember to ask, “Is this a good time?”;
Don’t launch into long explanations. Keep it brief and businesslike.

When making a sales approach by e-mail:
Do draft a number of e-mail templates from which to choose,
Do make sure the e-mail is well written and businesslike,
Do make the e-mail as personal as you can.

When approaching through online social networks:
Do make sure to comment when you add a prospect to your network,
Do contribute to the social network of which you are a member,
Do avoid slang in your communications.
When approaching a B2B contact in person:
Do use a strong opening line that gets the customer’s attention,
Do follow the customer’s lead when it comes to small talk,
Do be careful that your opening line doesn’t send the wrong message.

When approaching a B2C contact in person:
Do make conversation with your customer;
Don’t just ask, “Can I help you?”;
Do avoid putting any pressure on your customer.

Exercises

Imagine you are the head of cosmetics purchases for a large department store. Just as you are about to run out the door for a meeting, you get a call:

“Hello Mr. Davis. How are you doing today? What if I told you that you could save up to 50 percent on your next big purchase of L’Oreal products?

Our company has been selling top name cosmetics at wholesale prices for the past thirty years. Some of our customers include big names like Bloomingdales, Macy’s, and Nordstrom.”

Offer a critique of this salesperson’s approach based on the pointers you learned in this section.

Bibliography


[1] Andrew Sokol and Ike Krieger, “What to Say When You Meet a Prospect,” video, ArticlesBase, http://www.businesssuccessbuilder.com (accessed August 1, 2009).

[2] Edward Delgaizo and Seleste Lunsford, Secrets of Top Performing Salespeople (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003), 54.

[3] Aileen Pincus, “The Perfect (Elevator) Pitch,” BusinessWeek, June 18, 2007,http://www.businessweek.com/careers/content/jun2007/ca20070618_134959.htm(accessed July 26, 2009).

[4] Chris O’Leary, “Elevator Pitch 101,” January 27, 2009, Elevator Pitch Essentials,http://www.elevatorpitchessentials.com/essays/ElevatorPitch.html (accessed July 26, 2009).

[5] “Tips for Successful Cold Calling,” AllBusiness,http://www.AllBusiness.com/sales/selling-techniques-telesales/1355-1.html (accessed May 16, 2010).

[6] Sharon Drew Morgan, “This is a Sales Call: How to Begin Prospecting Calls with Integrity,” EzineArticles, http://ezinearticles.com/?This-is-a-Sales-Call:-How-to-Begin-Prospecting-Calls-with-Integrity&id=34073 (accessed August 2, 2009). [7] Sharon Drew Morgan, “This is a Sales Call: How to Begin Prospecting Calls with Integrity,” EzineArticles, http://ezinearticles.com/?This-is-a-Sales-Call:-How-to-Begin-Prospecting-Calls-with-Integrity&id=34073 (accessed August 2, 2009).

[8] Sharon Drew Morgan, “This is a Sales Call: How to Begin Prospecting Calls with Integrity,” EzineArticles, http://ezinearticles.com/?This-is-a-Sales-Call:-How-to-Begin-Prospecting-Calls-with-Integrity&id=34073 (accessed August 2, 2009).

[9] Pieter Petoors, “How to Contact Your Prospect by Phone,” Pieter’s Blog, March 10, 2009, http://pietpetoors.com/blog/how-to-contact-your-prospect-by-phone (accessed August 2, 2009).

[10] Michael McGaulley, “Phone Sales Skills: Your First Contact with the Prospect,” Sales Training Source, 2009, http://ezinearticles.com/?Phone-Sales-Skills---Your-First-Contact-With-the-Prospect&id=4068383 (accessed August 2, 2009).

[11] Joan Guiducci, “The First 7 Seconds of a Cold Call,” AllBusiness, August 1, 1998,http://www.AllBusiness.com/sales/selling-techniques/690353-1.html (accessed May 16, 2010). [12] Sharon Drew Morgan, “This is a Sales Call: How to Begin Prospecting Calls with Integrity,” EzineArticles, http://ezinearticles.com/?This-is-a-Sales-Call:-How-to-Begin-Prospecting-Calls-with-Integrity&id=34073 (accessed August 2, 2009).

[13] Michael McGaulley, “Phone Sales Skills: Your First Contact with the Prospect,” Sales Training Source, 2009, http://www.how-to-sell-your-better-mousetrap.com/phone_sales_skills.html (accessed August 2, 2009).

[14] Sean Mize, “What’s the Most Effective First Contact with a Prospect-Email or Phone?” EzineArticles, http://ezinearticles.com/?Whats-The-Most-Effective- First-Contact-With-A-Prospect---Email-Or-Phone?&id=1206246 (accessed July 30, 2009).

[15] Daegan Smith, “How to Contact Business Prospects, ArticlesBase, April 28, 2008,http://www.articlesbase.com/communication-articles/how-to-contact-business-prospects-398144.html (accessed August 2, 2009).

[16] Daegan Smith, “How to Contact Business Prospects,” ArticlesBase, April 28, 2008,http://www.articlesbase.com/communication-articles/how-to-contact-business-prospects-398144.html (accessed August 2, 2009). [17] The Writers For Hire, Inc., “Sample Sales Emails: Personal Sales Email,”http://www.thewritersforhire.com/personal-sales-email.htm (accessed July 27, 2009).

[18] Daegan Smith, “How to Contact Business Prospects,” ArticlesBase, April 28, 2008,http://www.articlesbase.com/communication-articles/how-to-contact-business-prospects-398144.html (accessed August 2, 2009).

[19] Sean Mize, “What’s the Most Effective First Contact with a Prospect-Email or Phone?” EzineArticles, http://ezinearticles.com/?Whats-The-Most-Effective-First-Contact-With-A-Prospect---Email-Or-Phone?&id=1206246 (accessed July 30, 2009).

[20] Daegan Smith, “How to Contact Business Prospects,” ArticlesBase, April 28, 2008,http://www.articlesbase.com/communication-articles/how-to-contact-business-prospects-398144.html (accessed August 2, 2009).
[22] Phil Johnson, “Tweeting Your Way to New Prospects,” Advertising Age, July 6, 2009,http://adage.com/smallagency/post?article_id=137730 (accessed May 16, 2010).

[23] Leslie Hamp, “5 Steps to Effective Business Social Networking,” Social Networking News, July 9, 2009, http://socialnetworkingnewstoday.com/ (accessed August 2, 2009).

[24] Leslie Hamp, “5 Steps to Effective Business Social Networking,” Social Networking News, July 9, 2009, http://socialnetworkingnewstoday.com/ (accessed August 2, 2009).

[25] Sue Canfield, “Social Networking Can Work for Your Business,” Chief Virtual Officer, May 12, 2009, http://chiefvirtualofficer.com/blog/2009/05/12/social-networking-can-work-for-your-business/ (accessed May 16, 2010).

[26] Sudarmaji Lamiran, “How to Quickly and Easily Leverage Social Media to Build a Big List,” Social Networking News, July 13, 2009, http://socialnetworkingnewstoday.com/(accessed August 2, 2009). [27] Leslie Hamp, “5 Steps to Effective Business Social Networking,” Social Networking News, July 9, 2009, http://socialnetworkingnewstoday.com/ (accessed August 2, 2009).

[28] Leslie Hamp, “5 Steps to Effective Business Social Networking,” Social Networking News, July 9, 2009, http://socialnetworkingnewstoday.com/ (accessed August 2, 2009).

[29] Susan Greco, “Marketing: Selling the Superstores,” Inc., July, 1995,http://www.inc.com/magazine/19950701/2331.html (accessed May 16, 2010).

[30] Tom Reilly, Value-Added Selling: How to Sell More Profitably, Confidently, and Professionally by Competing on Value, Not Price, 2nd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002), 138.

[31] Tom Reilly, Value-Added Selling: How to Sell More Profitably, Confidently, and Professionally by Competing on Value, Not Price, 2nd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002), 140. [32] Edward Delgaizo and Seleste Lunsford, Secrets of Top Performing Salespeople (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003), 51.

[33] Susan Greco, “Marketing: Selling the Superstores,” Inc., July, 1995,http://www.inc.com/magazine/19950701/2331.html (accessed May 16, 2010).
[34] Tom Reilly, Value-Added Selling: How to Sell More Profitably, Confidently, and Professionally by Competing on Value, Not Price, 2nd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002), 138.
[35] Donna Siegel, “Relationship Selling: Getting Your Customers Coming Back for More,” SalesMBA, http://www.salesmba.com/articles1/ssrl03.htm (accessed July 30, 2009).

[36] Donna Siegel, “Relationship Selling: Getting Your Customers Coming Back for More,” SalesMBA, http://www.salesmba.com/articles1/ssrl03.htm (accessed July 30, 2009). [37] Geoffrey James, interview by Earl Taylor, “Building Rapport in Retail,” BNET, May 12, 2007, http://blogs.bnet.com/salesmachine/?p=20 (accessed May 16, 2010).

[38] Geoffrey James, interview by Earl Taylor, “Building Rapport in Retail,” BNET, May 12, 2007, http://blogs.bnet.com/salesmachine/?p=20 (accessed May 16, 2010).

[39] Edward Delgaizo and Seleste Lunsford, Secrets of Top Performing Salespeople (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003), 51.

[40] WholeSaleCars2U.net, “Testimonials,”http://www.wholesalecars2u.net/Testimonials.aspx?wsid=87. (accessed August 2, 2009).

[41] Susan Greco, “The Nonstop, 24-7 CEO Salesman,” Inc., August 1, 2000,http://www.inc.com/magazine/20000801/19766.html (accessed July 31, 2009).