But today we have far less time to make that impression.
Likewise getting off to a good and quick start gives a salesperson confidence to do a good job for their client.
Every sales call, whether repeat or first time, should open in a way which gains the client’s full and undivided attention and directs the conversation towards your specific call objective(s).
It’s important to build initial rapport, which lays a foundation for the relationship so a short ‘chat gap’ will often (but not always) be appropriate, but do keep it short and do make it a rule to talk about the client and his/her organisation rather than you and yours, and do more listening than talking.
You should open with a purpose statement that explains the reason for your call,
e.g. “The purpose of my call is to find out more about XYZ Products and share with you the benefits of working with us”-
now link your purpose statement to one of the following attention getting techniques.
The main techniques
There are four principal methods, plus a fifth for repeat calls:
Factual opening: state an interesting fact which relates to either the client personally or his business; the fact will also usually relate to your product/service, either directly or indirectly.
e.g. “One of the main concerns today for people approaching retirement is what inflation will do to their pensions.”
Question opening: ask a question which is relevant to the client’s business and also to the purpose of your call.
e.g.“What are the main problems you encounter in making sure your exported components arrive safe and undamaged?”
Reference opening: build confidence and interest by referring to the experience and satisfaction of another client; either a well respected client (confidence) or a client in a related business (interest).
e.g. “South Midlands Borough Council now uses us exclusively and I feel sure that you will want to consider whether you too can benefit from our service. Let me tell you about it.”
Sales aid opening: involve as many of the client’s five senses as possible by using a brochure, photograph, working model, sample etc.
e.g. “… as you can see from this electronic panel, it’s designed for a simple, one touch operation, which means you have less room for operator error.”
Link opening (repeat call only): link this call back to a previous one by summarising where you left off last time.
e.g. “When I last saw you I promised to give some thought to the particular problem you mentioned and now I believe I have a solution.”
The main pitfalls
Guard against the following:
• The wrong location: try to avoid having a meeting in a noisy or distracting environment (e.g. reception area); tactfully suggest that in the client’s interest a different location would be better. Often there will be a quiet area available such as a meeting room, canteen outside main meal times even the board room - often the least occupied room in an office site.
• Excessive time pressure: you should be as concise as possible, but if your prospect really is not concentrating properly because of time pressures then you are better to cut your losses and try for another appointment; but generally prospects who say “I’ve only got a few minutes” are just reminding you to be brief and will usually give you more time if you gain their attention and interest quickly.
• Avoid downgrading the call or sounding like a 'parachute salesperson': openings such as “I was just passing by ...” or “I just thought I’d drop in to say hello ...” neither flatter the client nor gain attention; even ‘courtesy calls’ or ‘goodwill visits’ should have a clear objective and a strong opening.
Although the most important occasion for the use of the above techniques is early on in the call, remember that each change of direction or change of topic you have to ‘gain attention’ all over again.
They can also be employed after meeting interruptions like phone calls, people coming into the meeting room and other visual or acoustic distractions.
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