Bio: Anthony Parinello is the author of the best selling book Selling to VITO: The Very Important Top Officer. For additional information on his Sales Success Kits and speeches and his newest book, Think and Sell like a CEO call 1-800-777-VITO or visit http://www.sellingtovito.com
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- Ask yourself: “What other prospects (or existing customers) do I have in the same area of this new prospect?” Make the most of your travel time and plan to stop in on your way back to your office.
- Ask yourself; “Do I know exactly how to get there?” That means not only where the building is but also where the suite is!
- Ask yourself: “How much could this account be worth to me and my quota?” Hopefully that will put a sense of urgency in making sure you show up on time!
- Ask yourself: “If it were a job interview, would I go to the trouble of double-checking the directions?”
- Ask yourself: “What is this person likely to want to see?” If you read my last article: Four Languages of Selling you’ll know that one size does not fit all!
- Ask yourself: “What have similar prospects wanted to see in the past?” You can save yourself some time by keeping an accurate and up to date file for each industry or niche you sell to. Letting your prospect know that you’ve shared this with others in their industry will give you more creditability in their eyes.
- Ask yourself: “How do I pull all this stuff together the DAY BEFORE I have to hit the road?” answer: put it on your “To Do” list as the last action item of the day.
- Ask yourself: “Would I have everything I wanted to show (like your resume or referral letters) prepared and ready ahead of time for a job interview?”
- Ask yourself: “Have I ever felt overdressed, underdressed, or like an ‘outsider’ at a sales meeting?” if so, you didn’t plan ahead and/or ask your prospect what the dress code is for their company.
- Ask yourself: “Would I think twice about choosing the right wardrobe for a job interview?”
- Ask yourself: “If I am asked for a reference who would that reference be?”
- Ask yourself: “Have I ever lost a sale because I couldn’t come up with a reference or success story that matched my prospect’s situation?”
- Ask yourself: “Did I ever think of the right reference or success story … after a meeting or losing a sale?”
- Ask yourself: “Would I prepare appropriate references and success stories for a job interview?”
- Ask yourself: “What are my desired outcomes for my next first appointment with a new prospect?”
- Ask yourself: “Would I be interested in establishing a timeline for action and decision if this were a job interview?”
- Ask yourself: “What could go wrong along the way? How much time would it add to my trip?”
- Ask yourself; “What kind of impression would it make if I showed up five or ten minutes late, even if I had a great excuse?”
- Ask yourself: “If it were a job interview, would I go to the trouble of leaving early for the meeting?”
Before their First Meeting with a New Prospect
There are six steps salespeople routinely forget to do before the first face-to-face meeting with a prospect. Take care of all six and you won’t be stressed, needlessly flummoxed, mismatched, or otherwise bummed-out when you show up for that all-important initial appointment.
#1. Figure out where the heck you’re going and how you’re going to get there!
If you try to “instinct” your way to an unfamiliar location, you’ll get stressed out, lost and show up late. Don’t do it!
Your best option: VISIT the site of the meeting ahead of time. Next-best option: If you can’t visit, then at least CALL the reception desk or the assistant of the person you’re meeting with and confirm the directions and/or location ahead of time. Whichever of the two options you choose, make sure you have WRITTEN or MAPPED OUT directions (based on your own preference) in your hand before you get in the car or head for the metro. I’ve been on more than one appointment where we could see the top of the building proudly displaying our prospect’s logo but couldn’t figure out how in the heck to get there! Also, make sure that you and whomever you may be taking with you has a current picture ID just in case security asks for it.
Guess what? This is a job interview! If Ms. Prospect would hire you Ms. Prospect will do business with you. Don’t wing it! Make sure you know where you’re going.
#2: Set up the stuff you want to bring the night before!
Not thirty seconds before you get in the car!
Important Note: Never, ever bring the SAME samples, proposals, literature, or other materials on every meeting. Always tailor what you show to your prospects and make sure that it looks that way. Highlight, footnote, annotate, and collate various information that screams, “This is for you.” Don’t forget to peruse the trade rags for articles, trends, issues and best-practices advice that this prospect may find interesting whether or not it’s related to your product, service or solution. And make sure you do all of this ONE DAY AHEAD so you’re not stressing out about what to bring on the very day of the meeting.
Guess what? This is a job interview!
#3: Dress sharp – and dress right!
One outfit in your closet will be right for Prospect A … but totally wrong for Prospect B! KNOW AHEAD OF TIME how you plan to dress for this prospect. Don’t have a “closet blitz” the morning of the appointment! If you have to guess, do your best to guess smart!
For three years, I sold to the U.S. Navy. No, I didn’t wear an admiral’s uniform when I made my sales calls, but you can bet I didn’t wear a business suit, either! That would have screamed “outsider” or, “auditor”. Instead, I wore a blue sport jacket (which I removed at the earliest opportunity), a well pressed Oxford shirt, which I rolled-up my sleeves as the earliest opportunity) a sharp-looking pair of beige slacks, and some casual shoes polished to a high sheen.
Guess what? It is a job interview!
#4: Know your closest success story/stories!
BASED ON WHAT YOU KNOW NOW, which of your company’s current or past customers offers a situation that is close to this prospect’s? What is the best parallel? Have you worked with anyone in this prospect’s industry? If not, what’s the closest you’ve come that transfers to this prospect’s environment?
Guess what? It is a job interview!
Use the following check list whenever you’re asked for a reference:
1. Fully understand why this prospect is asking for a reference. Ask: Mr. Prospect, so I can give you the right person to contact in my customer base what exact information are you wanting to discover by talking with my reference?
2. If at all possible give “title-to-title” or “functional position to functional position” references. It’s not cool to give a prospect “Vice President” a reference of a “supervisor of accounting”.
3. When you do provide a reference ALWAYS give the name, title, phone number and personal assistant’s name. Along with the best days and times to contact them.
4. When you do provide a reference ALWAYS give your reference a “head’s up” to expect a call from your prospect.
#5: Know the desired outcomes!
If you don’t know what you’re trying to make happen at this appointment, you probably shouldn’t go! By my estimate and experience, there are five different but complimentary goals on the first appointment with a new prospect.
1. Create your best first and last impression.
2. Establish yourself as an expert by confidently answering the question (spoken or unspoken): “What do you know about my industries challenges and what ideas do you have to solve them?”
3. Discover what this prospect’s current problems and priorities are and what their current plan is to solve them.
4. Present with conviction, passion and enthusiasm the ideas or suspicions you have to improve on your prospect’s current situation.
5. Create specific action items for both you and your prospect with the common denominator of time.
Find out: “what does this prospect want to accomplish during this first appointment.
Guess what? It is a job interview!
#6: Leave on time!
That means giving yourself time to get lost and/or time to get stuck in unexpected traffic.
If your meeting is scheduled to start at 2:00 pm … that means you must leave at a time that will allow you a comfortable window and allows you to walk in the door between ten and fifteen minutes BEFORE 2:00 pm.
While you’re waiting in the lobby … check out the company newsletter, look at what’s on the walls, read the mission statement, and don’t forget as you’re signing the “guest book” to flip the pages and see if your competition has been calling on this account and who they’ve been meeting with.
Calling on your cell phone to say that you’re stuck in traffic is NOT an option! (What does that say about your planning and forecasting skills?)
Guess what? It is a job interview! I’ll say it again … if this prospect would consider hiring you as a key employee … they’d do business with you and a key business partner!
Sometimes, what we don’t know really can kill the sale. Take the subject of personality styles. Salespeople typically ignore the personality styles of their prospects. By doing so, they unintentionally offend those prospects.
Ignoring your prospect’s personality style is a fatal error. It’s one of those unfortunate situations where not knowing what you don’t know really can sabotage your sales efforts. Once you make even an innocent mistake in this vitally important area, the odds are that you’ll never get invited back again—without ever knowing the reason for your exile.
This is definitely an area worth learning about. Here’s the scoop: There are four distinctly different personality styles; each of us has a primary and a secondary style. Dr. David Merrill made this initial discovery back in the early and middle 1960s; he studied salespeople to develop what has become a cornerstone assessment in psychological studies.
According to Dr. Merrill, you and I—and every other human on planet earth capable of communicating—can be assigned to one of the following four categories.
Personality Style #1: The Driver
Dr. M found a particular set of individuals that he chose to call “drivers.” These people are all about authority and taking action. These are fast-moving people. These people have two speeds: stop, and full speed ahead.
Drivers are “get-it-done” kind of people. You can usually pick them out of a crowd. The Driver motto is: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way!” Know anybody like that? Sure you do.
When dealing with Drivers, DO say:
“What’s your opinion about X?”
“Which one of these (benefits/results/topics) is of the greatest importance to you during (specific timeframe)?”
“Have I understood you correctly about … ?”
“We’re sure … ”
“We can … ”
“It would be an honor to …”
“May I have your permission to … ?”
Whatever you do, DON’T say this to the Driver:
“Did you know?” (Always assume Drivers know everything.)
“Were you aware of?” (Always assume Drivers are aware of everything.)
“Let me tell you … ” (Don’t tell a Driver what to do!)
“I want to … ” (Who cares what you want?)
“In my opinion …” (When a Driver wants your opinion, you’ll know.)
Personality Style #2: The Expressive
These folks are all about establishing connections between people and explaining things. They love to be in the action, in the limelight. They love to talk.
If there is something going on in the office, a party or a happy hour or a picnic, these are the people who are usually putting it together. They’re focused on social interactions. They are personable, gregarious, expressive people. You will make headway and connect with them most easily when you realize that they value relationships above just about everything else.
When dealing with Expressives, DO say:
“How would you do X?”
“Have you ever thought about X?”
“How do you feel about X?”
“What can I do to help you X?”
“Just between you and me …”
“You seem like you have a lot of experience with …”
Whatever you do, DON’T say this to the Expressive:
“That’s not really relevant … ”
“That’s only available for (larger-preferred-other) customers.”
“That’s outside of my area of responsibility.”
“We can’t … ”
“That’s not available … ”
“I can only … ”
“(Someone else) will take care of that for you.”
Personality Category #3: The Amiable
The main thing you should know about Amiables is that they do not like change. They tend to be very cautious. They like other people to get out onto the thin ice first. They are not risk takers, and they don’t like to upset the apple cart and they’re not big on making any type of decision.
These are “status quo” individuals. They are certainly not the movers and shakers that a Driver or an Expressive tends to be. These people are all about minimizing risk, and you are going to gain points with them when you show them how to avoid taking chances that in their estimation would be unacceptable. Never pressure an Amiable to make an independent decision. That’s far too risky.
When dealing with Amiables, DO say …
“Together, we can … ”
“Do you feel it would make your boss/colleague/sponsor happy to know that … ?”
“Can I ask for your input/help?”
“Can you help me understand what your feelings are about … ?”
“What’s the safest way to … ?”
“Let’s not gamble on … ?
“Let’s not risk … ”
“Let’s not take chances on … ”
Whatever you do, DON’T say this to an Amiable:
(Any direct question that ignores the person’s input, feelings and thoughts.)
“Don’t worry about that … ”
“Do you want me to … ?” (Giving people instructions is much too risky!)
“What would you like me to do next?” (Ditto!)
“I’ll leave it up to you.” (Anything … anything but that!)
Personality Style #4: The Analytic
Analytics are all about accuracy. They are focused on spotting mistakes and addressing potential problems before they come up. In the scientific and engineering communities, the analytics are the kings and queens of the realm.
These people always need to see more information. They might as well come from Missouri, the “show me” state. They want to know the right answer beyond a shadow of a doubt.
When dealing with Analyticals, DO say:
“I’ve personally confirmed X.” (And be able to back it up with hard data!)
“We are certain of X.” (And be able to back it up with hard data!)
“Our research proves X.” (And be able to back it up with hard data!)
“Let’s leave no stone unturned.”
“Let’s make sure all the T’s are crossed and all the I’s are dotted.”
Whatever you do, DON’T say this to an Analytic:
“I’m not sure about X.”
“I’ll try to find out … ”
“I don’t know.”
Now here’s your challenge. Communicate most effectively with members of the four groups—and, as a salesperson, you will run into all four—you must know your OWN personality style. I invite you to learn this right now—before another deal goes down the tubes because of something you didn’t know that you didn’t know!