How you approach your customer can spell the difference in the success or failure of your sales presentation. James W. Pickens, in his new book The Art of Closing Any Deal: How to Be a Master Closer in Everything You Do suggests the following key steps in your initial approach to the customer:
1. Approach and Handshake.
When you meet a customer for the first time, walk directly to the customer in a “controlled, poised and confident” manner. With your greeting, shake the customer’s hands firmly and pleasantly, looking straight in the eye. Make sure that you are not holding anything – be it a pen, brochure or other sales material that can show an insincere attitude. Your goal is to get the customer to feel relaxed and comfortable.
2. Getting Immediate Control of the Customer.
According to the author, it is crucial to take “direct and instant” control of the customer, without the customer even realizing what is happening. To achieve this, a key maneuver is to move the customer to another location, maybe a different desk, office or room. Find a convincing excuse like, “Let’s move to a room that is less noisy” or say, “This office is not private enough.” Why? The idea is to throw your customer off-guard, giving you time to take charge of the situation. In the original location, the customer may already have established his position, with defenses up, and is simply waiting for you to start your sales pitch.
3. Seating the Customer in a Sales Office Environment.
When seating the customer, follow this rule: Sit close. The author explains that the further your distance from the customer, the less control you will have, and the less likely will you be able to close the sale successfully. This is especially important if you are talking to a group of customers.
You need to sit in the center of the group, or in between your customers, where you will automatically become a part of the customer’s party. It also breaks up the bond between customers, even preventing the customers to discreetly communicate with one another (no nudging or whispering side comments). By sitting at the center, you will be able to allow customers to equally share in your sales presentation, making it easy for the customers to see and read your sales materials. You can look at the customers directly in their eye without doing anything awkward like touching them to get their attention.
4. Three-Step Introduction.
The author introduces this technique to make “customers feel like old friends just minutes after the first greeting.” For your sales presentation to be more effective, it is important to give your customers some breathing room before you start the actual presentation.
To achieve this, you need to follow a three-step process:
- After the handshake and relocation mane, excuse yourself from the room to allow your customers to relax, or get some coffee. Customers, when they are prepped for a sales presentation, create a shield around them depending on their perception about you and your products. By leaving the room momentarily, the expected sales pressure disappears, their shield starts to weaken and they relax a little.
- When you return, ask the buyers a couple of easy, relaxed questions such as “Where are you from?” and “What kind of business are you in?” Pickens suggest that you listen with interest, and then excuse yourself again for some believable reason (e.g. you’re going to get coffee). Why? You give more breathing room to your customers, and their defense shield is further weakened as they get to know you more from the brief conversation.
- When you go back into the room – your third meeting with the customers – then that’s the time to start the sales presentation. By this time, both you and the customers have more opportunities to observe each other and relax in each other’s presence.
By following this process, you defuse the customers and make them lower their defense shield, thus allowing you to close the sale more successfully.
5. First Meeting Closing Traps.
By knowing the right questions to ask, you can get your customers committed to buy — even before you explain the product. Called “trap questions,” the aim is to get the commitment in the form of an affirmative answer. These questions are designed to get your customers’ attention, curiosity, and involvement right from the beginning. The author, however, stresses, that these trap questions should be delivered gently and sincerely, to avoid letting customers think that it is a joke, or worse, an insincere come-one. Some examples:
- “Mr. And Mrs. Customer; let me ask you a question. If I could show you a way to insure your family’s future and give you total peace of mind concerning your children’s future education, would you be willing to save X number of dollars? If I could completely convince you, would you be a little interested?”
- “Mr. And Mrs. Customer, if I could show you how you could save X number of dollars a day or X number of dollars a month for so many months, and at the end of that period of time I give you back all your money, plus some extra, would you be interested? Now remember, no strings attached. If I could show you the way it worked, would you be interested?”
In approaching a customer, Pickens stresses that it is important that you are “completely organized and have control over your customers from the very beginning.” Practice these five steps and you are on your way to success in sales.
Recommended Books on How to Approach the Customers:
- The Art of Closing Any Deal: How to Be a Master Closer in Everything You Do
- Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others
- Selling in a New Market Space: Getting Customers to Buy Your Innovative and Disruptive Products
- The Sales Magnet: How to Get More Customers Without Cold Calling
- 151 Quick Ideas to Get New Customers