If you're a salesman, these tips will help you improve your luck at business meetings. They're simple, yet most powerful.
- Think it. Script it. Rehearse it. Don't open your mouth unless you have a script.
- Remember to remember the duffer's name. And use it often.
- Pass her a smile, will ya?
- Look the look. A suitable attire does half the thing.
- Shhh! Listen. Don't talk. Let 'em talk, even if you had something important to say.
- Ask questions about their needs.
- For magical results, take notes.
- You are the star. Your opening lines will say if the theatre likes you.
- Never leave without nailing down the next steps.
- Send minutes immediately afterwards or within 24 hours, whichever is earlier.
I invoke your consideration of this question.
A gathering of unfamiliar faces seated before you, on a lowered platform than the stage upon which you stand, gaze fixedly into your face, hoping to lock your eyes with theirs while they wait on you to break silence. Dismissing the mild numbness, you clutch the stand of the microphone and speak thunderously, “The Underwear Problem!” you announce in the basest of tones.
The audience gesticulate. Curiosity of the kind that begs immersion and total engrossment saddles their half-smiling, calmly faces, and the silence is shorter and more asking now.
“Fair ladies and honourable gentlemen of this crowd, next up is ol’ Mike, the guy who reports blisters in, mostly, his right inner thigh formed of the continuous rubbing of both of his inner thighs -- both left and right -- when he walks the treadmill for longer than forty minutes on any day. The unshapely inner thighs, the temperate summer, the excess fat on his body and thus also in the region of his inner thighs, and the rough edges of the trunks, in almost natural cooperation, produce such results. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you our next speaker Michael Swellgrump. Speed now, Mikey, ol' pal, she's all yours!”
Say, dear reader, would you remark such an introduction of a guest, a complete stranger to you, whom your duty was to call, by way of an introduction, on stage to speak to a bi-annually gathered assembly of squeamish, high-wage-earning office-bearers gathered to devour on muffins and enjoy wine under the pretext of celebrating the past and speculating on the future of their trade, as an appropriate one? More appropriate than the tradition of recounting the speaker’s fictitious occupational triumphs?
I spent six unprofitable months inventing ways that would allow a nonsensical but finely dramatic opening such as that to smoothly begin this scribe, as it is one of a peculiar blandness, which pertains to a matter of the commonest sense. Alas! the paint and the wall would not agree.
Excusing my short diversion, allow me to start afresh.Selling Is Believing
Two hundred and seventy some evenings ago, my career took a change in direction. From being a salaried computer programmer of sorts, I became self-employed. I employed myself to run a one-person shop to do many things, the devil knows what all, and to sell all of them as well. If it was the late 20th century, I would have been tempted to say I got into the business of providing personal services. But that, dear reader, is a loaded word, as this day's language has it. I decided to deliver and sell training programs, and also offer to write software for businesses. I had to sell these services to buyers on my behalf.
I called on many prospects, pulling every rabbit that there was in, out of my hat to get them to buy.
For these meetings, I prepared. I had to. For my extreme introvertedness, talking to strangers as though they were my pals was uneasy and issued me to the bathroom many times, just the thought of it. "There, there, look! Sathy driveth into the parking lot, and Sathy driveth away from the parking lot. And again, behold! Sathy driveth into the parking lot, and Sathy driveth away from the parking lot without going into the building." That was what used to happen when I drove out to meet people. The last mile before pulling up at the venue was when the butterflies in my stomach would start to dance to melodies unagreeable.
Unwelcome thoughts laid siezure in the last minutes. From the time of being led by the receptionist into an empty conference room while the prospective butchers buyers relieved themselves from their previous victims engagements to attend to me, the deadly silence of sitting alone in wait assaulted me. I spent those moments reviewing my notes that I used to have written in my pocket diary, the one I usually carry at all times. I used to have every dialogue I was going to utter and every response I had meditated would meet with my pleas planned. My defenses were all ready. But so were my fears.
"You're too fat to be talking to anyone. Your body language gives."
"You're meek. They will crush you with their formidable demeanours, you poor goat. What have you got yourself into?"
"Ha ha ha! You stammer. Ha ha ha!"
"You don't know how to ask for business. You've never done that before."
"Say, fat, ugly, idiot coder, what trick have you to balance humility with guarding your interests and maintaining an equality in the bargain?"
"Bad breath! bad breath, dude!"I challenged each and every one of those dragons that roared from within me until a sense of quiet belief prevailed. Even though I dreaded every moment of the first few occasions, to the point that I almost regreted having secured an appointment when it drew closer, forgetting the laborious hours and expensive phone calls I had to make in order to get it in the first place. After a few instances of forcing myself into it, and challenging my every negative thought, and doing more of it, and remembering the words of Emerson, "Do the thing, and you will get the power to do the thing," I just got better and better with every time.
Then, I began enjoying it, talking to people having tea and biscuits with them and making new friends along the way. It was so much lighter on the brain than writing computer code.
Now, I want to break it to you. First, that all selling is about believing. You can sell if you believe you can. And that, thoughtful reader, is perhaps the most overwhelming of all the ten other tips I will lay before you.
Common sense has remained an elusive virtue to the commoner, who seems to chase after the arcane that claims to unriddle the mysteries of wonder. Prophets of every brand have obscenely profited from this inequation.
Most of this is common sense and thus extremely useful. Someone with lust for fame and fortune, and half the cleverness that one must have could make a long, boring book out of it. Greed, a sweet thing it is. If one day, I revel in her quarters, I will do it myself.
Until then, here are ten tricks you can use when you go to meet people with the objective of getting them to want to pay you their money without using a gun on them. By choice or by chance, if a sales person you are, or you were led astray in your early childhood into the mafia, my sympathies along with these very powerful tips should help you collect. They will help you have success in your business meetings with prospects of both extortion and legitimate money. Without the six-shooter being un-holstered.
The next paragraph calls to the special attention of a specimen.
No, no! Business meetings, I said. The ones with real purpose and dignity where the human emotions of hunger and ambition commingle. Not the ones that you drag in your cozy office cabin with another executive of your kind to kill time, while, high up on the wall behind your seat, the clock ticks ticks of silent accusation, and at the back of your head, a thread of assurance counts days to your next sure-as-the-seasons-roll pay cheque. One more time, you hit straight for the coffee pot with your gossip-mongering crony for now, chum. Will see ya later!
With that exclusion, the readership is properly defined.
Aye, I said, the one where the wit and anguish-scarred, bruised, hope of the seller and the arrogance and resistance of a can-be-buyer unite in blood-sport; a match, if matched, where money exchanges its owner.
- Think it. Script it. Rehearse it. Don't open your mouth unless you have a script. There is little difference between stage acting (or any other form of acting) and selling. You, the sales person, are the actor, and the meeting is the set where you will exhibit your talent. If this way you think of it, you will meet with success. Go fully prepared.
- Remember to remember the duffer's name. And use it often. I am agitated when people mispronounce my name. I reckon its untypedness, but that should be no excuse, but a test of who is worthy for they pay close attention to where attention must go.
- Pass her a smile, will ya? Selling is about the gamest thing I have known, and all else beside, a good half of it is about being a charmer. A smile, a tsk or nod signalling empathy, a mild, gentle touch of approval, a pat over the shoulder are the toys of this game. No sale happens without chemistry. You have to create it. And the best place to start at is with a smile, arguably the most powerful of all employables.
- Look the look. A suitable attire does half the thing. I realized that when I wore a three piece suit and said the same things, I met with eyes of adulation and awe than when I said them with my blue denim trousers and a sweat shirt. When I wore sneakers, my words fell on deaf ears, and on deafer hearts, my bootless cries. When I dressed up like I meant business, they listened like pupil to a precept.
- Shhh! Listen. Don't talk. Let 'em talk, even if you had something important to say. Take your mind back to a time when you had a fantastic conversation and you felt absolutely great about it. Now, answer this question honestly. Who was doing most of the talking during this fantastic conversation? Was it you or the other person?
- Ask questions about their needs. Selling is not about telling them about your product. It is about asking them questions of what they need. Repeat. Selling is about asking questions of your prospect about what they need. If all you do is walk into a meeting and take it by storm with relentless verbiage, you have prepared to cut yourself out. The next time, you'll want to start by asking questions. You'll instantly start making sales.
- For magical results, take notes. Underestimate anything but not this simple advise. Take note of every thing the prospect tells you. Every little detail that slips out of their mouth, whether it is business related or not, goes into your note book. All this information should go into a separate page or file that signifies this particular prospect. Build a history about every prospect.
- You are the star. Your opening lines will say if the theatre likes you. Imagine a caliph standing before you with vain eyes, hunting for a victim to splurge his cash on, and feel good about his charitable instincts, and you stood in competition with all else in the scene, one of a bazaar with many sellers, and you had just one sentence to advertise your produce with the spendthrift caliph, what would it be?
- Never leave without nailing down the next steps. If you have a great time and just walk out without properly holding the other person accountable to actions that will move your chances forward, you are a fool. Always ask toward the end, "So, what are the next steps?"
- Send minutes immediately afterwards or within 24 hours, whichever is earlier. The moment you walk out, you can bet that the person you just met will flush out everything you said out of their memory. Come back a week later, and they might remember who you are. A month later, they probably won't be able to tell your face from that of a giant panda.
I am psychotic about preparation. I divide my preparation into the three serial activities of (a) thinking up the dialogues and imagining the scene; (b) writing out the dialogues as imagined; and (c) memorizing and rehearsing the dialogues.
If you are thinking this might just be a little over the top for something as little as a formal business meeting, you would be wrong. Without this, you are merely trying your luck. Selling is all about preparation. All selling is merely the acting out of parts. Period.
Majorities of companies are doing poorly because they're not making sales, because bad sales people never prepare. They try to wing it.
On the other hand, the best salespeople take preparation for sales meetings very seriously. The best books written on the subject of sales recommend pre-written scripts for each selling situation. It is that methodical and orderly a process.
Selling happens when the seller creates a controlled experience, an experience he controls for the most. In doing that, preparation is a must. You start with the outcome you wish in mind and write out the script of your meeting-to-be before hand with that aim in mind.
"Satthaaish, raa! Ikadaa!"
In a long telephone conversation where empathy oozed out of my telephone reciever, the empathizer quickly betrayed my trust when he emitted the sound, "But Satyajit..."
"Satyasheesh, we are very grateful for you," has left me feeling wounded with insult.
My name is Sathyaish, and if they can't take the trouble to read it once carefully and to attempt a correct pronounciation, they advertise their lack of attention to the necessary facts in important affairs. I don't do business with people who cut corners.
I once had a credit card company print a wrong first name, a wrong second name and a wrong last name on my credit card, and they sent me a PIN that did not work. And the password to the Internet banking website did not work either. When I called back, their IVR system would not let me speak to a human being outside of a 3 hour afternoon window, during which it was difficult to get through.
I feel the same when someone shows a lack of concern about my name. On the other hand, when someone calls out my name effortlessly in the middle of a sentence, my heart offers child-like friendship in return.
I observed this and took it to work in selling. I sold more.
When you smile, you inadvertantly signal approval and liking. There are different kinds of smiles, though. There's one of your benign, saintly smiles that raises your brow as your eyes squint, and then there's the flirtatious grin of a flamboyant casanova. You don't want either.
Imagine, on a fresh afternoon, hurrying through the galleria to reach for your regular restaurant when the young lady at the head of an adjoining store passes you an platonic smile while arranging supplies around the aisle. Does that not soften your ambition for lunch? There's a whiff of innocent adventure in that moment.
That's the kind of smile you want to carry to your business meetings. And when the prospect you meet is of the opposite sex, or let's just say of the gender of your interest, to those that it apply, the value of this little device meets only those of vintage antique.
An afternoon wet smooch works splendid in such a situation. Go for it! I kid you. About the kiss, I kid you.
Your dress is a part of your preparation for the act. And in this department, I can tell you, it is truer than in any other. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
Now cast your mind to a past occurance where you had to sit through someone else talking to you for two hours. Did you enjoy it? Do you even remember any of it? Chances are that you don't.
Our brain registers any experience in which we do most of the talking as a fantastic experience, because we get a chance to express. That is why every one is on Facebook. Because they want to express. They want to be doing most of the talking. And they want others to respond to those things that they think are interesting.
That's the key to selling more. Unless you had a message as urgent as "I gotta go to the bathroom or something bad will come out of me," you will end up selling more of whatever it is you came to sell if you simply resisted the urge to talk and instead listened all the while. Even if it did not give you the chance of pitching your product. Yes. You heard me. You came here to pitch your product. Even if you didn't get a chance at that but instead ended up having your prospect take up the whole two hours talking about their cat, you did yourself a favor. You will end up selling more.
When we talk more, we feel liberated, and register that conversation and being together with that person as a favorable and pleasurable experience that we want to repeat. If your prospect gets talkative suddenly, listen and express great interest in whatever they are saying, even if you are wishing inside of you that you had a spanner to hit their head with so they stopped talking, just let them jibber jabber, and you'll close. Having them shut up to listen to you is a false economy of time.
It is not on every ocassion that a prospect opens up to a total stranger who has come to grope into his pockets. You're lucky if that happens.
And here is how it'll help.
For example, the prospect starts to talk to you about Polly, their cat, who is suffering from a mild fever. Quickly take mental note of it. Pulling out your little notebook at this expression when you must be offering your shoulder for sympathy will promptly reveal you as an idiot. Hold the urge. Instead, take a mental note of it and poop it out into your notebook at the first chance you get when more cheerful notes are sung. You can then pretend like you are writing some business data while you really are recording the pedigree of the kitty.
Then, the next time, 20 days after you met, you call the prospect on the phone, if you start the conversation, which usually bad sales people do, with a, "Hello, Mrs. Doubtfire! How are you? Do you remember we met three weeks ago about that fire-hose my company sells?"
Bad, bad, bad thing. You will make any chances of making a second appearance at Mrs. Doubtfire's door unretrievable. You will also have given control in the hands of Mrs. Doubtfire and given her the advantage of pretending to doubt whether she remembers you at all.
Instead, you could start the conversation with a, "Hello, Mrs. Doubtfire. A very good afternoon to you!"
"Good afternoon, who's this?" shall inquire Mrs. Doubtfire.
"This is Jim, the guy from HOSE SILVA FIRE HOSES. How's Polly, Mrs. Doubtfire? Has she been taken to the doctor's yet?"
That is a question that leads into a conversation. Once again, let Mrs. Doubtfire babble her belly out. "Pray, talk, Mrs. Doubtfire! Pray, talk!" your heart should pound. If she does, you will have upped your status a serious few notches. You are now family, yay! Talk about Polly and then talk about Dolly some, and you will become an envious icon among your fellow sales men.
Or, imagine you were on a twenty second television commercial and were allowed only seven of the twenty seconds to sell your product to the nation-wide idle watchers who sprawl on their sofas with their purses unguarded, what would you do in those seven seconds?
The answer to either of the two questions should be your opening line at the business meeting. Soemthing that captures the soul of all the ensuing conversation.
The best way to draft your opening line is to let it not be about your product but about the need of the prospect. Say the same thing but in words that relate his or her need more than the goodness of what you sell.
Remember, sales is acting, and the stage is set. You are the star in it. How you make your entry will tell how beloved to the patrons you are.
Having listened a boatload to your prospect before hand should cue you in on the weak points or points of most need, if you are smart. While they wag their chins, build up your opening sentence around that in your head.
When time is ripe with fruit, begin the plucking!
Simple. And keep inserting during the conversation where it is apt, "So, by when do you think that'll be?" or "Should we put a date on that?" and "Who precisely will be performing that activity?"
Your job is to weed out all ambiguity in the dialogue and make life easy for the both of you.
No, you aren't unimportant. It's just that today, everyone's goddamned busy. To stay afresh in your prospect's dreams, you must prepare precise notes of the meeting and send them out as soon as you hit your working desk, or a laptop in your car, or anywhere outside of the meeting where you can find a laptop with an Internet connection. Worst case, send it within 24 hours of the meeting.
The truth will not lose its lustre if repeated again: selling is believing. It's about failing more times than winning. It's about getting up after every time you have been thumped to the ground, wiping the blood off the one side of your lips, combing your hair back in its place, slapping the dust off your trousers, straightening the crease of your shirt, catching your wounded breath, wearing that smile on your face, and knocking the next door.
If that doesn't work today, it will work tomorrow. If it doesn't work tomorrow, it will work the day after. If it doesn't work the day after, it will work the day after.
Selling is a number game. For a door that will open to you, you will be unwelcome to a hundred shut ones first.
With these tricks up your sleeve, you should be able to improve your average, though. As with all things, practice will improve the average.
If this advise doesn't work, don't lose faith. Try it again. If it still doesn't work, try again. If not yet, try yet again. If it's not doing any good even then, try it again. If not even then, try it one more time. And then one more time. And one more time, until it works. It will.
If, however, it still doesn't work, remember to grab me, at the right place though, and promptly ask for a refund.
Note: Selling is not easy. It is one of the most challenging of all tasks performed within an organization. I also conduct a training on sales with scripts for each situation. I can help your sales team sell more of anything. If you are interested in increasing your sales, please get in touch with me for my training program.