Getting that first sales meeting is the most challenging and time consuming part of your work, as a salesperson or an entrepreneur. In fact, most salespeople and entrepreneurs spend more than 75 percent of their selling time trying to get that first appointment, with a prospective client.
Getting that first appointment relies on good timing, excellent research, preparedness, and most importantly– effective communication. “What do I mean by effective communication,” you might ask. It’s hearing what your prospect is telling you; it’s responding with the right information to convince the person that talking with you is worth her/his time.
But, the most important thing to remember when you’re trying so hard to get that first sales meeting is: Avoid selling your products and your services! Sell the benefits of meeting with you to discuss your prospect’s needs and challenges, and to come up with strategies for achieving that winning solution. So how can you do this, you ask?
Here are my 4 surefire strategies for getting that first sales meeting.
1. Make Sure You’re Calling On the Right Person
It’s less stressful, of course, to start calling people at the bottom of the corporate hierarchy. But doing this wastes your time and it depletes your energy. Why spend your precious time communicating with five people, who can’t help you, when you could call the person you really need to connect with, first. But, who is the “right” person?
Take the time to research and to network to find out whom the “right” person is – the decision maker! Then, start to make contact with that person. But remember; there is usually more than one decision maker, or one buyer, in any organization or company.
Another leading strategy for reaching the decision-maker, which works for me, is to build relationships with people who have access to the decision-maker. Often they are “the gatekeepers.” It’s the receptionist or the administrator, who is in close contact with the decision-maker. Get to know them! And don’t ignore or underestimate their power, because most salespeople do. These “gatekeepers” able to provide you with valuable insights and information about the decision-maker.
2. Patience, Persistence and Professionalism
Remember! It’s going to take time to reach the right person, the one whom you want to say, “yes” to a meeting. No doubt, you’ll have to leave many voice mails (and send quite a few emails.) Always be professional, as you navigate through the process. When you do you finally reach the person, you first want to say one of the following:
“Is this a good time to talk or would it be better to call you tomorrow morning?”
“May I take a quick minute to introduce myself, or would it be better to schedule 10-minutes to speak with you sometime this week?”
Sure, this gives the person the opportunity to say, “No.” But by phrasing your request with an open-ended question, you are increasing your chances of speaking with that person. And this can lead to a sales meeting and your foot in the door.
Research tells us that it could take you 8-12 attempts, with 3-5 potential individuals, to get that first meeting. And if you take note of and remember to implement the strategies and ideas that result in positive responses, you’ll end up shortening your “introductions to meeting times.”
This is where having done the necessary research on your prospect and having a professional sales pitch that resonates with her/him, will pay off. Many entrepreneurs neglect to differentiate themselves. When you identify what you have to offer, be sure to leverage it into a winning pitch that will attract and convert prospects. Remember, you are the consultant – competent and professional. Be brief; be memorable ; and be thoughtful!
3. Make It Easy to Say Yes
I’ve just talked about how to create a pattern for getting to “yes” and how to use this tactic to get your first sales meeting. You’ve got to make it easy for your prospect to say “yes.” Ask questions that easily lead to “yes.” When you ask for an appointment, say it in a way that assumes your prospect is already interested. You might say, “I have time on my calendar next Tuesday, at 10a.m., or Thursday, at 3p.m. Which time is better for you?”
4. Practice Dealing with Objections
People, who are masters at getting meetings, didn’t start off that way. They practiced and practiced, and practiced… Spend time considering possible objections and how you’ll handle them. For example, when a prospect says, “Why don’t you just send me some information?” You might say, “If I were to send you some information, I’d be guessing at what your needs are and what’s most important to you. However, if you and I could speak for a few minutes, I’d have a better understanding of our services could help you reach your goals.”
Phrasing your response in this manner is disarming. As well, it shows that you, like a true consultant, are interested in learning what’s important to your prospect.
So, how do you handle objections, confidently and smoothly, you might ask?
The best way to deal with objections is to write them down in a notebook, when you get them. Then, write down two to three possible responses you might use the next time. Practice saying your responses, in front of a mirror, videotape yourself (my favourite strategy), or practice with a friend. Practice helps you workout the kinks so you are able to come up with more natural and conversational responses, when you need them.
Effective communication is a lot about advance preparation. It’s also about listening and focusing on your objective, to get that first sales meeting. And if you want to be successful, you need to stay focused on this goal, i.e. that meeting with you is worth your prospect’s time.
Do you have a best strategy for getting that first meeting with a prospect? I’d like to hear from you about it.
About Our Guest Blogger: Theresa Delgado
Theresa shows entrepreneurs how to use proven sales strategies to grow their business and increase profits. Her clients have been able to increase their profits because they have developed great relationships with their top customers. . She share actionable sales insights for entrepreneurs at TheresaDelgado.com