Approach – The Initial Approach

There are five steps involved in the initial approach:

  1. Approach the prospect and shake hands.
  2. Gain immediate control of the prospect.
  3. Arrange proper seating.
  4. Make a three-step introduction.
  5. Maintain control.

Approach the Prospect and Shake Hands

When the salesperson first sees his prospect, he should walk directly to him in a controlled, poised, and confident manner.  When he makes his first greeting, he must be very careful to concentrate and learn everyone’s name.  He should give at least a quick look at every person in the prospect’s party.

The salesperson should shake hands firmly and look each prospect straight in the eye.  His warm, friendly personality must be evidenced from the very beginning.  The first impression is vital.

Never be afraid of the prospect.  Approach him with self-confidence and pride.

The salesperson should never say, “I’m going to be your representative,” or “I’m going to be your salesman,” to a prospect, as the prospect already knows this.  It’s a silly thing to say, and it will do nothing but add to the prospect’s feeling of uneasiness.  Simply project friendship and develop a relationship in which the prospect feels he is an equal.

After the handshake, the most important thing to do is to get the prospect relaxed.

Gain Immediate Control of the Prospect

Immediately after the first handshake, it is very important for the salesperson to assume direct control of the prospect.  The best way to do this is to move the prospect to another location.  This can be another room, or simply another desk.  The prospect is ready and waiting for the salesperson and he has decided where he will stand or sit.  This is the prospect’s territory and he feels secure there.  When he is moved to a new location, his game plan is thrown off balance.  This disorients the prospect for a moment, giving the salesperson the time to assume control.

This little trick can be done politely by saying something like “Let’s find another desk where we won’t be interrupted,” or “This office is not private enough.”  Any excuse that shows concern for the prospect will work.

Once the move is made, the salesperson must make the prospect feel comfortable and relaxed again, or he will be right back where he started with a defensive prospect.

Arrange Proper Seating

For proper control, sit close to the prospects.  All tables and desks are barriers, so sit as close as possible, and, if possible, eliminate that barrier at times by sitting at the side of the desk.  Use a chair that places you slightly above the prospects.  Always use a rectangular table or desk.  Sit with the customers on either side of you at the ends of a rectangular table with your sales materials to be placed on the middle of the table facing away from you (Plan #1); or sit with the two prospects directly across the table from you, with your sales materials to be placed facing away from you and directly at them (Plan #2).  None of your sales materials should be on the table at this time.

Plan #1 is by far the best, for the following reasons:

The salesperson is in a central position where he more or less becomes a part of the group.

The bond is somewhat broken between the two prospects because they are seated at either end of a table, and it weakens any pre-planned sales defenses that the two have prepared.

The salesperson can equally share his presentation with both prospects at the same time.

The salesperson can prevent the two prospects from communicating any secret contact with one another, thus having much greater control and keeping the prospects off balance.

Plan #2 provides better eye contact, but it has the following disadvantages:

The prospects can see what is going on behind the salesperson’s back, whereas the salesperson will always have controlled eye contact in Plan #1.

The prospects can nudge each other and make secret contact, exchanging pre-planned signals.

The prospects can whisper their thoughts to each other without expressing them openly in front of the salesperson.

There is a barrier between the salesperson and the prospects, and there is not the feeling of being a part of the group. A two-against-one environment exists.

Make a Three-Step Introduction.

1.  After the greeting and relocation maneuver, tell the prospects you need to check on something (a phone call, give a message, etc.) and ask them to relax and help themselves to coffee or a soft drink. Then leave them for a few minutes.  Do not get coffee for them, as this puts you in a subservient position giving the prospects a feeling of control.

2.  After you have been away from the prospects for a few minutes, go back and sit down for a minute. Ask a couple of easy, relaxed questions such as: “Where are you from?”  “Is this your whole family?”  “What kind of business are you in?”  Be alert to any common bond that both the prospect and salesperson might relate to.  Listen to the answers with sincere interest, and then excuse yourself again for some believable reason (such as to get yourself some coffee, to try the call again, or whatever) and leave.

3.  After you have been away for a minute or two, go back to your prospects and start your presentation.

Your prospects are on guard, nervous, and defensive at first.  When the salesperson first excuses himself and offers the prospects coffee, the defensive barrier starts to lower because the expected sales pressure is not present.  After the second short question and answer meeting, the defenses are lowered even more, as the prospects get to know the salesperson and some breathing room is given.  When the third meeting takes place, the prospects have had a chance to observe the salesperson, so they feel they know him much better.  The prospects have also had a chance to see what is going on, and they feel that the salesperson is their representative.

This three-step introduction will relax the prospects, and it gives the salesperson a little time to analyze and observe the prospects and tailor the presentation to fit their personalities and needs.

Maintain Control

The salesperson must know everything that goes on around him and the prospect that might interfere with or help the sale.  Be aware of any distracting factors that might catch the attention of the prospect.  The salesperson must keep an eye on anything and everything, to arrange an atmosphere that will not interfere with the important job at hand.  The prospect must be able to concentrate on the salesperson’s voice and actions.

The salesperson must never let the prospect’s small talk go off on a tangent, or he will lose control.

Approach – 12 Techniques for a Successful Approach

Here are 12 techniques that can be used to make a successful approach:

  1. Identify the purpose of the meeting first.
  2. Ask a question that leads into the prospect’s interest.
  3. Get the prospect to participate.
  4. Promise a benefit.
  5. Offer a survey.
  6. Open with the product.
  7. Use a visual.
  8. Use “shock” treatment
  9. Tell a story.
  10. Use a referral.
  11. Give the prospect something.
  12. Use a gimmick.
  13. Pay a compliment.

Identify the purpose of the meeting first.

Most salespeople start the approach by introducing themselves. Now, if the first few seconds in front of the prospect are so important, isn’t the salesperson wasting them by greeting the prospect with the least interesting of facts? To get attention quickly, wouldn’t it be better to say something like: “Ed and Clara, I want to show you some fabulous new ______ that will generate excellent sales for you. I’m Sam Salesperson.”

Ask a question that leads into the prospect’s interest.

Questions are an excellent tool when used properly. But the salesperson must be very careful not to avoid questions that could be answered “No.”

“What types of ________ does your company use?”

“You probably are always on the alert for ways to get the most for your dollar; that’s right, isn’t it?”

Get the prospect to participate.

A person can pretend to listen, but he can’t continue with one line of thought and participate in another.

Promise a benefit.

“I think we have an idea that will save you money.”

“Ed and Clara, if I could show you how to save money on your ________, would you be interested?”

Remember – people buy benefits and solutions to problems, not products.

Offer a survey.

“Ed and Clara, we have a product that may be able to make you money, but I need to ask you a few questions first. Let’s sit down and go over a brief survey form, and then I will be able to tell you about what we have to offer.”

Open with the product.

______________ can stimulate plenty of interest simply by its appearance, so it can be used for the opener.

Use a visual.

Samples of work you have done for others and art work can all be used as a visual way to get attention.

Use shock treatment.

Open with a startling fact or a strong statistic.

Tell a story.

We all like to hear a story, provided it’s stimulating and told well. The story can be combined with the other approaches that have been mentioned.

Use a referral.

Use the name of another person as an introduction. “I believe you know Ed and Clara Customer. They suggested that you would be interested in hearing what they are doing to increase their sales with our __________ line.”

Give the prospect something.

Giving the prospect something of value can be used as an opener. We all love to get something for free.

This can be an especially good technique if the free gift is something that ties into the product. Then the salesperson can use the gift to stimulate interest.

Use a gimmick.

Salespeople have used thousands of stunts or gimmicks to get the prospects’ attention. While they are planned to lead into the presentation, the gimmick is primarily for attention. In attempting to sell T-shirts to Disney World, I got their attention by sending them a personal letter printed on a T-shirt. I recently used custom fortune cookies as a means to get the attention of prospects.

In using any stunt, remember the purpose must be to gain favorable attention. After gaining attention, the salesperson must quickly move into stimulating the prospect’s interest in satisfying a need.

Pay a compliment.

This is one of the simplest and easiest ways to get attention, yet it is difficult for many.

If you have difficulty giving a sincere compliment, use the What-Why-Question formula.  First, tell the person what it is you like; then tell why you like it; then ask him a question about it.


By planning your words and actions before you meet the prospect, your chances of carrying through a successful sales presentation are dramatically improved.

Approach – Approaching the Prospect

The salesperson only gets one chance to make a first impression. What happens in the first 30 seconds can be more important than anything else you say or do!

Packed into the first few minutes of the “approach” are three important objectives:

1.  To gain the favorable attention of the prospect,

2.  To begin to establish trust, and

3.  To develop the prospect’s attention into positive interest.

These are accomplished through your appearance, your actions, and what you say. All are equally important in these first critical moments.

The prospect’s first impression is a visual one. If he is favorably impressed, he is more likely to want to listen to you. If he is not, everything you say or do must overcome a handicap to succeed.

Appearance is the total of many things. It is taste, cleanliness, attitude, and general self-respect. The salesperson’s attitude should be one of confidence. He must show confidence in his product, his company, and in himself. Any lack of confidence as revealed by his manner, facial expression, or speech may be quickly noticed by the prospect.

Approach – Preparation for the Approach

Just as a professional athlete must prepare himself physically and mentally before a game, so must the salesperson.

The following preparation must be made:

  1. Know your product.
  2. Plan your strategy.
  3. Check the “field of play.”
  4. Look in the mirror.
  5. Get psyched up.
  6. Get fired up.
  7. Turn on the powers of observation.

Know Your Product

The salesperson must know everything there is to know about his product, the facilities, activities, prices, payment plans, and everything else.  When the salesperson knows this information perfectly, he will be more confident and relaxed.  This self-confidence will show when he meets the prospect for the first time.

Plan your strategy.

The salesperson must have a planned presentation, which includes everything from where he wants his prospect to sit to what he is going to show to what types of questions he will be asking.  With all of this information prepared and pre-planned, the salesperson will know exactly what he is going to do and how to do it.  This will provide a basic foundation on which to build during the presentation.

This planning will enable the salesperson to give the prospect an organized and understandable sales presentation, leading the prospect in any direction he wants.

Check the “field of play.”

The salesperson must be sure that everything is in place, including printed materials, coffee and soft drinks, videotapes and other visual materials, contracts, a pen, etc.  The sales office should also be checked for cleanliness, including the public restroom facilities.  Everything should be right!

Look in the mirror.

The salesperson must take time to stand in front of the mirror before he meets his prospect.  He should check his clothes, shoes, fingernails, hair, and overall appearance.  He should make sure he doesn’t have bad breath, dandruff, or body odor.  He must look neat and well-groomed at all times.

Get psyched up.

While looking in the mirror, the salesperson should tell himself that he is the best salesperson around and that he is going to make the sale.  This is a form of self-hypnosis, and it can really work.  He should also loosen up and get his blood flowing before meeting the prospect.  This can be done by shaking his arms at his sides and over his head.

The salesperson must remember that he is the leader. He will take control and lead his prospect to a sale.

Get fired up.

The salesperson should go somewhere alone before he meets his prospect.  By being alone and thinking positive thoughts, he will build up a positive force field that will completely surround him.  When he meets the prospect for the first time, the positive vibes will rub off.

The salesperson needs enthusiasm as well as positive thoughts.  He can build enthusiasm and excitement by clapping his hands together at a steadily increasing pace, or drumming a pencil on the table building the tempo, or pushing the fingertips of one hand against the other.

Turn on the powers of observation.

Start absorbing information about the prospect even before the introduction.

Approach – Suggestions for a Favorable First Impression

Here are suggestions for a favorable first impression when making face-to-face sales calls.

Be neat in dress.  Wear clothes on the conservative side.  While your business may lend itself to more casual attire with some clients and prospects, most professional salesmen should wear a tie and professional saleswomen should wear a business-style suit if in doubt as to what will be appropriate.

Be clean in dress and body.  Clothes should always be neatly laundered, never rumpled or soiled.   Shoes must always be shined.  Fingernails must be very clean.  Men must always have a good, close shave.   Hair must always be neatly combed.  Deodorant must be used; perfume and cologne must never be over-used.   Special concern must be given to clean teeth and fresh breath.

Maintain a confident bearing and manner – not superior, nor inferior.

Talk with a smile, with a pleasant tone – never sour.  Smile almost to the point of grinning, because a smile radiates warmth.

Come on softly so you relax the prospects rather than scare them and cause them to become defensive.

Always have the names correct, and pronounce them properly.  Ask your prospects, if necessary.

Don’t carry a coat.  It may detract, and you want your prospect’s attention directed only to you and your presentation.

Have a good handshake.  A good rule is to let the prospect dictate the type of handshake.   A good, firm handshake is best.   Never use a bone-crusher or a dead-fish handshake.   It is now generally accepted that the salesperson shakes hands with both men and women.

Look in the prospect’s eyes.

Do not smoke.  A cigarette detracts in many ways from your presentation, even when it doesn’t antagonize the prospect.   Do not even smoke if the prospect invites you to join him.   DO NOT SMOKE.