There are five steps involved in the initial approach:
- Approach the prospect and shake hands.
- Gain immediate control of the prospect.
- Arrange proper seating.
- Make a three-step introduction.
- 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.
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.