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Do These 5 Things During Every First Sales Meeting

by | 3 minute read

If you think about it, a first sales conversation is a lot like a first date. You don’t know the other person that well, there’s some anxiety involved, and you hope to make a connection. And, just like during a first date, the conversation is vital. “Much of your selling success hinges on your ability to lead an effective first conversation and get them to agree to a second conversation with you,” writes RAIN Group vice president Erica Stritch. In her blog post, she lays out what reps should achieve during that very first sales discussion with a prospect.

First, reps must establish rapport. Typically, they will do this by complimenting the prospect, making small talk about generic topics, or discussing a commonality. Surprisingly, Stritch advises against using any of those as conversation starters. Instead, she recommends immediately talking business. “You may have read advice that says don’t jump right into shop talk and take a few minutes to get to the know prospect so as to put them at ease,” she writes. “But with today’s busy buyers, that tactic is outdated and no longer works. Prospects don’t have time to sit around and talk about their love for sailing.” Showing respect for the prospect’s time will create rapport much more quickly than small talk or random compliments. Plus, you’ll show that you are serious about your business (and theirs).

Make sure to include interesting questions during this first exchange. The focus should be on the quality, not quantity, of questions. Smart questions will not only get you some valuable information, but they can also position you as an excerpt and boost your credibility.  Here are a few of Stritch’s examples of what to ask:

  • I see X, Y, and Z going on in your industry. How is that effecting you?
  • In your annual report you mention that the key priorities are 1, 2, and 3. How are you tracking toward achieving those? What challenges are you facing in these areas?
  • How is the merger affecting your sales force? Are all of your reps able to sell the new products?
  • How are you dealing with the new regulations in your industry around X, Y, and Z? I know several of our clients are struggling with A and B. How are you handling them?

These personalized questions won’t waste anyone’s time, they’ll reveal a lot about the prospect and his/her business, and they show that you’ve done your homework. Plus, you’ll stand out from the competitors who are still asking the same generic questions.

Take some time to read Stritcher’s other first conversation “must do’s.” Get into the habit of knocking these tasks out during every first sales conversation, and you instantly set yourself up for a win. “The goal of your first conversation is to engage the prospect enough so that they agree to a second conversation with you,” she explains. “If you do these five things in your meeting, you’ll have a good chance of continuing the conversation and getting that second date.”

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Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica is a senior research analyst for SalesFuel focusing on selling to SMB decision makers. She also reports on sales and presentation tips for SalesFuel and Media Sales Today. Jessica is a graduate of Ohio University.