The first appointment with a new prospect can be one of the most intimidating parts of the sales process but is also incredibly important. Just as a first impression sets the tone for a friendship, the first appointment can make or break a working relationship. Make sure you capitalize on this opportunity by being prepared and handling yourself professionally. Here are some tips to make the most of any first appointment in sales:
1. Early in the call establish your role as the seeker of information and the prospect’s role as the giver. You need to get to know this prospect and their business to determine if and how best to help them with your product or service. You don’t want to waste their time. Make sure they are prepared to answer questions during that first appointment. And then make sure that you do your homework on the company, so you have good questions to ask.
2. Get down to business quickly. Introduce yourself and then begin. You have a limited amount of time with this prospect, and you want to make the most of the first appointment. If you want to build rapport, there is time to engage in casual conversation after you have the information you need. Show your prospect that you are eager to help them and to learn.
3. Avoid the common trap of spending too long on pleasantries. If you put the pleasantries first, you may run out of time and miss out on the most important information. Likewise, you don’t want your client to think that you have nothing of value to offer by simply going off on a tangent about something not relevant. It’s a fine balance between building relationships and being professional.
4. Don’t talk about solutions too soon. You can’t offer a solution until you know the prospect and their business thoroughly. You don’t need to offer a solution in the first appointment. In fact, it’s better to show the prospect that you are taking their needs seriously by doing additional research first before sharing a solution. Certainly, you can share information about yourself and your organization, so they feel comfortable meeting again, but don’t rush the pitch.
5. Concentrate on questions. In fact, preplan your questions based on what you can find out about the company and the prospect ahead of time and what you know you have to offer. This effort maximizes your time and gets to the important information more quickly and shows your prospect that you are taking them seriously. It’s always good to have some follow-up questions ready as well.
6. Use questions to challenge the thinking of your prospects. To make a great first impression, you want to be seen as a consultant, not just a salesperson. By challenging your prospect’s thinking, you are showing them you have knowledge and experience that might be valuable to them. “Have you ever considered…?” and “How much do you know about…?” are great ways to open these types of conversations in a non-threatening way. You might be surprised where the conversation leads!
7. Schedule your next appointment before you leave. Always make sure that you and your prospect know the next steps. Whether it’s a next appointment, or a follow up with more information, or a meeting with another person at the organization, confirm the next step before you leave and schedule it if you can, so you don’t lose momentum. Doing so also means that you are accountable and responsible, adding to an excellent first impression.