Make a winning sales impression with these tips from the pros.
By Julie Hansen
I try not to make snap judgments. But I do. And apparently so do a lot of other people.
Research studies have found we make several major decisions about another person in the first few seconds of meeting them. Decisions like: Is this person trustworthy? Likable? Confident?
In sales, this can affect everything from how a customer listens to you to whether they decide to work with you or not. So how do you make sure your first impression in sales is helping you—and not hurting you?
Actors live and die by first impressions. When auditioning for a role, an actor has to quickly stand out and prove themself in order to get a chance to be heard. In fact, a casting director may stop an actor as quickly as 20 seconds into the audition if they’re not impressed.
Casting directors are no different than many of our potential customers: busy people with a limited amount of time and many people, groups, and things vying for their attention. While a customer may not physically stop you mid-pitch (although it’s been known to happen!), they can mentally check out anytime.
So how do you quickly demonstrate to your prospect why you should be heard in those first few seconds? Here are five audition secrets for a winning first impression in sales.
Don’t warm up on your customer
A professional actor would never walk into an audition without being warmed up and “stage ready.” An actor knows there is no ramp-up time as the casting director is evaluating him or her the second they walk in the room.
An actor’s preparation involves not just knowing the material, but also preparing their voice and body so they can deliver their lines effectively.
Salespeople too often use those first few minutes of their presentation or pitch to warm up on their customer. Take a cue from actors—arrive stage ready to meet with your customer.
Show some personality
In a competitive market you can’t rely on your product alone to sell itself. As a salesperson you are the lightning rod that connects your product, message, and value to the customer in a way that inspires them to listen and take action.
And it’s your personality—your thoughts, emotions, and ideas—that a customer will connect with first, so don’t hide behind your product!
Make it easy for your customer to get to know you right away. The way you personably present a short story, an interesting observation, or an ear-catching statement can open the door to a memorable conversation and lasting relationship.
Ask unique questions
Questions are a great way to engage potential customers, but avoid asking the same questions everyone else does.
It is not your customer’s job to teach you their business. Do your homework so you can ask the kind of questions your customer feels are interesting and they want to answer. Questions like these will make an impression that immediately connects you with a customer.
Instead of the typical “Tell me about your business”—try leading with an insightful question like “I see you just expanded into three more states. How is that impacting you and your company?”
Frontload your best stuff
Actors who take too long to get to their best material often lose out on good roles. Salespeople who wait until the end of their pitch or conversation only then to present their most impactful message also lower their chances of success.
Instead, give your customer a coming preview of what they can expect from working with you by delivering upfront a value proposition, a key benefit, or a customer success story.
Casting directors and customers alike can sense a lack of confidence in those first few seconds—and it can cause them to question your ability to provide value.
Much of this is communicated nonverbally through the way you carry yourself, your facial expression, eye contact, and the sound, tone, and quality of your voice.
Exhibiting confidence starts with believing you have something of value to offer. That thought alone can change your body language, the way you talk, and the way people respond to you.
People want to work with people who they trust can get the job done. Confidence (not cockiness!) can help build that trust.
First impressions are too often last impressions. Apply these five audition secrets when you first meet with a customer. They will give you the confidence to create a first impression and memorable experience that increases your chances for sales success—right on cue.
Julie Hansen is a professional sales trainer, speaker, and author. She authored the book ACT Like a Sales Pro in 2011 and has been featured in Selling Power, Entrepreneur, and Sales and Service Excellence magazines. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.actingforsales.com.