Everyone knows that you only have one chance to make a great first impression. When you’re a salesperson, that great impression could be the difference between success and failure, so it’s no surprise that a great deal of effort is put into making a good one. Unfortunately, even the best first impressions can be undone all too easily. In this edition of Focus on Sales, we look at foolproof tip to be a great salesperson 28 First impressions count, but so do last ones and the four steps to creating a lasting impression.
Making the first impression
Look, I’m not going to gloss over this one. It is a simple fact that you only have a very few seconds to make your first impression – some say seven seconds , and psychologists think it’s probably even less . In that time, people are going to decide whether or not to take you seriously and take the time to concentrate on your pitch If they immediately disregard you, you’re going to have an extraordinarily difficult time convincing them that your product or service is worthwhile.
That said, there is a slew of advice out there on how to make a great first impression, so I’m not going to get into that too seriously here. Instead, I’d like to look at a couple of ways to make a good pre-impression.
Make a great introduction
Make sure your initial sales call is prepared well in advance. If your aim is to get an appointment to pitch your product or service, don’t waffle, don’t go off topic and don’t sound uncertain. Go into each call with the belief that an appointment is inevitable and let that come through.
Try to grab their attention with something unusual – what about a handwritten letter introducing your company, your product and yourself? Personalized, handwritten sales letters get a three times higher response than printed mail, and it’s also a whole lot less likely to get thrown out with the “junk mail”. It also gives your prospect the impression that you are someone who will take the time and put in the effort to deliver top client service.
Don’t rely on the element of surprise
Surprise and amazement have their place – and that place is usually at a Cirque du Soleil show, not in a sales presentation. Busy executives, procurement managers and finance people do not have time to waste guessing what your product is, and they hate going into meetings without an idea of what they’re doing. Once you have your appointment, send them an overview of the product or service so that they firstly, aren’t going into the meeting blind and secondly so that they have time to do a little research and prepare questions. It is way easier to sell to an audience that is already halfway interested.
Building on the first impression
Ok, so you got the appointment, made a good first impression and now you’re into the pitch. Even a good first impression can be destroyed by annoying behaviors, inability to answer questions, lack of confidence – a whole host of things. In a sales context, it helps to bear these things in mind to build on that first impression and create customer confidence:
Set up properly
If you are going to use any kind of visual aids or notes, make sure they are in working order.
For PowerPoint presentations, contact the prospect in advance and confirm what kind of AV system they use and whether it is compatible with your laptop.
Arrive 15 minutes early to make sure you are properly set up and have the presentation backed up on a thumb drive just in case you need to use the company’s equipment instead of your own. Then check that it works – flip through, make sure the sound works, if needed, check that the screen isn’t tiny, etc.
If you have printed notes,
Know your product
Know it inside-out. Know it so well that you are able to ad-lib on it and not have to stick to a script. You want to be able to answer any question they throw at you.
If, however, the client asks you something you really simply can’t answer, do NOT make something up. Simply state, with confidence, “I don’t have the answer to that with me, but I will find out and get back to you.” Then – and this is very important – make a note of the question and make sure you get the answer to them within 24 hours or less.
Present with confidence
Do not say “um”, “you know”, “like”, or use any other verbal crutches. They make you sound uncertain, which is death to a sales pitch.
Make eye contact with everyone in the presentation, if possible, and smile – just keep the smile natural so it doesn’t look like a grimace.
Practice keeping your posture straight but comfortable, and don’t flap your arms around – use them to point out details of the presentation, or to make specific hand gestures, but don’t feel they have to be in motion all the time.
Top Tip: Watch Ted Talks and try to work out how the body language affects your impression of the talk.
Making the final impression
The pitch went well, you’re confident that they are interested and you’re sure you have a new client in the bag. You’re on your way out of the building and enjoying a nice casual chat with the procurement manager. The chat goes on for twenty minutes and you can feel yourself babbling. You have just killed – or at least done some serious damage to – your great impression.
When the pitch is over and you have answered all their questions, thank everyone for their time and let them go. If you have equipment or anything else to pack up, just say, “Thanks, I’ll just pack up here and come and get you when I’m ready to leave”. Don’t be tempted to carry on the conversation, because it creates an air of trying to be too familiar and, at this point, your relationship needs to be as professional as possible.
Don’t give the impression of being in a rush to get to your next appointment – even if you are. This makes you seem as if you are bad at planning and therefore not to be trusted with their very important business.
Be very, very careful of making a joke, especially if the punchline is at anyone’s expense. You don’t know anything about these people’s personal lives, beliefs, struggles or anything else that could cause them to take offense. And while offending someone isn’t a crime, it also isn’t a crime to refuse to do business with someone you find offensive.
Do not be rude to anyone at all. Not the receptionist, not someone you bump into in the bathroom before you go into the client’s offices, not to someone who cuts you off in the parking lot. Again, you do not know who they might be – and you also don’t know who might overhear you. Besides, rudeness is habit-forming and if you actively avoid it, you won’t accidentally find yourself being rude to someone who could be making decisions about your future.
I believe in this one so strongly I did > a whole separate article about itthat is what will make sure the impression you leave is a lasting one.