Understanding the Sales Cycle: Making a Good First Impression

John Tabita
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Remember how your mother told you that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”? That’s why the next step of the sale cycle is The Introduction.

In my last article, I said that the sales process begins in one of two ways: either the prospect initiates contact, or you contact the prospect. Just like in the preparation step, your Introduction will depend on the situation.

The Prospect Initiates Contact

Prospects may initiate contact in a variety of ways. The most common for me was through a referral. When this happens, you can be sure that the prospect is most likely further along in the buying cycle than if you’d contacted them. Upon first contact, you may simply set up a time and place to meet. Or you might have a preliminary conversation over the phone to determine if a face-to-face meeting is warranted. Regardless of which you choose, the first question out of your mouth ought to be, “Why did you want to meet with me?” or “Why were you interested in talking with me?”

Before you ask that question, you ought to know how you want to be perceived. Because, if you don’t, the client will make the choice for you. Here’s what I mean.

I met with the new owner of a company we had developed a site for a few years earlier. When I asked why he wanted to meet, he spun his monitor around and began pointing out things he wanted changed on the site. At that moment, I had a choice: Was I going to be a cursor inside a graphics program that my client controlled? Or a consultant whose job is to help him increase revenue, sales, and profit? I chose the later, and redirected the conversation to that end.

How do you see yourself? As a designer? A tech guru? A freelancer? A consultant? I’m not implying any of these is the better choice; rather, that you should decide beforehand which is best for you.

You Initiate Contact

The reason this step is in our sales process is because the primary way our reps generate new business is through cold-canvassing. That’s when you walk into a business, ask for the decision-maker, and try to get an appointment—either right then-and-there, or in the near future. (If that sounds like a tough gig, it is.) You may never chose to prospect this way, but you may choose to cold-call. If so, you need an effective introduction that’s different from when a prospect is expecting you.

The people over at Jigsaw have put together and excellent (and free) marketing whitepaper called, Crafting Messages that Sell: How to Build YOUR Killer Value Proposition and Create the Competitive Advantage You Need. It begins by making a good, if not obvious, point:

In sales and marketing—only two things matter:

  1. Getting people’s attention, and
  2. What you tell them when you have it

Companies invest a lot of marketing dollars on number one. But here’s the problem…

…once you get the person on the phone, or once they pick up your marketing piece or visit your website—if you don’t have something VERY compelling to tell them—you’ve lost them.

The lead generators in my department spend their day trying to reach decision-makers of businesses who would benefit from our product. Once that decision-maker picks up the phone and says, “Hello,” we’ve accomplished the first objective—getting their attention. But we’ve not always been as successful as we could with the second part—having something very compelling to tell them. Next week, we’ll take a brief detour into the foray of prospecting for new business. If you’ve determined that prospecting is an important part of your sales process, then you won’t want to miss it—especially if you’re stumped about what to say once you hear that first “hello.”

This is the fifth installment of the series “Understanding the Sales Cycle,” which consists of:

What’s a Buying Cycle and Why Should I Care?
What’s a Sales Cycle and Why Do I Need One?
Your Client is Ready to Buy, but Are You Ready to Sell?
Step 1, How to Prepare
Making a Good First Impression

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