The first sixty seconds of a sales encounter will set you up for success or failure.
Often in retail sales, we find ourselves wondering why our prospect won't cooperate with the sales process. Sometimes we scratch our head and say, "That prospect wasn't a buyer. Why did he even come in?" as the person walks out the door.
Many things must go right in a sales encounter. The jobs of an excellent sales professional and an excellent sales manager are to minimize the likelihood of anything going wrong. This is accomplished by mastering all areas of the sales process.
One area many retail salespeople and managers address with alarming nonchalance is the approach to the prospect. A proper approach is essential to set the stage for the rest of the sales process.
During the first 60 seconds, the first impression and the tone of the sale are established. If you don't know what the objectives of an excellent approach are, sales can and will be lost right at the start. There are seven steps to every excellent approach. Failure to accomplish any of these dramatically reduces the likelihood of consummating a sale.
GREET YOUR PROSPECT
In a professional and non threatening manner, approach your prospect face-to-face. As a general rule, the prospect needs 10-15 seconds to get comfortable in the store. A greeting during that time period may create a feeling in your prospect of being attacked. It should never take longer than 20-30 seconds to greet the prospect; waiting longer than 30 seconds makes the prospect feel unimportant. Your prospect may also begin to get negative psychological impressions about your company and the salesperson's customer service and customer responsiveness attitudes.
CREATE AN EXCELLENT FIRST IMPRESSION.
Be friendly and sincere. Look the part of a professional. Being sincere requires genuine interest in what is best for your prospect both in the long and short term. Today's customers see right through fake smiles and phony interest.
If you want to look the part of a professional, it's essential to remember what your prospect believes is "professional". I often find salespeople stack the deck against themselves by ignoring this fact. There are several excellent books that discuss professional dress. John T. Malloy's Dress for Success is one of the best. The research Malloy conducted to develop his recommendation is outstanding.
BEGIN RAPPORT BUILDING.
The objective is to help your prospect relax and defuse defense mechanisms so you can discover the person's true wants and needs. Defense mechanisms are natural and shouldn't intimidate the sales professional. Defenses come from the prospect's fear of being taken advantage of. The quicker trust and sincere interest are established with the prospect, the more likely a first-visit sale will occur.
GAUGE PROSPECT'S WANTS AND NEEDS.
This is accomplished through the use of probing questions as well as observing your prospect's responses and reactions to the various products he or she comes in contact with. It requires constant observation of your prospect; don't get distracted by phone calls, other conversation or anything not related to the sale. Stay totally focused.
BUILD VALUE IN YOUR COMPANY, PRODUCTS, SERVICES & YOURSELF.
Incorporate positive statements into normal conversations, such as the length of time your company has been in business, sizes and types of products and services you offer, brand names, warranties and special training you've had.
Salesperson: "Mr. and Ms. Prospect, ABC Retailing have been in business 10 years. As a matter of fact, we are one of the largest companies of our kind in the area. During our time in business, we have developed a highly recognized customer service and quality-assurance program. After all, quality service and quality products are important to you, aren't they?"
BEGIN TO INSTILL URGENCY.
Make sure your prospect is aware of any sale being held, limited quantities, limited times, special purchases, finance or layaway options that may exist. Anything that may assist the prospect in making a decision now is important to mention.
CONTROL WITH QUESTIONS
The person asking questions is in control. Make sure you have complete understanding of all the information-gathering questions necessary to uncover your prospect's wants, needs and investment motives. It's important to establish control with questions as early as possible. Otherwise, the prospect's psychological investment-time clock will run out before getting enough information to determine which product or service best fits his or her needs. It's also important to ask questions in a conversational, rather than interrogatory manner. Often, when companies contact us about programs to improve agreement techniques, we find, after observing and interviewing their sales staff, that controlling with questions does not exist. Usually this is due to inadequate knowledge of types and amount of wants and needs analysis questions to be asked.
The approach is only one of the areas a sales professional must master. When the approach is done effectively, it will lead straight into further analysis questions and to the appropriate presentations/ demonstrations.
Richard Tyler is CEO of Houston-based Richard Tyler International, Inc., a diverse family of companies and services involved with all aspects of personal and business management. For more information contact him care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at firstname.lastname@example.org.