The first few moments of interaction with prospects are the most crucial. It’s in those instants that prospects form an initial opinion about the value of investing time, any amount of time, to speak with you. In the first 10 seconds of your interaction, prospects decide if you have something worthwhile to offer that is relevant to their goals or challenges...or if you are “just another salesperson” attempting to sell a product or service—someone most often dismissed with a “send me some literature” request.
What do you say in those first critical moments?
Communicating your sales message, and communicating it effectively, requires three closely related concepts working in concert.
What are these concepts? Stimulate… Differentiate… and Validate.
Do you say something that stimulates the prospect’s interest—grabs his or her attention? Do you make a provocative statement that gets the prospect thinking? Do you ask a thought-provoking question that serves as a springboard to a conversation? Or, do you recite a formulaic “commercial” that focuses the spotlight on your company, product, or service?
Prospects have heard all of the canned commercials before…and they quickly tune out anything that sounds like one. They don’t want to hear about your company or the products or services it provides…unless there is a clear connection between that information and a recognized need or relevant goal. You must make that connection first.
If prospects are going to invest even a few minutes to talk with you, the only thing they want to know is, “What’s in it for me?” How effectively you answer that question in a thought-provoking manner will determine if prospects grant you those few minutes.
Imagine a salesperson who sells solvent recycling equipment speaking to the CEO or CFO of a manufacturing company that uses a significant amount of industrial solvents in its fabrication processes. Which of the following statements is most likely to stimulate interest and motivate the executive to have a conversation with the salesperson?
It’s quite likely that as much as 90% of the amount your firm spends on industrial solvents and 95% of the amount spent to comply with regulations for the storage and disposal of used solvent is totally unnecessary.
We are the leading U.S. manufacturer of fractional distillation solvent recycling equipment. We’ve been producing systems for industrial applications for over 17 years, and can configure effective and efficient turn-key solutions for any size manufacturing concern…including yours.
Did you choose the first? Doesn’t that statement, at the very least, arouse curiosity?
What about the second statement? The information may be important…but not until there is a connection to a relevant issue. (A connection the first statement suggests.) Until then, the information is just a collection of facts in which the executive is likely to have little, if any, interest.
Once a relevant connection is established, you must differentiate your product or service, not only from your competition, but also from any preconceived negative notions prospects may hold. How do you do that? Not by dwelling on the features and functions of your product or service, but rather by focusing on the beneficial outcomes your product or service produces. To illustrate that, let’s continue with the previous example:
Companies often perceive on-site recycling initiatives to be expensive and complicated. Many are…but they don’t have to be. Unlike our competitor’s multi-unit systems with multi-step operations, our small-footprint systems are self-contained sealed units, designed for single push-button operation. The payback period for the initial investment is typically under two years. And, as I mentioned earlier, the subsequent savings on solvent costs are usually about 90% and disposal costs are typically reduced by 95%.
Next, you must validate the prospect’s recognition of relevance. Again, the focus is on beneficial outcomes for the prospect. Here’s what that might sound like:
Mr. Thompson, I don’t know if your company has ever seriously considered a solvent recycling initiative as a means of cutting costs and improving profits. But, let me ask you this: “Is it something worthwhile exploring? And, would it make sense to schedule an appointment where we could exchange some information and determine to what degree we could help you achieve the results we’ve helped other companies in your industry achieve?”
If eliminating unnecessary costs and improving profits are important, the CEO or CFO is likely to agree to an appointment.
If you want to get your message across in a meaningful manner—one that leads to an appointment rather than a request for literature—stimulate the prospect’s interest with thought-provoking statements, differentiate your offering in outcome-related ways, and validate the prospect’s recognition of the benefits of those outcomes.