When a one-on-one sales appointment ends in rejection, it can be really frustrating. It’s completely natural to think back over the entire appointment to try and figure out where it went off the rails.
Did I say something wrong or offensive?
Did I appear too pushy at the close?
Was I too passive?
Most coaches replay the appointment in their minds and truly believe the sale must have been lost somewhere at the close — after all, that’s the part of the sales appointment when a prospect gives their decision. But the final moments of a sales meeting aren’t necessarily when the prospect makes their decision.
The truth is, sales are almost never lost at the close. They’re almost always lost because something went wrong at the beginning.
If you want to end the appointment by selling your program or product — or whatever your next step is — you have to start strong. But when you don’t start off strong, here’s what happens:
1. False start…
When a prospect decides to hire you, what are they buying? Your product? Your program?
Sure, but only to a degree. When a prospect hires you, they’re really buying certainty.
Ultimately, certainty is a combination of clarity and confidence.
- Clarity of where you’ll take them
- Confidence that you’ll actually get them there
If the sales appointment starts off on the wrong foot, what happens to their level of certainty in you? It plummets! Without a strong start, the sales appointment could very well end in a new friendship, but it rarely ends in a new client relationship.
Instead of a false start, we need to get off to a flying start. We need to leap out of the starting gate and let them know we’re the man (or woman) with a plan. When a prospect sees you start strong, they’ll instantly know this conversation is different from any other they’ve had.
2. Taken off track…
In every sales appointment, someone leads and someone follows. In case it’s not painfully obvious, the person leading the conversation should be YOU.
If you don’t start strong by taking the lead, you can’t steer the conversation where you want it to go. Obviously, by ‘steering’ the conversation, I don’t mean manipulating or pushing prospects in a direction they don’t want to go — I’m talking about leading them. There’s a big energy difference here.
When you don’t start strong by taking the lead, the conversation can go off track. You can have a lot of interesting conversations this way, but they probably won’t end up where you wanted them to.
Years ago when I first got started, I spoke to a great coach who used a framework called ‘Interesting vs. Useful’. Anytime a conversation with a prospect or client would veer off track, he’d say, “You know I’ve got this rule that we can have conversations that are interesting, or conversations that are useful, but not both. Is this really useful, or is this just interesting? If it’s just interesting, let’s get back on track.”
We want to set up the conversation so that it stays on track the entire time. If you don’t get this right in the first three minutes, the conversation will go off track for the rest of the appointment.
Coaching is a leadership game. Sales is a leadership game. The biggest mistake you could make is to be passive, and wait for them to give you the plan.
You’re the man or woman with the plan. Your job is to lead, their job is to follow. Since most people are silently begging to be led, when you get this right, you’ll just lead and your prospects will happily follow along.
Finally, when you don’t start strong, you can get resistance from your prospect. Have you ever been in a sales appointment and said something that caused the prospect to push back on you a little bit?
I’ve certainly been there in the past, and it’s no fun.
If you ever notice that a prospect is pushing back, understand it’s probably because they believe you pushed them first.
When we start strong, our prospects become willing participants. At the beginning of the conversation, we need to tell them the plan and have them buy into it. This frames the conversation in such a way that they feel like they’re in control. When they feel like they’re in control, they don’t feel the need to resist or exert that control. Then you can take the conversation where you want it to go.
Over the next several posts, we’ll take a deep look at the initial three to five minutes of a sales meeting. This period of time is crucial because it forms the foundation of the entire conversation.
When you get this right and start strong, the rest of the appointment flows smoother than ever and almost always results in a sale.
How do you start your sales meetings? Share it with us. Leave a comment below.
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