Some salespeople are convinced that the most important part of a sales call is the opening. “The first 60 seconds make or break the sale,” they seem to think.
Research shows no correlation between openings and success, except in small sales. The first few seconds are critical if the presentation is based on a single call. But in B2B sales, prospects may overlook a poor start if they think a salesperson can solve a problem for them.
Sometimes it helps to review the four stages of a sales call:
- Opening. You establish who you are, why you’re there, and why the prospect should be interested in what you have to say. There are many ways to open the call, but the common objective of good openings is that they lead the prospect to agree you should ask questions.
- Investigating or uncovering customer needs. Early in the call you want to establish your role as the seeker of information and the prospect’s role as the giver. This is the most critical stage. You can’t win the business without understanding the prospect’s issues.
- Demonstrating. Effective salespeople make it easy for prospects to grasp ideas without having to work too hard. They give prospects an opportunity to focus on what’s in it for them.
- Closing. Some salespeople think that closing is the most important part of the call – the way they close will determine how successful they will be. Research shows that closing is far less important than what happens earlier in the call. The most successful presentations close themselves.
Keys to closing
There are three steps in bringing a presentation to a successful close:
- Check for other concerns that haven’t been discussed. The buyer may have other issues that have not been identified.
- Summarize or re-emphasize key points. Give the prospects an opportunity to ask more questions.
- Propose an action that advances the sale. In small sales, the only action is likely to be an order. In large sales, there are a number of intermediate steps that may move you closer to the order. Sometimes it’s as simple as setting up another meeting.
5 sins of presentations
Here are 5 sins that can undermine any presentation:
- No clear point. The prospect leaves the presentation wondering what it was all about.
- No customer benefit. The presentation fails to show how the prospect can benefit from the information presented.
- No clear flow. The sequence of ideas is so confusing that it leaves the prospect behind, unable to follow.
- Too detailed. If too many facts are presented, the main point may be obscured.
- Too long. The prospect loses focus and gets bored before the presentation is over.
Source: Wesley Forcier, president of Alpha Marketing, a sales training company based in Brookline, MA.