By Robert Moment
Wherever you turn these days you'll find articles covering every business strategy and tactic available to man, from how to make a great presentation to strategies for success all the way to negotiations and prospecting and getting a client to commit. But hardly anyone touches on the subject of breaking the ice with a new client and winning them over.
Experts say it takes only three seconds to make a first impression. That doesn't give you much time to dazzle someone with your professionalism and polish, especially since it's so difficult to change a first impression. Naturally that leaves most of us a bit concerned when meeting someone for the very first time, especially if a lot is riding on your presentation.
Since your success is based heavily on your approach along with your understanding of the potential client's goals and purpose, it is up to you to plan for that first moment of breaking the ice. If you investigate the approach and attitude of top producers you'll discover that they all use some similar strategies for meeting and greeting a new client. Because they know just how important it is to prepare for the first meeting and how crucial it is to break the ice correctly, they come well prepared.
Consequently, whether your communication begins with a simple e-mail message, telephone call or person to person visit, the first contact is the most important. How you present yourself along with the questions you ask determines your success. And while there are no guarantees that any one strategy will work every time, applying the following few techniques will help make an impression that will certainly impact your very next presentation.
Make Your First Meeting Count!
1) The first and most important strategy for breaking ice is being fully prepared. And the best way to prepare is by knowing all you can about the company or individual you are planning to address. Prior to making an appointment, conduct some preliminary research about the company and individual so that you feel confident when making the first contact. Bios or articles about the person are often posted on the Internet so it's usually easy to find information. By knowing the company's history or something about the individual, you'll be in a better position to know what the prospect needs. Familiarizing yourself with the prospect opens the way to conversation.
2) To gain the respect of a potential client, there's a lot more to communicating than just words. Your body language and your tone speak as loudly as the words you say, therefore each presentation must be offered with cheerfulness and confidence. Needless to say, your overall appearance is critically important to the way you present yourself. Feeling good about your appearance is critically important to the way you present yourself. In fact the confidence you feel both about yourself and your product might well be the primary ingredient for winning over a prospective client. When it comes to speaking about your product and your service, it is your confidence and belief in your product that does most of the selling. So during the first moment of meeting, greet the person with a firm handshake along with good eye contact. Stand and walk tall, keeping your shoulders back and your head erect. And don't forget to smile.
3) We hear a lot today about the value of connecting with a person, yet what does That really mean? A connection comes when two people meet on common ground. One way you can connect with a potential prospect is by being your authentic self. Allow your personality, integrity and sense of humor to shine through. If the person you're meeting is aloof or hard to connect with, they might just need a bit more convincing. So rather than leaping right into the sales presentation the minute you start talking, speak first about some mutually interesting topics of conversation. If you did your homework you already know something about the company or the person, therefore you might try opening on a light note. After a few minutes, when you've had some time to relax and establish rapport, you can launch into your presentation.
4) There may be times when you meet with a client and you don't feel an immediate connection. Although your first instinct is to run and find someone who's a bit more compatible, perhaps you might consider viewing the situation from a new perspective. Consider it a challenge. Trying to find ways to connect with the person and then achieving it can be very rewarding. After all, your mission is to be the most important resource to your client therefore your goal is to impress the potential client with your ability to solve their problems. Pay careful attention to what the client really needs by actively listening. Don't oversell or try to convince the client that what you have is absolutely perfect for them. State clearly and plainly how you'll be able to help the client. Basically, before quitting on a potential client do your best to gain insight into the client's needs. If it doesn't work, you'll know you gave it your best shot.
5) Listening to what your client has to say is extremely important. It may be basic Knowledge that one should listen and not talk too much, but in our exuberance to sell we often forget to listen. When paying attention to conversation, you learn a lot about the potential client. Therefore, a good rule of thumb is to listen more, talk less and glean the knowledge that will help you understand the prospect's goals, concerns and overall needs. Ask questions, but be sure to pay attention to the answers. Additionally, use common courtesy by letting the prospect know that you understand how precious time is to him. If you requested 30 minutes and the potential client agreed, respect that time frame.
Breaking the ice can at times seem like a difficult task, but if you're genuinely committed to helping your potential client, it won't be difficult. Be sincere, respectful and open-minded. Take the time to understand the client's needs and they'll take the time to understand yours. If you plan, prepare and manage the initial breaking of the ice effectively, the potential prospect will soon be considered a well-established business associate.
Robert Moment is a best-selling author, business coach, strategist and the founder of The Moment Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping small businesses win federal contracts. He just released his new book, It Only Takes a Moment to Score, and recently unveiled Sell Integrity, a small business tool that helps you successfully sell your business idea. Learn more at: http://www.sellintegrity.com or email: Robert@sellintegrity.com.
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