How to Set the Stage for the Sales Conversation

How to set the tone and begin a Sales Conversation.

You’ve been shown into the customer’s office – you’ve gotten past the sometimes awkward introduction, made chit chat, and gathered your wits – someone has to begin the sales conversation. And, the best “someone” is you. Why?

Because, right at the get-go, you want the customer to:

  • See you as a business professional who appreciates this opportunity.
  • Know you understand their time is valuable.
  • Realize that this business meeting has a beginning, middle, and end. Feel no pressure to decide to buy a product that may not be right for their business.

How do you do this?

Many sales training courses teach salespeople to “Take Control.” Do you like to be controlled? Neither do I. Taking control feels forced, cold, and self-serving. The customer is just coming along for the ride and has no say in what follows. Customers are predictable and always do what we say. NOT!

It’s all about the mindset you bring to the sales conversation. And, that’s the point. Think of this exchange as a conversation. It’s a frame of mind that is open, welcoming, and gently “leading,” in which the customer is the focus. This is the opposite of a sales presentation which is “rep” focused and “rep” centered.

I call the first step of the sales conversation: Assume the Lead. This step has three parts:

1. Express Gratitude
2. Acknowledge the Customer’s Time
3. Establish an Agenda

Express Gratitude

Why express gratitude right off the bat? Because it’s the right thing to do. Because this customer is giving you a chance to be heard and could end up being the reason you win that company incentive trip you’ve been trying to win all year. That’s some of the reasons why.

Here are a few examples of what to say that express your gratitude.

“Again, it’s so nice to meet you, Craig. I appreciate your willingness to see me.”
“Lisa, I want to let you know how appreciative I am that you agreed to meet with me.”
“Thank you, Mr. Smith, for making time to see me.”
“Nina, thank you for working me into your schedule.”
“Don, thank you for agreeing to meet with me.”
“Ms. Smith, I have looked forward to this meeting. Thank you for making it happen.”

Note: If you are in telephone sales, expressing gratitude works beautifully for you as well. Just make these minor adjustments.

“Hi, Craig, it’s so nice to speak with you. I appreciate your willingness to talk with me.”
“Hi Lisa, I want to let you know how appreciative I am that you agreed to speak with me.”
“Thank you, Mr. Smith, for making time to speak with me.”
“Hi, Nina, thank you for working me into your schedule.”
“Don, thank you for agreeing to speak with me.”
“Ms. Smith, I have looked forward to this phone call. Thank you for making it happen.”

Expressing gratitude is a perfect way to begin the sales conversation for many reasons. It gives you time to settle into the customer’s surroundings and allows the customer time to settle into having you in their space. It also begins the conversation on a positive footing.

However, where do you go from here?

Acknowledge the Customer’s Time

In the second part of the “Assume the Lead” step you want to let the customer know that you value their time and you have no intention of wasting it. This puts the customer at ease and demonstrates that you appreciate their time. It’s also a good transition to capture the customer’s attention.

Here are a few examples of what you can say that will acknowledge the customer’s time.

“I know your time is valuable, so to make the best use of your time, I’d like to…”
“It’s clear that you have many responsibilities and only so much time in the day, so to keep you on schedule, I’d like to …”
(My favorite) “I can see you’re busier than a one-armed paperhanger, so to make the best use of your time, I’d like to….”
“I know your time is precious, so to be respectful of your time, I would like to….”

Establish an Agenda

The last part of the “Assume the Lead” step has to do with establishing the parameters of the conversation. This puts the customer at ease because they will see that you are not going to be the thing that wouldn’t leave; there will be a beginning, middle, and end to this conversation. They will also learn what they can expect during the conversation and that they are in the driver’s seat, and not you. You, however, are leading the entire conversation, keeping it on track and helping the customer stay focused.

Here are a few examples of what you can say when you transition from the acknowledgment message into establishing the agenda.

“…. first ask you a few questions to better understand your business and then share information about my (company, products, services). Based on what I discover, I will make a few recommendations for you to consider. After that, you and I can determine if it makes sense to move to the next step. Does this work for you?”
“…visit with you to better understand your business and the direction you want your company to go in; then, I’ll share information about my (company, products, services). Based on what you tell me, I will make a few recommendations for you to review. At that point, if you and I both agree to move to the next step, we can take it from there. Does this work for you?”

Let’s put it all together.

1. Express Gratitude.

“Again, Craig, it’s so nice to meet you. I appreciate your willingness to see me.”

2. Acknowledge the Customer’s Time.

“I know your time is valuable, so to make the best use of your time, I’d like to….”

3. Establish an Agenda.

“…. first ask you a few questions to better understand your business and then share information about my (company, products, services). Based on what I discover, I will make a few recommendations for you to consider. After that, you and I can determine if it makes sense to move to the next step. Does this work for you?”

That’s it.

The beginning of the sales conversation is all about creating a safe, honest environment where both you and the customer can learn from each other. When you Assume the Lead at the beginning of the sales conversation, it sets the stage for both you and your customer to be open-minded. It also helps you to focus on giving your customer your full attention and places you in a mindset of serving and not selling as well as a mindset of leading the conversation rather than controlling the conversation.

Chiqeeta Jameson Bestselling Author Sales Coach and Speaker
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Chiqeeta Jameson Bestselling Author Sales Coach and Speaker

Chiqeeta Jameson – Sales Coach, Speaker and #1 Bestselling Author of Don’t Sell. Let Them Buy, Master the Sales Conversation and Guide Your Customers To A Successful Outcome Every Time.

www.ChiqeetaJameson.com

2018-03-29T02:51:44+00:00