Is it to convince your prospects that you have the best solution to their problem? Is it to attempt to kill the competition? Perhaps it’s to make sure you get through your entire PowerPoint presentation. Or maybe you want to make it clear that your company is the market leader, and therefore your prospect is making a big mistake by not doing business with you? While all of these objectives might be part of a strategy to turn the prospect into a customer, if you don’t achieve the most important objective of your initial meeting, then you may never move on to the next phase of your sales campaign.

The most important objective is to build an initial level of trust with your prospect. If you don’t, the chances of getting a follow-up meeting will be slim. And the chances of ultimately doing business will be nearly impossible. We must always keep in mind that at the end of the day, people buy from people. This will never change. Technology will certainly change the way we secure our initial meeting, but if we fail to build a fundamental level of trust on the first sales call, we have not achieved our primary objective.
To build a fundamental level of trust, it helps to know a little bit about the person we are meeting with. This can be done by doing some research before the meeting. With all of the social media tools at your disposal, this should not be a difficult task. Basic information about your prospect’s past employers, perhaps contacts you have in common, sports teams you follow, golf, motorcycle riding or charitable organizations you support, will help you make a “connection,” which is the initial stage of building the trust that is critical to a business relationship.

In addition, there are fundamental differences in the way business is conducted based on geography. If your sales territory spans several states or countries, you will need to adjust your approach accordingly. For example, I started my sales career in New York City. I learned immediately that if I did not get my point across quickly regarding the value my company and product would offer, I was essentially shown the door. Therefore, on my first sales call it was critical to address business value early on in the meeting. Non-business-related topics and “small talk” came after they saw value in my product. When I relocated to Maryland, I used the same approach on my initial sales calls. I was told by several prospects to slow down and relax. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything different than I was in New York. And I probably wasn’t, but I most likely came off as a typical New Yorker in a rush to get my point across. Needless to say, this approach did not play well in my new sales territory. Fast-talking New Yorkers are not the way to build initial trust in Maryland. So I learned quickly to change my approach and adjust to my new audience.

Years later, as a regional leasing manager for Memorex/Telex, I learned this lesson once again. I flew to Louisville to meet with a sales rep and his customer to structure a lease package involving the replacement of IBM tape drives with our plug-compatible drives. We were having lunch the day before our on-site meeting. I was brought in to understand all their financial challenges so I could structure a lease program to meet their needs. We must have talked for almost an hour before and during lunch on various topics totally unrelated to the reason I flew in for the meeting. When the customer excused himself to use the restroom, I asked Bob, the sales exec, if we were going to talk about the leasing deal. Bob told me that he never talked business with this customer at lunch and, in fact, the reason we were meeting for lunch was so his customer would get a chance to meet me in advance of our formal business meeting the next day. In other words, he wanted to see if I was the type of person he felt comfortable doing business with.

There is certainly no single way to build an initial level of trust on your first sales call. Every situation is different. But the fact remains that it is up to you, the professional sales exec, to make it your number one priority. If you don’t, the chances of doing business are slim to none.


Universal Sales Truth #1

Surround yourself with successful people of integrity

Proverbs 28:26

If you think you know it all, you’re a fool for sure;
real survivors learn wisdom from others