Contacting sales prospects is more than just having a conversation with someone who has buying authority within a company. In a highly competitive global economy, your team may have to speak to an executive to land the account. As such, nailing the first five minutes of a conversation becomes critical for many reasons. Prepare your pitch carefully, and hook your prospect from the start.
Talking to Executives
First, the C-suite in front of you knows the business and industry relatively well, so making a compelling argument to this person is a must. Second, the exec has a lot to do, so you can't waste time, and you must get to the point. Gain the trust of a sales prospect with your relevance and credibility in just a few minutes, or you may never hear from this potential customer again.
Salesforce.com asked a COO for some tips on what he looks for when companies make him a sales pitch. The COO said he wants to see the sales team do their homework on the company, industry and landscape. He also wants to know if the vendor can support the company's initiatives and that the team speaks his language. The sales staff must prove their value when speaking to a sales prospect. If you can do these things in the first few minutes, you may have an executive's attention.
Map to Success
You and your team need to have a plan of attack that leads to additional conversations. Don't expect a sale right away with this important conversation, but at least count on a growing relationship with the sales prospect. Get people talking, and have an engaging conversation by illuminating a few major points.
Show insight with a company and how you solve a firm's problems. Understand the pain the executive feels, and get his attention by showing how you alleviate the pain of trying to capture more market share, become an innovator or gain an edge on the competition. Prove that your idea works through citing other customers and raw data from a similar case study; then follow up with how much money the executive's company saves or gains through your idea.
The final step to success involves asking for further contact. That's the call to action of your initial meeting with the sales prospect. Don't leave this assumption in the air — nail down a yes or no.
Rules of Thumb
Do your homework, first and foremost. Showcase your insight and how your idea helps the company. Lastly, call in someone lower in the company to validate how your ideas have merit. This person should have knowledge similar to yours with some industry insights.
Train your staff well so they gain confidence ahead of the sales meeting. Your team should spend four times as much effort preparing for meeting as they do participating in it. For example, if your meeting lasts 10 minutes, prepare for 40 minutes. Coming to the meeting ready makes all the difference.
The first five minutes of talking to a sales prospect can make or break the professional relationship. Learn to plan out these moments with precision to win the day.
Photo courtesy of Finance Blue at Flickr.com