How to Gain a Prospect’s Favorable Attention

As I work with salespeople, I so often see the same type of sales approach repeated time and time again. When the salesperson is successful at getting an appointment, he or she so often goes into the sales interview ill prepared.

No homework.

No preparation.

No rehearsed opening statement.

I believe salespeople should do their best to put themselves in the prospect’s shoes and realize how many salespeople a typical prospect sees over the course of a year. One of salespeople’s goals must be to set themselves apart from the herd.

Opening statements like the following are far from innovative:

“Would you object to my showing you a few prices today to see if we can save you some money?”

“Do you have an extra set of specs on the job you’re starting next month in Willow Creek? I’ll be happy to do a material takeoff for you…I might even be able to save you some money?”

“I’m looking for some new customers. Would you mind if I call on you from time to time when I’m in this area?”

During my corporate career, I spent eight years in purchasing. I gave literally hundreds of salespeople appointments to meet with me and very few of these salespeople were what I would characterize as impressive. In my industry, the products the various manufacturers offered for sale were typically just about the same quality with just about the same service and just about the same price. How about in your industry? If it is and if your products are not unique, what can possibly make your offering unique if YOU as a sales professional are not unique?

One of the reasons gross margins in most industries are so pitiful is because so many salespeople are so pitiful. After all of these years in the selling profession you’d think that more salespeople would have figured out some way to set themselves apart from the competition than by offering to “save the prospect some money.”

There’s no product that’s any more of a commodity than gypsum wallboard. If it were not for the writing on the paper wrapping, I question if many people could tell the difference between the various brands on the market.

One day I received a telephone call from a national accounts representative from one of the industry’s best known gypsum companies. He asked for an appointment and I gave him one.

On the day of the scheduled appointment, he arrived at our offices five minutes early, a mark of a professional in itself. I walked out to the lobby, shook his hand and invited him back to my office. After a few minutes of some well rehearsed small talk — it was obvious he had done his homework — he got right to the point.

He said to me, “Mr. Lee, I am here today for the express purpose of convincing you to do business with my company.”

He said this not with an air of arrogance, but with an air of confidence. He was such a consummate professional that he stood head and shoulders above 99% of the salespeople who had ever walked into my office. His demeanor was such that he was a difficult man to say no to.

Did he take a risk with this approach? Yes, probably so.

Had he talked to a half-dozen salespeople who already did business with me and my company? Yes, I learned later that he had. He had done so much homework that he became convinced that this approach would impress me as opposed to turning me off.

He mentioned nothing about price. He and I both knew that wallboard was wallboard and when all of the dust settled just about any major manufacturer would be within pennies of the others in the business.

He sold me first on himself as a professional, the kind of professional I wanted to do business with. After two or three sales calls, I felt confident that he was the kind of professional who would not guarantee that we would never have a service problem, but one who would fix — and fix darn quickly — any service snafus that ever reared their ugly heads.

My company became his company’s third largest customer in the US and our relationship lasted for many years.

Try this: Work on your opening statement. You have about ten seconds to gain a prospect’s favorable attention. Don’t waste it!