Mistakes To Avoid In Face-To-Face Meetings
If prospecting and preparation set the table and decide the menu, and attitude sets the ambience, then face-to-face meetings are where your fork hits the meat. This is where marketing goes bottom line and becomes selling. But don’t let that fact deceive you. Many of the common mistakes in face-to-face meetings originate with the subconscious mindset that “selling” means “forcing” the process to a close and to a result that serves the salesperson’s agenda. Trying to force a result is like trying to pick a lock with a noodle. Can’t be done.
Here are some mistakes commonly made in face-to-face meetings and how to avoid them.
Up-Selling (A term,phrase and/or concept I detest. Reasons to follow.)
In 1995, while visiting Egypt, I had the pleasure of meeting an elderly British couple in the lobby of a Sheraton Hotel, just north of Aswan. Upon recognizing my accent, the couple approached my wife and I, introduced themselves, and announced that they were eagerly awaiting their first trip to the United States later that fall. Their excitement was contagious, and I asked where they were planning to visit during their stay in the United States.
“We are going to Staten Island,” giggled the 85-year old couple from England, like two high school sweethearts. Here was a couple who some people would write off as fossils-in-process, but who really were fun to be around. (Note: Being around enthusiastic people — regardless of their country of origin, age, religious or political preference, or the color of their hair — is measurably more fun than being around duds of any rank, serial number or political persuasion. My recommendation, given the choice, lose the duds.)
“Besides Staten Island,” I asked, “where else are you going?” They said, “We are going to visit New York City.” I surmised that their limited itinerary was due to budgetary constraints. “How long will you be in the United States?” I asked. “Three weeks,” they said. I gasped for a lung-full of fresh Egyptian air (an exercise in futility). “What do you plan on seeing?” I asked to mask my growing concern. “We are going to ride the Staten Island Ferry.”
Now, I may be a bit jaded having been raised so near the Jewel of The East River, but spending three weeks in Staten Island after waiting 85 years to visit the red, white and blue, is not my idea of a major league slice of the “Big Apple”. . . Staten Island Ferry ride or no Staten Island Ferry ride
Knowing it was none of my business, I asked, “May I suggest a few ideas?” (As I suggested previously, always ask permission before asking questions. It immediately and effectively eliminates any chance of your interest being interpreted as an unwanted and unappreciated interrogation.)
“Why not fly into Boston where you can check out the freedom trail and Paul Revere’s contribution to our dissing the Motherland? You can then take a scenic train ride down to New York City where you can spend a week to ten days sightseeing the greatest city in the world.” I recommended a few of the many sights that I would want to see if I was visiting the Big Apple for the first (and probably the last) time . . . the Empire State Building, the World Trade Towers, Times Square, the Guggenheim, a Broadway Play, breakfast at Tiffany’s and of course Jimmy Joe Bob’s Famous Swap Shop just south of Canal Street. I suggested they continue their journey with another short train ride to a third history-laden city, Philadelphia, where they could snap a few pictures of the Liberty Bell after taking a stroll through the fascinating Franklin Museum. In another short two-hour train ride they could be chugging into Washington D.C. where they could experience the Capitol Building in all its splendor, the Smithsonian, a couple of bazillion monuments, a tour of a bona-fide mint, and the White House, home to some of our nation’s most photogenic and charismatic characters.
In three weeks they would catch the entire northeast corridor without having to rush … and they would be experiencing so much more of our beautiful country. I did acknowledge the fact that they would be logging a few more miles, but any travel-related inconvenience seemed well worth the experience. As long as they traveled at their own, slow and leisurely pace, they would be fine.
That was over two years ago and I will never know if they heeded my advice or if they ever even made it to the States. But I ask you this . . . Was I “selling this couple up” or was I simply recommending what I believed to be in their best interest? I think the answer was obvious to them judging by the sincerity in my voice and the enthusiasm and animation of my recommendations.
Many sales books I have read include a lengthy chapter telling how you should sell people up. “If the prospect says this . . . you say that. If they do that . . . you do this. When the prospect finally does buy this, you slide in a few that’s.” Sounds pretty manipulative if you ask me. I feel strongly that you should think less of yourself if you ever find yourself trying these tactics. Selling people up is not a good thing, unless, of course, it is in their best interest for you to do so. The moral. Don’t sell up. Sell right.
Think about it. I didn’t sell the English couple anything . . . up, down, over or under. I simply recommended what I truly considered a more exciting and memorable itinerary. It was easy for me to do so, and I didn’t feel that I owed them an apology. I did what was right . . . as I interpreted the picture at that moment. No hesitation. No mumbling or stammering. No queasy stomach or sweaty palms. No raised or fluctuating blood pressure. No negative feelings whatsoever. Just good, old fashioned, shoot-from-the-hip communication.
Would my recommendation cost them more money? I think it would. Would their travel agent enjoy a higher commission? I think she would. Did I feel that I owed them an apology for attempting to alter their original course? I did not.
You are the expert, the specialist. So, tell your prospect what he needs to know. If he doesn’t ask the right questions, tell him what he should be asking. If it cost more, so be it. If it cost less, learn to live with that as well. On occasion, you will feel that the right thing to do is to “sell down,” or recommend a less costly item. Sometimes it will be correct to make no recommendation at all. Other times you may find yourself pointing your would-be clients toward the competition. If you need a slogan to live by, here it is.
“Do what’s right for the prospect.”
A sale for a sale’s sake is short-sighted. Your primary objective is to establish a long-term relationship with your steadily growing customer group based on trust. This requires honesty, straightforwardness, and time. If you or your boss find it difficult to swallow this advice, you are probably running your sales program from a script hand written by monks on parchment. Unfortunately, you still have company — salespeople who are proud to proclaim their well-traveled tongues can, in a lizard-like fashion, jet out from their mouths, reach across a desk, and nab the wallet of a prospect who has a difficult time saying “No.” I call a person with this prehistorical approach a Saleosaurus (literally, a “sales lizard”).
What turns many people away from a career in sales is the misguided mind-set that they must learn how to present ideas and solutions that border on fiction or shear nonsense. Nothing is further from the truth. To become successful in sales you must speak the truth in a clear, slow and orderly fashion while encouraging the customer to candidly voice their concerns.
One of the most successful salespeople I know is so laid back you are tempted to check him for a pulse every few minutes. His sincerity simply pre-empts any need to tap dance through a high-energy sales presentation.
Trying To Convince Rather Than Convey
If you try too hard to sell something, prospects will question why you feel that you have to sell so hard. They will begin to doubt the quality of your product or service. All you need to do (assuming you have a quality product or service) is to tell your story to people interested in listening. Period. No manipulation is required. No overcoming tough objections. Communicate the facts of your product and address your prospect’s concerns in a matter-of-fact conversational tone.
You sell . . . you lose. You talk to me, take interest in me and try to help me . . . you come out smelling like a rose.
Not Listening To The Prospect
You have undoubtedly heard the real estate mantra that the three most important determinants of value are: location, location, location. In sales, the three most important determinants of your value to the prospect are: listening skills, listening skills, listening skills.
Not listening to what others are saying (and not saying) is remarkably common in our profession. One reason may be that many salsepeople anticipate “objections” they have to stomp out and work from a script designed to crush opposition and sell up. So, at the first sign of resistance from a prospect (“But what about . . . ?”) they spring into respond mode before they understand exactly what the prospect has in mind.
No prospect really cares what you want or think . . . unless it ties directly to what the prospect is concerned about. But once you allow the customer to speak freely about their needs and concerns, and the prospect perceives that you are truly listening, you are bound to witness a sale unfold before your very eyes. You’ll become a spectator and won’t have to say or do very much more.
Ask and then listen. Repeat back to the speaker what it is you think you heard and then listen some more. Remember: People who are in the market to buy stuff will buy if you simply act as a guide, as a sounding board, and as a source for information and confirmation.
Corollary: Not Empathizing With The Prospect
This mistake is a kissing cousin to not listening. Empathizing is listening with our mind and emotion simultaneously. More specifically, you must learn to see your offer through the eyes of your prospects. Being truly empathetic in a sales context takes practice, because a motivated salesperson is naturally focused intensely on his own objective and viewpoint of the product or service he is selling.
When you want a distinctive edge, start envisioning the world from your customer’s side of the table. Once you learn to tie your point of view to your customer’s primary interest, fears and concerns, you will be well on your way toward establishing a working relationship.
The next time you begin your sales presentation, pause and reflect on the person you are speaking with. Think about what is important to him. Think about his current working environment . . . the problems he might be dealing with. Only true professionals can perform this improvisational meditation during a face-to- face meeting. Adopt this practice and you will multiply the fruits of your labors ten-fold.
Recently I was dealing with a personal issue over the phone with a bureaucratic bank representative, when the mis-communication escalated, as did our voices. I, being the international instructor of customer service, suggested that the bank representative, just for a moment, put herself on my side of the phone and think how she might respond to such lunacy. She did just that and instantly became miss congenial customer service rep extraordinaire. Quickly and painlessly I became a very happy customer once again.
When agreement with the prospect appears headed for a premature deep-six, resurrect the deal with a shot of empathy.
Becoming Distracted (Audio Part 2)
Amazingly, becoming distracted in sales meetings occurs more frequently than we care to admit. A few reasons:
You are moving ahead of the conversation to prepare a response; • You are focusing on yourself and how you appear to the prospect; • You feel a threat of rejection and emotionally you want to bail out; • You naturally have a short attention span.
Reality and my personal experience say your mind will inevitably wander at times during some meetings. Accepting this fact is 99% of the battle.
Once your prospect interprets your wandering mind as a sign of disinterest on your part, your sale is a definite, un-resurrectable D.O.A. (dead on arrival). So, stay focused on your prospect. Concentrate. Resist the temptation to head back to the future before the prospect gets there.
This especially is true when you are not within direct eye sight . . . like when you are on the telephone. Resist the temptation to plug the phone into your shoulder while opening envelopes, fingering memos, clicking through computer screens, etc. People on the other end of the line can often hear this activity or sense it even if you leave no audible trace.
You might want to try standing while speaking. I do this regularly.
Not Checking Your “Look”
A book is sometimes judged by its cover, but people always are. So,
Dress and look “2 under.”
That’s golfing lingo for 2 strokes under par (which means pretty darn good). Some otherwise lousy golfers dress like the pro’s (hence the booming clothing business at the pro shop). A couple of things can result from looking pretty nifty on a golf course: (1) your mental state might very well elevate your game; or (2) you still will play a lousy game of golf but you will “looook mahvelous.”
You can’t afford to take the chance that your prospect might not approve of your “packaging.” I’m not talking about the price of your wardrobe. I’m referring to the condition of it. Sometimes it is helpful to have your spouse, secretary or associate you trust give you a final viewing before you head out the door to the big pow wow. Sound basic? It is. But I can’t count how many “professionals” show up to my conferences, with a room filled with associates and competitors, looking like Kramer (on the Seinfeld Show) did their hair and selected their wardrobe.
A few other useful checks:
• Loose the seventeen-inch (wide) tie with the picture of Bill Clinton pointing his finger in apparent denial.
• Update your belts now and then (loose the giant EXXON buckle).
• When using cologne, remember this guideline: If bees swarm on you after application, lighten the dosage.
• Remove old tattoos (especially any referencing Hells Angels or acquaintances you made while in the Navy).
If your handkerchief is stuck to your suit when you try to pull it from your pocket, odds are it’s time for a clean one
With that last observation, I can confidently proclaim “‘Nuf said!”
Rushing The Sale
Hard driving, highly motivated salespeople tend to make this mistake. It’s like a great basketball point guard bringing the ball down the court and trying to make the play happen too soon. The result is often a big, fat air ball.
People make decisions when they are ready to make decisions. Don’t become impatient and expect that something you say or do will speed up the decision process. Rushing the sale is bad business.
Everything takes more time than first expected. There is always more information to learn and competition to contend with than you initially anticipate. The prospect’s fear of making a mistake (a.k.a. “losing money”) comes into play in every decision. And finally, buying decisions often involve more than one person today, which adds to the selling cycle.
These four points make it unrealistic to rush a sale today. Get your records in order, stay close, and let people make up their minds at their pace. Anything else could result in bad karma or even worse, doubt and mistrust in the relationship. Learn to “cool your jets” and allow time to work for you.
Buzz Lingo — To Infinity And Beyond
People will see right through any attempt you make to be a fancy linguistic impresario. Drop from your vocabulary outdated phrases and jargon designed to impress. They conjure doubt in your prospects and divert their attention from your message to somewhere else in their galaxy of competing priorities.
Besides purging the buzz, I suggest you lose four words which I describe as “Meeting Muggers.” Words to avoid . . . according to me:
Pitch (as in sales pitch) — Drop this word from your vocabulary like a hot potato. I welcome people who have a sincere interest in me, and I enjoy a two- way conversation. But try “pitching” me with your tightly rehearsed song and dance and I’ll show you the exit door. The word “pitch” immediately conjures up negative pictures of a packaged, insincere spiel designed to pull the wool over the prospect’s unsuspecting head. You don’t pitch your deal, you present solutions to your customer’s valid concerns. Lose the word “pitch” with prospects and associates.
Schtick — A “schtick” is a bit — a show — a canned performance with a planned outcome. How would you feel if after your presentation, a prospect said to you, “Nice schtick.” Not very flattering is it? Reverse the direction of the communication and imagine how your prospect or fellow sales professionals will react.
Problem (as in “The problem with that is . . .”) — Yes, this word is legitimate, but it conjures up negativity and is a bona fide balloon buster. In America, it seems that having reached the age of twenty empowers one to burst another person’s balloon. You share your brainstorm or good idea with an associate, he tells you what’s wrong with it. You recommend something that goes a bit against the grain, and most people will poke holes in it faster than you can say “Dunkin Donut Munchkins!”
The truth is that in all probability, the idea, brainstorm or clever thought is going to be less than front page material. But, that doesn’t give someone the license to blow it away in a single breath.
Begin practicing the following response. The next time someone tells you his or her gem of an idea (good, bad, or otherwise), listen attentively and then say,
“That sounds like an interesting idea. What are you going to do to make that work?”
Then prepare for a genuine (but silent) belly laugh, because the speaker won’t be ready to respond intelligently to your question. Chances are, he (or she) will mumble something semi-incoherent in response. By asking, you will be doing him a favor by motivating him to think through the full implications of his idea. You will not be demonstrating a belligerent or a contrarian position. Instead, you will have shown a sincere interest, laced with compassion and support. This alone will make you pretty unique.
If the idea really does “pose a problem,” substitute the word “concern” whenever you can. We all have concerns, and it’s healthy to voice concerns when appropriate. We all face obstacles and challenges from time to time. The word problem seems to turn off the constructive search for a solution to the “challenge” or “concern.”
• But (as in “That is a good idea, but . . .”) — Remember this: To your prospect the word “but” negates everything that comes before it and paves the way for the message from on high.
When you say “but,” your client hears “BEHOLD ULTIMATE TRUTH.”
Here is an example.
Sales Rookie: “I understand where you are coming from about delivery problems, but . . .”
Prospect Hears: (“You are too stupid to realize that the delivery timing you want is totally unrealistic.” )
Work on removing the words “pitch,” “schtick,” “problem” and “but” from your vocabulary. You will be better off once you do.
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