If you get nervous and anxious when you think about selling then chances are you lack confidence in your ability to approach. Once you determine who you think your customers are going to be, the next step is to contact them to engage in your sales process. If you fear the approach- you are not alone, a lot of people do, for several different reasons. I am going to show you why that is the case and also how it can be the easiest part of your sales process.
Why is it so scary?
You can be rejected at any time in the sales process so I am going to stray away from chalking up any hesitance to approach to the “fear of rejection” or “fear of failure.” Those will always exist and you will need to find a way to overcome them through action if you really want to be an entrepreneur.
Before we go further, let's back up and talk about the actual purpose of the approach. Or more specifically what it is NOT. The most common mistake made at this stage is immediately pitching the features of a product or service. This will typically lead to a generic, “I’m not interested” or “How did you get this number?” response. Here is an example of what not to do:
“Hi John Doe, this is Charlie from XYZ Company and we are the industry leader in office supplies. We have over 5,000 everyday products that you already buy from big box retailers and we can reduce your costs. For example, we can get you ink, toner, paper, pens, and even business cards! And . . .”
Then John Doe says, “No thanks, we’re all set.” Hang up.
Does this sound like what you say to people when you approach them? If so, then you need to ask yourself how it sounds to the other person. They didn’t know you were calling and, as a result, they DON’T CARE about what you’re selling when you start talking. You aren’t going to be able to convince people to do something they don’t want to do. There are too many options for buyers and too much information is readily available for them to view you as the only path to products and services.
You should not use the approach to launch into all the features and benefits of a product or service. The only chance for success you have in the approach is to explain to the other person why you are even approaching them at all. This inherently indicates to them that you aren’t going to force your “spiel” upon them but you are earnestly trying to find out if they have a problem you can help them solve.
The reason behind approaching is NOT to sell something – it is simply to get a meeting. Remember, selling is a process and you should only focus on the next step all the way to the close. This is why the best closers are also the best "approachers."
So what should the approach sound like then? We have already established that the only purpose to the approach is to set a meeting. This is how you can change the previous example to be more effective:
“Hi John Doe, this is Charlie – how are you? (pause) Great! I’m calling from XYZ company and we help businesses to streamline office supply purchasing to reduce costs. Does your office use supplies like ink, toner, paper, etc.? (pause) Perfect! The specific reason I am reaching out is to set up a brief call later this week or next week to explain how we helped businesses like ______________ and ________________ reduce those costs by over 20%. Are you open to seeing how it works?”
The main point is to stay away from details on features and the background of your business and focus on their answers to simple questions. This should lead you down a path to, “ok great you are the type of person/company I am looking for.” Then you can simply state that you are reaching out to schedule a brief call at a later time. Additionally, this approach changes the power of objections like “we’re not interested in buying anything.” Logically that objection is not relevant in your approach because you aren’t even talking about buying anything.
Since the purpose of your call is to schedule a meeting, you can easily deflect this objection by saying, “I understand and I have no idea if this is something that will be a great fit. The only reason I am calling is to schedule a time this week or next to show you why it was a fit for _________________ and _________________ and then of course it will be up to you to determine if it’s something that would work for your business as well.”
Most people agree that this is simple enough, so why is it still scary? There are three reasons why the approach can seem frightening, especially in an early-stage business.
Lack of A Script → It is true that you need to be yourself when you are approaching prospects so you won’t be effective if you simply read or recite words from a script. However, the only way to gain the confidence and conviction that comes with being yourself is knowing what you’re going to say next. If you haven’t scripted out what you’re going to say you will struggle with that confidence and, most importantly, you won’t be able to teach other people how to approach either.
Lack of Preparation →Approaching is a skill that must be developed through proper repetition over time. Thus, the more you approach prospects, the more effective you will become mainly due to an increase in confidence from realizing that it’s easier than you might think. If you haven’t approached a prospect before then guess what? You are going to be BAD!!! It’s OK to be bad at first. Simply continuing to move forward is a win in the early stages.
Lack of Overall Prospecting Strategy → Get organized with who you are going to call on first and develop a strategy of “territory management.” This will allow you to know who you are going to go after next and make it easier to remember that the prospects you are calling on today are part of a greater plan. In other words, whether they take a meeting with you or not will not determine the fate of your business. If they aren’t open to spending time with you, move onto the next!
Once you have taken care of these items you are ready to begin approaching prospects for your business. One thing to keep in mind is that the majority human communication is nonverbal. Your facial expression, tone of voice, body language, pace of speech, and usage of pauses all MATTER- even more than the words you say. People will respond to what you CONVEY; therefore, you must convey conviction and confidence in what you’re doing to attract the right people to meet with you.