Handling prospects often requires a consultative sales process. This is a needs-based approach that requires a strong relationship between the sales person and the prospect. This relationship must be built on trust and that can often be a difficult commodity to come by in today’s marketplace.
In order to build trust with your prospects, you must first build a rapport. Finding that common ground will lay a strong foundation for the rest of your sales efforts. You suddenly cease to be a “sales person,” and become a friend – someone they can trust, someone who has their best interests at heart.
Building rapport with your prospects is not something that happens overnight. While first impressions are vital, the process of building trust will take time, particularly if your prospect has been burned in the past. While this means investing a lot of time and effort into a prospect, eventually it will pay off, particularly if you’ve taken the time to research your prospects thoroughly and you know that their needs match what you have to offer.
So, how do you build rapport with someone you have never met?
The first step is to look at your own appearance. Does it evoke confidence? If you are not dressed professionally and well groomed, sadly, most prospects will immediately be turned off. You have to look the part as well as act it.
Now, let’s look at the initial meeting with your prospect. You’ve done your homework, you’re dressed well – what happens now? You need to start listening and storing information about your prospect. They will be dropping unconscious clues about their likes and dislikes, what they are looking for and how they perceive you.
It’s time now to put them at ease. Don’t lead off with sales talk – that can wait. Get your prospect talking. Ask them qualifying questions and take an honest look at what they need. If you have a product or service that will meet their needs, great – you can mention that later. If they aren’t a good fit, you can assist them in finding a solution that will meet their needs. Even though it may seem counterintuitive, this is a vital part of relationship and trust building.
Be prepared for some resistance, especially at first. By going against the grain, and not trying to overtly sell anything, you’ll be working some psychological magic behind the scenes. By removing the barriers, and using a consultative sales process, you become a person that your prospect can trust, someone who they know they can go to for honest advice. Don’t rush your sales process. If it takes a few meetings to make the sale, it takes a few meetings. Be willing to be patient and allow the process to occur naturally.
These same techniques, with slight modifications, can be used when you are dealing with prospects that you deal with only by phone or email and never actually meet in person. While it is more difficult to build a relationship electronically, it can be done. Keep your contacts conversational and ask questions that encourage your prospects to actually have a conversation with you, instead of a sales call.
The consultative sales process can take some time to perfect, but as you learn the ropes, you’ll be building solid relationships and contacts that will benefit you and your organization for many years to come.