How to shut up and get another appointment

I really despair sometimes, really! In this age of enlightenment and easy access to training do I see the age-old mistakes happening time and time again.
I was making a flying visit to a guy who I had been coaching for some time, a guy who achieved his goal of breaking free from his corporate position, where he had reached as high as he could without moving his family to the capital, and set up his own business. When I walked in, there was a salesman in a suit was in the throws of his pitch. I smiled a greeting to my friend and took a chair in the corner. The suit acknowledged my presence and continued. He continued with the fluency of someone who had said what he was saying so many times it almost required no conscious thought. My friend turned to me and asked how long I could stay I said about 5 minutes and he jumped on this as his “out”. The suit levered another visit and left.
Oh my god!” my friend said.
He went on to tell me about how many of these visits he gets. His business is retail and so they can just walk in and pitch.
“They come in and just start their song until I can get rid of them!” he sighed. “And none of them listen to what I have to say!”
My friend was in account management for over 15 years and his company had invested in staff training, he knows how to maintain clients and he knew what they were trying to do and why they were failing.
None of them spent any time listening.

In Power listening I talked about how crucial it is to listen and listen well if you are to develop any relationship in business of any kind, in fact while accepted wisdom tells us that the talker is in a position of power, the opposite is true. Think of it like dating. You have someone in front of you who you want to connect with so you impress them with your encyclopedic knowledge of the Star Wars films or Italian sports cars. You get nods and Hmmms and Ahhhs but have you found a point of connection? Probably not! If you want to connect with her or him, you are going to have to ask questions and listen to the answers if you are going to stand any chance of getting a second date. The same is true in business. So shut up and listen!
Now, if you are cold calling, like the suit in my friend’s shop, where do you start? Ask what are the problems that the proprietor has with suppliers.
“Good morning, I appreciate that you must have hundreds of people coming through here every day.” First address the most obvious objection to giving you their time.
“That’s exactly why I’m here and why I will take no more than 5 minutes of your time. Is now a bad time?” You are looking for a NO answer, NOs are easier and more honest than YESs. AND, you will be sure not to take a second more than 5 minutes. You can even put a countdown timer on the counter to show you mean business.
“I’m -Your name- from -your company- and we are trying to do something different.” You have introduced yourself and piqued their curiosity, what different?
“What are the major frustrations that you have with your suppliers?” Point out that you don’t need to know who they are and if your company already supplies them YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE YOUR HOMEWORK! but all is not lost, “Excellent! That will help even more.”
Then let them speak. Take out a notebook and write it down. Show genuine interest but most importantly SHUT UP! Repeat some of the points made, note them down and listen.
If you still have time on the clock, which you probably won’t because most proprietors will have more than 5 minutes of complaints, ask one more question. “How do you see a more effective relationship with your supplier?”
When the time is up, ask if they would like to add anything more and offer your card. Write on the back “5 minutes” or something that anchors your visit to the card. Ask for their card and the permission to call, then leave.
Fewer than 2% of sales are made on first contact, so you have lost nothing by not going for the close but you have got some invaluable information, exactly what the prospect wants and how thy want it. You have asked one or two questions and spoken for less than 20% of the 5 minutes. If customers interrupt you, try to judge if it will be a quick transaction or not. If it is quick, don’t pause your timer! You mean what you said, 5 Minutes is 5 minutes! It is the proprietor who is thinking about what they want to say next, not trying to avoid what you will say next. You are still leaving them with the thought of what you want to do differently. And, you haven’t spent ages on their premises like a bad smell. You said 5 minutes and you meant 5 minutes! You are a man/woman of your word!
Follow up your visit some days later with a short call or visit, first asking if it is a bad time (going for NO) and then asking permission for 5 minutes.

Now, it seems that I have taken your 5 minutes so I will follow up with how to employ a similar strategy for other meetings in another article. Thank you for your time. Is there any reason why you wouldn’t like to subscribe to these articles so you don’t miss me next time I’m in your neighbourhood?

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