Ever heard the saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”? That’s because studies have shown people begin to form strong opinions about you in 7-20 seconds and make up their minds about you in about 30 seconds.
In sales situations the buyer normally has to make 5 buying decisions…they have to 1) buy you, 2) buy your organization, 3) buy your products/services, 4) buy your price and 5) decide when to buy. None of these buying decisions can be made if they don’t BUY YOU first. This article is about how you present yourself and your company in order for your buyer to buy you, and is based on survey results from more than 100 decision makers who buy professional services for their companies.
How should you dress?
We asked “How do you expect salespeople to dress?” Results were as follows:
- 43% - Business casual…coat and no tie for men, and slacks/blouse for women
- 23% - Dress to match me…level of dress should be at or one-step above the manner in which I dress
- 21% - Business attire…coat and tie for men, and dress or business suit for women
- 11% - Casual…shirt and casual slacks for men, and top and casual slacks for women
- 2% - Very Casual…nice jeans and a casual top
These results are pretty clear except for “dress to match me”. Consequently, we always encourage you to find an inside coach or some other person who knows the normal “dress code” of the company with whom you are meeting and/or someone who knows the person with whom you are meeting and how he/she normally dresses at work. When in question do what my Mother always taught me – always better to be dressed up than dressed down.
How should you present your company?
We asked “When a salesperson is presenting information about his/her company, how long should that presentation take?” Results were as follows:
- 47% - 5 minutes or less
- 37% - no more than 15 minutes
- 14% - between 15 & 30 minutes
- 2% - more than 30 minutes
If you have long Powerpoint presentations and/or lots of sales sheets and marketing materials to show to your customers – stop. Buyers don’t want you “showing up and throwing up”! The results suggest buyers want to know something about your organization but only to the extent your company passes the “credibility test”. That is, your firm is a legitimate, credible organization with relevant experience and a track-record. I have created a 10-slide Powerpoint presentation without a lot of words that I can get through in 2 minutes or less. It contains only the information buyers want to know about and includes some unique selling propositions and competitive advantages that separate us from the competition. Don’t get me wrong – sales sheets and marketing materials are important, but use them only at opportune times to reinforce a point.
How should you begin to build rapport with your buyer?
We asked “What have you found to be effective ways for salespeople to build rapport with you?” Results were as follows:
- 87% - Demonstrate competence and credibility by asking good, penetrating questions
- 23% - Open the conversation with small talk about current events
- 21% - Open the conversation with small talk about things personal to me
- 11% - Give me a compliment about my business and/or employees
This makes sense when you refer back to the beginning of this article about the 5 decisions buyers make – buyers have to buy you first. Getting the sales meeting started with a good opening question is the key to building rapport. Learn more about opening questions in a sales meeting.
In summary, buyers have to buy you first. They form impressions about you in seconds and these impressions are based on how you look and how you sound – not necessarily what you say. The information you present about your company should be succinct and communicate competitive advantages. When you get the sales conversation started, do it with a strong open-ended question that demonstrates you’ve prepared and are sincerely interested in learning how you might help the buyer achieve his/her goals.