45. What percent of sales are lost in the first 60 seconds?

We are entering a time of "information overload". Every one of our customers are exposed to a minimum of one thousand advertising messages every day. In addition to being interrupted every eight minutes with some type of problem, phone call or employee, they are being called on by hundreds of sales people. Not only by our direct competitors, but also from the local radio station, the local TV station, the news paper, the girl scouts and boy scouts, the baseball and football team, the chamber of commerce, the restaurant association, the insurance company, the health inspector, job applicants, the list goes on and on.  Is it any wonder that when we walk in or call our customer their attitude is one of defense? If we call on them once a week there are hundreds of things that have taken place since our last call.

To get a customer to listen there is one of two things we can do. We can fall in with their attitude, or we can change it. From there on our job is easy. For the moment, we are going to examine this principle and apply it to our job of selling. We are going to apply it to only one phase of that selling process, namely the first moment we spend in the presence of the prospect. And I do not think I exaggerate when I say that ninety percent of the sales we lose are mishandled in the first crucial moment.

What can we do or say to make our sales call more effective? Every time we call on one of our accounts to present a new product or service, or even to simply get an order, there is a preliminary process we must go through or we will loose before we even begin. We must have their full attention.

Once the small talk is over you must have an attention getter. When you shift gears and start to sell you run headlong into the first attitude of the prospect, an attitude which is impossible to influence until you understand it. The first step in your sale is to sell an attitude of receptivity. Remember your objective is to get him to say, "all right. I am interested. I want to hear your complete story!" Blot everything else out of your mind except attaining this first objective. If you don't swing his or her attitude you can talk for five hours to no effect. To under-estimate the value of this first crucial moment is the common fault of most sales people.

We have to say something or show the customer something that will peak their interest in such a way that will make them forget all the things that are currently occupying their mind. What can we do or say that will accomplish this important step in the sale; getting attention? Here are a few of the old standby's that work every time:

Ask for advice. When done in a sincere way this is an excellent way to compliment someone and get their attention at the same time. "We brought in a new product and would like to ask your advice on how it might be sold".

A piece of industry news. When you come across a news story that may have an effect on your customer's business, cut it out, make a copy for everyone you are going to call on during the week, write their name on, and use it as an attention getter. Caution. Whenever you hand someone something to read, do not talk until they finish reading. If you start talking they will become confused. "Do you want me to listen or do you want me to read?" They will end up doing neither.

Hand them a sales brochure, be silent, and wait for them to respond. There are thousands of dollars worth of Point Of Sale material in every sales office that goes unused. POS material is an excellent tool to get a persons attention. A big mistake is to give in to the overwhelming urge to talk while the customer is reading. Give the customer the sales brochure and be silent. Soon the customer will make a comment or ask a question. At that point you have succeeded in getting their attention.

Try an experiment the next time you call on a customer. Take a manila folder and write the persons name on the tab large enough so it can be easily read from across the desk. Put everything in the file you want to talk about and watch the reaction when you pull the file out and lay it on the table. The message you are sending is that you think this person is important enough to have a special file and you took the time to put together the items you wanted to talk about.

Another approach is to take your monthly sales brochure and highlight the items each particular customer buys from you. This extra time will double the power of your fliers. Write their name on the POS before you go into the presentation and watch the difference.

Another example is the use of samples. When a sample is given to a customer we have the urge to tell them everything about it. The longer you can remain silent the more attention the customer will give to the sample. They have to be given a chance to look it over, taste it, feel it and smell it. We know so much about the product that we want to talk about it. Relax and give the customer some room to get involved with the sample. When it is time to talk - the customer will let you know.

Just about everyone in this country is in debt and just about everyone feels the responsibility to pay their debts. We can duplicate a strategy used for several years by a company that sold household products door to door. Their strategy was to knock on the door and when the homemaker answered, the sales person would present them with a small gift. Because of our feeling of obligation to repay our debts, the prospect would listen to the sales presentation. The same feeling of obligation lies within every person we deal with. They may or may not repay the debt, nevertheless, they feel the obligation. The next time you make a cold call on a prospect, take along a small gift and present it at the beginning of the interview. It can be as simple as a company calendar, an ink pen or a note pad. Nine out of ten times they will repay you by listening to your presentation.

Product cost, labor cost, increasing customer base, increasing check size, new ideas to help build business, marketing and merchandising ideas, new products or services, success stories, their profit and loss statement, all are good for getting attention.

A completed sale is only the SUM OF A NUMBER OF SEPARATE SALES... each a sale in itself ... each step in the sale should be thought of and handled alone ... and the sum of all the separate sales is greater than each part. Again I repeat, treat the first step, the opener, as a sale. Concentrate on the prospect's original attitude. Change it! Then go on with the presentation . . . with the door wide open.

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