A Thing
The Green SheetGreen Sheet

The Green Sheet Online Edition

June 11, 2012 • Issue 12:06:01

Inspiration

Each sale is a new tent to pitch

As summer approaches, camping and outdoor activities are top of mind for many of us. Rummaging through dusty backpacks, tents, boats and fishing gear to assess their condition and determine what other items are needed can be a painstaking process, but it sets the tone for the experience that lies ahead.

The same holds true for pitching new accounts. When preparing to meet a prospect, it's important to collect as much information as possible about the individual and the company in order to make a good first impression and conduct a presentation tailored to the prospect's needs.

A well-rounded packing list for merchant level salespeople should include such essentials as demonstration products, target market sales literature, references from other merchants in the same industry, business cards and, of course, a contract to sign.

After assessing what sales items to pack, the next critical step is to anticipate what questions the merchant is likely to ask based on the type of business he or she is in. If it's a restaurant, the owner might be concerned about slow table turns, and you could point out exactly how a pay-at-the-table solution could enhance profits. A veterinarian might want to spur additional business, and a location-based loyalty and referral program could be the answer.

Having solutions at the ready has the added benefit of preventing dreaded awkward pauses, which could signal to the merchant something may be lacking in you or your company and thus hinder the sale.

Support structure

The final stage in preparation is akin to setting up the rest of your campsite after the tent is up. It involves refining your sales pitch and then practicing it before the meeting. Identify all requisite elements. Does the pitch have an enticing hook that will grab the prospect's attention? Plan to open with a memorable statistic or an anecdote that frames a specific challenge the prospect might be facing; then offer a remedy.

Focus on results, which can be supported by the strength of your business team and its suite of products and services. Outline the competitive advantages of working with your company and how doing so will help the merchant sustain long-term revenue growth through existing and new sales channels. Keep the sales pitch brief, ideally no more than a few minutes, to allow time for feedback.

Be sure to get plenty of rest beforehand. And during the presentation, build rapport by making frequent use of the names of those engaged in the meeting, using "you" instead of "I" references and mirroring prospects through body language, shared attitudes and interests.

Strike a match

Now you're ready to light the first coal. Answer all questions honestly. And finish the sales call by asking the merchant for the business. Be direct. It could be as simple as saying, "I would very much like to work with you," as you begin filling out the paperwork.

At this point, if the merchant isn't prepared to sign the contract, ask for a referral and part amicably, leaving the door open for future contact. Then hone your presentation for the next location. And keep in mind that a clever opening can spark interest, but a strong close will kindle the flame. end of article

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