One of my favorite sci-fi movies is the prolific Star Trek – First Contact film. The Borg, perhaps the greatest threat to humanity ever conceived, travel back in time to prevent first contact, the day where the Vulcans, an advanced society, decide to pay a visit to Earth. Entertaining? You bet! Most of our sales first contacts however, are far less dramatic, although no less important, at least to the development of our business base.
Our first contact with a prospective customer is our first impression. It is both our personal and company introduction. It may be the first exposure of our brand to this prospect. First contact is our opportunity to establish our credibility and set the stage for the future. If handled properly, the sales door is opened and the beginnings of a successful, long-term relationship have been established. If handled poorly, that same door may be closed forever.
Is first contact that important? Can this initial impression carry that much weight? Yes and yes. Our prospect must perceive us as a valuable asset, one that they need to have on their side. This perception must begin with that very first contact, as we may not get a second chance to establish our worth to them.
First contact must establish us as both a valuable and necessary asset, a great find. Our prospects must see enough value to warrant additional visits, leading to our opportunity to provide real solutions, culminating in new sales opportunities. If handled well, our new customer will become a source of referrals, providing many additional first contact opportunities in the future.
The following are eight basic steps to establish early credibility with your new prospect:
1. Do your homework. Know some basics about your prospect.
2. Understand their industry and general issues.
3. Associate your experience with this new opportunity.
4. Ask open-ended questions.
5. Use their industry terms and vocabulary in conversation.
6. Pinpoint a pressing issue that you can address on your next visit.
7. Set an appointment for that specific purpose.
8. Arrive at your next visit fully prepared to provide the solution.
This early attention to establishing your credibility and authority in your field will pay huge dividends as your fledgling relationship develops into a new customer. Never under-estimate the importance of your credibility and the early perception of confidence in your innate abilities to provide solutions for your new customer.
Customers buy solutions from suppliers they have faith in and trust to do the job right.