In the first five minutes of your sales call the prospect has already made up their mind about you. They have determined your level of credibility, confidence, intelligence and salesmanship. Scientists refer to this narrow window of judgment as “thin slicing.” Whether we like it or not, we make assumptions very quickly about people for better or for worse.

What do your prospects think about you after the first few minutes?

If they believe that you are a professional, then you have momentum on your side. If they believe you are sloppy and incompetent, then your chances of getting the second appointment go down dramatically. As they say:

” You never get a second chance to make a first impression”

Aside from being confident, looking professional, preparing for the call, and being on time, what else can you do to stand out?

  1. Make It Personal

Don’t show up to the call not knowing about their business and their role in the company; do your pre-call research ahead of time. You should know everything that’s publicly available about the company. You can find a recent company press release to congratulate them on, or look for key changes in the business model or growth strategy. This news may or may not be relevant to what you are selling, and that’s ok. The more you know about their company, the more they will pay attention, because they’ll know you did your homework.

Connect the Dots

Follow former SVP of Salesforce.com Elay Cohen‘s advice and Connect The Dots. Here is how Elay defines this term:

“Connect the dots is the act of engaging all direct and indirect relationships in conversations to better understand challenges and  priorities of  decision makers and influencers. It’s who do you know.”  

This strategy not only gives you more credibility going into the deal, but it also helps you qualify faster, gain power, mitigate risk, understand the buying process, and increase the likelihood of closing the deal.

Have you connected the dots on every deal?

2. Show Your Face

Use your webcam. Communication is important, and when the prospect can see your face it helps them to treat you with more respect. Instead of being another faceless salesman that they are used to saying no to, you add a personal touch. The great Enterprise sales architect Dave Rudnitsky uses the phrase “Get your face in the place” in his sales playbook. Whenever possible it’s always better to have some face time with your prospects. If you can’t show up on site, the webcam is the next best thing.

See 10 Online Meeting Tips and Tricks by Citrix.

3. Set An Agenda

Setting an agenda is the most effective way to run a meeting, as you will save time and eliminate distracting conversations that will otherwise cause you to lose control. Setting an agenda also says a little bit about you and your time.

Setting an agenda is how you demonstrate to your prospect that you value your time, and that they should too.

That’s right, I said your time. This agenda will set the precedence to all future interactions.

An agenda says, “I am busy, because I am always selling.” An agenda also aligns expectations for good or for bad. Like a map from point A to point B, the agenda will either affirm that you’re heading in the same direction, or that you need to course correct.

4. Next Steps

The only way to get a deal across the finish line is through a series of next steps or commitments. If you can’t get some type of commitment from the prospect, then you don’t have an opportunity. Next steps validate that your prospect sees value in you, and the product you represent, and wants to move forward in discovering whether or not it’s the right fit. This is where you determine if you have a serious prospect or a “tire kicker.”

What is a next step?

“I will send you a calendar invite for Tuesday the 29th @2:00pm, to review the proposal.”

What is not a next step?

“I’m calling next week to set a meeting,” or “I told him I would call Monday to see what he thought of the proposal.”

The key

A next step involves two parties, and what they agree is the next action or commitment that is time sensitive. Never leave a call without a scheduled date to meet again; even if you get pushback from the prospect it’s important that you get them on the schedule. A tentative appointment is better than chasing your prospect for the next two months. You might even say:

“My calendar fills up quickly, let’s make sure we have a placeholder for our next meeting.”

This sends a powerful message that you are busy working with other prospects, leveraging the power of Social Proof.

5. Send Them An Email Summary

This is how you validate the important points of the call and the action items for both parties. This is how you make sure that you understood what was truly important to the prospect, and if you missed anything. You are using their words to validate what is going on in the business and how you can help. The e-mail summary provides clarification, if you were to get something wrong, this is their chance to correct it and realign.

An e-mail summary helps you do the following:

  1. Validate what you heard
  2. Keep the prospect accountable
  3. Align Expectations on timeline
  4. Forecast Accurately

What the email summary should contain:

  • Current situation
  • Critical business issues
  • Goals, vision, future state
  • Decision-making Criteria
  • Next steps

Future Reference

A great email summary provides a reference to the conversation and the value your product provides. If this is email is done well, it will oftentimes be forwarded to different decision-makers within the company you are prospecting in too. By having the prospect’s words in the body of the email, you have instant credibility with others in the company that see your summary.