The Art of Making Successful Sales Calls

The art in making a good sales call comes with good preparation and good manners. Let the prospect lead you to a successful close. In most cases this will take some patience and persistence on your part and always a little luck. Here are the basic steps.

By Mark R. Rosenzweig, SCORE Accredited Counselor

To many, making the sales call is a terrifying prospect. It’s all about the thought of rejection. You approach a stranger to sell her or him something and you fear a no. Well, the reality is you will get a “no” if you approach the call in that way. In fact, you will get a lot of them no matter what, it goes with the job. Okay, given that, how do you turn the situation around and get to “yes” a higher percentage of the time?

The art in making a good sales call comes with good preparation and good manners. Let the prospect lead you to a successful close. In most cases this will take some patience and persistence on your part and always a little luck. Here are the basic steps:

Steps to a More Successful Sales Call

1. Find out all you can about the company and the person you will call on.

  • What does the company make, how is their business doing and what products do you have that could fit their needs.
  • If you have done business with that company, find out if any orders are open, late or if any problems arouse with their last few orders with you.
  • Prepare your information carefully and if possible in a report form that you can leave with the customer. This will help them answer questions that they may get asked internally about deliveries or open issues.

2. Now make an appointment to see the customer. You’re coming in to introduce yourself and update the customer on what your company has that might be of use to him. If you have done business before or have open orders, your approach could be one of updating the customer on their status. You can help him by expediting those orders.

3. Be early for your appointment. Introduce yourself to the receptionist (if there is one) and go over the materials you have prepared in your head. Above all, relax.

4. When you meet the customer, start with introductions and give your background. Make and hold eye contact. Looking away makes you look uninterested.

5. Ask open-ended questions to get discussion going. Open-ended questions lead the responder to talk rather than give a yes or no answer. For example:

  • What is the owner's business outlook for the next few quarters?
  • What kind of problems have you been dealing with where we could possibly help?
  • If there is one thing that I could do to make your day, what would that be?

6. Try not to dominate the conversion. The best result would be if the customer does most of the talking. What the customer will remember is what a good listener and how attentive you have been.

7. Take notes and try to get personal information such as what sports the person likes, the persons family, kids, etc. things that in future meetings you can use to get the ball rolling such as “did you love that Patriot game last night?

8. If you have a product to sell, at this point bring it up. Give your customer reasons why your product meets his needs and don’t be afraid to ask for the order. If you get a no, ask why and what you would need to do to turn that no into a yes? Once you know what the objections are and if you can change them, agree that you will make the changes and get back to him for an order. If you cannot make the changes, ask what makes these key and see if you can convince him that the benefits of your product out-weigh the objection. Remember a key point, no from a customer is never no, it really means not now or not yet. You have work to do to turn the no to a yes; with persistence you can do it.

9. Don’t let the meeting drag. If you have achieved what you where trying to accomplish, end the meeting. If you or the customer have identified some action items, review them at the end of the meeting and get or give commitments to accomplish those tasks. Say thank you and end the meeting.

10. When you leave the meeting, promptly send a note thanking the customer for his time, outlining again any outstanding tasks to be done with performance dates/times. Rewrite your notes for your reference before the next meeting. Quickly complete tasks you have promised and set up your next meeting to get that order.

It all seems straight forward because it is. Selling is about meeting the customer’s needs in a friendly and pleasant manner. It is about finding out what is driving the customer/prospect to make a product or vendor choice and then making sure you meet those expectations. The more friendly and personal you can make the meeting the more success you will have. Respect your customer and his knowledge and most of all his time and you will soon be writing up those orders.