Need to Make an Impression in Two Minutes or Less? Keep These 13 Handy Tactics In Mind
“In the same way that I tend to make up my mind about people within thirty seconds of meeting them, I also make up my mind about whether a business proposal excites me within about thirty seconds of looking at it.” – Richard Branson, founder Virgin Group
Mr. Branson echoes the viewpoint held by many sales prospects. How will you impress me in the first two minutes of meeting you? Sales professionals have to make a good impression in order to close business. In many cases, you only get a few minutes to grab a prospect’s attention and persuade them to consider what you have to offer. Whether you call it an elevator pitch, cold call or instant presentation, you’ve got to be prepared to make your case in a short period of time!
As you prepare to impress a prospect in a two-minute window of opportunity, consider these 12 tactics prior to and during your initial sales encounter.
# 1 – Research Your Targets
Preparation is critical in many situations in life; this is true when you get a shot to impress a prospect. You’ve got to know ho you’re pitching – both the individual and the company. What is your target’s background? Do you know the company history? Even if you cannot get a confirmed meeting with a prospect, you should spend time researching your target so when the time comes, you’ll be prepared to show him you’ve done your homework.
# 2 – Understand Their Needs
Your objective is to fill a need, right? Then explain briefly how you and your solution (specifically) can fill that need. What benefits will you provide? What advantages do you present? How long will it take? Show your prospect you understand what she might be looking for. Then come in with the reasons why your involvement will be a good fit.
Needs analysis is a critical step in preparing for a successful first-time encounter. Without understanding your prospect’s needs, you will likely get an empty stare and a lost opportunity. Try to find out as many specifics as possible about her current situation and work your pitch around solving unfilled needs.
# 3 – Organize Your Pitch
Too many unsuccessful salespeople enter pitch situations without a solid framework for what they will say. Bid proposal experts will tell you that you’ve got to divide your pitch into five parts:
Problem statement – “I understand you may be looking for a software product that will automate your email marketing.”
Proposed solution – “I’ve got an answer for the amount of time your salespeople are devoting to email distribution.”
Benefits – “With our solution, you’ll find a 30% drop in time required to reach out to your database.”
Pricing – “Our pricing will fit into your budget, and we offer easy monthly payment options.”
Call to action – “May I call you next week to set up a time to discuss how well our solution will fit your needs?”
This organized flow allows you to smoothly cover the key considerations your prospects will be concerned with. While you should leave out specific pricing during an elevator speech, the other four components are important. The key is to distill each segment into one to three sentences each. Remember, your elevator pitch should simply cover the basics. The call to action should be a simple step, such as obtaining a business card or getting an email address.
# 4 – Take a Casual Approach
You don’t have to be super-aggressive to win at the elevator pitch. Although it may be important to you to make a good impression, avoid showing your prospect how important it really is. Present yourself in a casual yet professional manner. Conduct your pitch as more of a conversation between peers, not a pushy sales call.
# 5 – Be Genuine
Prospects will recognize when you’re not being authentic. We’re all familiar with the phrase “be yourself”. You’re more likely to be successful at creating a good impression if your target feels you are making your pitch in a genuine, authentic way. Think about it: you are looking to gain a level of trust in two minutes or less. Avoid trying to fit into a mold or reflect a certain posture; offer your prospects the real you and they are more likely to seek more information.
It starts with selling a solution you stand behind. You’ve got to believe in what your selling, and believe you are the one to close the deal. If your prospect recognizes you as a genuine person, she will engage with you in a genuine manner as well.
# 6 – Ask a Few Questions
Most people dislike a pushy sales strategy and prefer a more conversational approach. That approach should include questions that will help you get the answers you need and lead to a more fruitful conversation. Start out by asking a couple general questions to show you have interest in your prospect and his work. Then follow up with one or two questions specific to the solution you are approaching him about.
# 7 – Prepare for Questions
Sales agents may often prepare their two-minute pitches by focusing only on what they want to explain in a tidy format. However, prospects that may be interested in your solution will likely have a question or two, and you’ll need to prepare responses. Sure, you’re not going to be able to plan for every question out there, but you’ll have more success if you prepare for some commonly asked questions.
Prepare for questions such as “how does it work?”, “what is the onboarding process like?” and “how will your solution improve our business?”, among others. The more prepared you are for such questions, the more polished you’ll come across, leading to a positive impression.
# 8 – Start With a One-Liner
Conversations among strangers start with an opening line. Open the conversation with an interesting, funny or topical statement. Humor usually works well to “break the ice”, but if you’re not a comic, make a remark about something that you and your prospect are sharing at that moment. For instance, if the weather outside is frightful, comment about it. Or say something about the location you are at. Your opening line should be a comment that cannot be misinterpreted or misunderstood, so stick with a simple remark to get the conversation going.
# 9 – Observe Your Target
We’re not encouraging you to stalk your prey, but observing body language, mannerisms, attire and other details prior to opening the conversation can help you to understand the person you’re targeting. Try to complement his mannerisms with similar gestures (but stay authentic!).
Avoid mimicking your prospect, rather act in a manner that makes him feel comfortable and makes you seem relatable. Pay close attention to how he behaves around others if you’re in a crowd. Take a few moments to get an idea of his mindset, preferences and speech patterns before you launch into your introduction.
# 10 – Focus on the “Why”
We often get caught up in explaining what we do when we’re trying to impress a prospect. Shift your pitch from boasting about your experience to explaining why you do what you do. By shifting the focus, it gives your prospect a chance to understand what you are all about a little better. You’ll have time after your pitch to get into details about your career, etc.
# 11 – Make Your Pitch About Them
All too often, we have an inside-out perspective about what we’re trying to pitch. We have a solution we want to sell. It may seem natural to launch your pitch with first-person terms such as “I”, “we” and “our”. However, if you are trying to make a good first impression, start by turning that perspective around. Craft your pitch using terms like “you” and “your”.
By focusing your approach on your prospect and her needs, it creates a stronger level of trust because she will feel as though you are providing a solution that is in her best interests.
# 12 – K-I-S-S
You may not have enough time to get into a deep discussion with your prospect, so plan to be concise and to-the-point. Keep it simple, stupid (no offense intended). Even if you are selling the most complex software or complicated engineering solutions, you have to make your initial pitch one that is easily “digestible” for your prospect. Focus on the most important points about your solution in a way that that even a 10 year-old would understand (but don’t sound condescending).
# 13 – Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Remember, nearly every impression that leads to a sale requires multiple contacts. Don’t expect to convince your prospects completely in the first two minutes. Rather, use the opportunity to discover if there is enough interest on his part to further the conversation. Most prospects will be more impressed when you quickly follow up with a call, email or other contact. You can make an excellent i impression by showing tenacity, professionalism and follow-through.
So there you have it. When you incorporate these ideas into your two-minute pitch, you’re much more likely to create a favorable first impression. While it is difficult to prepare for every scenario, without preparation you may encounter prospects who will kindly nod, say goodbye, then leave without accepting any further contact. But if you prepare to make a good impression, you’re more likely to get approval for a follow-up call. Good luck!