I try not to make snap judgments. But I do. And apparently so do a lot of other people. Research studies have found that we make several major decisions about another person in those first few seconds. Decisions like: Is this person trustworthy? Successful? Competent? In sales, this can affect everything from how a customer listens to you to whether they decide to work with you or not. So how do you make sure your first impression in sales is helping you – and not hurting you?
Actors live and die by first impressions. When auditioning for a role an actor has to quickly stand out in order to get a chance to be heard. In fact, a casting director may stop an actor as quickly as 20 seconds into a reading if they’re not impressed. While a customer may not physically stop you, they can mentally check out or bide their time until you’re done. So how do you quickly demonstrate to your prospect why you should be heard in those first few seconds?
Your Sales Call is Your Audition
Casting directors are no different than other business people today: busy professionals with a limited amount of time and hundreds of people vying for their attention. Gain an important competitive edge by looking at your sales call as an audition – where you have a very short time to make a great first impression in sales. And follow these 5 audition secrets from casting directors for making a memorable first impression:
5 Audition Secrets for a Great First Impression in Sales
- Be prepared:
A professional actor would never walk into an audition without being warmed up or knowing her lines. Once in the room, they are being evaluated so there is no time to “ramp up.” An actor’s preparation includes knowing their material inside and out, as well as preparing their instrument, i.e., their voice and body. Too many salespeople make the mistake of using the first few seconds of their presentation or pitch to warm up. As you’ve seen, that is way too late to make a great first impression. Take a cue from actors and be fully warmed up and prepared before you see or talk to your prospect. Click here for a 7 Minute Sales Warm-up.
- Be interesting.
Casting directors and prospects alike are looking for something that sets you apart. Something beyond “the guy in the green shirt.” They’re looking for that one person to wow them and make their decision easy. Most salespeople give prospects very little to work with. No, you don’t have to learn to juggle or tell jokes. But you can get creative. Make an interesting observation about the circumstances, tell a short anecdote, lead with a provocative statement, use a prop. Keep it relevant, but unique to increase the likelihood of being remembered.
- Ask unique questions.
Questions can be a great way to start, however don’t ask the same questions that everyone else does. Questions, casting directors say, should be used to clarify and connect—not teach you their business. It’s irritating for customers to be asked to explain their business to salespeople when that information is readily available online. Instead of, “How’s business?” do your research and lead with an insightful question. For example, “I see you just launched your new product line in APAC, any plans for the U.S.?” This is much more engaging and shows interest.
- Don’t assume you’ll get another chance.
Like actors, salespeople often make the mistake of holding themselves back until they’ve gauged the temperature of their prospect. But when you only have three-ten seconds (depending on studies) to make a first impression, you can’t afford to be tentative. Take a risk, commit to the moment and give it your best shot. (Improv is excellent for helping you develop this skill. Click here for Improv tips you can use in sales.)
- Believe in your value.
Casting directors want to believe that the next actor through the door is the answer to their dreams—and most prospects (no matter how brusque) want to believe that you can help solve their problems. If you don’t believe you have something of value to offer your prospect, neither will they. Apologizing for taking up a customer’s time, excessively thanking them or being overly deferential can make them doubt your value. You can be courteous and respectful without groveling.
First impressions are last impressions. Follow these 5 Audition secrets to make sure yours are strong and memorable and you’ll dramatically improve your sales success.