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Rather than hitting perspective customers with a rehearsed elevator pitch, try asking open-ended questions that are sure to get them talking – and buying.

If you google the term “elevator pitch,” you’ll find advice from more than a million sources about writing it, rehearsing it and even repurposing it for different prospects. And while pitches (a.k.a., 30-minute sales commercials) have their place, they usually aren’t the most effective way to get prospective customers to talk.

After all, it’s not about you. It’s about them.

Your ultimate goal is to make a sale, of course. However, in order to eventually make that sale, you need to determine a prospect’s needs – and whether or not a prospect is RIGHT for you. It’s important to spend your time wisely. From the get-go, you should target people who may actually buy your product or service or can refer you to someone who can.

But, you can’t determine a prospect’s needs or buyer profile without starting a conversation. Your goals should be to:

  • Get people talking about themselves.
  • Qualify your prospects, ensuring that you spend time talking to the right people.
  • Build rapport, making people feel comfortable enough to engage you in further conversation.
  • Determine a next step, typically a commitment to reconnect in some way after the event.

Use a Framing Statement to Get Prospects Talking
After greeting a prospect at a business or social event and exchanging names and company affiliations, a great way to start the sales process – or answer the question, “What do you do?” – is with a framing statement, a non-pitchy, factual statement about your company that includes an open-ended question.

For example, perhaps you work for a company that provides search engine marketing and optimization, website architecture, pay-per-click campaigns, keyword research, analytics and more. But, instead of trying to overwhelm a prospect with a jargon-filled elevator pitch, try a framing statement:

“Well, Bob, my company does Internet marketing. What do you do at ABC company?”

Notice what happened… Rather than getting a sales pitch, Bob got a conversation. You answered his question and can now find out who he is. This will give you an opportunity to figure out if Bob is qualified, or a good match for what you offer.

Build Rapport with Issue Statements
If, after a short period of time, you decide that Bob is a good prospect, you need get him to talk more about himself and build rapport. That will help you determine if he has any issues, challenges or opportunities you can help him with. So, it’s time to ask another open-ended question, which keeps the ball in Bob’s court:

“As it relates to Internet marketing, is there any particular issue or challenge you are having that we may be able to help you with?"

Hopefully, he will launch into the details of an issue, in essence telling us how to sell him. If he responds, “Oh, I don't know. Tell me more about your company and what you can do for us,” then it’s time to provide Bob with some issue statements he can relate to and that indirectly tell him what you can do.  

“We work with businesses like yours that are trying to manage the fast-paced changes of marketing themselves on the Web; who feel overwhelmed by all the changes in search engine rankings, social media, blogs, ads and other areas and aren’t sure of the best strategy to reach buyers electronically; or who don’t feel like they are getting their money’s worth from traditional marketing or from their current marketing agency. I don't suppose you can relate to any of these, can you?”

Get a Commitment to Connect
If your issue statements are well thought-out, you will almost always get a positive response, allowing you to say, “How so? Tell me more about…” That gets Bob talking again. After a few moments, you can suggest some ways to connect after the event to keep the conversation going. If Bob’s willing, you’re on your way to your achieving a sale by developing a solid pre-qualified lead.

Learn More About Sales Conversations
For more than 40 years, Sandler Training has offered a distinctive, non-traditional approach to selling and a highly effective sales training methodology. At the Ruby Group, we’ve used this system to help salespeople and sales managers take charge of the sales process through cold calling workshops, sales force development and leadership training in Cleveland, Akron and Canton and throughout Northeast Ohio.

Learn more about what we do and explore our upcoming learning opportunities on our events calendar.

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