Breaking Bread with Gatekeepers

Most businesspeople come to a halting stop in their pursuit of prospects when they hear, “No, I don’t have the time.” Stopping in your tracks will ensure your lack of success. Instead, use this technique to overcome the dreaded words concerning lack of time.

“I Don’t Have the Time!”?

Through the years, I have observed that most businesspeople simply give up upon hearing, “I don’t have the time!” when asking for an appointment. Approximately 85% give up the first time.

The next 10% are braver and will try one more time. 3% will call every day of the week to the point of angering the prospect and being told to never call again. Only about 2% know how to break the cycle.

In order to proceed, you must understand the prospect’s predicament. The person behind the desk needs your information. However, individuals lucky enough to have jobs today are performing the work of several people. They truly have limited time for sales meetings. But here is a startling fact – these same people rarely give up eating!

Use “I’m too busy” to your advantage. Try using one of the following questions: “In a 24 hour time period do you eat?”, “Do you eat breakfast or lunch?”

The initial response is usually one of laughter. The laughter begins to break down the barriers. Then you will hear this reply: “Of course I eat!”

Conserve time and money is an important sales credo. Offer to bring bagels, coffee and juice in for breakfast, or gourmet sandwiches and juice for lunch. Ask which would be more convenient. Demonstrate added concern for their predicament – ask if there are any dietary restrictions. This last gesture will demonstrate that you are exceedingly thoughtful.

Free food packaged with thought seems to soften the heart and warm the soul. Your Prospect will watch you in amazement and appreciation as your set up the meal. Now you have a green light to enter their world.

The gesture of hospitality should be used only for highly qualified prospects or very desirable business. When you do find the opportunity, be hospitable in their office for initial meetings; your office for demonstrations; or a subsequent meeting at a fun restaurant.

Always take the part of host or hostess. Serve the prospect first. If you do take responsibility for the food, make certain it is of excellent quality and served on a good looking platter.

Creativity also goes a long way. One time, I promised a prospect an exchange. To make the long drive to our demo room worthwhile, he would enjoy a picnic lunch. I brought a red and white checkered table cloth, fun paper plates and included all the detail setup for a picnic except for the ants! On the long drive back to his office, he kept expressing how creative the setup was and how appreciative he was. Business talks pursued.

Your prospects will be highly appreciative. In many cases, this was the initial step for me to win repeat business, referrals and testimonials.

The fifth month of my first year in sales, I was thrown to the “Wolf” at a Fortune 500 company. It was fully expected I would not get an appointment with him. The Wolf was over-worked and underpaid. He also preferred the current vendor. Why? It meant “business as usual” and less work. Mr. Wolf would be the one to politely let me down. (The others liked me too much to tell me ‘no’).

However, upon hearing my cheerful offer to bring in gourmet sandwiches and coffee, he could not turn it down. I saved him both time and money which are critical elements for getting a sale, or in this case, an appointment. (Yes, a month later I won the contract!)

In my corporate days, whenever I requested a prospect or current client visit our showroom to see the new product line, I would always play hostess. My guests were given a choice of sweets or bagels, and of coffee or juice. Sometimes I would call ahead to find out how they took their coffee and have it ready upon arrival. Sales along with the coffee poured in!

Ask yourself, am I doing everything possible each day to get past the gatekeepers, and attract new clients? What else might I do to improve client loyalty?

Additional Ideas to Build Business:

Upon receipt of business, grow your relationship with the new client. Dependent upon the size of the sale:

  • Hand write a thank you note
  • Take the new client to lunch
  • Bring in a box of candy for everyone to enjoy
  • Send a basket of delicacies to a group

The beauty of sending a basket is it will be the last remembrance your client has of you until you communicate again. The gesture will leave a highly positive remembrance of the excellent service you delivered.

Your center of influence will grow And Your Business Will Prosper

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