Based on my experience as a sales leader, coach and facilitator, sales professionals know the importance of showing up as defined by: being on time, going to the right place, remembering to bring the presentation, wearing a clean shirt or blouse and brushing and flossing their teeth. Well maybe not always the flossing part.
Showing up requires presence, one of Richardson Sales Performance’s “Six Critical Skills” of communicating. When I ask salespeople to define presence, they typically use words such as charisma, confidence and knowledge.
Defining presence by its Latin and root word means to be present, attendant, close. It is also interesting to look at its antonym, or opposite meaning: absent. Being fully present in a conversation can be a struggle for salespeople, many of whom have an attention span on the, ahem, shorter side.
Let’s look at some of the ways a salesperson comes across to a client when they are either present or absent through the basic parts of a typical consultative meeting:
|Opening||Energetic, engaged, purposeful, patient, authentic, eye contact, confident tone, alert posture, flexibility to modify agenda based on client needs||Talking too much, not listening or hearing, disengaged, disorganised, disingenuous, energy level mismatched to client’s, lack of eye contact, passive body language|
|Discovery||Creates conversation through relevant questions, able to pick up verbal and non-verbal cues, takes notes and gains insights into client||Talking more than listening, interrogation rather than dialogue, abrupt topic jumping, interrupting, no follow-up questions, seems not to listen, care or understand, yawning|
|Recommendations||Relevant to client’s needs, well-organised, sincere, “gets” what we’re about||Product names and specs, reliance on presentation materials|
|Closing||Patient, authentic, motivating, appropriate, complete||Commitment questions avoided or too aggressive, impatient, insincere, loose ends|
Presence, like any selling skill, can be refined. The good news is that, even if you fall into the short attention span category, no medication is required. Here are eight best practices, based on my own experience and my work with other salespeople, for building presence:
- Identify the benefit: discover (or rediscover) your genuine interest in helping this client. This is one of the reasons many people decide to pursue a sales career but get distracted, even away from the office, by revenue and financial pressures. An alternative is to identify the benefit to you by being present.
- Prepare: though the amount of time will vary, set a benchmark such as: by the time I arrive in the seat across from my client, I will have a clear objective and agenda, an open mind; and, depending on where we are in their buying cycle, priority questions or a visible link between my ideas and how they will help the client accomplish his or her goals.
- Compartmentalise: draw hard lines between what happened before and what will happen following this meeting. Something as simple as budgeting an extra 15 minutes before a client meeting gives you the time to transition, take some deep breaths and gather your thoughts.
- Arrive feeling your best: don’t underestimate the value of being well-hydrated, well-rested, starting your day by upping your heart rate and oxygen intake with a nice walk or run and eating a healthy meal. Persuading people takes a lot of energy!
- Self-talk: stay focused on the here and now by replacing the future tense “I need to” or past tense “I should have,” with the present tense “I am” and “they are.”
- Expect the unexpected: reality trumps even the best plans. There will be unexpected turns; have a process to react and adapt.
- Listen more, talk less: this requires pausing, breathing, not assuming or jumping to conclusions and not interrupting the client when they are processing and thinking.
- Checking in: make sure that you and the client are aligned throughout the dialogue.
So, if Woody Allen was right that 80% of success is showing up, consider how many salespeople don’t. An absent salesperson is easy to spot and dismiss. Avoid this by showing up — being fully present using the tips above. In doing so, you set the stage for an effective sales or client meeting, strengthening your ability to advance relationships and business opportunities.