by: Neil Rackham
Neil Rackham is a best selling author. You can read more about him at his website linked to his name.
Preliminaries: Opening the Call
In this chapter Rackham examines Preliminaries more closely. Huthwaite found this stage less exciting and did less research on it. However, the research still showed that successful ways of opening the call in a small sale are different from those which work best as the size of the sale increases.
Huthwaite sought to answer the following:
- Is it true that the first impression made in a sales call are crucial to it’s success?
- Do the openings that work in smaller sales work equally well in larger ones?
- Does one particular way work better than others to open a call?
Rackham notes that for these studies, Huthwaite only concentrated on opening first calls on new customers.
Although many older books on selling emphasize first impressions and appearance, there’s evidence to suggest that people notice far less in the early stages of an interaction than we might imagine. A reasonable standard of dress is probably sensible.
Rackham states his personal opinion on the First Impression: I no longer believe that first impressions can make or break your sales success in larger sales.
Since the 1920’s, salespeople have been taught that there are two successful ways to open a call:
- Relate to the buyer’s personal interests.
- Make an opening benefit statement.
There is little evidence to show that these two methods help in large sales.
Relating to Personal Interests
Huthwaite’s research found that in rural areas, relating to personal interests would help your selling.
However, in larger urban stores, they found no relationship between success and reference to personal issues.
Rackham suspected this was due to a longer tenure in rural sales relationships.
He was not satisfied with this study.
Rackham talks about a colleague that works as a professional buyer. His colleague and other buyers express impatience with salepeople that waste time trying to relate to personal interests.
Rackham gives a general piece of advice:
Be careful not to overuse this method in larger sales.
The Opening Benefit Statement
Is it an effective way to open calls?
Rackham states that in short calls, there may well be value in this method. However, Huthwaite’s research found no relationship between the use of opening benefit statements and the success of the call.
Rackham states that it is important to vary the way you open a sales call. He highlights an experience when he was approached by an office product saleman. He was impressed with the salesman when he opened with a benefit statement and invited him back. On the next call, the salesman opened the call in exactly the same way. The sale was lost.
Rackham also lists two other potential dangers in opening a call with a benefit statement:
- You may be forced to talk about product details too early in the sale, before you’ve had an opportunity to build value by using SPIN questions.
- You may allow the buyer to ask questions and therefore allow him to take control of the discussion.
Neither are irreversible. Rackham states that this is not a good way to open the call.
A Framework for Opening the Call
Huthwaite’s research suggests that there is not one best opening technique, but there is a framework that successful people use.
Focusing on Your Objective
Examine your purpose. At the very least it is to get the customer’s permission to continue to the Investigating stage. In order to do this, you must establish:
- Who you are
- Why you’re there (but not by giving product details)
- Your right to ask questions
Objective: Get the buyer to agree that you should ask questions. Establish your role as the seeker of information and the buyer’s role as the giver.
Making Your Preliminaries Effective
Preliminaries don’t play a crucial role in the larger sale. Be concerned about these three points.
- Get down to business quickly.
- Don’t talk about solutions too soon.
- Concentrate on questions.
Remember- The work you’ve just read is Neil Rackham’s. I have simply outlined his book. Most of the words above are his own. At times I paraphrased.
Until next time…
a Student of Sales