CR and staging the sales meeting

When we looked at The Set Up for psychic readings, we dealt with subjects such as 'Meeting and Greeting', 'Encouraging cooperative interpretation' and 'Establishing psychic credentials'.

At the risk of stating the obvious, many of these techniques apply equally well to the context of a sales meeting, or indeed many other kinds of meetings. The techniques just need to be adapted slightly. Here's our new context summary:

Players: Salesman, Prospect.

Context: The start of an initial sales meeting.

Perception goal: to be perceived as someone the buyer wants to do business with, someone genuinely helpful with good products/services

The very first Set Up technique was 'Meeting and Greeting', and I made special reference to 'mind scripts'. Psychic or salesman, the same basic rules apply. The better you are at making people feel welcome, and helping them to relax, the more successful you are likely to be. All the salesman needs is a suitable mindscript, like the example I gave before:

"I deal fair, you deal fair, this is going to be very productive for both of us."

The next Set Up technique was 'Encouraging co-operative interpretation', and the salesman can use this too. He doesn't just want to deliver a one-sided sales 'pitch' to a passive, mute customer. He wants to get the customer talking about his needs, wants and aspirations, so that he (the salesman) can fine-tune his sales pitch and position his products as the 'best fit' solution.

In the psychic context, 'Encouraging co-operative interpretation' sounds something like this:

"I won't necessarily always know exactly what the cards are trying to say. Sometimes it's not very clear, like looking through a mist, and the exact meaning will actually be clearer to you than it is to me! So do bear that in mind, won't you?"

The salesman's version might go something like this:

"Obviously, I've done a bit of homework but I don't pretend to be an expert in your line of business. So perhaps first of all I could get a few details, and then perhaps I can talk through some options that I could put together. So, to start with, can I just ask... "

It's the same technique, designed to achieve an equivalent aim, but with slightly modified wording. However, this version is not as good as it could be. Everyone responds to two sounds more than any other: their name, and the word "you". And a progression from "you" to "we" is an neat subliminal aid to building good rapport. So an even better salesman's version would be:

"Perhaps first of all, Larry, you could talk a little bit about where you are right now, what you're trying to achieve. Then perhaps we can talk through some options we could put together for you. So, to start with, can you just tell me..."

Much better!

The next Set Up technique we looked at was 'Establishing an intimate atmosphere'. In the context of an initial sales meeting, this translates as 'Establishing an atmosphere conducive to selling'. If the salesman is visiting the customer, which is usually the case, then he obviously has limited control over 'atmosphere'. Even so, his cold reading sensibilities can come in handy. Some people, when they attend meetings, immediately plonk their briefcase down on the desk directly between themselves and the other person, and then proceed to lay out a notebook, laptop, pack of sales literature and so on. This creates a needless physical barrier, a 'psychological wall', between themselves and the person they are meeting. This inhibits rapport.

Hence our salesman puts as little as possible - not even a coffee cup! - directly between himself and the prospect. He may even use the simple visualisation technique of imagining a line going from the prospect's heart to his own, and ensuring as little as possible crosses this line.

If the salesman has invited the prospect to his own company's premises, then he obviously has more scope for 'Establishing an atmosphere conducive to selling'. He (or the company he works for) may even have created a dedicated sales room, specifically designed to help sales meetings go well. This is an excellent idea which, sadly, very few companies bother to implement. What sort of factors might our salesman consider when creating such a room? Here are some suggestions:

- he eliminates distracting sights and sounds. Windows which let in daylight are fine. Not so fine are windows which provide a view of the open-plan office, including the accounts slob with his feet on the desk and people swearing at the photocopier. If there must be a phone, he ensures it is outgoing only.

- he positions the table or desk down the side of the room, not in the middle, so that people have to sit on the same side.

- he ensures the chairs are nice, comfortable ones that people can actually relax in properly.

- if sales literature, models, samples etc. must be available, he stores them (neatly) in a cupboard or shelf unit where they can be obtained when needed, rather than having them on permanent display. If they're not needed, they're just distracting clutter.

- he tries to get soft ambient lighting installed, without it being overly strange or spooky.

- he adds a few bits of decor (framed pictures, potted plants etc.) for colour, but nothing too interesting or distracting.

In many companies, the meeting room walls are covered with tributes to the company's heritage, achievements and success. The net result is usually an uninspiring collage of posters, bits of old exhibition stand signage, and fading press releases stuck in plastic frames.

If our salesman wants to be a little smarter, he selects just three key bits of information which he wants to lodge in the mind of every visiting prospect. On the meeting room walls, he places three posters or pieces of literature which convey these bits of information. For example, he might take a relevant extract from a recent bit of press coverage, get it properly enlarged and place it in a good-quality display frame. As a rule of thumb, he wants no more than 100 words of clear, readable text per item. When the visitor arrives, the salesman takes him into the room and gets the preliminaries out of the way. He then contrives to leave the prospect alone for a minute e.g. while he fetches the coffee. The prospect has absolutely nothing else to do except read the three key pieces of information, probably several times over. The salesman has begun to hypnotise his prospect while apparently doing nothing at all!

There is only one other thing which the dedicated sales room should contain, namely testimonials from satisfied customers, professionally laid out and printed in a clear, readable style. Nothing is quite so persuasive as evidence that (a) the company has lots of customers and (b) they are satisfied customers.

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