It was a rather significant transition when I left the corporate world behind to start a business. The behaviors are different, the mindset is different and it really challenged me in ways I never could have predicted. However, the one thing that has really stood out that has taken some time to get used to, is always being ‘on your game’.
What does that mean exactly? When you own your own business or work in a sales / business development role, everywhere you go, everywhere you turn and everyone you meet is a potential client. In fact I would challenge the notion that no matter what your professional role, the same concept applies. One of the Sandler rules is “Develop a prospecting awareness”. It doesn’t matter if you are riding your bike, going to the grocery store or out for dinner, every person you interact with has a potential to be your client. But in order to be a client, they must be a prospect, and in order to be a prospect, they must be a suspect. What’s the difference? A suspect is really anyone with a heartbeat that you see around you, while a prospect is someone who shows interest in what you do. How do we get someone to go from suspect to prospect? Talk to them! You will never know if the person sitting beside you at the coffee shop could be a prospect unless you start a conversation.
So how can you be as prepared as possible to always be ‘on your game’? Here are 5 things that will help you avoid being caught off guard and solidify your prospecting awareness.
- Use judgement – when you engage with someone, be aware of body language as well as other cues to ensure they are interested in talking. Don’t force a conversation as it will put people on the defensive very quickly.
- Focus on them – ask lots of questions and be genuinely curious about them and what they do. The goal is to get to know them and see if they might transition from suspect to prospect.
- Don’t sell – avoid having vomit mouth and where you spew features and benefits about what you do. Always resort back to #2 and focus on them. Don’t look like or act like a pushy salesperson.
- Know what you do – at some point the conversation will likely turn to you and they might ask ‘what do you do’? Make sure you have a solid 30 second commercial that concisely describes what you do and the problems you solve. Too often I see people fumble over their words when describing what they do.
- Always have business cards – keep them every place you can so that you are never without a business card – car, office, briefcase etc. Unfortunately I see this happen all too often when people engage in conversation and they have no business card to leave with the person.
At the end of the engagement, I usually find that it is pretty easy to tell if there is a connection with someone or not. Always leave it up to the other person if they would like to continue the conversation and then determine the best next steps. While it can seem a bit draining and overwhelming at first to constantly be ‘on your game’, the better prepared you are the easier it becomes.