What’s the best way to start a sales interview so a prospect really listens?Unless you get a prospect’s close attention fast, you’ll be wasting their time and yours. Prospects are so overwhelmed by work, kids, commitments and the media that unless you make real sense real fast, you’re out.
Unfortunately, most advice on this topic is either out of date or out of touch. Traditional first steps like “gather facts”, “set goals and objectives” or complete a “net-worth statement” presupposes an interested prospect. How does that happen? Just using the mysterious “small talk”? I don’t think so.
The counselor-style approach, “In thinking about our meeting today I thought you might want to know who I am, what I do, how I do it and how it can benefit you” can come off as a fishing expedition that benefits the advisor first. If you sound self-serving, people turn off. And, the financial planning, “engage the client in writing” isn’t enough either.
Completing fact forms, net-worth statements, goals and objectives forms or talking about your self are good, just out of order. What prospect provides highly personal information without a solid reason first? Who would give you 5 minutes unless they really wanted to listen? And, can you imagine trying to engage a client who didn’t know what was going to happen?
None of these attract a client’s attention, piques their interest and creates the desire to take action with you. They usually accomplish the opposite. Prospects glaze over and start checking the time. There is a much better way.
The best way to start a sales interview is to “Entice Engagement” – to make people want to work with you. Prospects have to hear something at the very beginning that makes them want to listen. If they don’t, they stop listening. You might as well go home. Selling doesn’t build to a big finale. Selling starts with a big hook.
What’s your “big hook”? What compelling advantage do all your clients get from working with you, regardless of what they buy? It’s an easy question but a difficult answer for many. But, it is critical if you want more attention.
Maybe you “get the government to help keep their small business running” with the help of tax-deductible business overhead insurance. You might help people “fund their wills so their family has the life and lifestyle you want for them no matter what” with life insurance. Your hook might be “executive protection for executive family lifestyles” or “creating an emergency reserve to help you and your family survive a serious illness” or “building a nest egg that’s easy on the mind.” Choose just one hook and then practice a sales talk around it.
Your hook has to apply directly to your prospect – hopefully one of a large group with whom you have influence so your hook catches enough business that you can prosper too. When it’s the right hook, you’ll catch all the attention you need at every selling or prospecting interview.
What’s the best way to handle all the rejection in this business?
The same advice that will help your golf game will help your business. You have to change your perspective on what you’re doing.
Consider golf. If you carry the emotions from every shot around for the whole game, you’ll be overwhelmed. When you’re overwhelmed, you will be too anxious to perform at your best. That just makes the game worse.
Golf was like that for me. I used to see the game as about 100 shots over 5 hours. Since it was the final score that mattered, I had my running total in my head from the first hole. When I had a bad shot, the running total and my projected finish went up. So did my blood pressure. Soon, I had more anxiety than I could handle. Anxiety leads to tension and the game usually just got worse. Knowing I was doing poorly did not make me play better. It made me play worse because I was trying even harder.
The evil power of anxiety
It’s the same in selling. If you add up all your bad experiences on the telephone, opening sales, closing sales or asking for prospects, your anxiety level will skyrocket. Pretty soon you’ll be paralysed by your fear and tension and will be unable to do anything. As a manager, I saw it every day. The more struggling advisors needed to perform, the less likely they were to be successful. It’s the evil power of anxiety.
Ever notice how in golf or any endeavour, when things start to go badly, they can really go into the tank? Some players even have to walk off the course. (As a side note, I recall a veteran associate who told me that when he had a bad day, he would often just write it all off and go to a movie or go fishing. He’d indulge his failure for the day. But, he would never let that happen two days in a row. It works.)
Back to golf. People who have to give up are overwhelmed by the game. They cannot perform. I was one of those people. It happens in business too. It doesn’t have to.

Every shot is a new game
Here’s what changed me and my game. I decided that “every shot was a new game”. My total score didn’t matter until the end. Until then, it was 100 games, not 100 shots. The first game was getting off the first tee. I either won that one or I didn’t. It was over. Next game was getting out of the rough and on to the green. I either won that game or didn’t. And so on…
The effect was magical. One shot at a time golf became much less stressful. I learned more. My handicap dropped substantially. I enjoyed the game again.
Likewise, your whole business year doesn’t hinge on one call. Every call is a new game. Every interview is a new game. Take the pressure off yourself and you will replace your frustration with enthusiasm and results.