In some of our other Insights we looked at the the importance of building an influence strategy in complex sales and how it can help you target the most impactful individuals. When your strategy works and leads to that first meeting with a potential new prospect, correct handling of this opportunity could have game-changing results for you and your business. The success of this meeting hinges largely on how you handle that interaction – what you’re going to do and say, especially in the first two minutes.
Everyone knows you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. A truism which, when combined with research suggesting that it takes no more than 7 seconds to form an impression, demonstrates the real importance in the opening moments of a meeting. The usual advice on your appearance, bearing, hygiene and ratio of listening to speaking (often described as the 80/20 rule of communication where you ideally spend 80% of the time listening and 20% speaking) is useful, but what else can you do to ensure success?
The goal in the first two minutes of a meeting should be to show that you are likeable, credible and trustworthy, because people are more likely to say ‘yes’ to those they like and to those they trust. But what is going to make someone ‘like’ you?
We like people who are similar to us.
Make time at the start of an interaction to share some personal information. Try to elicit some personal information from the person. Find some common ground. This can be something simple, such as where you’re from or a shared love of a sports team, etc. On the other end of the spectrum, it could be a deeply held belief, or what really motivates you. By doing this, you are showing that you trust the other person. The reciprocal power of trust is not to be underestimated and it can be said that you can generate trust by showing trust very effectively. Here, the 80/20 rule allows you the best opportunity to elicit the information as it means the prospect is giving away much more information than you. As long as you listen effectively!
We like people who pay us compliments.
Compliments need to be credible, nuanced, and appropriate for the level of rapport, otherwise you risk setting the relationship back or ‘burning rapport’. If it feels weird or inappropriate to compliment someone in a business setting, it is possible to achieve the same effect by instead focusing on less superficial aspects and paying compliments indirectly, i.e. you can comment on the excellent level of communication and helpfulness their team has shown thus far. You could show awareness of the CSR work the prospect is involved in. This can be made more effective by rewarding the person, not the act, i.e. “Your devotion and generosity to X cause is inspirational.”
It is possible to achieve a similar effect by using self-deprecation and humility, but be careful not to play yourself down too much, and always bear in mind the cultural heritage of the individual and whether your humour will translate!
We like people who work with us towards a common goal.
In order to do this, you must first understand what is motivating the other person, which can be tricky. At Applied Influence Group, our model the ‘DNA of Influence’ enables you to effectively and more comprehensively profile an individual. Doing this (where possible) before the meeting will help you to capitalise on your time during the meeting.
If you’re not yet an elite influence practitioner, don’t worry. Ask yourself some questions to help you frame your message so that it lands with the person. This can also help you plan for the possible emotions or reactions experienced or displayed, i.e. ‘How will the prospect react when s/he finds out about X?’ Or, ‘What are some of the potential business outcomes/deals and will the person be satisfied?’ The answers to these kinds of questions will give you a better understanding of the person’s desires and fears and ultimately, their goals. To understand these aspects of an individual’s psychology can be a very powerful tool indeed in your quest to get the desired business outcomes.
We like people who are credible.
We all know it’s important to be credible, but what does that actually mean? Assessing credibility is a vital skill of the Elite Influence Practioner, but projecting it is equally important. Here are three ways to do this;
Trustworthiness – Your reputation and doing what you say you’re going to do. Ideally, you will come highly recommended by someone known to the person. This is an important factor to consider when you strategise towards the meeting. You can also portray trustworthiness by being reliable in the lead-in to the meeting.
Expertise – Do you possess the level of knowledge, skills, and ability to facilitate success and are you able to demonstrate this?
Dynamism – Do you have the motivation and the will to achieve success? Any profiling you have done up to this point will help you to shape your message so that it aligns with the motivations of the prospect, thereby achieving maximum success.
If you want to make a faster impact with your key stakeholders get in touch to learn more about how we can help you do that: firstname.lastname@example.org