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First Impressions Count on ‘Business Dates’ Too

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First Impressions Count on ‘Business Dates’ Too

Remember back when you were a teenager or in your 20’s? Before any possible interaction with a potential girlfriend or boyfriend, you did everything you could to look your best: stylish clothes, makeup applied a fashionable hairdo. If you were serious about this dating thing, you really prepared yourself, asking friends to make introductions, researching what the object of your attention likes, studying their every move etc.

On no account would you dare approach without putting in the appropriate amount of time and effort, preening and primping and probably rehearsing every word as you worked up the courage to make that first move. Everything was about those first impressions. You just ‘had’ to look good in front of your prospect.

Fast forward several (or maybe many) years. You are now the proud owner of your own business, and your desire to attract a customer is every bit as keen as that desire to attract your potential partner all those years ago.

Believe it or not, you are back in the same situation. Again, you have to put in your best effort to appear attractive to your potential customer. Unfortunately, though, many Small Business owners don’t get the connection and believe that simply being in business is enough to attract clients.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Simply dressing well, having a flash hairdo and a PowerPoint presentation won’t be enough. Your new business prospect, particularly if they are larger than you, will be sizing you up according to their own metrics.

Here are four of those things they will be looking out for, and turning up without them will be the business equivalent of greasy hair and body odour:

1. Understand their business thoroughly.

Research everything you can about your prospect. Search their website, read their blog, connect on LinkedIn, read their annual reports and find news articles about them. Having too much knowledge is impossible. If the person you are pitching to has to spend time explaining the business and how you could contribute, you’ve lost the sale before you even start.

2. Pitching to the wrong person.

In most organisations, particularly large ones, there will be several people involved in the purchasing decision, but only some of them have the power to actually sign the cheque. There will be some who can influence the decision and have the power to say no, but don’t have the power to say yes. In your research, identify all the potential players and the roles they play. Most importantly, identify who holds the purse-strings and ensure they receive the correct information they will need to choose you over the competition. Think back to when you had to front your boyfriend or girlfriend’s parents – you had to impress them as well.

3. Not explaining your value.

If you have done your research thoroughly, you will have a very clear picture of how your product or service fits into your potential customers supply chain and how it can add value to their organisation. This requires a lot of thought and preparation and preferably some hard data to back up your assertions. Remember too, that there are many people involved on the road to a final purchasing decision and each will have their own motivations. The finance officer won’t be looking for the same things as your potential end user, so your presentation has to address everyone’s priorities.

4. Using jargon.

All industries have their own language. There are words and acronyms that only the ‘insiders’ understand, and it is easy to slip into using this language without providing context. There will be people who have input to the purchasing decision who don’t ‘speak the lingo’. Their eyes will glaze over as they tune out completely from the process, consigning your presentation to the scrap bin.

The other words to definitely avoid are those meaningless marketing words that make you sound as though you swallowed and then regurgitated a management textbook: “Our company supplies a wide range of quality xxxxx products and services.”; or “We are a reliable supplier that provides flexibility in our service to our customers.” All your customer will hear is, “Blah, blah, blah.”

All those years ago when you were dating, there was always the jock or the cool girl who thought their looks, personality and mere presence would be sufficient to attract any prospect. Don’t be ‘that’ person in business. Spend the time and effort to make a ‘wow’ first impression on your potential new business partner. It will be worth the effort.

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