‘Punctuality is the thief of time’ is a famous quote by Oscar Wilde, who in fact was always deliberately late for an appointment.
The full quote was: “I am always late on principle, my principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.”
But most people in sales dislike being late, at all costs. As a result, we allow for bad traffic, train, aeroplane or bus delays, and all manner of other possible interruptions to our journey. And we are usually early, and sometimes very early indeed!
Does that apply to you?
Rather than sitting in your car, in a coffee bar, a hotel reception area, or in your prospect’s or customer’s reception area, whiling away and possibly wasting that time, here is a suggestion on how best to utilise it to generate more potential opportunities to sell.
If your prospect is an office building occupied by numerous other companies, take a photo on your cellphone of the list of companies on the notice board. Just by their company name which may describe their business e.g. XYZ Mobile Telephones Plc, it may be obvious that they could be a good prospect for you.
Others may have names that do not describe their business, but a quick search on your cellphone or tablet on Google or LinkedIn will give you the information you need to decide if they might be a prospect or not.
Create a list of those you think are good prospects.
Maybe your prospect is not in a multi-occupancy building, or they are but you have a little more time. In either case, take a walk or drive around the area and look out for other businesses nearby, or other multi-occupancy buildings, and the closer the better.
Repeat the exercise.
By the time your meeting is due, you will have a list of potential prospects which you should quickly sort through, and pick the top six on the basis of proximity to your meeting place and the most likely to be ideal prospects. Write these up neatly on a piece of paper.
At the end of your meeting, no matter how good or bad the outcome, here’s what to say:
“(Name), just one last thing before we finish up today, I’d really appreciate your help with something please. I was rather early for our meeting today and I hate to waste my time, so I had a look around and I came across these businesses which I think might be good prospects for me” At this point you hand them your neatly written list, and you ask: “Are you familiar with any these businesses?”
They are quite likely to be because of their proximity. When they have acknowledged which ones they are familiar with, you ask:
“Would you know the name of the MD or CEO (or relevant person) I should be speaking with when I make contact with them please?”
In many cases, you will get several names. Thank them and your final question should be:
“Would you mind very much if I mentioned I had been to see you when I contact them please?” To which the usual answer will be ‘OK”. That’s halfway to being a referral and should at least get you past the gatekeeper when you call. (I call them ‘door openers’, rather than ‘gatekeepers’).
If your meeting was with a customer, even better and you can ask for a referral and a more formal introduction. If you ask them, they may even be prepared to pick up the telephone then and there, make an introduction, and you may get to meet your new prospect right away.
I can assure you that I always did this when I was full time in sales, and early for an appointment. I always generated at least three new prospects as a result, often many more, and obtained referrals to them. Many times, I also got introductory meetings right away.
Is it worth the effort, or would you prefer to loiter somewhere killing time?
PS Having read this you may even decide to be even earlier for an appointment in the future.