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Sales talk: How to win your customer face to face

Even if these sales talks are without any obligation, your potential customer has some sort of interest. Otherwise he or she would never spend time meeting you. That is the good news. He wants to learn the details about your solution or service and is considering a cooperation.

I like to cut it down to three points that absolutely make the difference within your sales talk: The impression you as a person make, the competence you embody and finally the references that prove what you are promising.

If your potential customer does not like you, you can be the best in the world and have all the relevant references, you probably will not get the deal. We will see how to persuade in all of the three.

But before you get into talking, you should prepare your appointment no matter if it is in person or via Skype, phone, you name it. This is even more important if you just started selling your product or service, as you will lack experience talking to customers, anticipating their pain points. Think about the following questions before every single meeting:

  • What kind of company am I visiting? What industry is it? What are the competitors? Are there major changes you have or should have heard of?
  • Who is it you are going to meet? What is his or her background? Will multiple people be involved? What departments do they represent and what might be the individual concerns? Let's say you are selling software: The concerns of the IT department and the sales department will probably be very different.
  • Who is going to decide in the end? The department, the CEO?
  • Has your company been in touch with the potential client or one of the contact persons before? If so, make sure you know what happened, who was involved and how it turned out.
  • Think about the most important thing your solution could fix for the customer. Make sure your pitch highlights it. Why do you think is this the crucial factor for your prospect? Do you have experiences that distinguishes you as a consultant or service provider?

When preparing the sales talk, you will see that every meeting is quite unique. Even though concerns, pain points and questions repeat from time to time, every meeting is different and you need to win the customer you are meeting today. Your contact person yesterday had similar questions? Fine, that does not help today's contact person.

If you have already dealt with these questions, it will be much easier to convince in any of the three points personal impression, competence and reference. So let's start with the first.

Personal impression

You are nicely prepared and on the way to your appointment. Being on time and dressed adequate are basics for a face to face sales talk. That does not mean you need to show up in a suit, not at all. Adequate means adapted to your potential customer and to your profession. If you are not sure, better be slightly over- than underdressed. But try to avoid large differences between you and your potential customer. Wearing a suit when visiting a small sports shop creates distance, it does not look professional.

Greet your customer kindly, look at him or her. No matter how your week has been so far, be polite, positive and open-minded. Listen to him or her and don't interrupt! In particular at the beginning, you should be informal, not too structured and sales oriented. Show you are interested by asking for a short personal introduction. It will help you to be more confident and to better judge how the meeting is going. Plus you can show you are prepared if you pose additional questions linking to knowledge you gained through your preparation. That shows your prospect you are informed, prepared and value his time.

Up next is to find out more about the problem you could support or solve. This is your test to check, if you were right during your preparation. You will see over time that your assessment will constantly improve and be closer to what your customer is telling you. And that is great, because it is the kicker for your sales meetings.

Avoid monologues and large shares of your conversation during this first phase. Try to focus on listening and getting both of you comfortable, learn about your counterpart. Taking short notes helps you to remember the important things and shows your interest.


As you have learned a lot about the company and your counterpart, it is on you to show you are just right for the job. If you are already seeing that your solution is not what your counterpart is looking for, do not waste both of your time and straightly admit. Of course you could try to win him anyway but that will not help in the long run. You may make some money but it will take long time to persuade and in the long run you will lose a customer who is disappointed by then. So better be honest and do not promise stuff that you cannot or do not want to deliver.

If you are a good match, provide your potential customer with the details that you think are relevant for him now. Do not lose yourself in details that might be relevant, try to keep things simple.

Any question that arises on your customers side is a good sign. Do not see it as criticism if he or she does not like what you are offering. He or she is just trying to figure out what you can deliver and what not. Questions are actually good signs as they show interest. If you do not get any questions, it is very likely that you lost your prospect talking about details or that he is not interested at all.

Try to answer questions to the point and do not lose yourself in endless monologues in order to flog it to death.


References are powerful in sales, they make it much easier for your potential customer to decide as they provide some sort of guaranty. Or do you feel great buying some article on amazon that has not even one positive rating?

That is why you should try to support your arguments and your competence with strong and relevant references or testimonials. You will easily know if one of your references is suitable, if you think like your customer. Did you do a similar job at a relevant company for your customer? Or have you never done it? Or is your reference a large enterprise and you are trying to win a small business? If your reference is only 'okay', name why it will work for your prospect as well. If you do not have any references, that could be fine too. Be honest about it, you will have a reason why you are pitching the product, don't you? Be transparent and explain your thoughts. Transparency yields to trust.

Ending the sales talk: liability is king

The outcome of your meeting is manifold, you sometimes cannot say it was good or bad. You may receive a job right away, you may achieve a request for proposal (RFP) or your counterpart can leave it with 'let's see'. And that is fine, you cannot win any customer every day. What you must do is create some sort of liability. Name what you consider as next steps (if any), do not leave without them.

Do not push to hard for a sale, if your prospect is not yet convinced. Write down the open questions and make sure they get answered. It is just the same if there are internal questions your potential customer has to sort out. Ask him when he or she will have the details and you can move on.

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Post sales talk: It ain't over when you leave

Remember what you are after when you are in your office again, so do not forget to write down what you have been talking about, what tasks arise from the meeting and when they are due. Maybe you decide to write a short follow up email with the tasks and deadlines, so your prospect knows you care.

You should also try to learn from each meeting by asking yourself what might have been better explained, skipped or included for this meeting. Maybe you find flaws in your argumentation and decide to restructure your sales presentation. Do not rush, but have an eye on these issues. If you think of certain aspects from time to time, there might be an option to improve.

Axel von Leitner
Axel von Leitner