Three Tips to Turn Initial Conversations Into Marketing and Sales Relationships
Updated: Jun 30
To turn your first encounter with potential clients into an effective account-based marketing (ABM) relationship, you must engage your audience, establish credibility, and ask them for an easy "yes."
Unless you are quoting Dwight Schrute from The Office, introducing yourself as "assistant (to the) regional manager" is not a conversation starter. That information won't mean much to those you're speaking with.
You need to have a conversation, not a monologue.
Ask your new contacts questions about themselves along the way so you can learn what drives them. Doing that will contribute to building a relationship and help you determine how your product or service could be best positioned to win their business. Structure the first touch so it can lead to another.
Yes, the entire conversation can feel awkward. Everyone—except the most experienced—needs to practice. Stand up and say it out loud. Practice with a friend or colleague until the conversation feels natural. Ask your friend to make a video of you on your phone. It doesn't get much more awkward than being on video, but seeing yourself in action is priceless. In B2B marketing, the client is in large part buying the personal relationship. So here are three tips to help business development and sales reps earn and begin to build that relationship in the first conversation.
1. Engage the audience Instead of saying your title and organization, briefly explain what you actually do—and find a way to relate it to a common situation.
For example, you could say, "I put together customized pitches to describe our new product to corporate clients. Kind of like how you would sell your kids on a Saturday outing to a new hiking trail. You know they're going to like it once they get there. But first you have to convince them they want to go."
This type of approach gives you an opening to tell a story about a particularly bold or adventurous move you made either in the marketing sphere or in your personal life. You can call to mind an applicable (not controversial!) news story or ask new contacts about their relevant experiences.
Now you have a conversation starter and potentially the beginning of new, and potentially lasting, relationships.
2. Establish credibility Tell them something interesting about yourself that also gives them a reason to listen to you on this topic. Tell them about your work experience, life experience, or education in a way that is conversational and establishes you as a knowledgeable source in this field. You could choose to talk about a pertinent project that gave you the experience you needed to move forward in your career. Or a business case study you did in school. You can talk about what inspired you to enter this line of work in the first place.
Then ask, ask, ask them about what they are trying to accomplish and their current challenges. Once you begin to understand their circumstances and can imagine walking in their shoes—once you have increased your account coverage—you will be much better positioned. You can decide whether they are a valuable target company and then set yourself up to make a credible pitch for a solution to their challenges.
Don't mention how your product could help them until you know what they are up against. You may not elicit that information in this opening conversation. This initial conversation is a building block or a touchpoint. The more you eventually find out, the more likely you are to close a deal, and then to land and expand.
3. Ask for an easy 'yes' Nobody likes to feel they are being targeted for a sale. And most people do like to say yes when they can. So, for example, asking for a card is an easy way to get an easy "yes": "Hey, could I get your card? I'd like to connect on LinkedIn." Or you might try...
"I would like to get your advice on this concept we're testing."
"I would like to hear more about your challenges in bringing your product to market."
"I read an article that might be interesting for you."
If you had a great conversation, you can ask to get together later for coffee or a meeting. Or you might suggest a meal if you are at an out-of-town conference. Don't ask for anything that would make them have to check back with the home office to give you an answer. Giving them an easy "yes" can help you create a next step in the relationship.
Bonus: Project Energy Regardless of whether you are tired or neutral or having a great day, you may not be projecting effective body language. Generally, people want to engage with, and do business with, those who are giving off positive energy.
You can project energy through facial expressions, hand gestures, and vocal variety.
Your facial expressions are the first guidepost leading your counterparts to what they should be feeling about you.
Hand gestures can animate a conversation and help establish trust. Look in the mirror to make sure your gestures are saying what you think they are saying.
Show your passion in your voice. You care about the stories you tell. You care about your product and your company. You are enthusiastic for this unique conversation. Let all that show in the rises and falls and tones of your voice.
Your new contact is perceiving who you are through your overall presence and body language.
Give them a positive foundation of both substance and form to build this new relationship on.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Eileen Smith is a public speaking coach and former diplomat. She helps business executives deliver their message through public speaking, executive presence, and body language. Linked In: Eileen Smith