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Here is a simple sales tip that has helped me close hundreds of deals: when you should and, most importantly, when you SHOULD NOT make eye contact with your prospect. Today I want to help you on this important sales technique. I remember as a teenager I used to watch business men in my church and was amazed at their ability to maintain eye contact throughout an entire conversation. It seemed exhausting to me! Over time, as I realized eye contact is the best way to communicate complete focus on another person during a conversation, I developed the same ability.
If you have not yet developed this crucial ability, start today! This ability can be learned. You must make a conscious choice to fully focus on each person with whom you speak and maintain eye contact while you are talking. On a side note: for a fun experiment, try to make eye contact with strangers as you walk through a store or down the sidewalk. You will quickly realize that the ability to confidently make eye contact is rare.
Just because you know how to keep eye contact with your prospects doesn’t mean you should stare them down throughout the entire sales process! Here are two times when making eye contact is a really bad idea:
#1 – Your prospect is uncomfortable with you or with your pitch. When you sense that your prospect is uncomfortable with you because you pushed too hard or simply rubbed the wrong way, take the cue to look away and change the subject for a couple minutes. Ask a question about the business or about a specific product on the shelf. I like to go into “customer” mode during these awkward moments.
#2 – (Here is the most important part of the entire post!) Don’t make eye contact after asking for sensitive information. At some point in order to move forward, every sales professional needs to ask for information such as the social security number, bank information, and/or a signature on the paperwork. The worst thing you can do is stare at the merchant after asking for this information. Eye contact at this moment will cause the merchant to become incredibly uncomfortable and usually change the subject or ask to think it over.
Here are the steps to best handle this sensitive moment:
- Slide the paperwork and a pen to the merchant.
- While sliding paperwork, say something non-specific such as, “I just need you to complete this section.”
- DO NOT say, “I need your social.” or “I need you to sign here.”
- After you slide the paperwork to the merchant, look down at your phone as if you are checking your calendar or start completing another section of the paperwork.
The prospect will then feel more comfortable. He or she will most likely sit for a few seconds thinking things over and then do as you asked.
Side Tip: Don’t say anything to interrupt these moments of silence! Your willingness to remain silent here is an absolute requirement to close a deal. I have had a prospect sit for more than two minutes looking over the paperwork while I was “busy” checking my email. Believe me, that two minutes seemed like an hour! More than anything I wanted to jump in and say, “Did you have some other questions?” However, I knew this would only interrupt the prospect’s deliberations and make me seem desperate for a sale. This is the time to break eye contact and allow the prospect time to think about his/her decision.
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