Q: What should I wear for sales calls?

A: Dress your best! Even in these days of increasingly casual corporate dress, salespeople are usually expected to look sharp. A man should wear a tie and a jacket or at a minimum a notch or two more conservatively then their customers. A woman should dress similarly and conservatively, wear minimal jewelry, and keep her makeup simple. If the prospect the salesperson is calling on will be wearing a suit, the salesperson should as well.

Q: When should I arrive?

A: Arrive five minutes before your scheduled appointment. If you arrive any earlier, sit and read in your car or go to a coffee shop to kill time. Arriving too early makes you seem overeager, puts pressure on the prospect to see you before the appointed time, and is unprofessional.

Q: Should I invite the prospect out to lunch?

A: If your appointment is before lunch and you are building a good rapport with the prospect, inviting him or her to lunch is often a good way to improve the relationship. But if rapport is developing slowly, a lunch invitation will seem awkward and may further weaken your standing with the prospect.

Q: Should I stick to business on the first visit?

A: On an in-person sales visit, try to talk at least briefly about a nonbusiness topic. This tactic will usually make everyone feel more at ease and may even relax the prospective client into being more open-minded about your product or service offerings. Try discussing a noncontroversial trend in the industry or a personal hobby. But don’t force conversation in this direction if the prospect doesn’t seem interested. And don’t let nonbusiness conversations detract from your sales presentation. Most prospects will be willing to talk a little nonbusiness for a while, but not all of them. For the first couple of decades of running my small businesses, I generally wanted to immediately and only talk about business during my first meeting with a new sales rep—a mistake!

Q: When should I try to close the sale?

A: Your best chance for closing a sale will occur after you have established a good rapport with the prospect and presented your product or service as carefully as possible. Determine in advance how much time you will have with the prospect. Ask the prospect or the assistant when you are scheduling the appointment what your time allotment will be. Then try to time your first attempt at closing the sale about three-quarters of the way through your appointment. This will maximize your time for making the presentation while allowing you plenty of time to discuss any objections the prospect may raise.

Unless the prospect has committed to a series of meetings with you or someone else from your firm, the face-to-face meeting will provide the best opportunity for closing a deal. Push as hard as you can to make a sale during your meeting without completely alienating your prospect.

The great advantage of face-to-face meetings is that you can read the body language of the prospect. Is he or she listening to your arguments? Which points does he or she seem to pay the most attention to? Focus your arguments and try hard for a sale.

If you feel that a sale isn’t forthcoming, try for another goal—a trial, a quote, a proposal, or even a commitment for another meeting.

Remember, it is much easier to close a sale in person than it is over the phone.