Paul Evans is not only the sales manager in the Dallas-Fort Worth market for BMC, one of the nation's biggest building material suppliers, he also is a veteran sales coach for groups as diverse as contractors and TV reporters. He divides the sales process into four stages: Greeting, Discovery, Matching and Clarifying, and Agreement and Close. You must go through these stages in order, Evans says, and it all starts with the Greeting. "Somebody will decide to buy from you in the first 30 seconds," he says. During a presentation on Jan. 13, Evans five tips on how to greet someone successfully.

  1. Work on different greetings for the type of customer you'll call on. Man, woman, owner, contractor: They all merit different approaches.
  2. Differentiate your greeting for different nationalities. A howdy and an instant handshake may work best with a cowboy who was born and raised nearby, but certain immigrant populations might prefer you wait a moment before you offer your hand.
  3. Make sure the prospects know why you're there. It could be that they called your office, or maybe a past client suggested them, or perhaps you're going door-to-door to alert neighbors about a nearby project you're doing (and coincidentally, make them aware of you).
  4. Don't "show up and throw up." In other words, avoid rambling. Listen far more than you talk.
  5. Make sure at the end of the greeting that they know who you are and what you'll be doing next.

Evans' two keys are, first,practice the three L's: "Listen, listen, listen," and second, "always sell." But keep in mind that a sale isn't restricted to ink on a contract. A sale also can be an agreement to meet at a particular time and place, or a commitment to hear your proposed solutions to the prospect's needs. Whatever you do, finish the greeting with a sale that puts you back in front of the client.