Being able to close sales is the most important task for any business. Revenue is what will move your company away from relying on investors, and to get there you've got to be able to sell your product. While lead generation is important, there's no point in generating leads if you can't close on them.

Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs fail at making a sale by giving a bad first impression. If you're going after new business, you have to be able to gain your client's trust. Giving off a great first impression is one of the first steps to do that. Here's some rules to follow that will help you get off to the right foot in your next client meeting.

1. Dress The Part

This mistake is common for tech entrepreneurs. I still remember one of my first sales meetings for Alumnify, where I walked in to meet a client in a hoodie and jeans. As soon as I went to shake hands, I could immediately tell that something was wrong. The potential customer was dressed with slacks and a sports shirt, and was surprised when he saw my wardrobe.

While dressing up may not be something you do at your office, you need to make sure you look the part when you're meeting clients. You want your customers to take you seriously, and you also want to show them respect. Think about it from their point of view. When customers first look at you, they subconsciously are already making judgments. Is this someone I can trust with my money? Does this person seem responsible? It's always best to overdress than to underdress. Don't take any chances on this. When you look sharp, your customers will take you more seriously and you'll have a much easier time closing the deal.

2. Smile

Having a big smile when you first meet with a customer goes a long way. Many times, founders get nervous for their first couple of sales meetings. This nervousness affects their ability to think positively, and away goes their smile. When first meeting a customer, it is crucial that you make them feel comfortable. The easiest way to do that is through your facial expressions. They say smiles are contagious, and data suggests that smiling boosts your mood. When you get a customer in a positive mindset, selling becomes much easier.

3. Don't go straight into the pitch

A common mistake many people in sales make is going straight in for the pitch as soon as they shake hands. In most cases, this is not a great strategy. Have you ever looked at people who are exceptional at selling? When you look closely, you'll notice that they're masters of small talk. They become friends with their clients, and find similarities outside of work. Then after they've established a friendship, they have a fluid transition into the sell.

Bill Clinton, for example,  is known as a master networker. What makes him so great is that when he speaks to you, you think you're the only thing on his mind. This is what helped him get the buy-in he needed to become president, and it's what will help you lock down clients.

4. Take time to learn the problem

A strategy that I've been using lately for sales meetings is taking detailed notes. At the beginning of the meeting, I'll make sure I understand all the important problems that my potential customer has. This makes the person I'm speaking with aware that I am more focused on listening rather than talking. It also helps me, because I can review the notes afterwards and see if our solution is solving the right problem.

When you're in a sales meeting, make sure that you don't begin your pitch until you understand the customer's pain point. When you have an understanding of the problem, you should then tailor your pitch to address just those issues. Remember, customers don't buy products, they buy solutions.

Published on: Oct 30, 2014