In the beginning was the first five minutesArticle added by Steve Lewit on January 20, 2012

Steve Lewit

Buffalo Grove, IL

Joined: February 27, 2008

My Company

Everything has a beginning. And many believe, as I do, that how you begin something will determine how it ends. Unfortunately, in traditional selling, we have been taught that the end, the close, is the most important part of the selling process. Let’s take a closer look.

Many of you know that I was a professional opera singer. My voice coach was like a drill master. It was his way or the highway. When I first started coaching with him, every time I started to sing an aria he would stop me after a couple of phrases and tell me to start again.

This went on and on until I got so frustrated I said, “This is ridiculous. I have a whole aria to sing, and I can’t even get a few notes out with you. What is that all about?”

My coach looked me in the eyes and said, “Steve, do you want to be a good singer or a great singer? If you want to be good we can keep going. However, if you want to be great you have to begin great, and then all the rest will follow. Just listen to all the great singers. They are great right from the very first sound they utter. We can’t go on until your first note is great.”

So, that’s what we did. And, he was right. Although I ultimately gave up the music world (I did not like the lifestyle of being away from family weeks on end), everywhere I auditioned I received compliments about how I approached my music and the quality of my singing from beginning to end.

In sales, it’s the same way. Instead of focusing on closing and all the objections that brings with it, if you focus on the opening — the first five minutes — everything else will fall into place, and you will receive high grades (closed sales) wherever and with whomever you meet.

Remember, our goal is to bring up objections, or what I call landmines, first and diffuse all the landmines before we give any information, solution or presentation. In that way the sale is actually closed before you give away your candy.

Okay, so let’s start our first meeting with a client. Remember, minimal amount of small talk or warm up. It’s old and clients would rather just get down to business.

Key question no. 1

Thanks for coming in. In thinking about your finance, what would make this a good meeting for you? In other words, when you folks are driving home in your car and talking to each other, you say that this was one of the best meetings you’ve ever been to. What would that take?

Never start by talking about yourself or your company. Even if people don’t know you, start by talking about them. Your goal is to see the world through their eyes: their wants, needs, preferences, likes, dislikes, inclinations and emotions.

Don’t take the position that you are an expert (even though you are); take the position that you can help your clients get where they want to go better than they can themselves. But, they need to tell you rather than you tell them what their problems are.
Your client’s first answer is never the real reason they came to see you. Many say that they are getting low returns, getting killed in the market and want a secure income. It doesn’t matter, none of these are the real issue and your sales will be limited if you address these right off.

You need to dig below these surface issues and find out if there are emotional drives attached to their reason for coming, e.g., I’m losing money in the market and it causes me stress and I’m fighting with my spouse.

If there is no emotion attached to the issue, there will be no sale.

Let your clients answer this question, then dig deeper until you can ask the most key emotion getting question: “How is all this effecting you personally?”

Their negative emotion will drive them to change, and to replace it with a better, more positive emotion. That’s how sales get made.

Key question no. 2

On a scale of 0 – 10, where zero means that your financial condition couldn’t be worse and 10 means that it is perfect and couldn’t be better, how would you rank yourself?

Now you give your clients a chance to reveal a little more of themselves. Where do they think they stand? Why do they think that? Do their answers dovetail with your first question about what would make this a good meeting?

Key question no. 3

Suppose you could wave a magic wand and get yourself from a 6 to a 9 (use your client’s numbers, of course); what would have to happen?

Now your clients will reveal themselves even more. You will find out what they are thinking; what products they like or dislike; what they’ve heard; and what they think possible or impossible.

Many of my clients say, “Well, I’d like to win the lottery.”

I always send these clients a lottery ticket in the mail after the appointment with a handwritten note to have some fun with them.

Notice now, in this process, who is doing all the work — it’s your client. You are just asking questions that help you determine if there are landmines that can’t be diffused.


If you are running into trouble at the end of your sales calls, I can assure you it’s not because you are a poor closer, it’s because you are a poor opener. Open your meetings with these three key questions and you will diffuse key landmines that otherwise will hurt you at the end of your sales meeting process.

Use these questions to uncover whether or not the client has an emotional drive to change; a like or dislike of any specific strategy and product; their view of their financial life and what it would take to make it better; and whether a couple are on the same page with each other so that you don’t have to go into marriage counseling mode before you can help them along.

In your coming sales meetings focus on this one small step of asking these three key questions. Then, let me know how it works out. I will be surprised if it doesn’t change your results for the better instantly.
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