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5 Openings.

Good openings are important to the sales process. After all, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. Consequently, the first 30 seconds could be the most important time you will spend with the buyer in any visit. Strong openings are designed to accomplish four goals: (1) gain the attention of the prospect, (2) break into the prospect's stream of thought, (3) arouse the prospect's interest in your proposal, and (4) allow you to secure control of the interaction. To achieve these goals, your opening should use the information you previously gathered in the preapproach stage, tie into your objective for the sales call, be well planned, and finally, be tailored specifically for the prospect. This latter component means you should develop the opening around the prospect's discovered needs and social style.

Opening Techniques

Your effectiveness during the opening moments determines how receptive the buyer will be, how difficult or easy the close will be, and how welcome you will be on the follow-up visits. Remember, to be effective, the opening must accomplish three things in the following order: (1) Break into the buyer's train of thought and neutralize what was in the buyer's mind, (2) establish in the buyer's mind what you wish to sell, and (3) arouse his or her interest in your proposition.

The best attention getter is a specific owner benefit that appeals to a specific need or want of the buyer. Owner benefits that affect the prospect's self, hopes, wishes, desires, and circumstances are very powerful attention getters. A second method for getting the prospect's attention is to mention some matter of universal interest, such as ecology, purchasing power of the prospect's customers, technology, other current news, happenings or matters of common concern.

You should recognize that there are many types of openings that are available to you. Although only a limited number will be identified here, you should become comfortable with many different types of openings and tailor the opening you use based on the individual prospect with whom you will be interacting.

Openings by Telephone

The telephone is routinely used in hospitality sales and most frequently will be the first mode of contact with a prospective client. Guidelines (1) for proper handling regarding incoming phone calls include the following list:

1. Answer the telephone promptly, preferably by the third ring.

2. Keep information sheets organized and close at hand so you do not waste the caller's time while you search for needed data.

3. Identify yourself and your department. For example, "Good afternoon. Sales department. This is Mary. How may I help you?"

4. Do not chew gum, smoke, eat, or drink while speaking over the telephone.

5. Obtain the name of caller, caller's company, address, and telephone number at the beginning of the call.

6. Use the client's name often. Frequent usage will assist in creating a rapport with the client.

7. Ask questions that will provide you with essential information to develop a sales proposal.

8. Utilize active listening techniques--rephrasing, restating, summarizing.

9. Take notes--do not rely on your memory to serve you later.

10. Only place the caller on hold if absolutely necessary and check back often to let the caller know that he or she has not been forgotten.

11. Return telephone calls promptly--no later than 24 hours.

12. Thank the caller for calling and assure the caller you want to be of assistance.

Telemarketing allows you to reach a large number of potential users of your product or service in a short amount of time. Typically, the sole objective of the phone call is to secure an appointment, not make the sale; closing a sale normally requires face-to-face contact. Attempting to conduct a sales interview or presentation over the phone is often a waste of time.

A certain rapport must be established prior to trying to arrange an appointment. Your telephone call should include the following steps: greeting, introduction, gratitude, purpose, appointment, and thank you. (2) Do not hesitate to plan and write down what you want to say over the telephone. Doing so will allow you to present a concise, organized message.

Here is a sample opener:

Say: Good morning, Ms. Porter. I'm Tom Hunt with the Statler Hotel. We provide companies like yours with a broad selection of meeting facilities. I appreciate you giving me a moment of your valuable time. I promise to be brief. If I can show you how to get more out of your company meetings, would you be interested?

To collect information from this prospect:

Say: Great, Ms. Porter, but in order to best meet your needs, may I get your response to a couple of questions?

These questions may provide information about the company background, who makes the buying decisions regarding your services, the prospect's background, desired business terms (direct bill, audiovisual service, etc.), who the prospect presently purchases from, and purchasing policies and practices. You should determine what information will be most crucial to you in assisting the sale prior to placing the telephone call to the prospect.

If at all possible, the goal for these initial calls should also be to arrange an appointment for a face-to-face interview. You can be much more effective as a salesperson when you are face-to-face with the prospect. Rather than asking for an "appointment," which can sound too formal and timeconsuming, ask to "visit" or "pop by." (3) If you will be unable to arrange a personal interview, you should seek to get permission to send information and then follow up with another telephone call. Always suggest a specific day and time to meet with the prospect or to make the return phone call.

Don't say: What would be a convenient time for an appointment?

Say: I can arrange my schedule so we can visit on Monday at 1:30 P.M. or would Tuesday at 11:15 A.M. be better?

Close the phone call with a thank-you, and repeat the time and location of the upcoming meeting. Verify directions if you are unsure of the prospect's whereabouts.

Say: Thank you for allowing me to visit with you, Ms. Porter. I look forward to meeting you on Monday at 2:15 P.M.

If enough time will elapse between your phone call and the set appointment, send a professional-looking letter thanking the prospect and confirming the details of the appointment.

Survey Opening

An alternative method of establishing rapport and collecting needed information from a prospective customer is the survey approach.

Say: Good afternoon, Ms. Rooks. I'm Betty Johnson with ABC Resorts. My firm has asked me to conduct a quick survey involving customer needs. Could you take a few moments to help me?

If the prospect notes that the timing of your call is bad, apologize and try to get an appointment for a better time. If the prospect agrees to answer your questions, thank her and get right to your questions. The questions should require no more than two minutes of the prospect's time and should be limited to a maximum of five questions. These questions should provide information that helps you qualify the prospect and arouses the curiosity of the prospect regarding your product or service.

Face-to-Face Openings with Prospective Account

If you are able to get face-to-face with a prospect on an initial call, there are several approaches you can use. However, do not imply to the prospect that your visit was just an unplanned afterthought:

Don't say: Ms. James, I'm Leon Berry with XYZ Inns. I was just passing by and thought I'd drop in and meet you.

Make certain you provide the prospect with a reason to talk to you.

Say: Good day, Mr. Berkeley. My name is Jim Merrill and I'm from ABC Resort. I made a special trip today to stop by and introduce myself and my company, and to see if I might be of any assistance to your organization. Can I have a few moments of your time? I promise to be brief.


Good day. My name is Mary Hendrix. Our company records indicate that we have not successfully earned the opportunity to serve your account. My manager suggested that I personally stop by to introduce myself and make you aware of the changes at our hotel to see if we might earn the right to serve the needs of your organization in the future. Could you spare a few moments?


My name is Ty Watson. I'm with Butler Hotels. The most challenging part of my job is trying to be at the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, I was not able to present my services when you planned your last convention. In order to possibly position my property as a potential convention site, I need your assistance. I assure you that my approach is professional, personal, and to the point. Would you be kind enough to assist me by answering a few questions?

Face-to-Face Openings with Existing Account

Here are some do's and don'ts when you are making a first-time call on a prospect that has previously used your company's services some time in the past:

Don't say: Mr. Douglas, I'm Ruby Lee with PDQ Inn. I've taken the place of Eric Williams who used to service your account.

Chances are Mr. Douglas does not know or remember Eric Williams. Furthermore, this opening will not catch Mr. Douglas' attention because it does not suggest that you have something to tell Mr. Douglas that can benefit him.

Say: Mr. Hubel, I'm Peggy Watts with Hampshire Hotel. There are two reasons I came by today. First, I wanted to let you know that I have replaced Eric Williams, who worked with you in the past, and second, in looking at your account, I've got a couple of ideas I'd like to run by you that could benefit your firm.


Ms. Hartsfield, I'm Keith Jacobs with the Lord Henry Inn. A few months ago we provided your company with meeting facilities. If this is a good time, I'd like to let you know about a special rate we have developed for businesses like yours, and a few other items that may be of interest.

Follow these openings with:

and first, to make sure I'm making the best recommendations, I'd like to update my files here on what you need ...

These openings help put your customer at ease because you are letting that person know that you are truly interested in learning what his or her needs are. Consequently, the potential buyer is more likely to share information with you.

Other Opening Methods

Air of Mystery. An "air of mystery or curiosity" opening is designed to get the prospect's attention without specifically identifying the product, service, or plan to be sold.

I have an opportunity for you today that on average has increased the sales of our customers by 20 percent. This approach gets the buyer to focus on what you will say next.

Service. A "service" opening is a promise to help the prospect save time or improve efficiency by doing a job that person might normally have to do.

I'll see that your travel itinerary and tickets are hand delivered to you and your employees each time a booking is made with our firm.

A service opening helps the prospective buyer visualize a short-or long-term gain for his or her operation by allowing you to assist in a specific idea.

Idea. An "idea" opening gains the prospect's attention with a thought or plan that will improve his or her operation.

You will improve employee morale and productivity by awarding weekend stays at our resort for your top three salespeople and their families. Let me show you some letters I have from other satisfied corporate customers.

An idea opening gets the prospective buyer's attention because that person believes that such action will benefit him or her.

Name or Referral. A "name or referral" opening gives credibility to the product, service, or plan because someone the prospect respects supports it.

I was speaking with Sue Smith at XYZ Electronics yesterday and she mentioned that you might be interested in our new three-day cruises.

The use of a name or referral approach adds reassurance that somebody else supports the proposal. Merely addressing the buyer by her given name is not a Name or Referral opening. Also consider having a satisfied customer set up the appointment with the prospect or having the satisfied customer write a letter to the prospect introducing you and your company. You may even want to schedule a lunch where you, the satisfied customer, and the prospect can meet. If you choose to pursue this latter option, just be sure that you will be able to accomplish your sales objectives and will not be simply engaging in small talk.

Benefit or End Result. A "benefit or end result" opening gains the prospective buyer's attention by identifying the specific benefit that can be realized as a result of your proposal.

You will be able to devote more time to your business and your customers by simply letting our fullservice staff handle the many minute details of your annual awards banquet. We can provide you with a hassle-free, stellar event.

A benefit or end result opening focuses the prospect's attention on real gains as a result of the action.

Startling Statement. A "startling statement" opening is the positioning of something factual in a dramatic way to arouse the prospect's attention.

You have lost at least $10 on every room reservation you made this year by not taking advantage of our special corporate membership!

A startling statement opening focuses the prospective buyer's attention on a lost opportunity.

Recognition or Compliment. A "recognition or compliment" opening is your acknowledgment of the prospect's professional approach and understanding of the business.

You are a highly respected member of the business community, so we would like to extend you the first invitation to join our new Windstar Country Club.

A recognition or compliment opening says to the prospect: "You are somebody!"

Product. A "product" opening demonstrates product benefits and features.

Greater conference attendance results in a more profitable, successful event. Let me show you how our meeting room facilities and other amenities can increase participation in your conference

A product opening grasps the prospective buyer's attention quickly.

Question. A "question" opening is designed to motivate the prospective buyer to respond in a positive manner.

Mrs. Jones, are you interested in saving money on your business travel?

A question approach involves the prospect in the selling process.

Openings Exercise

Take 15 minutes and write an opening statement that you can use for each of these types of openings. As you prepare these openings, think about the social style that would be most receptive to each type.

Telephone Approach

Telephone Survey Method

Face-to-Face with New Prospect

Face-to-Face with Current Account

Air of Mystery or Curiosity



Name or Referral

Benefit or End Result

Startling Statement

Recognition or Compliment



If you found that creating the openings in the Openings Exercise required more effort and time than you thought it would, then you should recognize that openings require planning. If you just walk into a prospect's office and blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, you will not likely be uttering the best possible opening. Remember, there is only one chance to a make a first impression, so make it a good one.

If you have used an effective opening, you should now have the prospect's attention. Once you have the prospective buyer's attention, however, that attention must be directed quickly to the prospect's needs that your product or service will satisfy. Therefore, it is imperative that you move directly into the interest stage and present reason-to-buy statements. The link between your opening and the first reason-to-buy statement should be logical and flow naturally.

SPIN Opening

Another very effective opening approach is the SPIN technique. (4) SPIN stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-payoff. SPIN requires asking a series of questions to quickly develop rapport, collect information, and illustrate that you are interested in meeting the customer's needs. This method provides an excellent opening and also gains the prospect's permission to move directly into your presentation. Although a SPIN opening requires some practice on your part to learn it, the benefits gained are well worth the effort. You will find this opening one of the most effective you can use.

Situation questions are those concerning the prospect's general business situation as it relates to your product. These questions are fairly broad and provide a general understanding of the prospect's needs or problems, so that you can smoothly transition into questions on specific areas. Think of these as warm-up questions.

Problem questions ask about specific needs, difficulties, or dissatisfactions the prospect may be experiencing that you may be able to solve. The goal here is to have the prospect recognize and admit that there is a problem. You must determine which of the prospect's problems are important enough that the prospect will be willing to do something about it. This information can be used to focus on the areas that are of special interest to your prospect.

Implication questions ask how a specific problem affects the prospect's home, life, or business operations. The objective of asking these implication questions is to get the prospect to realize that the problem may have a broader impact than previously thought. If possible, use bottom-line figures or statistics in the implication question.

Need-payoff questions are similar to benefit statements. The prospect has identified the problem for you, so you must simply tie in the benefit. "If I can show you how to take care of this problem (naming specific issue), then would you be interested?" If you get a positive response, you can move into your sales presentation. If you get a negative response from the prospect, begin the problem, implication, and need-payoff questions again. This latter situation may occur if you fail to establish that this particular need is really important to the prospect.

When using a SPIN opening, it is essential that you identify problems and implications that are important to the prospective buyer. If you use a need-payoff question, but obtain a negative response from the prospect, you have failed to identify a need that is of sufficient importance to the prospect. As a result, the prospect does not feel compelled to take the action you want that person to take. When this situation occurs, you must recycle back to the problem and implication questions and continue repeating the SPIN steps until a pressing need is identified. When you have revealed an important problem or a crucial implication has surfaced that the prospect has not previously considered, you will obtain a positive response to the need-payoff question.

Identifying SPIN Questions Exercise

Read through the following sales-call transcript and identify the different types of SPIN questions that were used to uncover the prospect's needs. Place your answer in the column marked Question Category. Remember, there are four basic types of questions:
Situation Questions       General data-gathering questions about
                          background and current facts that are
                          very broad in nature.

Problem Questions         Questions about specific difficulties,
                          problems or dissatisfactions experienced
                          by the prospect.

Implication Questions     Questions that logically follow one or
                          more problem questions that are designed
                          to help the prospect recognize the true
                          ramification of the problem.

Need-Payoff               Questions Questions that ask about the
                          usefulness of solving a problem.

Situation. The salesperson is selling room nights and catering services to the manager of a large natural gas facility.

Seller:   Thanks for allowing me to visit with you today.        --
          I've heard this is a busy time of year for you.
          Is that correct?

Buyer:    That's right. It takes a lot of hard work and

Seller:   I understand and I'll be brief. How often do           --
          you have plant get-togethers, like picnics,
          parties, and banquets?

Buyer:    We have a holiday party in December, but our
          big event is each fall when we hold our Safety
          Banquet. This event is to celebrate our
          completion of an entire year without a lost-time

Seller:   How many people usually attend these events?           --

Buyer:    About 250 attend the Safety Banquet--that's our
          big event. Employees and their spouses attend,
          and many executives from our headquarters fly in
          for the event. We usually get some rooms at a
          nearby hotel and then have a big banquet at a
          nice restaurant in town. The banquet emphasizes
          safety to our employees, and helps build loyalty
          to our company.

Seller:   Who usually organizes and caters your banquet?         --

Buyer:    We organize it! The restaurant, of course,
          provides the food that we order.

Seller:   Are you happy with the arrangement?                    --

Buyer:    Yes and no. It's a pretty cheap way to do it, but
          sometimes our staff just can't seem to create the
          special feel that the evening is supposed to
          have. They try, but heaven knows they're not the
          most creative bunch when it comes to themes and

Seller:   Do your guests that are staying in the hotel           --
          ever have trouble finding the location of the
          restaurant in town? For example, do some of the
          executives get lost and arrive late to the

Buyer:    Sure, some times things do get mixed up at the
          last minute. We try to leave maps at the hotel
          for the executives, but they don't always get

Seller:   Does this lead to anxiety for your staff?              --

Buyer:    Yes! And for me as well! I don't want my boss
          driving all over town looking for the restaurant.
          Besides, I want these events to come off without
          a hitch, so my employees feel special. My
          employees work hard all year long. This banquet
          is an opportunity to say "Thank you for another
          great year" and "We're a great team." When
          something doesn't go as planned, I sure run
          through the antacid tablets!

Seller:   If I can show you a way to reduce that stress          --
          would you be interested?

Buyer:    Not if its going to cost me a lot of money! Let's
          face it, bottles of Rolaids are cheap compared
          to paying somebody big bucks just to make sure
          the guests arrive on time.

Seller:   Earlier you mentioned creativity. I'm sure your        --
          staff is outstanding in the way it executes
          day-to-day operations here at the plant, but you
          indicated that you thought your staff was lacking
          in creativity for your annual Safety Banquet. Is
          that right?

Buyer:    Yeah, it is hard for them to come up with new
          ideas each year.

Seller:   As a result, do you think that you are able to         --
          produce the full benefits of your banquets when
          they lack the creativity you are seeking?

Buyer:    What are you driving at?

Seller:   Well, does the theme for your banquet arouse           --
          excitement and motivation? Do your employees get
          pumped up about attending the banquet? Do they
          act in a more positive manner after the get-

Buyer:    No, not really.

Seller:   So, if I understand correctly, you are saying          --
          that the annual Safety Banquet may not generate
          all of the long-term benefits you've been
          seeking. Is that right?

Buyer:    Yeah. I'm not sure the Safety Banquets have
          resulted in happier or more motivated employees
          who work harder and smarter.

Seller:   If I can show you a way to generate excitement         --
          about the Safety Banquet and to facilitate an
          increase in employee productivity afterwards,
          would you be interested?

Buyer:    Yes, I would definitely like to know how to
          do that.

SPIN Role-Play Exercise

Practice SPIN with a friend by performing the following role-play exercise. Assume you are working in sales for a conference hotel. You are meeting for the first time with Mr. Turner, director of the National Wholesalers Association (NWA). He is in charge of planning the Association's annual threeday meeting, which has typically been held on a local campus during the slower summer months. Mr. Turner feels that he saves NWA money by utilizing dorms for hotel rooms and classrooms for meeting rooms.

You have learned that NWA is a large association of companies, of various size, that represents more than 15 different industries. The members who participate in NWA meetings hold top management positions--including owners, CEOs, and presidents--within their respective firms and range in age from 45-70, with the majority in their late 50s to early 60s. The members pay annual dues to the association, but the association's largest fund-raising event is this annual meeting.

Utilize SPIN and active listening techniques to develop a rapport, gather information, and get the prospect to agree to listen to your presentation regarding booking this annual event.

Key Concepts

A good opening is crucial to grabbing the attention of the prospect. In this chapter, the main points regarding openings are:

* Openings should gain the attention of the prospect, arouse interest in the salesperson's proposal, and allow the salesperson to gain control of the interaction. Good openings will determine how receptive prospects are, how difficult or easy the close will be, and how welcome the salesperson will be on follow-up visits.

* Good openings specify owner benefits that appeal to a specific need or want of the prospective buyer.

* Openings include telephone openings, survey openings, face-to-face openings with existing accounts, face-to-face openings with prospective accounts. Other openings include the air of mystery opening, service opening, idea opening, name or referral opening, benefit or end result opening, startling statement opening, recognition or compliment opening, product opening, and question opening.

* SPIN opening combines opening and probing. The steps in SPIN involve situation questions, problems questions, implication questions, and need-payoff questions. Although a more advance sales technique, SPIN is one of the most effective opening methods.


(1) Adapted from Feiertag, Howard (1991), "Collect Information to Close Telephone Inquiries," Hotel and Motel Management 206 (November 4), 1; Feiertag, Howard (1992), "Mishandled Inquiries Are Lost Opportunities," Hotel and Motel Management 207 (March 23), 17; Feiertag, Howard (1993), "Rig Up More Business by Improving Phone Procedures," Hotel and Motel Management 208 (August 16), 13; Feiertag, Howard (1998), "How Much Business Did You Lose Today?" Hotel and Motel Management 213 (March 2), 58; Cronin, Ralph M. (1997), "The Telephone--Salesperson's Friend or Foe?" The American Salesman 42 (November), 23-28.

(2) Hopkins, Tom (1995), Selling for Dummies, Foster City, CA: IDG Books Worldwide.

(3) Hopkins, Tom (1995), Selling for Dummies, Foster City, CA: IDG Books Worldwide.

(4) To learn more about SPIN, see Rackham, Neil (1998), Spin Selling, New York: McGraw-Hill.
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Publication:Hospitality Sales: Selling Smarter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Previous Article:4 Approach through nonverbal communication, listening, and trust.
Next Article:6 Probing for needs.

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