March 23, 2012 fm

What Is Your First Sentence?

It was a chilly late summer night. On the terrace of the modern, white, cubical Novotel airport hotel, not far from Munich, I enjoyed my wheat beer and pretzel. I was not alone. Before, at the bar inside the hotel, I had made friends with Sebastian, a sales guy from Audi, the Bavarian car manufacturer.

I was sitting on the terrace with 15 Audi sales people, among them one brave lady. Those people were not any Audi sales guys. It was the team. The best sales people of the car brand in Germany. In a two-year training program Audi pays special attention to their best horses in the stable.

At some point of the rhetoric-centered conversation I asked them my standard question, “What is your first sentence? When you approach a prospect in the showroom, what do you say?”

I expected several killer questions or phrases. But – instead of throwing mean rhetorical curve balls back at me, they only slung slow fast balls. Standard, standard, standard. Like, “Excuse me, sir, can I help you?”

Standard from the best. Wow – I had to order another wheat beer.

Right away I drove them into a vivid brainstorming session.

After a while, we came up with one first sentence that I really liked. Imagine yourself in an Audi showroom. Imagine that one smiling employee approaching you saying, “Do you know where the four circles come from?”

Three options.

First, you say yes. If you know the answer, the Audi employee knows that you are an Audi freak. Straight away the conversation can dive into technical details.

Second, you say no. Then, the Audi employee can share some historical brand insights with you.

Third, you say, “I don’t care.” This is also a good answer. Now the Audi employee knows that any additional second spent with you would be time wasted.

The other day, I went shopping at El Corte Inglés in Barcelona. In the clothing section an experienced kind man named José attended me. After a while, I told him the Audi anecdote. José acknowledged the importance of a good ice-breaker. He said that, “Getting a conversation going with the client improves the chance of selling a product by 80%.”

I asked José, “In your entire career – what are your personal favorite first sentences?”

He paused, he thought, but he couldn’t answer. He had never thought about it.

Your first sentence is your number one door opener to conversations. Conversations build trust. Trust makes the sell. Your first sentence is essential in a car showroom. Your first sentence is essential in the clothing section of a department store. Your first sentence is essential on stage.

I ask you… What is your first sentence?



Comments (4)

  1. Haha, funny. I used this one once. I was getting myself a drink at a cocktail party. Suddenly, the former President of the German state Hessen (Frankfurt) was standing next to me. The KPMG partner who hired me in 2000 is his neighbor – what a coincidence! I knew this, hence I said, “We have a friend in common.” You know the outcome…

  2. Tulia

    Great article Florian.
    I’ll be aware of my first sentences from now on.

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