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Magic Notes

To ensure you will close a sale, take comprehensive notes during the initial client meeting.

By Linda Richardson

There is one almost magical thing that most salespeople can do to increase their sales results—improve the quantity and quality of the notes they take during contact with a client either face-to-face or by phone. Great notes can have a tremendous impact on closing a sale.

The key is to take notes appropriately—in a way that lets the client know that you are still listening and still engaged.

Until email became very popular, writing was on its way to becoming a lost art. What’s more, some salespeople do not like to take notes. Of course, there are times when taking notes is indeed inappropriate. For example, it is not a good idea to take notes when a client is discussing a confidential or sensitive topic or a salesperson is at a high-level, conceptual meeting with senior executives.

On many occasions, however, great notes can enhance a sale and strengthen your relationship with prospects and clients.

Your notes can give you a blueprint of your clients and are an ideal reference tool. Taking notes also compliments your clients because it indicates a high level of interest and lets your clients know that you will follow up after the meeting.

Notes work for you
Good notes are a tremendous sales resource—before and after the interaction with the client or prospect. During the call, you can rely on notes to avoid repetition and maintain momentum. After the call, you can draw on them to develop winning customized proposals and persuasive emails and letters, update relationship plans and prepare for your next meeting.

The key is to take notes appropriately—in a way that lets the client know that you are still listening and still engaged. That means your note taking must be unobtrusive; you cannot appear as if you are a court reporter and you need to maintain strong, consistent eye contact throughout the meeting—especially early on.

Helpful hints
Here are some specific note-taking tactics and issues to keep in mind:

  • Do not take notes at the beginning of your conversation with a client. It distracts the client out of the gate and makes him curious about what you are writing down. Also, if you start taking notes too soon, you can appear to be playing an administrative rather than the role of a colleague. During the opening, concentrate on keeping eye contact and establishing rapport with the client.
  • Begin to take notes when your client starts to talk about needs.
  • As you take notes, be mindful only of key words so you can stay “in” the dialogue. Write full sentences only if you need a quote.
  • During the conversation, jot down the points you want to address later in the conversation.
  • In certain situations and cultures, you may need permission to take notes.
  • Consider carefully whether or not you should use your laptop computer. It can be distracting and impersonal and can curb the client’s spontaneity.

Tricks to stay on target
Learn to use cues or tricks to keep yourself in the dialogue while taking effective notes.

  • Some techniques involve circling words that you want to ask a question about, underlining words you want to incorporate into your response so that you “speak the client’s language” and numbering key objectives mentioned by the client so that you are sure to address each one.
  • Carve out a special block on the page. In this space you can write critical points that the client brings up that you must refer to or follow up later.
  • For group meetings, put names in the order that the clients are seated. You must be subtle and not create a visible diagram.
  • When selling to several clients, identify the person who made a particular comment. You can refer to these comments in personalized letters.
  • When salespeople take notes, they tend to put their heads down and keep them down. You must always maintain eye contact, except for breaks you need to put your pen on the line to write. Maintaining eye contact applies to all salespeople on a team call.

Use those notes
Before you write your follow-up letters or proposals, refer to your notes. Highlight what you want to use, and as you develop your material, check off what you've already used so you don’t forget anything important. For example, if the client told you about his new sales strategy, refer to it. If he told you that he has three objectives, refer to them. If you agreed to send anything, send it.

A salesperson who has great notes from a meeting and leverages them has a magic wand that will move his clients to say yes. Clients want to know you understand and can address their needs. Your notes can help you convert generic solutions to custom-tailored solutions. Take good notes and use them with an eye toward selling more.

Linda Richardson has 25 years of sales development and training experience. She may be reached at 215-940-9255 or

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