A few years ago I was working with a client who was doing very good marketing. She was generating a lot of interest through networking, publishing and speaking. Prospects were calling her to explore if she could help them.
And, with very few exceptions, she blew it every time! She made every mistake in the book when it came to the selling process and lost most of the prospects she talked to.
With a little coaching, and by making a few changes in her sales approach, she was able to convert most of her prospects into clients. She filled her practice completely in about three months.
In the past five issues of More Clients, I outlined the many steps in the marketing process. In the next three issues I'm going to be focusing on the steps in the selling process.
First, a quick review:
The job of marketing is to turn strangers into prospects who have a positive experience of you and your services. Your marketing is successful if you can get a prospect to "Second Base" where they want to explore working with you. (See the Marketing Ball Model in the InfoGuru Manual.)
That's where selling starts.
There are two more bases to touch before you have a new client. Third Base is where a prospect wants to work with you. They are ready to buy. Fourth, or Home Base is where you have agreed on details, price, proposal, etc. and have received your first payment (which has cleared the bank).
As with the marketing process, the selling process can go very quickly or very slowly, but you can't skip any steps.
Starting this week, I'll give you an overview of the steps in-between Second and Third Bases (continued next week), and also give you the Key Mistakes for each of these steps. In the third installment I'll explore getting from Third Base to Home.
The Steps between Second and Third (4 of 7)
Making a Connection
Selling, like marketing, is based on relationships. People buy from people they know, like and trust. If you've done a good job of marketing, you've paved the way for selling.
But you can't jump into trying to make a sale.
You need to connect with the prospect who is now ready to explore working with you. They are not just interested in buying your services; they want to know that you care and that you understand what they really need.
So, the foundation of any sales conversation is empathy and listening. You don't need to push, you need to be open. Your attitude could be summed up as: "I hope I can help you. Let me learn more about you and together let's see what's possible."
- Thinking the sales conversation is about you, not the prospect.
- Doing all the talking, with little active listening.
- Connecting only at a business level, not a personal level.
You want to set the groundwork for the selling conversation by reiterating the key elements of Marketing Syntax: Who you work with, the challenges your clients face and the outcomes you produce for them.
I'm talking about a very, very brief introduction, followed by, "But before I know if my services are right for you, I need to learn more about your situation."
Even though someone is meeting with you and supposedly has absorbed your marketing message and materials beforehand, it's still important to get your prospects focused on what this sales conversation is about.
- Jumping into questions before getting focused.
- Assuming they already know about your business.
- Failing to take charge and lead the sales conversation.
Understanding the Situation
Once you've focused the meeting (and this could be on the phone or in-person), your next job is to find out about the client's current situation. To do this, you need to ask a LOT of questions. They need to feel you really know them and what's important to them.
I've often asked my clients what they had learned about their prospect's situation, and was surprised that most of them didn't know the basics: How the business got started, what the business sold, size of the business, number of people, revenues and key competitors.
In fact, if you're selling to a company, you'd better know all of that going in!
- Asking questions as a formality, to get to the "important part of the meeting" (your wonderful service).
- Not going into questions in sufficient depth.
- Not showing real interest in the answers.
Discovering the Challenges
The selling conversation then needs to morph seamlessly into the reasons your prospect is meeting with you in the first place. What are the challenges, problems, predicaments and pain they are experiencing?
You're looking for that nerve, that thing that is irritating them enough to seek the counsel of a professional. What's missing? What's not working as well as it could? What keeps them up at night? What is this challenge costing them?
- Failing to find the ONE key challenge your prospect faces.
- Assigning equal importance to all the challenges.
- Jumping into your solution too quickly.
When you've covered these four steps, you're just getting started. Next, you need to know where they want to go.
Next Week: Outcomes, Presentation and Closing. The week after: Pricing, Proposals and Negotiation.
The More Clients Bottom Line: Selling, like marketing, is a process. Make a misstep and you lose. Create a solid foundation for the sales process with the steps above, and you eliminate most of the struggle and effort.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you've made in the selling process? Please share on the Blog.