With the new year upon us, you need to have a plan for how you’re going to grow your business. How will you get more clients? Where do you find the best prospects?
While goal setting is a good thing, another area worth examining is your approach to sales situations. Sometimes you tell yourself things—have internal conversations—that can stop new sales endeavors. Here’s a look at three conversations that can stop a sale in its tracks.
Conversation 1: They Are Not Qualified
If your marketing plans work well, you get plenty of incoming referrals and requests. The problem is you don’t have all day to talk to folks who aren’t going to buy. So, qualification is a top priority.
The downside to all of those “ideal client” benchmarks we use to qualify buyers is that we take what buyers tell us at face value. Also, people really don’t know what they want until they see what’s possible. This is why it’s easy to miss the prospects that are just one conversation away from being a good fit.
Example: Even though I stopped dialing for dollars back in 1998, I still get requests from folks (usually new authors) to be their speaker agent. I used to either ignore those requests or send a terse “I don’t do that anymore” message. My response shut down any further contact, which is exactly what I wanted.
Recently, I experimented by adding a story about the impact of my work. When someone reached out about needing help selling their speaking, I would say, “Sorry, I’m not an agent anymore. Here’s why I gave it up….” and tell a very short story about how one of my clients generated over $500,000 in the first year by implementing my market strategy. Lo and behold, some folks were interested in that outcome.
Conversation 2: They Are Not Interested
This happens all the time: You have a great conversation with a buyer who promises to get back to you. That date comes and goes with no response. You follow up a couple of times to no avail. After a while, any attempts just seem awkward.
The first thing you think when that happens is the buyer is no longer interested. While there is some logic to the “well, if they were interested they would respond” argument, we make assumptions about the reason why. And many times those stories are wrong.
Example: A consultant and I connected from the very beginning. Our conversations were not only insightful, but they were really fun. I could already imagine having a blast with this guy. He asked me to send over the invoice and contract to get started immediately—and then nothing. I followed up a couple of times. Still no response.
At first, I thought he died in a fiery car crash. Then I figured he chose someone else. So, instead of going away, I picked up the phone and left him a message. I said something like this: “Hey, good to hear your voice. I thought we were moving forward, but I haven’t heard from you. Hope everything is OK. Reach out, and let me know you’re still breathing. Otherwise, I’ll assume something bad happened and alert the authorities.” Yes, he knew I was joking, but he also got the point. It turned out he had a family emergency. We’ll work together when the smoke clears.
Conversation 3: Dang They Are Stupid
Let’s be brutally honest here. How many times has a buyer explained his or her decision, and you knew it was a recipe for disaster? They chose to go with the lowest-fee vendor or, even worse, thought they could handle the project internally.
In my earlier years, I had many conversations with myself about the choices people made. (The word “idiot” was prominently used.) I would write the buyer off, vowing to not fix the problem they just made worse. Any rapport I had with that prospect was left behind.
Nowadays, my internal conversation has mellowed with age. I realize folks do the best they can given what they believe, that many people need to learn lessons by experience, and that fear and self-doubt eat ROI for lunch.
Example: A B2B business owner needed branding work and knew I could help him. His staff threatened mutiny if he didn’t let them do it, so he relented. I told him I completely understood his approach and praised him for having such a dedicated and passionate staff. I asked if I should reach out to check on his progress. His response: “Yeah, you better. I have a feeling this may not work, but I have to give them the chance to try.” If I had judged his decision, I would have lost a buyer who is sincerely interested in working with me at some point.
Approach Is Everything
Regardless of your goals and plans, the conversations you have with yourself drive your implementation. The less you assume (and judge), the more possibilities you open up. Have a wonderful holiday, and may 2016 be your best year yet!