The more knowledgeable you are about your business, your clients, and your company’s experiences, the easier it is to assume you know things you don’t. When you are contacted by a prospect, you do an internal assessment. Have you seen this type of business/person before? How about the issue they need help with?
An additional landmine is a referral from a trusted friend or colleague. It’s easy to be lulled into the idea that the business is in the bag. You can convince yourself that your friend did a great job of ‘selling’ you to their contact and that all you have to do is show up.
Familiarity doesn’t equal knowledge. The truth is until you ask all of your questions, you don’t know anything about that prospect. The danger of believing you know them, or believing that they know you, is that you make assumptions. You either fail to ask enough questions, or you ask them without really listening to the answers. After all, you’ve already made up your mind about them and their need.
You may even be thinking about which current client proposal you can copy to provide to this prospect. That’ll show the prospect that you are on top of things. Aren’t you clever! Well, no, not really.
Unfortunately, your analysis is based on your past experience; not on the prospect in front of you. Every client is unique. There may be some things that are similar. However, they come to you with their own individual history, issues, challenges, and beliefs. If you try to pigeonhole them you will miss all of the signals and information you need.
Moreover, when you ask questions without listening to the answers you are telegraphing that you aren’t really interested in the answers. It’s simply an exercise you are going through; like checking off the boxes. That’s a pretty transparent behavior and will leave the prospect with a bad feeling about you and your company. Not exactly what you’re shooting for if you want to add them to your client base.
So, what should you be doing?
- Own Your Ignorance
Remind yourself that you know nothing about the prospect. No matter what your initial impulse is, stay focused on your process.
- Work Your Process
Create a process that you will use for every prospect encounter regardless of where they come from. Then commit to working that process in every situation. Make sure your process includes a list of questions you must ask. These are the things you need to know about the prospect in order to identify whether you can, and want to, work with them.
- Embrace Curiosity
One of the best ways to ensure you don’t fall into a trap is to maintain a sense of curiosity. Regardless of whether you think you know the prospect, being curious propels you to want to learn; or to confirm your beliefs. Either way, when you are curious you will ask questions simple to hear the answers. That curiosity will help you stay out of trouble.
Let’s face it, one of the best positions to take in life is that there is much we do not know. That position keeps us curious, wondering, questioning. It will keep you from assuming you know things you don’t. And that will keep you seeking to know. When you are genuinely curious you ask a lot of questions. Those questions give you the answer to the most important question of all – is this prospect a potential client, or not?