A typical interaction with one of my clients: “Robert, the foundation of my marketing is solid, I know my message, and I have a website and some written materials. Now what exactly do I do to get new clients?”
And I reply, “Well, there’s the marketing side and the selling side. Before we get started on developing plans and strategies, let me give you the 30,000-foot view of the whole process from beginning to end.”
And this is more or less what I tell them:
1. Develop the ideal package of services to sell
What exactly are you selling? Some people say executive coaching, management consulting or crisis therapy. But those are not “service packages” – they are labels and completely intangible.
It’s hard for your prospects to buy “executive coaching,” but it’s easier to buy a “One-year Leadership Coaching Program for Executives.” See how that’s so much more tangible? It’s a one-year program and it’s for a particular group of business people: Executive Leaders. That’s interesting, that’s real. And as a result, your prospects want to know more.
So I want you to stop labeling yourself, and we’ll start developing programs or services that have real value, that are tangible and that have clear outcomes and benefits. Then we’ll focus on finding leads for that service.
2. Generate qualified leads from your marketing efforts
Once you’ve packaged your services, you’ll want to generate leads to people who need that service or program. These leads can come from almost anywhere – from networking or public speaking, from emails to your contact list, from social media and from following up with referrals. You want to start with the most viable strategies.
Remember, though, you don’t have a lead unless that person is a good potential client for your service or program and he or she either has a problem you can solve or an aspiration you can fulfill. To qualify a prospect you need (at the least), to have a short conversation by phone or an email exchange.
When you have a lead to a prospect, personal connections make all the difference. When you get a card from networking, from a talk, or a response from your website, reach out immediately by phone or email.
Find out if this person is looking for the solution to a problem or a way to fulfill an aspiration. Ask them, “Are you interested in dramatically increasing the leadership capability in your company?” or “Are you concerned about the productivity of your workers?” If the answer is yes, you have a real, live prospect.
3. Get phone and face-to-face appointments with your prospects
In these first phone calls or email exchanges, you should explore their needs and desires in a little more depth. If they are strong candidates to work with you, you should request a more in-depth meeting: “Based on what we’ve discussed I think I can help you,” you might say. “What I usually do is set up a Marketing Strategy Session to learn more about your business and explain how my services work. How does that sound?”
4. Ask the right questions during the sales conversation
I call these meetings “Strategy Sessions,” but the name isn’t important. Ultimately, they’re sales conversations where you’ll discover the prospect’s situation, goals, and challenges in-depth.
You should think of this meeting as an interview where you ask a lot of questions to get to the truth. But you also want it to feel like a relaxed conversation where you show sincere interest in this prospect and their circumstances. If you can’t empathize, they won’t trust you enough to work with you.
5. Present your services and solutions during that meeting
Once you’ve asked all your questions, it’s time to explain to the prospect what you do and how your services can help them. Exactly how much you explain depends a lot on whom the prospect is – a large business or one-person entrepreneur, etc.
You want to be organized in presenting this information. First, let them know the ultimate outcome you are going for in your work together. Next, explain the many things you’ll focus on to produce those results. And finally, discuss the structure of how your services or programs are delivered.
Then take questions. If you’re offering services to small business owners, you often don’t need a proposal. You can simply ask them how this program and approach sounds to them. If they like what you’ve said and can imagine succeeding with you, then talk about your fee and see if they can manage it.
6. Respond effectively to issues or objections
If you’re meeting with the owner or another decision-maker of a larger business, you’ll probably get tougher questions, and you need to be prepared to answer them. Poor, incomplete or vague answers will lose the sale. Great answers delivered with a lot of confidence increase the chances of a sale.
In fact, you want to welcome questions or objections. It shows your prospects are interested. They’re looking for a solution – they just need to figure out if yours is the right one. Never see these questions or objections as an attack, because they’re not meant that way.
7. Prepare a written proposal
A larger company will almost always want to see a written summary of your presentation, in the form of a proposal. Essentially, a proposal says, “Here is your situation and here is what you said you wanted to accomplish and here is how you’ll know you’ve succeeded.” Then you should outline exactly what you’ll do for them to achieve those objectives, plus what they can expect when working with you, and how you’ll deliver your services or programs.
The one thing you do not want on this proposal is the price. Why not? Because that’s the very first thing prospective clients will look at before anything else. Let them know that this is, “A first draft of the proposal to see if we are both on the same page.” Once they’ve seen the proposal, let them know that you’d like to work together to refine the proposal to make sure the program meets their needs.
When you’ve gone over the proposal and have come to an agreement about exactly what you’ll do, then you can put a price tag on your program.
8. Get the prospect to respond to your proposal
When you don’t put a price tag on the initial proposal, there’s an incentive to get back to you, to finalize things and get the price quote. This changes the balance of power.
After you offer to prepare a proposal and agree that you’ll meet again to get feedback and to fine-tune it, also set the time for the next post-proposal meeting. “Okay, I’ll get you the proposal to you by next Tuesday. I’d like to set up the next meeting for the following Wednesday or Thursday. Can we look at our calendars?”
9. Ask the final closing question
There are actually many closes during a selling conversation. These “trial closes” help you understand if you are on the same page or not. They don’t have to be manipulative or tricky. After you’ve asked your questions in the meeting, ask, “Have you told me everything you need so that I’m able to help you?”
After you’ve explained and presented your services, you can ask, “Based on everything I’ve explained about my program can you see working with me in this program and succeeding with it?” That’s what I call the “close for commitment.” If they are not sure, then that’s when to ask for questions. If they have no questions, but can’t quite see themselves working with you, ask, “What else would you need to know to be confident that this program is for you?”
10. Get paid what you want to be paid
If you have a prospect who says they can see working with you and that they want the results you deliver, it all comes down to price. When working with an individual, you should talk about the price last. With bigger prospects, you’ll talk about the price after they’re happy with the proposal.
For an individual prospect, this is my close on the price: “The fee for this program is $XXX or $XX per month. Does that work with your budget right now?” They will think and say, “yes, no,” or “it depends.” Then work out the details, discuss issues about payment, etc. If they really don’t have the money and this is the only thing that’s standing in the way, there’s not much else you can do.
With bigger business prospects, you’ll ask a similar question: “Can you fit this program into your budget for training (or coaching or whatever) this year?” They may say yes, but more often they’ll say they need to run it past some people. That’s fine, but ask them if they can give you an answer by a certain date. They may get back to you with more questions, suggest alternatives, or negotiate the price before the final approval.
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