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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

THE COLD, HARD TRUTH: Prospecting 101, Part 9

The Cold, Hard Truth with Gabriel Siegel

THE BOTTOM LINE: If you wish to self destruct as an entrepreneur, bring hubris and ego to the table. Your prospect is not buying you! Your prospect has three concerns:
  • How can you save me money?
  • How can you help me make more money?
  • How will your product/service improve my quality of life or enhance my lifestyle?
Your function is to “ferret out” those concerns. You accomplish this through the use of judicious questioning and listening.

I received a great number of emails asking why I don’t respond to Social Networking inquiries. This subject has also come up at PROSPECTING ROUNDTABLES. The financial planner whom I mentioned in earlier articles, made the following observation:

To make a living in our business, we need to look for serious money. I’ve discovered that in 20 years in this business real money can only come from two sources: referrals and cold calling with face-to-face interviews”.

On the subject of emails, one of his partners made the following observation: “One of my wealthiest clients has no email and another uses email only to stay in touch with their (sic) family. This creates a problem for some of our younger producers who grew up relying on automation as a primary mechanism for establishing contacts. To be successful, they’ve had to re-orient their thinking and adjust their prospecting efforts”.

Another email offers the following observation: “In my business (event planning) we need to have a presence on social networking sites. This may (on rare occasions) result in an invitation to present our service. However, a potential client will often call in several companies who are competitors. I’ve learned by reading your articles that we need to ask good questions and respond to a client’s concerns. This allows me to tailor my presentation. Do we get all the business? No! But our closing and referral rate has definitely increased. I’m firmly convinced that social networking by itself is not a viable mechanism for developing new clients”.

The largest number of emails I received concerned the use of questioning before presenting a service. Most agreed that asking questions saves time and aggravation. Of course not all concurred. Some felt the use of my type of questions was “intrusive”. One writer went on to say “That prospect is buying me!” Nonsense! The prospect is buying what you can do for them.

I received this email from a reader. I should also mention that the writer and I have had several phone conversations:

Dear Gabriel:

“I’m a dedicated follower of your columns because I’m thoroughly sold on the idea of cold calling and being able to ask questions before I waste time offering my services (IT Consultant) which may be of no benefit to a prospect. My wife, a retired high school guidance counselor and a friend of hers, started a college advisory service. They’ve had many inquiries and meetings, but few have become clients. I suggested she read your articles on prospecting and questioning. The problem, it seems is that too many parents have unlikely aspirations for average students and will go to a service that caters to these fantasies. They now ask, before an interview, for a student’s transcript. To “weed out” those with unrealistic expectations, they now ask ‘If you have to be truthful and realistic, what was it you are hoping we could do for you’? They also ask ‘How open are you to possible alternatives?’ In our community, they are now a recommended college advisory service. Questioning works; if you’re open and willing to using it!”

Too many salespeople are reluctant to ask for referrals. They’ll often send a thank you card to a new client and enclose a return envelope for names hoping that it gets filled out. As many have told me, it rarely does. When I’m looking for referrals, I’ve found the following to be effective:

“I ask for referrals because it saves me time prospecting for new clientele and allows me to respond to existing clients in a more timely manner. Do you know of anyone else who can use my services? Would you be willing to give their name and number”?

Do we get “no”? Of course we do. But we also get referrals we wouldn’t have gotten it we didn’t ask.

At one of our PROSPECTING ROUNDTABLES, a participant who uses that referral-getting technique has extended it to when he doesn’t make the sale. This participant has a successful service company, built entirely on cold calling. He says:

“I know there’s nothing I can do for you at this time. However, do you know anyone who can use my services? Would you be willing to share their name and number with me”?

This takes guts. But it does work! You need to ask for the referral. You will not get them automatically or by accident.

A client of mine, who is a successful web designer, told me this story: He cold called a small local business and got an appointment to see both owners. The objective was to help them develop a stronger web presence. One of the partners who was skeptical of bringing in an outsider (or spending money), told him “I got (sic) a nephew who’s good with computers”. Every web designer has heard this, or something similar.

My client said (restating the objection):

“Help me out. I’m confused. Is it fair to assume that your nephew who is good with computers is also good with your business”? Dead silence. “Okay, I understand. Maybe we’re just wasting time here, but, I need to ask you if you have an accountant. I’m sure you do and I’m sure you trust him with your business because he’s a professional. Would you trust him with your health? Of course not! You would go to your physician. This is what I don’t understand: Why would you trust your company’s health to someone who is ‘good with computers’ but not a professional. Does that make sense”?

My client went on to ask:

“When I spoke to you on the phone, you told me you were looking to develop a stronger web presence. Could you share with me what you mean by a ‘stronger web presence’”?

For many, this encounter would have been a no sale event. My client did three very correct things:
  • He acknowledged the objection and restated it.
  • He asked a simple question in response to the objection.
  • He asked the client to clarify the reason why he was invited to their office.
Is this man a super “salesman”? No. But he appreciates that he must sell his services and overcoming objections are part of that process. He has another observation. Many of his clients are older entrepreneurs who, while understanding the need for a web presence, have to be educated as to its value and what it can do for them. If you’re wondering, he did get the job.

Another web designer uses the following statement when in front of a new client:

“We have two choices here. You can have a simple web design or presence because everyone else has one, or you can use the web, and my services, to create a salesperson for you. Which makes more sense for your business”?

In both these cases, neither of the presenters used fancy terminology or buzz words. The first designer dealt “head on” with the objection and the second laid the groundwork for a full presentation based on the client’s wishes.

At one of our PROSPECTING ROUNDTABLES a participant noted that some prospects feel “pre- packaged” web designs are as effective as anything a professional web designer can accomplish. Basically, what you’re being told is that your prospect can achieve the same results as you without the expense or your expertise and/or experience. Some of our readers and PROSPECTING ROUNDTABLE participants have come up with some excellent responses to this objection and I will be sharing them with you in my next article. I would be interested to hear how our readers would respond to this objection.

We’re interested in hearing from our readers on how they handled objections they received from prospects. I would also welcome hearing about objections which you feel have cost you a sale. Feel free to E mail me with your ideas, problems and suggestions.

In my next article, I will discuss additional strategies for overcoming objections and respond to reader’s concerns with problems in the sales process.

For anyone wishing to share thoughts or comments, the writer can be reached at I respond to emails quicker and more thoughtfully than I do when contacted on social networking sites.

For more information, please visit Gabriel's TNNWC Bio.

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