Our lives as professionals marketing our own services would be much easier if clients would simply read our sales copy and decide to hire us. But in the real world, it rarely works that way. Instead, we must have conversations with our prospects before a sale takes place — sometimes several conversations.
These selling conversations can seem difficult or intimidating, but they don’t have to be.
Here are four simple steps to turn conversations into paying clients:
Step 1. What do you need?
Keys to success: Being curious. Listening. Letting go of assumptions.
Begin every sales conversation by asking prospects to tell you about their needs, and listen carefully to what they tell you. Forget about what you think they should want, and pay attention to what they really do want.
Common mistakes: Starting with Step 2 instead, or beginning Step 2 too soon.
Even when prospects start the conversation by asking you to describe your services, take a moment to find out more about them first. When prospects tell you their problems and goals, they are handing you the secrets of how to sell to them successfully.
Step 2. Here’s what I have.
Keys to success: Matching what you have to what they need as specifically as possible.
Describe your services in direct response to the needs your prospects tell you about. If they’re in a hurry, tell them how you can work quickly. If they want accuracy, describe your attention to detail. Use the same words and phrases they used, and speak to the same issues they did.
Common mistakes: Sharing features and processes instead of benefits and results.
When prospects ask how you work, what they really want to know is what results you produce, not the steps you follow to get there. They want to hear what benefits your services have for them, not an inventory of all the bells and whistles included in your service package.
Step 3. Is there a match?
Keys to success: Collaborating with your prospect. Consulting or coaching instead of persuading.
You’ll make more sales when you and your prospects are on the same side, instead of being adversaries. Act as if they have already hired you, and help them solve their problem. Don’t just talk about how you could help; show them what it’s like to work with you.
Common mistakes: Ignoring your prospects’ concerns. Becoming defensive. Trying to coax prospects to buy.
Every concern a prospect has is legitimate. Acknowledge each one and explore together what resolution might be possible. Stay focused on their needs instead of your own. Trying to convince prospects you know more about what’s right for them than they do will backfire.
Step 4. Will you hire me?
Keys to success: Asking a yes or no question, then waiting for an answer.
Once you’ve completed the first three steps, it’s time to ask your prospects if they are ready to work with you. Be sure you’ve resolved their concerns from Step 3. Ask a direct question; don’t wait for them to offer. Then stop talking until they reply.
Common mistakes: Asking too soon. Not asking at all. Giving them reasons not to buy.
Don’t talk yourself out of a sale by bringing up their concerns again when you ask if they’re ready to get started. For example, “Would you like to work with me? I know you said the price was higher than you planned, but…” Just ask, and wait.
The good news is that once you arrive at Step 4, the answer is rarely “no.”
If your services aren’t a good fit for your prospects’ needs, you’ll find that out by the time you get to Step 3. (And in that case, you won’t be asking for their business at all.) You’re more likely to hear a reason they wish to delay their decision. Help them determine a timeframe for making up their minds, and set a date to resume the conversation at Step 3.
If selling conversations are challenging for you, rehearse these steps with a friend, colleague, or coach playing the role of prospect. Once you become more comfortable with the process, you’ll find your prospects begin to relax also, and these conversations will become easier for both of you. And that will lead naturally to more sales.