Whether on the phone or in person having a great sales conversation with a potential client is a vital step in creating the rapport and the trust required to turn a prospect into a business partnership.
I am a great believer in taking time to strengthen a relationship with your future client before delivering the sales pitch. You need to be in a position where the client is comfortable to share with you their aspirations and any challenges they may be facing.
It is about putting yourself in a position of trust.
With the opportunity to showcase your skills and expertise you become the “go-to” person when a similar problem arises that fits your experience. What you need is to be able to take that initial discussion to the next level, turning a conversation into a business relationship. In this the fifth in our series of articles about attracting the right type of clients we review the practical steps to take to ensure that all your conversations are successful and are leading you towards a flourishing and profitable relationship with your new client.
Knowing what to say
We can all get a little bit nervous when we are about to have a sales conversation with a potential client but if you prepare for the conversation and keep in mind that you want to make a sincere connection you will be one step closer to closing the deal. The components of great sales conversations normally consist of the following:
- Make time to have the conversation, don’t be a clock watcher, appearing rushed or hurried.
- Asking powerful questions (see my third article in the series on Communication).
- Accepting different views and new opinions.
- Listening (also covered in my third article on Communication).
When having a sales conversation bear in mind the following:
- It is important to come across as genuine; the key is to be yourself. However, you need to remember that you are having a sales conversation, not a nice chat, so it is important to move the conversation along through a sales process.
- Be warm and friendly. A firm handshake, smiling and eye contact will get a positive reaction from your client. If you are on the phone check the tone of your voice, make sure it’s relaxed and smile even though they can’t see you.
- A conversation means learning about the other person, finding common ground or interests. It could be hobbies, inspirations, school or families. You never know where you might find a connection but remember not to be too intrusive or personal – striking the right balance is really important.
Talking yourself into the sales call
There are some people that are naturally gifted when it comes to having a sales conversation. It is like a switch they can turn on and off. With little preparation they can be witty and charming, relaxed and making jokes so the prospective client feels at ease. The rest of us listen in awe. However, not everyone has that natural ability but everyone can have a successful sales conversation. Think about some of the most successful stand-up comedians we have in this country. They don’t just turn up and start talking hoping it will be funny. They write down everything they are going to say in a script, and then they rehearse and rehearse – perfect practice makes perfect delivery. Successful entreprenures do not leave it to chance and hope things will run smoothly, they stack the odds in their favour by doing the following:
- They enlist the help of business colleagues, their coach or friends to practice their sales conversations.
- They think about the questions the client might ask and prepare responses and they also think about the questions they don’t want to be asked and prepare responses.
- They are clear about their offer and know why they are worth it.
- They speak with passion about their business. If you speak from your head, you will come across very business-like and rationale. There is nothing wrong with this but you have to be careful you don’t appear cold and detached. If you speak from the heart you take the rapport and trust to a deeper level and your client will most likely speak from the heart as well. Speaking from the heart means being more attuned to your intuition and letting it guide the conversation.
Choosing a style that suits you
There are many sales processes on the market you need to find the one that works for you. Below is the process I use which has provided me with many a profitable client.
- Understand their reality. Step into their world and see through their eyes the challenges they are facing. Let the client talk but make sure that you ask powerful questions to open up the conversation.
- Awaken their problems. If you client has some issues facing their business there is a strong possibility that they have already been living with the pain of these problems. So you need to dig around a bit to really get the pain out so you can understand it better. Some questions to consider asking are: What will it mean if you haven’t change in two years? What will it look like? How will you feel about that?’ The aim here is to get your prospective client in touch with what they are really living with.
- Find out what their commitment to change is. For example, “On a scale of 1-10 how committed are you to making a change?” Ask, “Is there anything that could get in the way of you making this change?”
- Deal with objections. These are like potatoes hidden under ground.
- Get your client to build a compelling future, if it lends itself ask them to visualise their future with this change that you can help them make.
- Present the client with the solution to their problem – it’s you. Use their words when presenting the solution, provide certainty, be confident, address any issues that are important to the client, use social proof.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about the money, you can do this at the beginning or the end of your sales conversation. The best times is at the end, so hopefully your pitch has ensured the only answer they have is ‘yes’. My personal view is if you talk about the money too soon it might end the conversation abruptly. You may get to the end of the conversation and the answer may still be no but the prospective client will know a lot more about you and your business and you will know a lot more about them.
- Finally the close – this is where you need to ask for the business but first ascertain if there is anyone else involved in the decision making process. Once you have established that then express how you feel about working with them. Clients like to hear that their job is exciting and something you would love to work on and then take that brave step and ask how they would like to commence work with you.
Turning a sales conversation into a business transaction is about building a relationship. Understanding a client’s needs and expectations helps shape your understanding of how you can match your expertise and experience to them. In my view no sales conversation is a wasted opportunity providing you have qualified the lead before you invest your time; even when the answer is ‘no’ and the contract is awarded to someone else, no doesn’t mean never it just means not now. Keep in contact with your prospect and at some point they will do one of two things, recommend you to someone else or buy your services at a later date. Put in the groundwork and build a relationship. It might not bear fruit from the very beginning but if the roots are in place it will last a lifetime.