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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

One of the most frequent comments I hear from my clients is: "If I could just get a meeting with a qualified prospect, I know I could turn them into a paying client."

Well, last week, I shared how to Reach Out and Touch Someone and get meetings with qualified prospects. So if you haven't read that, yet, make sure to do. 

And this week, even though many clients say turning a qualified prospect into a paying client is no big deal, I'm still going to share my six-step process with you. 

Because I know it is a big deal for many independent professionals; converting a higher percent of these prospects into clients can make a big difference to the bottom line. For instance, increasing your close rate from two out of five to three out of five means a 50% increase in new clients!

I've refined these steps over my 30-year career and they not only work, they also eliminate the need to use any kind of pressure or manipulation to get results. This is an authentic selling process.

Again, this process happens in a focused meeting (I sometimes call it a strategy session) that consists of several conversations, which ultimately lead to a new client agreeing to work with you.

Here is a step-by-step guide to how this system works.  

1. Conversation for Exploration

The heart of the selling conversation is exploring your prospective client's situation and challenges. 

You want to ask a *lot* of questions to really understand their:

Situation - What's happening now, what's working, details about how their business works or how their life works if this is a personal service.

Challenges – What's not working, why they are frustrated, what they have tried up to this point, and what they keep coming up against.

This is the longest part of the selling conversation – and requires about 75% of the time, in my experience. Your aim is to really understand why this prospect needs your services. It's like a diagnosis. Without it, how can you recommend a course of action?

Another part of this exploration conversation is to share some examples and stories related to the answers they give to your questions. I might say at some point:

"Janet, I want you to know that struggling with your marketing isn't unusual. Almost all independent professionals experience similar struggles. The good news is that it's something you can get much better at."

I do not attempt to pitch my services at any time during this conversation. That's a turnoff. But I do give the prospect a lot of assurance that they can succeed at their marketing. I give the prospect hope: 

"Charles, that difficulty you're having with your marketing message is just what I experienced. It took some time, but instead of worrying about the perfect words, I just got out there, met a lot of people and practiced my message until I found one that got the attention I wanted. You can do that as well to come up with a great message."

It sure helps if you've gone through the same challenges your prospect has. But if you haven't, you can share some client stories. Here's one I use: 

"Practically every client I've worked with has found writing to be a challenge. I'm particularly proud of one client who had written practically nothing for her business. But with some support, direction and tips she's become an excellent writer. In fact, I think she's better than me! Her writing is concise and pithy. Now when she reaches out with emails she gets response right away. The good news is that anyone can learn this."

By trying several examples and stories you get better and better at this, until you have a repertoire to draw on. 

Perhaps the most important aspects of the exploration conversation relate to your attitude, tone, interest and enthusiasm. I always have fun in these conversations and get excited about what is possible for clients if they improve their marketing. 

You can build a lot of trust in this conversation if you do it well. You've listened closely, gone deep enough to discover the most pressing challenges and issues and shown, through various examples, that you can help them succeed.  

2. Conversation for Possibility

Once you understand your prospect's situation and challenges, you want to talk about the future. What objectives do they want to attain? You can keep this simple:

"Janet, if we worked together, can you tell me the results you'd like to see?"

"Charles, if we ended up working in our Profit Program, what specifically do you want to achieve?"

You want to listen closely and really get what it is they want. And you need to be sure that this is something you can actually help them with. Then you want to feed this back *in their own words.*

"OK, you want to see an increase in your profits of 20% or more in the first year, correct?" 

This part of the conversation might not take too long, but you need to go deep enough so they see a new future for themselves. Ultimately, prospects "buy the future" from you. And if this future is not compelling enough, they won't buy it. 

3. Conversation for Clarity

Next, you present your solution (service or program) that will help them achieve their goals. Note, that if you sent (and they've read) some detailed information on your services, you don't need to tell a lot. This is what I usually say:

"OK, Janet, you've read over all the detailed information about my services that are designed to get you the results we've been talking about. Do you have any questions about those services?"

What I've noticed is that most have read the information on my services very completely. They mostly understand what I offer and they may have a few questions to help them be crystal clear about how my services can help them.  

Once I've answered their final questions, I usually say:

"Janet, if we were to work together, there are a few things you'd need to do to increase the chances of success." Then I name various requirements of working with me. "OK, if you can do those things, I'd be happy to work with you."

I'm not asking the client, at this point, if they want to work with me. I'm telling them that I want to work with them. But at no point am I really *persuading or pushing* my prospect to work with me. 

Now you're ready to move things forward.  

4. Conversation for Commitment

Now it's time to ask if they think your services are right for them. Here are a couple ways to say it:

"OK Charles, based on our conversation so far, do you think the Profit Program is right for you?"

"Janet, do you feel that my business coaching services would get you the results you're looking for?

It's really that simple. In a large percentage of cases, they will say yes. Closing doesn't need to be tricky or manipulative.

And then I'll, say, "Do you have any other questions?

If they don't know your fees yet, they'll usually ask, "What are the fees for your services or program?" And I'll answer in the next conversation. 

5. Conversation for Fees

Sometimes a person will not answer the above question about the service or program being right for them until they know your fees. This is what I say:

"OK, we'll talk about the fees the very next thing. But I just want to know, other than the fees, do you feel that this program is a good fit for you?" 

I want to know if there's a fit. If there isn't I won't even talk about the fees. We're done. But if they say it feels like a fit, then they've made a commitment at a certain level. And then it's easy to talk about fees. 

If they are not sure it's a fit, you can explore more about what they want and answer other questions they may have. 

I'll explain the fees in a very straightforward way: "The fee for this program is $XXXX in total which is $XXX per month. Can you make that work for your budget right now?"

I've already rewceived a yes that they want to work with me. Now I'm just confirming that they can afford it. This works really well.  

6. Conversation for Action

Now that the client has agreed to work with me, I'm on third base in Marketing Ball (If you are unfamiliar with Marketing Ball, get the Marketing Plan Workbook here for free). I just need to finalize things.

The final conversation gets them to home and ready to start. 

"OK, Janet and Charles, if you're ready to get started I'd like to put our first meeting on the calendar. In that first meeting we'll cover ABC and XYZ. And I'd like to send you a little preparation work before that meeting – some reading and a few exercises. And I'll also send you a shopping cart link so you can pay for your first month of the program. You can pay a day or two before that first meeting. Sound good?"

The sample conversations above are for offering a business-to-business service, usually for a small business. It also works for offering individual or personal services such as life coaching or nutrition counseling.

You can also use the same process when selling to a larger business, but because their businesses are more complex, the conversations tend to be longer and may span several meetings. 

I hope that breaking all these steps of the selling conversation into these six different conversations have helped to make the process easier. If you have any questions, please respond with the comments in the form below. 

Cheers, Robert

P.S. Would you be interested in having a conversation like this with me regarding creating more clients? Right now, I have two spaces open. Just go here:

http://actionplan.com/mastery-sessions

Read the page and then fill out the questionnaire at the bottom if you'd like to talk to me and explore your marketing situation. 

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Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, and individual coaching and consulting through his Marketing Action Coaching. If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the Marketing Plan Workbook and join the Marketing Club Forum for free.