Have you told the client what they’re supposed to do next?
At the conclusion of a needs analysis meeting, I often ask the client to email me something.
Usually it’s an example of advertising they’re doing elsewhere. Sometimes it’s a copy of a brochure or flyer.
I do this for two reasons:
The obvious reason: I want to see or hear their existing advertising.
The under-the-surface reason: It’s a test.
The act of sending the email is often more important than what’s in the email. If the client does what I ask them to do, they’re interested and engaged.
I’ve occasionally received emails while I’m in the car on the way to the next appointment — that means the client’s excited and eager to see what I come up with.
Sometimes it takes a day or two, and a reminder call from the AE, to get the material. Not to worry — the client’s interested but busy.
Sometimes it never comes at all. If they can’t be bothered to send a simple email, it usually means they’re not particularly interested in the process.
What Should The Client Do Next?
We often talk about a call-to-action in advertising…giving the target viewer or listener a specific action to take.
What’s often lost is that there should always be a similar instruction in every sales interaction. Each step of the way, you want the client to do something that brings them closer to making a purchase.
Before each call or meeting, ask yourself two questions:
1. What, exactly, do I want the client to do when this conversation is over? This is Plan A.
2. If they’re not willing to do that, what’s Plan B? What else could I have them do?
If you’re presenting a proposal, Plan A is likely to be closing the sale — a binding signature on an order.
What if they’re not willing to sign?
Plan B could be the client telling you what specific changes to the offering are needed, what additional information if necessary…
…but that’s not enough.
If you’re going to re-work the proposal, what’s the client going to do?
Your prospective client tells you they’ll get back to you with a time for a follow up meeting. You agree, deciding it’s okay to wait for them to call or email you. You have lost control of the process. You are now working on your client’s timeline, and that means it’s going to take you longer to win their business—should they get back to you—and you are going to postpone the time it takes to provide them with the best results to win.
In an acceptable Plan B scenario, the client must agree to take an action as well. Ideally, it’s an agreement for a follow-up appointment at which, if you make their requested changes, they will agree to buy.
Keep in mind: “Why don’t you call me some time next week?” is not an appointment. An appointment has a date, time, and location, and it goes on both of your calendars.
Without that commitment, you’ve got nothing.
Years ago in my radio sales days, I made a cold call to the owner of an office supply business. I asked for a meeting, and the prospect asked me to send information instead.
I pushed for a meeting and got nowhere. So I wrapped up the call this way:
Me: Can I ask you a question?
Me: If I send you information, are you going to read it?
Him: (pause) Probably not.
Me: Then why should I send it to you?
Him: Then don’t send it!
Me: I won’t!
I may have hung up on him. He may have hung up on me. It may have been simultaneous.
But I knew what I needed to know — if he couldn’t commit to reading my information, he wasn’t a prospect.
Sales is a series of commitments on both sides. Decide an action, and a Plan B action for your prospect to take, and insist on a commitment.
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