“Getting Your Foot in the Door with Prospects” by Tom Abbott, Soho Sales Coaching on pages 52-53 of the Oct-Dec 2010 edition of The Singapore Marketer
Before I started coaching sales managers and delivering in-house sales training, I was a top-performing financial services agent. Well, I wasn’t always a top-performer…and I certainly didn’t start out as one. I remember running appointments on those cold winter days in Canada, freezing outside prospects’ homes because I forgot to confirm our appointments. It’s impossible to close sales if you can’t even get your foot in the door! Here’s a shortcut you can take to getting your foot in the door with prospects by implementing the following three strategies:
Creating scripts for scheduling appointments
Don’t wing it! It’s important to develop scripts for leaving voicemail messages, leaving messages with assistants (gatekeepers) and when speaking directly with your prospective customers.
Be clear about the purpose of your call. Is it to inform, remind or persuade? Often, it’s to persuade the prospect to agree to scheduling an appointment with you. Most people naturally begin the conversation by asking “how are you?” but that can sometimes appear insincere. Try asking “have you got two minutes?” to show that you respect their time. Be sure to use your qualifying questions to avoid wasting time and ensure you’re speaking to the right person. Use language that resonates with your prospect and shows that you understand their challenges. Tell them you’re only looking for 20 minutes of their time at their office and ask “what works better, mornings or afternoons? Tuesdays or Thursdays?”. Try asking “what other decision-makers do you think should join our meeting?”.
Be sure to schedule the appointment for as soon after the call as possible to keep the momentum and be sure to send them a reminder 24 hours before to confirm. Don’t read your script, know your script. Practicing in front of the mirror and rehearsing it with colleagues and your coach can be very effective. Be sure to track the number of calls you make, the number of contacts you speak with, the number of appointments scheduled, etc. It’s all about numbers and what you can measure, you can improve.
Creating a needs assessment for prospects
Many of us make the mistake of trying to sell our products or services (prescriptions) before fully understanding our prospects’ most pressing challenges (symptoms). Could you imagine your doctor handing you a prescription before taking the time to fully understand your symptoms? Of course not. That’s why we create a needs assessment to use as a checklist or diagnostic tool with our prospective customers.
The needs assessment is a benchmarking tool which compares your prospective customers’ process or method to what you, as the expert, consider to be the industry standard or best practice. It provides a snapshot of the performance of their business (or personal life) and helps them understand where they are in relation to a particular standard. The result is often a case for making changes in order to make improvements. That’s where you come in.
So how do you begin creating a needs assessment? You could start by looking at your offering, approach, philosophy, process, etc. Then rephrase these statements in the form of scale questions where your prospective customers rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10. You could send the needs assessment to your prospective customer, ask them to complete it, and return it to you prior to the appointment. This will allow you to customize your presentation to specifically address their challenges. You can now see how it could be useful as a sales tool because it positions you as knowledgeable in your field and ultimately as an ideal solution provider.
Engaging prospects effectively
New customers are consumers or businesses who have purchased your products or used your services once. New clients are consumers or businesses who have purchased your products or used your services a second time. Maturing clients are consumers or businesses who have purchased your products or used your services for over three consecutive months.
So how do you engage prospects, customers and clients to move throughout your sales funnel? Referrals from existing clients, speaking engagements, our YouTube channel, Facebook page, Soho Sales Blog, Facebook page, and free needs assessments engage prospects to use our services. What specific things could you do to engage prospects to become new customers? New customers are granted approval to follow us on Twitter and have exclusive access to our locked Twitter updates with answers to their sales-related questions. New clients are spotlighted on our Facebook page which gives them even greater exposure. What specific things could you do to engage new clients to become maturing clients? Maturing clients receive subscriptions to sales-related magazines and discounts on our services. What specific things could you do to engage your maturing clients to remain loyal and refer to quality leads?
When I’m working with Directors and sales managers within SMEs and MNCs, I encourage their sales teams to implement the following three strategies: (1) creating scripts for scheduling appointments and ensuring you’re dealing with decision-makers; (2) creating a needs assessment which positions you as someone who could provide solutions moving forward and; (3) engaging prospects effectively which helps them move more quickly throughout your sales funnel.
Originally published in The Singapore Marketer October-December issue