As I like to remind my clients, the sales process is an awful lot like the dating process.
And if there is one thing that’s guaranteed to be a complete “turn off” for your potential client, it’s when you get into “chasing” mode. You know what I mean:
- 3 calls to their mobile in a day but they don’t pick up
- Messages like “Hi, it’s me, Catherine, I’m just checking in…” that sound casual but are fraught with tension
- Emails to follow up on the phone messages and texts to follow up on the emails
- And worst of all, stress and confusion on your part
This is what happens you slip into “chasing” mode. And the good news is that it’s completely avoidable.
Because remember, there was a time where your client hesitantly pursued you. They discovered you and found out what you do – maybe at networking, or online, or through a referral. They knew they had a need and when you told them clearly and articulately how you help people they had a glimmer of hope – “Maybe… just maybe this person could help me… “.
And so they tentatively entered into conversation with you. In their mind you were a professional, an expert at the thing that you do, and ideally qualified to help them – if they didn’t at least think that they wouldn’t be open to entering into this conversation at all.
And so you enter this “dance” of the sales process as two equals. One professional providing a service, the other a potential client seeking or exploring a service. Just like dating, you are figuring out if you are a good match. So far so good.
But then you get to the end of your initial consultation or Discovery Session and the client says they “need to think about it” or “to run it past their partner”. If they are a larger organisation, or you are putting together something bespoke for them they might ask to see a proposal.
And suddenly everything changes…..
They don’t get back to you when you expected them to.
And before you know it a few days or a week has gone by and you are making phone calls, leaving messages “just checking in” and “just following up”. You’ve called their mobile and not left a message but now they’ve seen your number – how many more times can you call them without looking like a stalker? You tangle yourself up in knots – Should I phone them or email them? I’ve already left 3 messages this week, at what point do I give up? Or should just get a sleeping bag and camp outside their front door and pounce on them when they come out in the morning?
So what went wrong?
You started out as two individuals going through a process of working out if you were a good fit for each other. It was a professional relationship of equals.
But now the relationship dynamic has shifted
You have morphed into a chasing, needy sales person, and they have become the king or queen of the interaction – all the control is in their hands. Soon, instead of respecting you as a valuable service provider they will start to feel put off by your advances.
So when my clients ask for help with these situations I do give them advice about how to turn it around. But what I really like to do is wag my finger at them while saying: “You really should never have got into this mess in the first place!”.
Because what this is really all about is maintaining control of your sales process.
As the service provider (whether that’s a coach, therapist or accountant) it is your job to lead the sales process, and your job to maintain control of it – for the sake of both you and the client. Because if you lose the clients respect and they shift from “hopeful and excited” to heartsink and hiding in the bathroom when they see your call you will never get to help them.
So, what to do?
Here are some tips:
1. Keep a Link in the Chain
Never get off a call or leave a meeting without agreeing the next connection point. Think of this as like a link in a chain, or a bridge between one part of the sales process and the next so that the client (and you) is never left free floating. So if your client needs to check their schedule or finances, don’t just say “get back to me when you are ready” instead agree the time when you will next speak and diarise it.
2. Build in a Deadline
This is why incorporating some sort of special offer is a great idea. Let the client know that if they want to go ahead with the your offer or proposal they need to let you know by Friday, or get their first session booked by the end of the month, or some other built in deadline.
3. Never just send a Proposal
And finally, never just “send a proposal”. Instead make the proposal verbally during a conversation and only send it in writing if the client agrees with it in principle. In the event that you can’t avoid sending a proposal make sure you maintain that Link I mentioned above and diarise a specific time when you will review it together.
What’s wonderful is that when you do this you never need to wonder if the client is still serious and interested. Even if the process of getting them signed up is a little convoluted, if they are turning up for those calls they are interested. And if they don’t turn up, they are probably not interested – and you can let go.
The key message here is never allow yourself to lose control of your sales process so much that all the power is in the client’s hands. When this happens it will always put you on the back foot and once you start “chasing” it is really hard to regain the relationship balance.
It’s easy, and it cuts out so much of the confusion and misery.
Let me know in the comments how you get on!