I’m going to start this blog post with a very bold statement: this might be the best sales article you’ll ever read. I know: that’s a really big claim, but I think I won’t let you down. Enjoy!
Partner with Your Clients
If you think of yourself as a salesperson, you’ll never succeed. You’ll think that your goal is to sell and people hate to be sold. Think of yourself as a consultant and help your clients make the best possible decision (whether that’s buying from you or not). I don’t even know how many times clients wanted to hand me money and I decided not to take it. If I don’t truly believe we can help a client, I just don’t take their money. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense. This is why:

  1. Some of these people will come back to you at one point
  2. They know you’re honest and they’re very likely to send you business
  3. People talk. If you service a client and they don’t get the results they expected, they’ll tell all their friends about it. Do this a few times and you’ll ruin your reputation forever. Not only as a company, but as an individual as well.
  4. If a prospect doesn’t fit your ideal client criteria, they’ll suck up a lot of your time, which will cause you to sidetrack and waste time you could be spending servicing great clients.

Learn what Your Real Goal Is
If you think that your goal is to “close the deal”, you’re wrong. Your goal is to help your prospects make a decision (whether it’s “yes” or “no”) as early in the sales process as possible. If someone isn’t a good fit, the sooner you find out, the less time you’ll waste.
Make Sure They Like You
People do business with people they like. If you don’t establish rapport early in the process, chances are the prospect won’t even pay attention when you talk and I can guarantee they won’t be willing to answer any of your questions. Or, they’ll just give you the answers that will get you out of the door as soon as possible.
Deliver Value
What can you give your prospects that has so much value that they feel that they HAVE to talk to you? I spend an hour doing a complimentary website and search engine optimization analysis before I call any prospect. I then spend about half an hour on the phone giving them ideas to improve their sites and Google rankings. I normally charge $475/hour for consulting so I know every person I talk to gets a lot of value. I believe in giving away as much as possible. The way I see it, if it’s a good fit, I got a new client; and if it isn’t, I just helped a business improve their marketing and increase their sales, which is an amazing feeling.
Don’t Assume Anything. Ever.
The number one reason prospects don’t do business with you is because you didn’t ask enough questions. You assumed things that you were wrong about. Ask more questions. A lot more.
Ask How Bad They Want a Solution
This is one of my favorite questions: “on a scale from 1 to 10, how important is it to your company to get these results?” If the answer is lower than seven, they might not be a good fit.
Ask “Why Now?”
Try these questions:

  • “You’ve been in this situation for five years. Why do you want to do this now?”
  • “Have you ever tried to do something like this before?” If they say “yes, but nothing happened”, ask “what’s different now?” If nothing is different, chances are that the outcome will be the same.

Ask About their Goals
This is tied to one of my points above: “don’t assume anything”. Different people want things for different reasons. Ask what they want to accomplish, why they want to accomplish it and how reaching a certain goal will improve the company’s situation.
Establish Value Before You Talk About Price
If I start a sales meeting talking about how much our services cost, half of our prospects will run out of the door as fast as possible. So we talk about value first. Investing $2,000 a month to make $25,000 is a really good deal, but if you start talking about the cost, you’ll lose your prospects really fast.
Learn How to Address Early Pricing Questions
What should you do if prospects ask about price before you talk about value? This is what I say: “at this point I don’t know how much this is going to cost. We have clients that invest $1,000 a month and clients that invest $25,000 a month. I’d like to ask you a few questions to understand what your goals are so I can tell you how much it would cost. Would this be OK?”
Turn Soft Issues into Hard Currency
We talked about establishing value and it’s important to say that value has to be measured in dollars. Here’s an example:

  • Prospect: “I want to rank my website number one one Google”
    You: “Great! Let’s find out how much revenue being number one on Google can help you generate”

There’s no way that someone can decide if ranking #1 on Google is worth $1,000 a month unless you establish how many dollars the outcome is worth.
Ask These Four Difficult Questions
Once you’ve talked about value, one of two things can happen:

  • They’ll make (or save) more money than your solution will cost, which means is a good deal.
  • It’s not a good deal, in which case you should pat yourself on the back for coming to this conclusion early in the sales process.

But sometimes, although the deal makes sense to you, the prospect doesn’t feel the same way. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to ask the following questions:

  • “On a scale from 1 to 10, how confident are you that these results can be achieved?”
  • “On a scale from 1 to 10, how confident are you in our ability to deliver these results?”
  • “Do you think you can get a better value somewhere else?” (Some people are really afraid of bringing up competitors into the conversation. Do you think your prospects don’t know there are other companies that can do the same thing you do? You need to know what other options they’re evaluating so you can help them make a smart decision, even if that is admitting that your competitor has a better deal and they should go with them.)
  • “Is doing this in-house a possibility?” “Is doing nothing a possibility?”
  • “At this point, is there enough interest for us to keep talking?”
  • “Can you think of any reason that might stop us from working together?”

These questions are extremely important because the approach you take depends on what they answer.

  • If they don’t believe that the results you’re talking about are realistic, you’ll need to revise them with your prospect.
  • If they don’t believe in your ability to deliver results, ask them what they’d need to see to increase their confidence in you. Providing evidence that you’ve produced similar results for other clients in a similar situation is huge.
  • If they think they can get a better value somewhere else, help them compare apples to apples and make a smart decision.
  • If they’re considering doing it in-house, do a list of pros and cons with your prospect and help them make a good decision, whether that’s going with you or using internal resources.

If Something Doesn’t Make Sense, Bring It Up
Sometimes prospects say things that don’t make a lot of sense. Don’t be afraid to say something like, “I’m confused. Yesterday you mentioned that you want to increase your sales and you just said that you’re happy with your current sales. Would you mind clarifying that for me, please?”
Ask Questions and Customize Your Answers
When a prospect asks me to tell them about my company and what we do, I say, “I’d love to. Is there anything specific you’d like to know?” and “I could talk for hours about SEO, would you mind telling me what your company does so I can give you an answer that is relevant to you?”
Ask for Clarification
Things mean different things to different people. If someone tells you that they’re not happy with their current vendor, ask why and how they would describe the perfect vendor. If someone says your offering is too expensive, they might be saying:

  • “I found it cheaper something else”
  • “I don’t think it’s worth the price”
  • “I don’t have the money”
  • “I have the money and I think it’s a good value, but I always negotiate for better deals”

The only way to know what they mean is to ask.
Bring Up All Your Concerns
If you have a concern, bring it up. Some examples:

  • “Sure, I’d love to send you a proposal. I’m concerned that you might take a look at the proposal and then nothing will happen. Do you think this might be the case?”
  • “I’m concerned that your partner will kill this project in a month or two, just as it happened last year. Do you think this is a possibility?”
  • “When I talked about the cost of our services it looked like it would be a deal breaker. Is this the case or am I completely off-base?”

Sometimes we think that if we ignore a problem, the problem doesn’t exist. Bring it up and see what happens. Brutally honest conversations are crucial to signing up new clients (or discovering that they’re not a good fit for your company).
Use Proposals to Confirm, Not to Explore
Many salespeople send proposals and THEN they try to find out if the prospect is interested in their services. When you do this, the chances of your proposal being accepted are below 10%. And once a prospect says “no”, a comeback isn’t very likely. Come to an agreement first and then put it in writing. This is what proposals are. They exist to confirm what has already been agreed upon.
One of my favorite questions is, “Let’s fast forward two days. I send you the proposal and it contains everything we talked about today and the cost is what we agreed upon. What will happen next?” This question rocks.
Ask What They Want to Know
Another question I love: “What information will you need to see in the proposal that will enable you to make a decision (one way or the other, and “no” is a perfectly OK answer)?”
Ask If There’s Enough Interest
After your do your presentation, ask “at this point I’d like to know if there’s enough interest for us to continue talking about this.”
Talk to the Decision Makers
The biggest mistake I’ve made in my sales career was talking to the wrong people (or not talking to ALL the decision makers). You can’t rely on your contact person to sell your services for you. Try this:

  • “Would you mind walking me through your decision making process?”
  • “When do you think you’ll be making a decision?”
  • “Who will be involved in the decision making process? Who else? Will anybody else have a say in it?”
  • Ask for a conference call or a meeting with ALL the decision makers. If your contact person refuses, say this, “in my experience, our clients have questions that only we can answer. I’m concerned that if I don’t talk to all the people involved in making this decision there will be questions left unanswered.”
  • If they still don’t want to let you talk to the person who will be making the decision, what you do next is up to you. I personally choose not to work with that company. I believe in partnering with my clients and if they don’t have enough time to meet with me, I don’t consider that a valuable partnership. You might want to try going for a smaller commitment. Instead of a one-hour presentation with the whole C-suite, ask for five minutes with the CEO over the phone.

Understand How the Decision Is Going to Be Made
I love these two questions:

  • ” Do you mind sharing what other options you are exploring?”
  • “What criteria will you use to decide one company over the others?”

Don’t Do Something for Nothing
Two examples:

  • “Sure, I’d love to do this keyword research for you. Once you get it, what would be the next step?”
  • “I’ll be happy to send you that competitive analysis. Is there anything else you’ll need to be able to make a decision (one way or the other)?”

Use These Four Tactics to Overcome Objections

  • When the prospect asks for something you can’t do: “We don’t do affiliate marketing, but we do everything else you need. Would this be a deal breaker?”
  • When the prospect asks for something unrealistic: “I’m curious: has someone else offered to do this for you?”
  • Find out what their real concern is. If they say, “I’m concerned with your lack of experience”, you can say, “Thank you for being so direct. May I ask why experience is so important to you?” If they say, “because I’ve found that a more experienced team is more likely to answer emails faster”, you can say, “if we could answer emails as fast as more experienced teams, would lack of experience still be an issue?”
  • Use the “feel, felt, found” technique. It works like this: “I completely understand how you FEEL about giving up control over your website to someone from outside your company. Many other clients have FELT the same way before. I think what they FOUND is that because they can review everything before it goes live they’re in as much control as they’ve always been.”

Learn How to Handle Pricing Objections
When prospects object about your price, do this:

  • Make sure that pricing is the last issue on the table: “let’s say we agree on price. What would happen next?” If they say, “we’d go with you”, then it’s the last issue on the table. Otherwise, there are other things you need to address before you talk about price.
  • If you reduce price, make sure you reduce scope. Otherwise your prospects will feel that you were trying to rip them off before. Plus, your perceived value will immediately drop if you are willing to do the same amount of work for less.
  • If you’ve followed all the steps in this post and there’s still a price issue, chances are that the prospect found a better deal somewhere else or they’re just programmed to ask for a discount every time. Ask questions to find out why pricing is an issue.

Your Job Isn’t Done When the Contract Is Signed
And finally, the most important thing to keep in mind: keep clients happy. Check in with them regularly to see if you could do things better. Happy clients tend to want to do more business with you, sign bigger contracts and send more clients your way.
So, what do you think? Did you find this article useful?