This series is dedicated to service professionals, marketers and consultants who have no tangible product to sell; no pretty colors to impress customers, no zoom photos, no return policies, no sale prices or clearance racks; just their time, their experience and their brains – because it’s often easier to get customers to buy a plastic trinket that will end up in next month’s garage sale than a valuable service that can’t be seen or touched.
Tip #1: Qualify Your Leads
Hopefully the obvious-factor here hasn’t made you give up reading yet, because the fact is that many of us simply fail to qualify leads before attempting to sell our services. We. Just. Want. The. Job.
Maybe it’s a slow month or a bad economy or a matter of pride and principle. Often we’re convinced of our superior powers of persuasion and think we can sell ice cubes to Eskimos (even if we can’t come up with better clichés). Whatever the reason, we go out to prospecting meetings armed with a handful of brochures and a brainful of benefit points only to find out that our prospect…
- Has a budget somewhere in the vicinity of the price of a hot dog and soda.
- Thinks what we do can be accomplished in five minutes by an iguana with a keyboard.
- Has a cousin/brother/friend who does what we do and has already offered to do it in exchange for a hot dog and soda.
As much as you want the job, it pays to qualify your leads so that instead of wasting time meeting with the duds, you can spend it wisely seeking out the gems.
Does Your Prospect Need What You’re Offering?
This is different than a prospect wanting what you’re offering. I’ll give you an example out of my own live-and-learn guide. As a web marketer, I’m always ready to talk ideas and strategies, SEO and social media, user experience and customer retention.
Recently I went to a prospect meeting with a small furniture restoration company. Before meeting the client I already had great ideas for amazing photo galleries, before-and-after video testimonials and the first six blog posts. I walked in with my brochure and business cards, took copious notes on the service-area tour and put together a proposal for everything that got a head-nod from my prospect.
Not until one meeting, two phone calls and three weeks of being ignored later did I find out that my prospect didn’t really care much about her website, had no intention of using it to generate more business, and only wanted it because it made the company seem more “legitimate” in the event that someone looked them up online – which apparently wasn’t that often anyway.
What did I learn? My prospect would have taken anything I offered if it was cheap enough (which it wasn’t) but she didn’t actually need any of it.
So if you’re on your way to a prospecting meeting, or thinking about setting one up, ask yourself if your prospect needs what you’re offering. It could be a simple matter of posing the question before you engage in a full blown conversation and spend your valuable time courting a client who needs the hot dog in your filet mignon world.
Does Your Prospect Value What You Do?
Face it: there are some people you will never be able to convince that what you offer has value. These are the type of people who…
- Think they know everything.
- Know someone who thinks they know everything.
- Believe that even if they don’t know it, they can look it up online and figure out how to do it themselves over a weekend.
As a consultant or service provider it’s your job to convince a prospect that what you do has value because not everyone will understand it immediately. But that’s different than beating your head against the wall of know-it-all-ism. The good news is that it’s usually pretty easy to ferret out the know-it-alls unless you consciously turn a blind eye and over-convince yourself of your selling skills.
Know-it-alls have a pretty strong vibe. They’re usually confrontational up front, know just enough to be dangerous but not enough to be informed, and drop plenty of hints that they think they can do what you do, but choose not to because their time is way more valuable than yours.
If your prospect drops any of these subtle or not-so-subtle hints that you’re not as much of an expert as you think, it’s time to find a new prospect. If your prospect doesn’t quite understand what you do but sees you as a professional with a specific skill, there’s still room to convince.
Does Your Prospect Have A Budget You Can Work With?
When you can ask, do. When you can’t, put on your bloodhound nose and start sniffing for clues. You can usually get a sense of whether prospects think they can get the white glove service at the fast food price. This is different than a prospect who doesn’t understand the value of your services – yet. Sometimes you can educate prospects and sometimes they’re just price shopping.
- If your prospect has made up his mind that he’s not spending a penny over $12, then no amount of education will convince him otherwise.
- If he mentions a remarkable deal he got with another vendor, he’s price shopping and no matter what “deal” you offer he’ll probably go back to the first vendor and pit you against each other.
- If she insists that she only wants something “simple” you can almost always rest assured that means cheap.
A little common sense will help you ferret out the uneducated from the unwilling. And unless you want to get stuck in a downward spiral of diminishing profits, steer clear of the unwilling.
It’s not always easy or possible to do the qualifying before that first meeting. In a perfect world you could avoid unfruitful meetings altogether, but most of the time it takes that one meeting to realize whether you’ve got a gem, a diamond in the rough, or a total block of coal on your hands. In any case, it pays to qualify your leads before deciding whether it’s worth pursuing a customer.
Got a secret sauce for qualifying leads? Let us know!
Read More In The “Make The Sale” Series
- Tip 1: Qualify Your Leads
- Tip 2: Dress The Way You Want To Be Perceived
- Tip 3: Set Expectations
- Tip 4: Know Your S#*@
- Tip 5: Believe In Yourself
- Tip 6: Have A Personality
- Tip 7: Have Good Collateral Materials
- Tip 8: Don’t Sell Your Services
- Tip 9: Talk (And Learn) About Your Prospect
- Tip 10: Be Genuine
- Tip 11: Have A Good Website
- Tip 12: Follow Up
- Tip 13: Define Your “Je Ne Sais Quoi”
- Tip 14: Give It Away