In my last article, I talked about five reasons why you lose a sale. Each of those can be avoided by asking a few simple questions. But these last three are a bit more complex. For starters, what do you do if the prospect refuses to answer your questions?

The prospect won’t answer your questions

A prospect might not want to answer your questions because …

  1. He’s not far enough along in the buying cycle to be a serious prospect. People who are in the “Interest” or “Desire” stage may never become buyers. At this point, they are still researching.
  2. He’s using you just to get a competitive bid. Because he’s not seriously considering you, he won’t want to divulge anything about his buying motives, or lack thereof.
  3. He’s purely a price-driven buyer whose only criterion is the cost. Since he values the lowest price more than a consultative relationship with a qualified expert, he’ll view your questions as a waste of his time, none of your business, or both.

For Prospect 1, you need to switch from sales mode to marketing mode. At this point, you’re better off becoming a valuable resource to help him make a buying decision. This is not someone you want to write a proposal for; rather, dip-market to him over the next few weeks or months by sending him your newsletter, a link to your blog, etc.

Prospects 2 and 3 are the ones who will want to ask the questions, not answer them. And you can count on their questions being mostly about price. There are a couple of ways to handle this. The first is to quote a ballpark:

“The starting cost for a basic site is around $x,xxx. Is that within your price range?”

Or, you could use the “how much does a car cost?” approach:

“That question is a lot like asking ‘How much does a car cost?’ The answer depends on what type of car you want and what you want it to do—which means I need to spend a little time asking you some questions. Are you willing to do that?”

The prospect doesn’t have any questions or concerns

So you’ve reached the end of your meeting, and you’ve covered everything that needs to be discussed. I’ve found that there are generally three reasons a prospect won’t have any questions.

  1. He didn’t understand what you were talking about and has no clue what to ask
  2. He is not serious about the project or not seriously considering hiring you
  3. He’s ready to buy

If you simply default to offering up a proposal, you’ll never know which of the three you have. The solution is to recap the conversation, get his agreement that you’ve covered everything, and ask if he’s ready to move forward. Remember, you don’t have to write a proposal to close the deal.

The prospect doesn’t perceive you as an equal

It’s important to establish a peer-to-peer relationship with your prospect; otherwise your credibility is at risk. One way to knock yourself down a notch is to tell your prospect, “Thanks for meeting with me.” At first glance, this might seem like the polite thing to say. But the unspoken implication is that he’s somehow “doing you a favor.” Once you’ve laid that foundation, a peer-to-peer relationship is unlikely.

The relationships you build with your clients ought to be based on mutual commitments, and that starts with the very first meeting. You showered, dressed up, fought traffic, paid for parking, and took five flights of stairs to commit the next hour or so to giving your prospect ideas on how he can improve his business. It’s not unreasonable to expect that he reciprocate by disclosing his buying intentions, timetable, and other information so you can determine how much time to invest pursuing him as a lead. To do so, not only must you ask questions, you must ask the right questions.

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John Tabita John Tabita
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.
  • Rollout

    John,

    Good thought above, where you suggest “One way to knock yourself down a notch is to tell your prospect, “Thanks for meeting with me.”

    Any suggestions for a better comment to open the conversation, and get it off on the right foot?

    I plan on using a subset of the above in my job search interviews. Thanks.

  • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.com/ John Tabita

    “It’s good to meet you” is a nice alternative.

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