I don’t know about you, but once I start discussing a project and discover the prospect’s dreams, goals, and objectives, I begin to develop a certain emotional investment … I get excited about how I can help him bring it about. I think that’s one of my strongest assets.
But it’s also my greatest weakness. Bring all that excitement and passion to bear at the wrong time, or with the wrong person, and I end up giving away the farm. I offer too much information, too freely, without expecting anything in return. That’s fine for Twitter or my blog; but that’s marketing. Once I’m face-to-face with someone who’s represented himself as a prospect, marketing’s over. It’s time to close a deal.
In this installment of ending abusive client behavior, I’m going to address the one place we stub our toe most often: giving away too much free information in order to close that deal.
Action Step #2: Sell the WHY, Agree upon the WHAT, Ignore the HOW
I believe that the majority of us who sell our web design/development or SEO services are primarily technical in nature. Sure, you might be an awesome visual designer, but you also know your HTML and CSS in order to pull that design off inside multiple browsers, don’t you? Because of that bent, most of us love talking about technical things. So a typical conversation might go like this:
Prospect: I have a website that I’d like to sell my products from on a national level.
You: I can do that. First, I’d optimize your existing site with the proper keywords by doing some keyword research. Then I’ll increase traffic by building quality backlinks through various methods, such as article submissions and press releases.
Prospect: Could you put all of that into a proposal for me?
You: Ummm, sure …
Showcasing our expertise is necessary to land an engagement. But what this approach fails to do is discover WHY he wants to sell his products nationally. You haven’t addressed his pain, need, or desire. Instead, you’ve offered him a free white paper and called it a proposal. Remember how I’ve been hammering home the issue of mutual commitments? Why should a prospect benefit from all that knowledge and expertise without making you a commitment in return?
If you followed the advice in my last article, then at some point, you determined whether the person on the other end of the phone or across the desk was a viable prospect or not. The entire sales process boils down to a series of “yes-es.” He or she must say “yes” to your solution, “yes” to your process, “yes” to your price, and more importantly, “yes” to you—your ability, likability, and perceived trustworthiness. “No” is a potential show-stopper, unless it can be negotiated and resolved. (And you ought to know beforehand what you consider negotiable and what’s non-negotiable.) A successful conclusion is when the other person “yes-es” his way from suspect to prospect to client.
But our technically-minded natures tend to make this process more complicated than it need be. Getting a prospect’s commitment to do business with you requires that you establish and agree upon just two things:
- What he’s trying to accomplish, his “big picture” objective
- That you’re the one to help him accomplish it
Until those two things happen, don’t discuss the technical details (HOWs) or offer to write a detailed proposal. Doing so without a commitment to hire you is how we wind up giving away too much free information. So stop, already!
When you refrain from discussing technical details, and instead start asking about goals, objectives, and buying motives, a strange thing happens—you’ll quickly realize when your prospect doesn’t have any. You see, serious prospects may not always know WHAT they want, but they have no trouble articulating WHY they want it. For that reason, they also have the intention to buy. Prospects who aren’t serious, have ulterior motives, or are playing you will have none of these. You’ll be able to tell when they don’t want to answer your questions, or give non-committal or vague responses.
Remember, the time to discuss technical details is after you’ve won the engagement, not before. Talk about WHAT he wants and WHY he wants it, but save the in-depth technical discussion until after he agrees that you’re the man or woman for the job.
Next week: Action Step #3: How to Win Business without Writing a Proposal
In case you missed last week’s article, you can still get my free guide, 27.5 Must-Ask Questions for Consultative Selling. Just follow me on Twitter and I’ll send you a link.
This is Part 4 of the series Putting a Stop to Abusive Client Behavior:
- Stop Client Abuse of Web Designers Now!
- Stop the Abuse! 7 Steps to a Well-Trained Client
- Stop Wasting Time with Prospects Who Aren’t Serious
- Stop Giving Away So Much Free Information!
- Stop Writing Proposals to Win Business
- Stop Doing the Same Things and Expecting Different Results
- Stop Waiting to Get Paid! How to Collect Even when Your Client Delays
- Stop Getting Walked on and Set Some Boundaries Already
- Stop the Slippery Slope of Scope Creep
- Stop Making Endless Design Changes
- Stopping Abusive Clients: The Complete Process
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.