If you’re struggling with selling your consulting or agency services, chances are you aren’t in really in control when you’re meeting with prospects. They are.
When your prospective client is the one in control, they are setting the trajectory for the outcome. An outcome that most likely will not be in your favor.
The secret I’m going to share with you is easy to overlook or take for granted.
What secret am I referring to?
The secret to taking control of a discussion. Some refer to it as a sales conversation, or sales meeting. The Secret is to ask the following 3 types of questions and to leverage active and reflective listening.
You should speak no more than 30 percent of the time when you’re with a prospective client. As a general rule, the earlier you are in the relationship, the less you should speak.
So you have to learn the art of asking good discovery questions to get them talking more.
Questions help you go deeper into the issues of what challenges the client faces. The more they talk, the more rapport they will have with you.
Here are the 3 questioning techniques:
1. Provocative Questions. Never ask closed ended or simple yes or no questions. Instead of, “Is the increased competition forcing you to look for new ways to compete?” ask “What steps have you taken to stand out from the increased competition?” Don’t ask, “What is your retention rate?” ask “What’s different today about how you’re keeping your customers compared to five years ago?”
2. Echoing Questions. This is merely the habit of repeating the final word a person says. For example, after the sentence, “We’ve had a a difficult time using Facebook and getting results,” reply “Results?” You’ll find the other person will always respond to a single word of inquiry and expand on his or her thoughts. Using this echo technique may sound a little silly, but good listeners use it all the time to prompt others to provide information.
3. Turnaround Questions. Never get defensive. It’s common for your prospective clients to ask pointed questions such as, “What do you think you can do for us that we haven’t done already?” or “Can we just jump to what your fees are for your services? The best way to handle these direct questions is by reframing or deflecting them. For example, “I don’t know whether I can do anything at all for you. Will you tell me what you’ve done already, what you’d like to accomplish above that, and then we can compare notes?” Or for fees, “I have no idea what to prescribe as solutions, and it would be unfair for me to guess. But if you’re willing to share your objectives, set some metrics, and establish the impact of the results, I can get make some recommendations very quickly, which will provide all of your options and the corresponding ROI.”
Active and reflective Listening is what this all hinges on. Never interrupt or “step on” the prospective client’s story. Let them talk. Even when you’re overly anxious to share all your experiences of how you can deal with the prospects problems.
Resist the urge to prematurely prescribe solutions. Keep diagnosing, and take notes — it forces you to listen more actively.
Instead of interrupting, simply say, “Is that right?” or “Really?” or “I see” every minute or two.
By staying active in the discussion to even a small degree, you encourage the prospect to continue talking so that you can continue learning and taking notes. It will also keep you from “one-upping” the customer which we all hate when it’s done to us.
Even when they open up the door for you to start pitching your services, don’t. Just listen, and keep gathering information so you can make an informed recommendation. They’ll feel heard and appreciate that you’re thinking through their business and not jumping to conclusions or recommendations too quickly.
I deep dive much more into the art of asking discovery questions that sell clients in my online course, Marketing Agency Academy.
What are you doing to take control of your sales meetings and ask questions that can deepen your understanding of your client’s current condition?