What if there was a way to turn 100% of prospect meetings into raving successes? What if you no longer dreaded them, but looked forward to them every time?
Imagine you are standing in front of your next perfect client. You have spent weeks preparing to get in front of them. You have put your heart and soul into this pitch. You know this customer better than they know themselves. You have even mentally prepared yourself by visioning this experience in your mind.
You give the best pitch of your life and you are waiting for the mental applause that you expect to come next. After a moment of silence, the prospect opens their mouth and a single word delivers the biggest gut-punch to your ego. Your dream client says “No.” The next step is the most important one to take, but the hardest to master. You need to understand why the customer said no. Beginner entrepreneurs and salespeople say, “thank you for your time” and then leave. This is your biggest learning opportunity left untapped.
Most people consider the word “No” to be a negative one. Entrepreneurs and salespeople starting out feel like their customers are rejecting them, not their offer. They blur the lines of the thing they sell and who they are. I fell victim to this in my sales career. Every time I heard anything less than an emphatic yes, I automatically considered it was my performance or my ability that was being questioned.
The reality is that they are saying no to themselves, not you. This simple mind trick takes away the pain while also refocusing you on the next step, which is unearthing the limiting belief or internal challenge of your prospect. Let me take you through the example above with this lens.
You know your customer well. You deliver the same pitch and they say no. Rather than taking it personally, you say, “I can appreciate and respect that, but do you mind if I ask a few questions to understand a bit more about why?” In most cases, the customer knows you have spent a lot of time researching their issue due to the depth of your presentation.
“You can achieve virtually anything you want–if you’re willing to hear ‘no’ often enough,” – Andrea Waltz
Now is the fun part, no pressure. They are not a client or prospect, but simply a willing research participant. So get curious and ask the next few questions:
1. You had stated that your goals are to achieve x,y,z, can you elaborate on that?
The goal here is to unearth their ultimate motivation. You may have focused on one goal that suited you, but leaving this open-ended will unearth some hidden motivations and gold.
Don’t use this as a weapon against them or it backfires. Simply listen and then organically ask further questions. Be sure to read the room. The last thing you want is to trap an unwilling participant in an interrogation room while you suck the life out of them. Be sure to be curious and open. See all their challenges, not just the selective ones your company solves.
2. What priorities are competition with this project?
This can largely be the killer for corporate clients. There is always a tug of war between resources vs focus. If they don’t have the people, time, or money, you want to understand that. It will be invaluable once you begin to see trends from your customers.
3. What elements of the proposal resonated and which were a challenge for you?
Be sure to make this about them helping you rather than trying to re-sell them. Always ask why each piece did or didn’t hit the mark. This is where the gold is.
4. Could I get your advice? Based on what you saw/heard, do you have any suggestions for how I could improve the offering/pitch?
The key here is to shift into treating them like an advisor or friend. Using the word “advice” is a trigger word. This makes them feel valued and knowledgeable while also making them your advocate. If you can get them to guide you then they will be invested in your success in the future.
“Success Comes from listening to your customer.” – Richard Branson
5. Are there any specific folks that you think would get value from what we do or could help me refine our offering?
This is a question that gets omitted too often. People are afraid to ask it because it seems like the old question of asking for referrals. I challenge you to find the wording that works best for you. People will rack their brains to find someone that they think you should connect with and then you have a warm way to connect with that person. Be sure to make it a no-pressure situation and only at the end of the conversation.
After the meeting, be sure to follow up with a note thanking them for the meeting and their candid perspective. This is a relationship builder that is refreshing for folks who spend their days being pitched. Some of the best companies that did this with me are some of my biggest service providers.
It is easy to stand out when the majority of your market is automated and robotic. Being a good human can go a long way and bring in more of your ideal customers.