One of the biggest challenges in a service-based business is converting prospects into clients. Some prospects don’t sign on because they aren’t ready; others because they lack commitment. Either way, low conversion rates often happen because you misunderstand your value. I’d like to share three ways this sabotages your sales conversations and offer some strategies to help you close more deals.
1. You focus too much on process and not enough on payoff.
One of the fastest ways to lose a prospect is spending too much time up front explaining how your service works. It’s a common assumption that the features of a service (duration, hours we put in, support, etc.) are what make clients buy. In fact, they buy what your services makes possible for them. If you don’t understand the possibilities they are looking for, you’re less likely to close a sale.
Here’s an example. You probably don’t care how many days it took me to write this article or how many weeks I spent re-writing it. You may not even care about my business experience with this topic. The reason you’re reading this article has little to do with my effort and expertise and more to do with the insights you can use for your business. Therefore, to convince you to read the article, I’d explain that its content can help your business succeed rather than describing how much energy and knowledge I put into writing it.
Even if you’re great at explaining the value of your service, you may be stuck in another assumption trap — believing that everyone you talk to wants the same result. The payoff of your service is different for everyone.
For example, if you’re a website designer, and you think every person hires you because they want a more modern website, you’re missing the mark. Your clients aren’t buying a new site (your process), they’re buying the belief that the revised design will, for example, make them appear more professional, attract better leads or automate key business tasks (the payoff). To close more deals, figure out the payoff they want, and talk about how your service provides the path to it.
2. You’re talking too much and asking too little.
I once spoke to a coach who asked me what I wanted to work on. I gave her a brief answer. Instead of digging deeper into my needs, she launched into a diatribe on how amazing her services were and concluded with five minutes of detail about her education and credentials. She spoke the entire time without pause. I wasn’t engaged because I hadn’t asked for the information she was giving me, and none of it aligned with my core needs. When she finally stopped talking, I had no idea how her service and expertise tied to what I wanted. So I asked, “How does your service help me with the problem I told you I have at the beginning of our call?” After a 20-second pause — so long I thought the phone went dead — she replied, “I’m not sure it will, but I really like you and I’d love to work with you.”
Sales conversations are like first dates. If you talk about yourself too much, you’re not getting a second one. This first encounter is your opportunity to learn what your prospect values. Only then can you determine if your service is the right fit for them, and if it is, explain how.
There are layers to the payoff your prospects want. Questions are the key to finding them. Building on the previous website example, the first layer of desire was attracting leads or automating processes. If we probe further, we could learn the deeper desire is to get more clients or to have systems that permit six months of travel. When a prospect understands how your service is the path to the underlying payoff they want, it’s even more likely they’ll invest in you. Talking about how great your graphics are or how many degrees you hold isn’t the way to find this important information.
The surface desire is their immediate need but underneath that is a deeper life or business goal. To discover them, ask questions like, “Why is now the right time for you to make this investment?” Or, “Once you obtain this objective, what does it make possible for you?”
3. You choke at the money talk.
No matter how much you love and believe in what you do, if you can’t talk money, you won’t get customers. The opportunity is that when a prospect objects, it’s the beginning of the conversation, not the end.
Here are some tips that will help you through this part of the discussion.
State your price, then be quiet. If there’s a pause in conversation, don’t fill it with words. Your prospect needs to reflect. You may worry they’re coming up with reasons to say no, but it’s just as likely they’re thinking about where they can find the money to pay you. Be silent and let them process.
Question the objection. If they do object to cost, ask why. When you learn more about the objection, you may be able to work around it with something like a customized payment plan. You may also learn that you haven’t found their real priority.
Make sure they feel understood. Sometimes a price objection is a signal you haven’t clearly explained how your service is the path to what they want. This is a great time to ask if you’ve correctly understood the outcome they want and ask how badly they crave it. It’s possible you didn’t get to that deeper desire, and this is your last opportunity to do it.
One of my clients helped me to a final interesting insight. You may believe that you’re causing your prospects pain by asking them to pay you. If you do, you risk stating your rates in a different tone of voice, and your prospect will become as uncomfortable as you are. The key is to remember that your prospect was already in pain before speaking with you. They had any number of challenges — a poor performing website, inability to get clients or struggling to change careers — before speaking with you. So, you’re actually helping them get rid of pre-existing pain, not causing it.
It boils down to this — stop focusing on what you’re selling and start exploring why your prospects want it.