Saturday, August 29, 2009


From Rain Today:

5 Easy Ways to Get Prospects to Complete the Sales Circle

By Ron Smith

A fine line exists between convincing a prospect that you want his business and bugging him so much that you chase him away. Though you would like to make the prospect's decision for him, you really can't. You can, however, do the next best thing by providing him everything he needs to make an informed choice—which is to select your service.

An advertising maxim likens this process to forming a circle, which you can start but only the prospect can complete. Your job is to arm the prospect with key pieces of information and make him feel comfortable in making a decision. If you use any phrases similar to the ones below, however, you're trying to complete the circle for him:

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  • We're the smart choice.
  • Our service is simply the best.
  • Our company is the worldwide leader in (fill in the blank).
  • We're so much better than our competition that it's embarrassing.

Never tell the prospect how great you are. Rather, give him the facts to draw that conclusion. At the other extreme, there is danger in not going far enough, which means you haven't provided sufficient information. As a result, the prospect can't reach the conclusion you want because there is too much effort, too much left to question, and too little comfort with you or your service.

Your job is to draw a circle until it's nearly complete and then hand the pencil to the prospect. The circle begins when the prospect realizes he has a need. The line arcs as you build interest in your service, and it reaches its logical conclusion when the prospect realizes the best way to address his need is to choose you.

Five Easy Ways to Form a Circle

Forming a near circle requires a set of tools that you can draw on for each situation. Here are five basic tools:

  1. Testimonials
    It seems like a no-brainer, but third-party validation is such a powerful, yet often under-utilized, tool. Never say anything good about yourself when you have someone else happy say it for you.

    Your prospect: How good are you guys?

    You: I think our customer, Giganticus Corporation, can answer that question better than me. (Insert testimonial)

    Keep testimonials on hand that address each key selling point such as fantastic customer support, rapid response, quick implementation time, great value, and ease of use. Avoid putting words in your customers' mouths, however. Their honest words will be far better than anything you can write. Instead, jump-start the process by providing examples of the type and length of comments you want.

  2. Mini-Case Studies
    As long as you're asking for testimonials, use customer feedback to create mini-case studies, too. They are another strong form of third-party validation that highlights your experience and, if your company or service is relatively new, proof of concept. Each mini-case study should contain two or three paragraphs that briefly tell how a customer leveraged your service to solve a problem.

    Here's a simple format:
    Challenge > Solution > Result

    Powerful case studies should mention a return on investment, such as savings in time or the elimination of stress.

  3. Trials
    Some salespeople think the only result of giving something away is the opportunity to give more of it away. Maybe that's so if you're selling a commodity, such as #2 pencils. If you're selling a service, however, the quickest way to a paying customer may be by giving him the chance to try your service for free. Let the prospect give your service a brief test-drive. Quite often, a prospect's time is much more important to him than the cost of your service. If he takes time to try it, he's serious. Another tip: arrange with the prospect a specific stop and end point for any trial to ensure he tests your service in a timely fashion. If a prospect has an open-ended trial, he is less likely to feel any urgency.
  4. Third-Party Information
    Prospects choose you as much as they choose your service. Prospects—human beings that they are—love getting information about things that interest them. For example, you could say, "Mr. Prospect, I just came across this article in RainToday that I thought you might find interesting. I know it's a subject that's near to your heart." It's another way to show you've taken time to understand how his business works.
  5. Listening Skills
    It's natural to be so excited about your service that you can't help but talk on and on about it. But as much as you want to talk, the prospect wants to talk more. And he wants you to actively listen, which can be the quickest way to making a nearly complete circle. If you don't listen, you won't know which testimonial to share or which mini-case study compares best to the prospect's situation. Tip: record yourself talking to a prospect. Of course if you do this, be sure to get the prospect's permission prior to recording. Even if it's just one end of a phone call, it helps to review how you conduct a conversation. As painful as it may be to hear yourself, you will know quickly if you're listening well or possibly talking over the prospect.

In the end, relax a little. Prospects sense when you're overly eager to gain a sale and move them along faster than they want to move. They can equally sense when you're comfortable enough to let your tools work for you. Soon, the prospect is ready to complete the circle, and you've earned the business.

Ron Smith is a small business entrepreneur with a background in marketing and journalism. He is a partner with ABC Signup, which develops and sells online registration software.

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