“let me think about it”
After two visits—a total of six hours—advisor Marianne had gotten an enthusiastic “thumbs up” from her new “almost clients”—a young professional couple with small children—to prepare a financial plan for them. The plan would specifically include some much-needed life insurance. There was no doubt the mission was going forward!
But a few days later, just before Marianne’s scheduled return with her specific proposal, the couple called to tell her they had decided to hold off on doing anything.
“I needed that sale,” Marianne complained to me during our coaching session.
“And that’s probably why you lost it,” I responded.
Our need is the ugliest thing we can show prospective clients. If they believe that your need to make money is more important than your delivery of the service they would be hiring you to do, they’ll back away. Retaining you or buying what you have to offer has to be their idea, not yours.
Blake, an attorney in Michigan, wrote me last week about his problem in getting prospective clients to engage his services.
“I find out what their situation is,” he writes, “and then I explain very carefully what I’ll be doing for them.”
“Then they ask about price. I tell them my hourly rate, which is competitive, but they say they want to think about it…and then, I don’t hear from them again.”
Professionals like Blake often don’t spend enough time developing a relationship with their clients, customers, or patients. They know their work. They know how to diagnose problems, and they know what the most likely solutions are. But they don’t know what their prospective clients really need: someone to hear them out; sympathy, empathy, and validation.
Here are some suggestions that might help you “close” more clients:
1. Ask more and better questions. “Situational” questions are essential for you in order to enable you to do your work, but they have relatively low value to a prospective client who already knows his or her own situation.
How does the situation make him or her feel? Why does he/she feel that way? What result would this person like to get from working with you? How will that make him/her feel better?
These kinds of questions don’t necessarily add any information to your business stats, but they help you to create a bond with your new client.
2. Find out if they’re committed to change before you talk about fees. Ask if she’s receiving value from the discussion and if she has any questions for you. Ask if she’d be interested in working with someone who could alter her status quo.
3. Find out what is causing them to hesitate. If he says, “Let me think about it,” find out what he agrees with and narrow down what his concerns are. Does he have reservations about your abilities? Is he looking for a better price? It’s okay—and important—to ask these questions.
If you want more clients to say “yes” and stick to it, start by making sure you spend the time to ask compelling questions, and base the solution you offer directly on their answers. Whether it’s in asking for the sale or asking for introductions, make it about them—not about your need.
Every week, I try to provide you with a message of value—either to keep you motivated, or to help you hone your skills to get more clients—or for whatever else you want in your life. Today’s message has an almost Shakespearian relevance:
“To Do” or “NOT to Do”…That is the Question!
During my workshops, when I ask participants to describe their biggest challenge, “Time Management” is often ahead of getting or keeping clients. But since we can’t really manage time—only our activities—thinking in this way can get us stuck in an approach-avoidance tango—with ourselves. So, this week, I want to see if I can shift your perspective.
If you have created a traditional “To Do” list that is now 31 pages long and leaving you feeling overwhelmed, throw it out! Or, at least, put it away in your drawer for a moment.
Before you do, however, pull from it the Six Things you believe are the most important and put them on a sheet of paper that you can keep on top of your desk (perhaps, pin it right next to that Memo to Self: Learn to Let Go!).
Prioritize those six things—and only those six things—from most important to least important, and only then, begin working on Number One, taking it as far as it can go. Tomorrow, maybe move on to Number Two…and so on.
In the early 1900s, the industrialist Charles Schwab paid consultant Ivy Lee $25,000 for this one idea. At first, Schwab did not believe that ignoring his huge list and focusing on just six things could possibly work. After a month, however, he was excited to find he had finished more projects in those four weeks than he had in any previous month. Try this strategy for just one month, and see for yourself.
While you’re at it, make another list of things “Not to Do”. As my colleague David Ward describes:
“You have unlimited choices. But you don’t have unlimited time…As you choose what to do, you also choose what not to do. The word “decide” means to “kill the other option”…If you want to accomplish great things, you must focus on great things and let go of things that are merely good. Give up good to go for great.”
A “Not to Do” List might look something like this:
1. Check my smart phone.
2. Turn on my email client.
3. Go on Facebook.
4. Reorganize my files.
5. Be hard on myself.
Remember: this is only for now. Set the hours between which you choose to abide by your “Not to Do” List. Then, schedule in the time slots when you’re allowed to break the rules, and put this “Not” list back in your drawer for the evening. Suddenly you’ll feel like you’re Managing Time. Your story about your own ineffectiveness will change.
You’ll be thrilled with how much less you Procrastinate when it’s one of the six items on your new “Not to Do” list.
If you need help simplifying what To Do and Not to Do, contact me. In the meantime, do what you can to keep REACHING…
I’ve shared a good deal of information with you recently on being willing to brand (and speak up about) the special service experience that only you offer. Consider this a prequel to all of that. Good; so, you’re special! But before we get into it…
The last time you sat down with a prospect, you probably went through some awkward small talk while you anticipated getting down to fact finding, when you could relax a little. After all, you’ve helped clients like this many times before. You’ve listened to them answer your questions and waited patiently until it was your turn to talk about insurance or financial concepts and strategies.
Then, as you got into your prepared interviews and well-practiced presentations, your confidence would grow a little, because now you had the opportunity to show your stuff. You were able to explain what you might do for each of these prospective clients. You told them why you love your work. You told them why your approach is unique—and it is—and that always felt great to share, didn’t it? And they always seemed really interested in the conversation you were leading. So all that was left was for you to ask them to get started—to “close”.
I mean, after all, potential clients only have one decision to make, right? It’s simple: Would you like to work with me—yes or no?
Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. Prospects actually have Three Decisions in front of them, beginning at the time when you first approach them for an appointment:
(1) Whether to spend some of their precious time with you. If you’re sitting down with them, they’ve already made this decision in your favor.
(2) Whether they want to change their status quo. A prospect may have no particular regard for his current advisor, and he may fully recognize the need for more or better insurance or professional advice, but he may still not want to do anything about it. This is the concept of inertia: A prospect at rest tends to stay at rest.
(3) Finally, the prospect has to decide that if he is willing to change, he wants that change to be with you.
If you’ve ever heard the words “I’d love to work with you…” and then couldn’t get the prospect back to hear your proposal, then you were probably short-changing yourself on appreciating the magnitude (and rarity) of the Second Decision. It’s one of the biggest mistakes advisors make in the sales process.
Deciding to change—from no advisor to having an advisor, from one advisor to another, from no insurance to having insurance, from one investment to another—is actually the most difficult of the Three Decisions. The prospect is weighing the status quo against what a change will mean, what the issues are, what his or her competing commitments are and what new commitments (financial, medical, legal, and mental) will involve, and who else might be impacted by this change.
She may have an advisor she doesn’t like. She may actually know she needs help, or more insurance, or some other change in her financial or insurance situation. But she just hasn’t yet made the commitment to do it. If a potential client has not yet decided she is ready to work with someone new, and you charge in with your “solutions” and your “methodology” and your “training, experience, and credentials”, you have launched an irrelevant conversation.
You might think they need to understand the benefits of what you’re proposing, but in the absence of the Second Decision, prospects have no interest in hearing your Third-Decision Discussion—the “why you”. Until a prospect has made the Second Decision, Third-Decision behavior (discussing the solutions only you can provide) is futile.
Talking about your unique services with someone before the person has decided to change is one of the biggest reasons you’ve often heard those positive comments about your work, and then are surprised [yet again] when the prospect cuts off communication. He or she may have truly been enthusiastic about the idea of working with you, even if he or she hadn’t made the commitment to do it. A single contradictory conversation with a brother-in-law, an accountant, or even a plumber could have been enough to send your shaky prospect back into hiding.
Ask questions to make sure the prospect is ready to hear solutions. The reward will be more meaningful commitments to hearing you out and moving into the Third Decision—in other words, fewer wasted presentations, and fewer lost sales.
If you could use help moving your potential clients into their Third Decision, you only need to decide you’re ready to make a change before you contact me. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
*This article was inspired by a recent writing shared with me by my coaching colleague, Rich Litvin. I admit to “borrowing” some of his ideas and language.
(1) The ability to ask provocative questions
(2) The ability to listen with total focus on your client
(3) The ability to relate compelling stories and metaphors
In this article, I’ll focus on the first of these skills:
1. The ability to ask provocative questions. If you’ve found that your prospective clients (we’ll call them “prospects”) are backing away, it is likely that you have made the common mistake of cutting the questioning process short. You may have jumped to the solution you provide too early. If you’re like most professionals, before talking about your services, you do ask informational questions—who, what, where, when, how, and why. While you need this information to understand how you can help your prospects, it is more valuable to you than it is to them. Your prospects already have this information! Situational questions are more likely to help you get to the bottom of your prospects’ deeper needs.
Sometimes, your simple informational questions will bring up a relevant concern—maybe even one that a prospect didn’t know he or she had. Maybe the prospect is already working with someone in your field and is having some problems with that relationship, or with the results he/she is getting.
Well, there they are: problems! And that’s what we do, isn’t it? We solve problems. So, we’re done here, right? Isn’t it time to move on, and into the solution?
As soon as you identify this little bit of trouble in Paradise, you may want to pounce with your offer of services…but if you do, more often than not, your prospect will start squirming. Here’s an example of a conversation my client, Lisa, a financial advisor, experienced with a prospect who had already been working with another advisor:
Lisa: So, you haven’t heard from him in over a year and he didn’t return your call the last time you tried to reach him? He also hasn’t explained any of these things we’ve been talking about today, right? It sounds like you’re not getting the service you need from him. I can promise you that I’ll check in with you once a quarter and I always return calls immediately. How about we go ahead and transfer your accounts…
Prospect: You know, actually, I’ve been working with this guy for almost eight years. I think I should try to talk to him again first and, if he doesn’t return my call, I can get back to you.
One reason this conversation may have ended as it did—with the prospect’s objection—is that the problem Lisa identified is also one that she had to imply. Your prospects are always weighing whether their need for change is explicit and urgent enough for it to be worth their while to do all the work required to make that change.
When there’s only a vague sense of a problem, the scale tips in favor of leaving things as they are. To avoid running into a brick wall, you need to move from implied problems to explicit problems. And you can only get your prospects to see explicit problems by asking more [situational] questions first.
Here’s how Lisa learned to handle her next conversation, after working with me on asking better questions:
Lisa: So you haven’t heard from him in over a year and he didn’t return your call the last time you tried to reach him? He also hasn’t explained any of these things we’ve been talking about today, right? How is this level of service affecting you?
Prospect: It’s a little annoying that he doesn’t return my calls, but I guess I’m doing okay.
Lisa: Does it worry you that there’s no one reassuring you about your retirement, or letting you know the status of your accounts?
Prospect: Well, actually, that’s the reason I agreed to sit down with you. I am concerned that there might be more I should be doing, or that I might need to change my strategy.
Lisa: And if you try him again, and maybe he responds this time, but doesn’t respond again the next time you have a concern, will that be okay?
Prospect: Well, no. I need to feel like someone is watching out for me. Maybe my account is just too small for him.
Lisa: Well, how small is it? What’s at stake here?
Prospect: I mean, this is my life savings we’re talking about!
Lisa: Yes, it is. So, I guess the only question is, does it make more sense for you to wait and see what happens with this guy—or to start working with someone who definitely has availability for you, and does not think your life savings is “no big deal”?
Prospect: I probably shouldn’t wait around to be disappointed again. Can you tell me more about how you work?…
Next week, I’ll discuss the second skill for getting clients: the ability to actively listen. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
“When you don’t know what to do next in the process of trying to get a prospective client to hire you,” I told a group of professionals recently, “do what you do best: ask a question.”
A hand went up. “Any question?” asked Ben, a very young-looking financial advisor.
“That was a good question,” I replied, and the group chuckled.
Then, an experienced litigation attorney, Natalie, asked me specifically about what to do when you’ve explained everything to a prospect and you hear those dreaded words—“Let me think about it…”.
“Well, what do you do now when someone says that to you?” I asked Natalie.
“My usual response,” she replied, “is something like, ‘Sure, take your time. When do you want me to check back with you?'” “But,” Natalie complained, “once they leave, they usually don’t respond to my calls, and I’ve lost them.”
“Let me think about it” is a statement that can mean anything:??”I’m not sure about your approach.”?”You haven’t convinced me that your firm is the best one to handle this problem.”?”I’m not happy with your fees and costs.”?”Maybe if ignore my problem, it will just go away.”
As a result, you can’t do much with the statement unless you understand what it means to the person who spoke it. A good response here, once again, involves questions. So, it might look something like this:
Great! This is an important decision and you should definitely think about it. Let me see if I can help you, though:
Are you unsure about the approach I explained? Do you think there might be a better solution??Are you not convinced that we’re the right firm to handle your needs??Is there any issue with the fees we discussed??Is there someone else you need to involve in the decision-making process? Do you agree that you need to start taking care of this right away?
“Your questions will eliminate the non-issues one-by-one, and you’ll find out exactly what your prospect needs to think about,” I told the group. “Then, you can ask more questions about whatever his particular concern happens to be and make sure you’ve satisfied him—if satisfying him is at all possible.”
“At that point, you can ask him again if he wants to get started,” I concluded. “Does that answer your question, Natalie?”
“I don’t know,” she replied, “let me think about it.”
I can help you get more clients and feel more motivated, but you need to reach out and ask. Start with good questions, and keep REACHING…
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Have you ever been aggravated trying to prove to some “nitwit” prospect that his objection to your offer makes no sense—so aggravated, in fact, that you ended up in an argument with him and, of course, ended all possibilities of ever making him a client?
Why was it so important for you to be right?
When she was little, my daughter Madi used to argue with me constantly.
“No, Daddy, you’re wrong! My teacher told me…”
No matter how misguided she was, she expended exhausting amounts of energy insisting that she was right. I tried to teach her to say, “Maybe you’re right, Daddy, and maybe you’re wrong,” and then follow up with something like, “Let’s see if we can find out”—but it seldom worked.
Then, one day, I just decided to practice what I was preaching with her. I stopped trying to be right.
When she insisted that her misinformation was correct, I responded with, “I never knew that!” or, “I always thought it was the other the way around, but I guess I was wrong.” The result? No more arguments, and a lot more peace.
Yesterday, I watched a friendly conversation between two people at a fast food restaurant in a local mall turn into an argument. The two men had begun to talk about global warming, and one of them was insisting that it was all “a lot of bunk”.
Each man was busy trying to prove that he was right and the other was wrong. What struck me was how easily the interaction had gone from casual to hostile. The conversation became so loud and abusive that an employee of the restaurant had to ask them to leave.
Who was right? What difference did it make if they could not agree? Arguments don’t happen unless someone needs to prove another wrong. What if we could let go of this need—especially when dealing with prospective clients?
When your prospect is objecting, even if the objection is absurd, don’t disagree. You won’t change his mind—and instead, you will alienate him entirely.
Try starting out with something like, “I can see how you might think that…” and then pose a question that might get him thinking further.
“I don’t need any more insurance,” he might say.
“You’re probably right,” you can respond—without argument—although it’s obvious to you that he’s grossly underinsured and may be leaving his family in a catastrophic position. “Can I ask what you’re basing that on?”
“I just know we have enough,” he might reply.
“Well, just in case, would you be open to going through a simple exploration with me to see if you’re missing any coverage you could really use?”
Let go of the need to prove you are right from the get-go. Your life will be much less stressful, and your business will grow. But if you can’t yet stand the thought of letting someone who is dead wrong get away with it, the right choice is to contact me for some help with your perspective. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
My friend and colleague, Julie Blake, recently related this story to a group of coaches to which we both belong. She was talking with her son Josh on the way back from YMCA winter camp:
Josh: Mom, I asked a girl to dance with me at the camp dance.
Mom: What did she say?
Josh: She said no.
Mom: What does that mean? Will you never, ever ask a girl to dance again?
Josh: (rolling his eyes) No, it means that she probably did not want to dance with boys.
One of the biggest obstacles preventing professionals from having enough business is the reluctance to submit a proposal for fear that the answer will be “NO”. They make up stories about “what if” someone says “NO” to their proposal, and then they start making up stories about what each “NO” they get means.
We all do it sometimes. I’ve caught myself avoiding a direct proposal to help someone just because I assumed, ahead of time, that the answer would be “NO” and started making up stories about it. But what would a “NO” actually mean?
It could mean:
“I have other commitments right now that take precedence, at least for awhile.”
“I’m not really committed to changing my situation—at least, not at the moment.”
“I want to do this, but I’m in debt, and it’s not important enough to me at this moment to make the investment.”
“I’m filing for bankruptcy, and I need that money to pay my lawyer and the court fees.”
Or, it could mean:
“I don’t really think you have the right solution for my problem.”
“I don’t believe that working with you is a worthwhile investment.”
“I don’t like you.”
This second, darker place is where all too many professionals tend to go.
In actuality, “NO” might not mean either of these. Or—wonder of wonders—he or she might actually say “YES”.
If you talk yourself out of asking too often, you won’t ever have the business you deserve. Remember, a “NO” could simply mean that she probably doesn’t want to dance with boys.
Byron Katie says, “You can have anything you want if you are willing to ask 1,000 people for it.”
Start working towards getting everything you want by asking me for help today. Then, keep asking, and keep REACHING…
I pushed too hard the other day. Or did I?
I was trying to get Janis, a relatively new financial services representative who works at a branch of a large insurance company, to take the last available seat in my workshop program. I had offered her help with the tuition, and she had committed on the phone to joining me. But several days before the program, she wrote to me explaining that she had run into a problem:
I’m having a huge reversal right now. Just lost 11K in premium on Tues. I will have to forfeit at this time and get back to the phones this week. My apologies.
I sensed desperation in her email. In my mind, I saw this moment as a critical one—as the perfect indication that Janis should be in my program, even at a further-reduced rate. I asked her to call me by 4pm, but she didn’t call. So, I wrote:
You didn’t call me back yesterday. My sense is that you’re panicking—it seems Life or Death. You clearly need help and I want to give it to you…If you have any interest in continuing in this career, without burning out, call me today and commit to getting help.
Okay, so my last bit of language was a little strong. Here’s what she replied:
I’m slightly put off by your tone when you say, if I want to continue in this career then I will commit to getting help. My dear, if I don’t succeed in this career, then it was a stepping stone and a foundation for something better. I am wise enough to know that this career doesn’t define who I am, my character does. I have a greater purpose. Working here is just seasoning to a pot.
I loved her thoughts, so I responded with an apology:
I did not mean to put you off, and I apologize for speaking as strongly as I did. Thanks for the explanation. I did think I was hearing panic, but from your note I can see that it was just temporary disappointment and a lot of determination.
But then, I thought about how she responded to what she had viewed as a crisis. What had I missed? Her immediate answer for her setback was to be COLD CALLING into the night. While cold calling can get you some business, the whole point of my workshops is to teach better ways of getting clients. Janis’s decision not to participate virtually doomed her to continue using a far less potent approach.
Here’s what I could have been helping Janis learn to do:
1. Start with people she knows already. At its best, cold calling involves not being able to reach most of the people you call and succeeding in making appointments with fewer than 10% of those you actually reach. Rapport is harder to establish because there’s a higher level of wariness on the part of the prospect, so converting someone into a client is a difficult challenge.
Calling someone you already know, or someone who has been introduced by someone you know, gives you a significantly higher chance of setting an appointment and of converting prospects into clients.
Instead of grabbing a list and frantically making call after call, Janis might be doing much better if she SLOWED DOWN and thought about who she could invite to the office one day, or who might be able to introduce her to someone she would love to help.
2. Tell people who she wants to work with. You can identify individuals you want to work with. If you know one well enough, contact him or her and say so yourself. If you don’t, contact someone who does know him or her, and ask for an introduction. Studies have shown that even people who are reluctant to give referrals to a professional will be happy to exercise their “influence muscle” to make an introduction to someone who has requested it specifically.
3. Use social media. Facebook and LinkedIn will give you the names of people your closest friends and associates know. Use those names for ideas about whom you might want to meet by introduction.
4. Life or Death. I could have asked Janis to explore this question: If your life did depend on getting a new 11K Client this week, what would you do? Janis’s current career choice may only be “seasoning”, but if she really thought about and harnessed what her panic seemed to demonstrate, she would wrangle new clients light years more quickly than she ever could by simply going “back to the phones” again and again.
For most professionals, it is possible to use their “inner circles”—and a balanced sense of determination—to find and create new clients more effectively than through cold calling. If you can commit to improving your tactics and your mindset when it comes to your career, contact me for help, today. I’ll leave my doors open past 4 pm…especially for my local friends who may still be amidst real crisis.
So even if I’m pushy, don’t confuse me with that hurricane. Reach out, and keep REACHING…
The story below is from an article (by Jay Abraham) that my coach and colleague, Rich Litvin, shared with me just the other day. I’m passing it on to you this week because it’s a great illustration of a concept every professional should understand.
A farmer wanted to buy a pony for his little daughter. There were two for sale in his town. Both ponies were equal in all aspects.
The first salesman told the farmer he wanted $500 for his pony, “Take it or leave it.”
The second salesman was selling his pony for $750. But the second man told the farmer he wanted the farmer’s daughter to try out the pony for a month before the farmer had to make any purchasing decisions. He offered to bring the pony out to the farmer’s home along with a month’s worth of hay to feed it. He said he’d send out his own stableman once a week to show the little girl how to groom and care for the pony. He told the farmer the pony was kind and gentle, but to have his daughter ride it each day to make certain they got along together.
Finally, he said, that at the end of 30 days, he’d drive over to the farmer’s place and either take back the pony and clean up the stall, or he’d ask, right then, to be paid the $750.
Which pony do you suppose the farmer decided to purchase for his daughter?
Unless your service seems to a prospective client to be no better than that provided by a lower-priced competitor, he or she will NEVER make the decision to hire one of you on price alone. Show up powerfully when you pitch, and you’ll be worth the higher price. Pony or no, your service is part of the package you’re selling.
If you’d like some help packaging your products, contact me. Broach the upper limits of what you can offer, and no matter what your price, your clients and customers will keep REACHING…
Burt, an independent financial planner who was already making a good living, was looking for a way to further increase his sales.
With my coaching help, he started a marketing (“prospecting”) program that was based on my Client Magnet discipline, paying attention to the fact that clients are usually tuned to radio station WII-FM (“What’s In It For Me”). Refocusing his initial conversations to be completely client-centric was, for Burt, a radical departure from the “I’m building my business…” approach he had been using for years.
After our second or third session, Burt called me concerned that the work we were doing was not going to be effective.
“I speak with a group of my peers on the phone every morning,” he started, “And when I told them today what I’ve been trying out with you, they told me it wouldn’t work and that I should go back to doing what I was doing before.”
“So now, I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing,” he concluded.
“Burt, are any of the people in your peer group making significantly more money than you are?” I asked him.
“No,” he responded, “One of the reasons we all meet is that we’re all at about the same level.”
“What if all of the things you’ve been doing up until now got you all to that same level, but no higher?” I asked.
Burt paused for a long moment and then responded: “I see what you’re saying. If we don’t change our approach, we’ll keep getting the same outcome…and making the same income.”
Albert Einstein is credited with having defined “insanity” as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If you’ve reached a certain level in your business or practice and can’t seem to get any further, there may be a touch of insanity involved.
You need to look first at the extent to which existing clients or customers are praising you. If you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do, but only that much, then you aren’t really doing enough, and this will show in the limited number of unsolicited referrals you are getting.
This week, Burt told me that he had just experienced his best August ever, and that he was going to be disclosing to his peers that his business had increased as a result of our work together. He offered (without solicitation) to introduce me to them.
Burt’s success was about curing his insanity. Doing new and different things in his practice was the remedy he required.
If you’d like to talk about curing your insanity, contact me today. Regardless, keep it fresh, and keep REACHING…