We spend a significant amount of our sales and marketing effort on filling the pipeline with prospects and following up with them. With a full pipeline and consistent follow-up, you are bound to make plenty of sales, right? Well, much of the time that’s true. Finding the right people to contact, and actually making those contacts, will in many cases produce results. But sometimes, it’s not enough.
To close a sale, you need to get your prospective clients to agree to some sort of presentation. It may happen in person or over the phone, take five minutes or be hours long, but at some point you must have a conversation where you find out what they need, tell them what you offer, and see if there’s a match.
When you find yourself making lots of contacts, but rarely getting as far as an actual presentation, there’s something in the way. Assuming that you have a service your target market needs, and it’s priced within the range your market can pay, what else might be preventing people from wanting to hear what you have to offer? Here are some suggestions:
1. You’re not using the right words. When you send a letter, call on the phone, or prospects call you, they aren’t understanding how you can help them. If this is you, the content of your sales pitch needs improvement. Your approach must position your service in such a way that prospects immediately grasp what’s in it for them.
2. Your telemarketing skills aren’t up to the task. You are nervous or unprepared when you get on the phone, and aren’t able to engage people in conversation. To improve your skills, take a class, listen to tapes, or practice with friends or a coach.
3. The prospects you are talking to aren’t qualified enough. They don’t have a need, can’t pay, or are otherwise not ready to take action. To learn more about your target market, interview current and former clients, take a survey, talk to colleagues, or read the trade press. Identify which segment of your market is most likely to act on your offer, and concentrate your efforts there.
4. You aren’t well-known enough, or haven’t been recommended, so prospects are hesitant to take their time to talk with you. Consider increasing your professional visibility through networking, referral-building, public speaking, or writing articles. If you are introduced, referred, or the prospect already knows your name, your response rate from prospects will increase dramatically.
5. Your competition seems to have the market locked up. No one wants to talk to you because they’re already being served by someone else. You may need to reposition your service in your marketplace. How can you show prospective clients that your service is higher quality, more effective, totally unique, or better for the bottom line?
6. You are offering your prospects what you think they need instead of what they think they need. They don’t see how your service fits into their plans. Listen to how people in your target market talk about what they are already buying. If they aren’t spending money on ‘executive retreats,’ then call what you are offering ‘an intensive three-day training program.’
7. The way your services are packaged doesn’t make sense to your prospects. For example, they may want to pay a flat fee, and you are charging by the hour. To address this need, an image consultant could offer a one-day makeover, or a freelance writer could provide a monthly newsletter service.
8. You are offering so many services that your prospects can’t figure out what you actually do, and how it matches up with what their needs are. It may be entirely true that you can do almost anything in your area of expertise, but people don’t buy ‘anything;’ they buy something specific. Narrow your focus and pitch the service most likely to get the attention of prospects. Once you are able to get them in conversation, there will be plenty of time to discuss your other abilities.