Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sealing The Deal – Part 4

You Asked For The Engagement And They Didn’t Say Yes

Now What Do You Do?

In the last post I suggested a proven end-of-business-development-meeting strategy to convert your prospect into a client. You did it, but it didn’t work. Now what? Let’s frame the problem with a scenario. We’ll assume you made the following call to action: “Joan, I think we’ve covered all the issues and I’m confident I can deliver the services you want. If you wish me to perform these tasks for you, I need to get all the raw data we discussed. What’s the best way to do that?”

Joan pauses for a moment and says, “Well, Bob, I’m still torn about how to do this. Or even if I should. Roger has been doing my taxes for many years and I just don’t feel comfortable taking it away from him even though he said he’s retiring next year. I’d like to think about this some more.”

Or, she might say, “Bob, I have no doubt you can do the work, but Roger has been my accountant for many years and he’s a bit less expensive than the estimate you’ve given me. I feel like I should stick with Roger until he retires next year and then rethink my options.”

Or, “I appreciate your presentation Bob, but I’ve also interviewed another accounting firm and I need to think about which I will choose.”

Ouch! Not what you wanted to hear. How do you respond?

First of all, as you go through the meeting you must continually assess how it seems to be going. Have you followed the process? Are they listening? Asking questions? Engaged? Have you balanced the technical and human factors so you have both unearthed the clients needs and wants and then connected your solutions with what’s really important to them? Plus, just as importantly, have you connected with the prospect on a human level?

Let’s begin with the assumption you’ve done well to this point but she didn’t say yes. In the first two examples above the prospect uses the word “feel” in her response to your question. The third is simply a stall. Recall I talked in an earlier post about how some people just don’t make up their minds quickly. They are conservative. They don’t feel comfortable with change. They need awhile to come around to something new. I also talked about the psychological underpinnings related to this; the conscious vs. unconscious brain and how they need to be in sync before people can be comfortable with taking a new direction. Therefore, your best shot to turn the “no” or “maybe” into yes is to address the emotional side of the equation.

Your immediate challenge is to determine what really drives your prospect ... as you have gone through the meeting, what was the one issue Joan appeared to be the most emotionally invested in? What did she care about the most? While a person may have several emotional triggers, you’ll need to pick one because you don’t have time to explore all the options.

Quickly reviewing the meeting in your mind, you decide Joan’s real hot button is that she is stressed because her business is only marginally profitable and she is very anxious that if it slides any further she’ll be in a difficult cash position with limited resources to draw from. From that you conclude she needs to feel good about a prospective change because she is frightened of doing anything that will make things worse.

So, in her first response, she doesn’t want to change from Robert to you. There may be a loyalty element there, but you can bet there is a larger “I’m afraid to rock the boat” imperative. Her second response has the same loyalty flavor, but also speaks to lower costs and preserving the status quo. I would interpret the third response as simply a ploy to avoid making a decision.

Considering either of her responses, what would be the effect if you said the following? “Joan, please understand I admire and appreciate your loyalty and that I am not being critical of Roger, but the reality of your situation is that right now you need more than a financial scorekeeper. Accountants have a great advantage in that as we work with our client companies we see repetitive patterns of what works and what doesn’t. My greatest value to you is for me to help you adopt those financial practices that the great majority of successful companies seem to share. That’s the quickest path to your success. Let me give you some examples. We can project ahead to determine cash requirements and then talk about the best way to make sure it’s available when needed. We can look at your cost structure, margin and profitability data and compare it to similarly situated companies. Having hard data like this allows us to make a workable plan to get your company back on solid footing with greater profitability and growth. We can ensure your internal financial operations are accurate and efficient. I know a couple of really talented marketers who would be happy to talk with you perhaps provide some fresh ideas for added revenue. The bottom line is I want my clients to be successful and I believe working together we can achieve your goals and alleviate your fears for your business’ success. (3 second pause) What do you think?”

While Joan may not blurt out, “When do we start?” I’ll bet you have an excellent chance of obtaining her as a new client because you have provided a reasonable solution (logical) for lessening her anxiety and fear (emotional). Notice I didn’t even address the cost? That’s because I don’t think it is really an issue. Her fear of change is the issue.

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