Q: I'm a new business owner of a sales/customer service training company. My problem is I get in the door to present a proposal, but then the prospect comes up with a million excuses why he or she can't take advantage of my services right now. What can I do to close more sales?
A: All new entrepreneurs face a common challenge: no history or credibility with the prospect. You mentioned that the prospect claims your price, proposal and professionalism are just what they're looking for, but then they don't give you the business. Know that you could be losing the business to your competition because your competition has people working behind the scenes to help get them the account. Those who have others going to bat for them always have an advantage. So your job is to identify and train more people to help you close more sales.
1. Identify an individual. When you go out on a sales call, look for helpers. For example, it may take you several weeks to get your toe in the door to do a presentation. You check in regularly with the secretary or receptionist and eventually he or she helps you get that appointment. Perhaps your future helper doesn't work for the company but is someone you work out with or see at church. This person may have a connection with the decision-maker. Listen. Ask questions. It's a small world when you start opening your eyes to seek assistance.
2. Express your appreciation. The receptionist finally bugged her boss enough to see you or the woman on the treadmill you see every morning at the club says, "Hey, I know Sue well. I can get you an appointment." Say to her, "Mary, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your endorsement." Too often, a lack of appreciation is evident once the appointment has been attained. Keep reminding the helper you don't take this type of endorsement for granted. Continue to report your progress during the sales process. Helpers like to be kept informed and appreciated.
3. Be responsible. When a helper endorses you for the first time, they may feel some anxiety because they're concerned about their reputation, too. There's nothing worse than recommending someone who doesn't live up to expectations. So say, "I have a double responsibility. I have to do a good job for your reputation's sake, too. I realize you didn't have to stick your neck out for me."
4. Train the helper. It's important to specify what needs to be said about you to the prospect prior to your initial presentation. When you guide your helper to communicate just the right words about you, it practically assures the sale. Begin the conversation as follows: "First off, let's establish where you see my value. Why do you feel comfortable recommending me?" They may reply with something as basic as, "We've known you since you were seven. And you come from a good family. We know you'll take good care of the customer." Next ask the helper, "Can you do me a favor? Can you repeat what you just said about me to Mr. Customer prior to my 3:00 appointment with him today? E-mail, voice mail or a direct call would all work. I find it's easier for the customer to trust me early on once a friend the customer trusts gives them a heads up about me prior to the appointment."
The secret of building a business faster is to find more helpers sooner. When a trusted friend of your prospect intervenes on your behalf, the chances of you closing the sale increase by 50 percent.
Danielle Kennedy is an authority on selling, developing a peak performance attitude and winning customers for life. Call her at (800) 848-8070 or visit www.daniellekennedy.com for information on consulting for your business.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.