I have a confession to make. When it comes to having conversations with prospective clients, I’ve made almost every mistake in the book. I may have even had some chapters dedicated to me and the avalanche of embarrassingly awkward errors I’ve made when it comes to sales convos.
For example: I’ve been late; turned up at the wrong place; been unprepared/emotional/ flustered; had the wrong end of the stick; felt so nervous I couldn’t stop sweating; asked questions I’d just asked; pronounced people’s name’s wrong; called a she ‘he’; had clothing malfunctions; left my notes in the car; chattered incessantly about my dogs; started consulting and/or coaching during the conversation; focused on the wrong things; been intimidated; hit a colleague (it was an accident!); literally stuttered when it came time to talk money; and completely missed asking crucial questions.
Best/worst of all? That cringe-inducing list of cock-ups isn’t anywhere near exhaustive!
Over years of observing, participating in, and eventually leading, conversations with potential clients (both as a consultant and then as a founder of a consulting firm and entrepreneur), believe me when I say, I’ve had plenty (and, ah *cough cough* taken advantage) of opportunities to screw up big time.
These days, after literally hundreds of conversations with prospective clients and learning from some incredible masters, I have my own system for sales conversations and I can honestly say I really LOVE sessions with prospective clients.
I know it probably sounds unlikely, but truthfully, these types of conversations are one of my favourite parts of the job!
Selling conversations, discovery sessions, strategy sessions, initial consults… I don’t mind what you prefer to call ‘em. I believe that, if you’re an expert selling service-based offers priced at $2,000 and beyond, your sales conversation can be your most powerful sales tool. And any effort you invest in mastering them can quickly be worth its weight in gold (literally!).
Here’s why: So often, incredible women entrepreneurs and consultants, who have invested a butt-load of time and effort honing their craft, don’t have the clients they should. It’s got nothing to do with their expertise, and everything to do with not knowing how to genuinely attract and convert their ideal clients. If you’re already an expert, mastering selling conversations can be the missing link that unlocks the business (and revenue) you deserve.
As well as impacting your bottom line, dodgy sales convos could see you damaging your rep and missing out on working with ideal clients – and that means missing out on helping them solve important problems and helping them transform their lives.
But get your sales conversations right, and your business could finally feel easy and begin to soar. Seriously, being able to lead effective sales conversations is a common trait across almost all of my VIP clients over the past 18 months who have quickly doubled (or more) their business.
Here are 5 common mistakes I used to make – and exactly what to do instead (Perhaps you’re making them right now too and don’t even realise!).
1. Not leading the convo
I believe truly heart-fuelled effective sales conversations MUST be a collaborative peer-based dialogue. But collaboration doesn’t mean self-organizing.
Rather than a free-form convo or relying on your potential client (who’s likely in the thick of the challenge they are seeking your help on), I reckon great, collaborative discovery sessions are best achieved when you take the lead, set an explicitly agreed agenda, and keep the session on track.
Instead of being seen as bossy or pushy, in my experience, prospective clients are usually relieved when you lead the way.
2. Doing most of the talking
I remember when nerves coupled with my well-intentioned (but misplaced) desire to deliver value would mean I’d end up hogging the convo; talking my prospects head off and making it hard for them to get a word in edgewise.
If you can relate, take a deep breath and remember: facilitating really great, utterly genuine sales conversations is much more about listening than talking.
These days I know that the insights and clarity that my prospect will uncover themselves as a result of my well-timed, thought-provoking questions (rather than my constant chatter) will always outweigh any recommendations I could make.
3. Not gathering enough context before recommending a solution
If you can make personalized recommendations you’re willing to stand behind without spending most of the conversation building a solid picture of your potential client’s context, call me. I want to know what you’re secret is!
My take is that, so often, our desire to serve can mean that we instinctively want to rush in with ideas, advice and recommended solutions before we’ve got a full picture of our prospects context. But offering meaningful value in sales conversations (and, seriously, all other convos too!) always comes from first really understanding the current climate, history, and desires of our maybe client.
4. Focusing on yourself, instead of your prospective client
I’m betting you, like me, already want to be in full service to your potential client and so might think this mistake doesn’t apply to you. But stick with me because the distinction here can be more subtle than you first realize.
I realised early on that anytime I’m focusing on my needs (for example, perhaps my need for a new client or my worries about rejection or judgment), I’ll struggle to be wholly focused on the needs of my prospective client and to be in complete service to them.
This might be hard to hear, but I reckon feeling nervous can be a signpost that we’re bringing our ego and our agenda to the table.
Of course, when you’re just starting out it can be very hard to be nerves-free. I find that turning the volume up on my natural curiosity and focusing on that above anything else is helpful when it comes to shedding my nerves and my agenda so I can sincerely be in full service.
5. Being unprepared
Regardless of our expertise, most of us are conducting business in markets where there are multiple providers offering the same services and options for clients. So when it comes to sales conversations, HOW you do what you do, can be more important than WHAT you do.
Preparation is the key to distinguishing your HOW. And it’s the best way to be sure you’ll deliver meaningful value in your discovery session.
Honestly, it’s crazy how few women consultants and experts actually prepare for conversations with prospective clients. This is especially true when they are offering clients an off-the-shelf package/solution or working solely online. Guys, to be clear, even if your offer is off-the-shelf, you still need to prepare.
The type of prep I’m advocating isn’t about rehearsing a pitch or script and making assumptions. Instead, it’s about reviewing any info your prospect submitted in advance, their context and spending some time thinking about the main questions you have.
Are you making any of these common mistakes?
I hope you’ve found my tips useful!