It happens to everyone: you meet someone who could be a prospect for your services, but they’re not ready to buy – at least not yet. Maybe they say they’re happy with their current provider. Or they’re just too busy to think about their business issues right now.
So what happens next? In most companies, you do the following:
- You put the prospect’s business card in your ever-growing stack of cards that collects dust.
- You call the prospect once or twice in the next several months. If they are still not ready to buy, you stop contacting them.
All the while, you are probably thinking, “yeah, I need to follow up with those old contacts to see if they have a need.” The thing is, you don’t have the time to do it since you’re focused on trying to find the most sales-ready leads you have so you close more business faster.
Going after your hottest leads is clearly important. Here are 4 things you can do when a prospect isn’t ready to buy your services.
1. Research Your Prospect
Try to determine if your prospect is a fully qualified lead. It will save you valuable time and money in the long run and help you develop other leads. You can do this several different ways. First, have a good understanding of your target customer.
Next, try to determine if your prospect doesn’t want to commit now, or if they will ever commit. Knowing the answer will save you a lot of time, money and aggravation. A simple way to do this is by examining their website or checking them out on LinkedIn. This will give you an indication of the size and health of the company and whether it looks like they would have the funds or need to hire you.
2. Ask the Right Questions
If you have the opportunity to meet with the prospect either in person or by phone, take full advantage of that time by asking the right questions and listening intently to their answers. Ask open ended questions to get your prospect talking. Another way to organize questions is thinking in terms of nurture, need and desired outcome.
Begin to establish a relationship with your client. Ask questions that enable you to get to know them better. Understand the daily workings of the company. You should know how large the organization is both by number of employees, locations, and by their use of technology. This may seem like common sense but if making the sale becomes the focus, often some of the getting-to-know you information is neglected.
Here are some open-ended questions that will help you get to know your prospect better and nurture the relationship:
- What do you do on a daily basis?
- What equipment is necessary to perform daily tasks?
- What are the platforms and systems that you most depend on?
- How are these systems integrated?
Try to pinpoint issues that may be unattended or not satisfactorily addressed.
- What are the most common issues you encounter with your technology?
- How are these issues currently being addressed?
- Is your current service provider satisfying your business needs?
- Are issues addressed promptly and resolved quickly?
- How would you like to see the process improved?
Introduce questions on a current hot topic that might expose a need the company has not yet addressed.
I’ll use cyber security as an example – you can use this model of questions to create ones that make sense for your business:
- There have been a lot of recent reports about organizations being hacked. Are you comfortable with your current level of cyber security?
- Is cyber security a concern of your organization? If not, do you think it ought to be?
- Have you considered appropriating more funds to increase your cyber security?
Ask questions to determine what would alleviate the problems the prospect has; even more so, discover what you could do to create a happy and fully satisfied client, one that would be pleased to give you a glowing testimonial.
- What does success look like with this particular problem/dilemma?
- When would you like to have your issues resolved?
- What has prevented you from solving your IT issues until now?
- What happens if you do nothing about the problem?
Wait to make your own sales pitch until you feel you have a good grasp on what the company does, where their current pain points are and how you are uniquely qualified to solve their business dilemmas. Understanding why a prospect may be interested in your services is also important. If you are able to articulate their problems and propose a solution to those problems, even if they are not ready to buy, you will be in a good position for future consideration.
Finally, you might want to ask some tough questions and try to isolate what the objection to purchasing your service is:
- Do you have a budget allocated to meet your business needs?
- What is keeping you from changing to another company?
- Who are the decision makers and what’s the approval process?
- Do you feel the fees for my service are reasonable? If not, why?
3. Stay Connected
Find out when a good time to reconnect would be. If it’s ‘never’ since they are going with someone else, you can still stay in touch because they might not be happy with the provider they selected, especially if they don’t do as good a job keeping the prospect happy and informed as you would.
Use your CRM tool effectively by scheduling specific follow-up steps. Instead of “call to check in,” be more strategic with your marketing plan and include directions such as (again, using IT as an example), “1 month: send ebook on Executive’s Guide to IT terminology;” “3 months: send article on ‘7 files to back up nightly;'” “4 months: call to ask if they would like white paper on security threats to your business;” “6 months: call to ask how it is going with provider they picked.”
When you determine the exact follow up steps ahead of time, your prospect’s valuable contact information will no longer sit on your desktop and collect dust. The information will be useful and the reminders automatic.
4. Show Your Expertise
By sending a monthly newsletter or posting news or trends, you’ll stay top-of-mind, especially if you send educational material. If you only send sales material about yourself and your offers, the prospect may tune out. Rather, keep your communication informative with tips, trends and technology know-how they will find useful.
Share business case studies to illustrate how you’ve helped other clients. This paints a picture for your prospect so they can see their situation play out in a story.
One of our clients sent an alert to educate his contacts about a trending topic. At the end of the article there was an offer for a free assessment. Several prospects that were already using other providers started to wonder why their current provider didn’t tell them about this topic. This resulted in some of those contacts using his assessment. He was able to close $5000 in project business within a week and then converting those new clients into $75k in annual recurring revenue – all by educating them.
Even when you meet a promising prospect only to realize they are not ready to buy, don’t end the relationship there. Work to learn more about the prospect. Find out their needs and how they are being addressed. Take the initiative to educate them on topics that will benefit their organization and continually present your company as one that can satisfy their needs.
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