I love content marketing and marketing automation and have created a lot of content here on my blog to share what I have learned. I have even written a book about it.
When done correctly, content marketing and marketing automation are extremely effective at capturing leads and nurturing them towards the point where a lead becomes a customer. With that said, if your business requires more than “add to cart” to make a sale, content marketing alone is not going to increase your revenue.
You still need to know how to actually talk to your prospect and ask them to buy.
The one thing that I haven’t written a single post about is how to sell; which, given that I have 20+ years of B2B selling experience, is pretty hilarious.
Today, that changes. As wonderful as content marketing is, it doesn’t land clients. Talking to people is what does that.
How I Persuade a Qualified Lead to Buy
The headline I wrote is kind of a joke. The truth is that I don’t have some magic potion to persuade anyone to do anything they don’t want to do.
Noticed that I italicized that last bit, did you?
When I talk to a lead, I do have a very specific framework for the discussion because within 90 minutes of saying hello for the very first time, my goal is to close the sale and get paid.
I don’t want to write proposals and I don’t want to make follow up calls.
Experience has taught me one simple concept: qualified leads, if given answers to their questions, are generally ready to make a purchase decision in a very short period of time.
Virtually every time I have reached the end of my first sales call and not got a yes, I don’t end up getting the yes, no matter how many follow up calls that I make (note: throughout my career I’ve sold primarily to small business and there is almost never a committee involved in the buying process).
The Framework for Success
So….what does this framework look like? Good question.
It’s not complicated, but it is highly effective. Out of the last 4 times I’ve used it, 3 have said yes, and one is still thinking about it. I’ll bet he doesn’t buy from me.
Before I get into the details of the framework, I want to stress something incredibly important.
During a sales interview (what some would call a “sales call”), I almost never make a statement. Instead, virtually everything that comes out of my mouth is a question. Only when I get to the end of the conversation, assuming I have built a high level of trust, do I dare to make a statement or two.
Why is that? Simple. If I say something to you, you can (and will) doubt it. But, if you say it, it has to be true. Right?
Ok, so, with that said…let’s dive into the frame work.
Phase 1 – Setting up the Call
In the first part of the call, I want to accomplish a few things:
- demonstrate to them that I’m not like every other nitwit who just starts verbally puking all over the place
- let them know what to expect (so they will let their guard down and relax)
- get a feel for their needs/wants/desires and motivation to change
Here’s what I generally say…
“Mr X, thanks for getting on the call with me today. What I’d like to do, if it’s ok with you, is begin by asking you enough questions to help me understand what you are trying to accomplish, why it is important, and why you might want to change what you are doing now. Once I have gained a better understanding of your current situation, I’m going to introduce you to a framework for growing a business, and if you agree that this framework applies to your business, we’re going to use it to guide the remainder of our discussion today. Does that sound ok to you?”
By setting expectations and giving them an idea of what is going to happen next, I have helped my prospect to:
- relax (I’m not going to push anything on them)
- be open to my questions and understand why I’m asking them
- be curious about how I can help them
Before we move onto phase 2, I want to remind you of one thing: I can start a call like this because the prospect has contacted me to ask for the call. That’s where the content marketing part really pays off. If I didn’t do all the content marketing, they wouldn’t have ever found me in the first place!
As a side note, if you’d like to learn more about the approach that I’m describing, I highly recommend a book called Upside Down Selling by Ian Altman.
Phase 2 – Ask Why They Took the Call
Once I have set the stage for where I plan to take the conversation, the next thing that I want to get a feel for is how motivated someone is to solve their problems. To accomplish this, I usually ask, “Why did you book this call with me today?” and then I follow that one up with “What are you hoping to get out of today’s call?”
Based upon the answers to these questions, I generally have a pretty good feel for what their agenda is, as well as how motivated they are to make a change. If I feel the motivation is low, I will most likely ask more probing questions until I find what their hot button is (a hot button is the pain they are trying to solve).
Phase 3 – Conduct a Self Assessment
Now that I know what they want and how motivated they are, I need to gain a deeper understanding of how they feel about their business now. This is where I use my Lifecycle Self Assessment tool.
As all my meetings are done online (why drive to go see someone when you can do a face to face meeting online?), I direct them to the web page above and ask them if they are at all familiar with the concept. Most have heard of it because they have usually consumed a fair amount of my content (see…there’s that content marketing stuff helping out again).
I then take a few minutes to walk them through the seven steps shown on the image above and ask them if they feel that this is a suitable framework for growing their business. Thus far, no one has ever said no.
When you go to the Lifecycle Self Assessment page, you’ll notice that I have a form under the image with a rating scale of 1 to 10 beside each of the seven steps. The goal here is to get my prospect to rate themselves on each of the seven steps. Each time I do this, plenty of discussion ensues, and, most often, their self assessment results in fairly low scores for the first three steps.
Can you image what would happen if, instead of asking them what their score was, I told them what I thought their score was, based upon looking at their website? It would probably be a short call…and they would very likely try to defend their sub-standard marketing.
The reason the self assessment works so well is because they are the ones doing the rating.
That isn’t the only reason it works so well though. The other reason this approach is so effective is that it affords me the opportunity to ask a lot of questions, and the more intelligent questions I ask, the more likely they are to continue to trust that I know what I’m doing.
Smart people don’t generally ask dumb questions, right? (oh, look… I just asked you a question instead of making a statement)
What Do You Want to Do Next?
Once we’ve completed the self assessment, we are normally 20 to 40 minutes into the sales interview and, by way of my questions, I have had numerous opportunities to display my “marketing smarts” to my prospective client.
The other thing that has been happening is that my prospect’s apprehension has largely been replaced with a desire to improve upon the areas where they scored themselves poorly.
At this point, I will usually say something like this, “Now that we have identified the areas of most need and I’ve given you a few examples of how I and past guests on my show have addresses these challenges in our businesses, we need to come up with a game plan to solve these challenges for you, right?”
They say yes.
“Ok, well, what would you like to do next?”
These 9 words, if used at the right time in a sales interview (trust has been built, needs have been identified, motivation is present) are incredibly powerful because it puts the onus on my prospect to give me an answer that will help them to move forward.
No one ever gets to this point in the call and says, “I want to think about it“. While I suppose they could say that at this point, I have never had anyone do it.
Their response almost always is to ask me what the first step of working together is.
When they do that, they have made an emotional decision to work with me. Now we just need to create the logic to support the emotional decision.
Getting Agreement to Proceed
Earlier in this post, I made this statement: qualified leads, if given answers to their questions, are generally ready to make a purchase decision in a very short period of time.
A big part of being qualified is being able to afford what I’m offering. Rookie salespeople leave the price to the very end because they feel that they need to sell hard prior to announcing the price.
This is the wrong approach.
Instead of waiting to the end, once I have established that they have a need and are motivated, I will, at the earliest opportunity, let them know what working with me usually costs. By getting the price out in the open early on, you are removing it from being a possible objection later on.
So, with that said, here’s how I usually wind up the call…
When they tell me what they want to do next, I respond by telling them what phase one normally includes and ask them if they are ready to proceed. If they say yes, I send them a payment link and they pay by credit card.
It’s just that simple and, as I mentioned before, 3 of my last 4 presentations have ended this way.
If this sounds too easy to you, remember a few things about how my business works:
- I produce a lot of content to position myself as an expert
- People find me because we are good at promoting our content
- They read or watch a lot of my stuff before they call me
- They already know they have a need and have probably completed 60% or more of the buyer’s journey before we speak
- When we do speak, I follow a proven framework (proven over my 20+ years of selling) to move them from “interested” to “ready to proceed”
Making a sale is the natural conclusion of a meaningful discussion with a qualified prospect. If they aren’t qualified, my chance of closing the sale are somewhere near zero.
What Do You Think?
Do you have questions or comments? Do you agree or disagree? I want to hear your thoughts!