Very often, the number one fear around marketing for my clients is asking for the business. Oh, sure, they're happy to go on and on about the successes their own clients have had, and they'll wax positively eloquent about the special discounts that they're offering this month, but even the thought of asking a prospect to work with them makes them clam up.
"I don't want to appear too pushy," confesses one client.
"If they want to work with me they'll say so," says another. "Won't they?"
"What if they say no?" shudders a third client.
Although intellectually these people understand that asking for business does not make them beggars, nor pushy salespeople, the very idea of asking makes them quake with fear. To dispel that fear, I have developed a two-part solution model that works like this:
First, conduct a needs-assessment conversation to find out if there is a good fit with your prospect's problems and the solution that you offer.
During this conversation, imagine that there is no question of money. Imagine that the only question that needs answering is: Do you have a way to help this person solve his or her problem?
If the answer is no, say so, and if you can, refer the prospect to someone who might be able to meet this person's needs.
If the answer is yes, you do have an appropriate solution, then ask the prospect if he or she agrees that you have a good solution, and then ask when you should start.
It's that simple. Need + solution = potential sale.
But even when you know the potential for the sale is there, asking can be scary, unless you already know how to ask in a way that feels natural to you. Here are some phrases that might help you ask for the business comfortably.
1. Now that you know what I can do for you, shall we get started?
2. It looks like we're a good match on this project, and I think it would be fun to work together. Shall we go ahead and get the paperwork started?
3. You mentioned that you needed this immediately; does that mean you like us to begin today?
4. I'm glad you think the XYZ package is the one that will work best for you, because it's the one I would recommend. Shall we work out the details now?
5. Yes, the ABC program begins next week. Would you like to take care of your enrollment right now?
6. If you have no more questions, there's just one left for me to ask: When do we start?
7. Now that we've tweaked this proposal to your specifications, do we have a deal?
8. I'd really like to work with you on this project. What will it take to get started?
9. It looks like we've created the right solution for you, and we'll come in just under budget. Are you ready to move forward now?
10. Earlier you said that you'd like to have this in place by the end of the month. Working backwards, that gives us two weeks to get all the elements in order, so I'd recommend starting on Tuesday. Does that work with your schedule, or would you rather begin on Monday?
Remember, asking for the business is the natural conclusion of a successful needs analysis discussion. If you have the solution to your prospect's problem, all you have to do is say so, and ask when you can get started, so then all that's left to do is work out the details.
Yes, there is a chance that your client will back-pedal, but all that means is that the solution you've proposed isn't perfect (yet), so go back to working on resolving the problem, and ask again.
If it just plain isn't working out, accept it, acknowledge it, and ask if you can refer this prospect to someone else. (You just might close the sale yet!) But even if you don't, you've shown that your goal is the satisfactory resolution to your prospect's problem, and that's just good business.
By Veronika Noize
Photography by Andre Klopper
© Veronika Noize 2003. All rights reserved. This article was written by Veronika (Ronnie) Noize, the Marketing Coach. Ronnie's web site is a comprehensive marketing resource for small office/home office business professionals. For free marketing resources including articles and valuable marketing tools, visit her web site at http://www.VeronikaNoize.com, or email her at Ronnie@VeronikaNoize.com.