Most of the time, you don’t lose sales due to the competition being better. You lose them due to confusion. Confusion about the point of the project, the value it would bring to the business, the plan, the what and the how.
You might think the client will choose either you or a competitor. There is a third option. They might pick none of you and keep looking further, or even drop the project entirely.
The potential client isn’t going to sell the project for you. If you want to be successful, it’s you who needs to be leading the sale.
You need to take control and guide the client through the whole process, making sure they’re keeping up. Otherwise, they will take control and try to mitigate their own risk.
It all starts with the sales conversation. That’s where you set the tone for the relationship and put things in the right direction. Once set, the tone is hard to change. That’s why you want to get things right from the very beginning.
If you don’t control the conversation, you will have a ton of issues by the time you get to closing the sale.
Projects that go awry
Losing a project is one of the results of poor control.
Without controlling the sale, there’s still a chance you can win the project. The client may sell it to themselves. What happens next is far from favourable. They take the lead and tell you what to do. In their eyes, you become an order taker, which is close to an employee – not an expert.
These clients show little respect for the strategy behind the project. They introduce their process instead. The project gets delayed. It gets hard for you to get access to content and scope creep gets in the way.
Even when you finally finish the project, there’s no clear win for you.
It’s not about the client’s good or bad will. Confusion induces the feeling of anxiety and risk. They want to lower the risk as much as possible, so they want things to be their way.
If you want to master sales, you need to take control of the selling process. It’s easier to seal the deal once the client understands the process. It’s not the only benefit, though. It’s also easier to direct them through the stages of the project after you sealed the deal.
Today we cover three steps that will help you to improve your control over a sale.
Step 1: Specify a clear goal for the sales meeting.
Having a clear goal in mind is the first step in controlling the sale.
Before going to the sales meeting or having a sales call, first ask yourself:
- What is the purpose of this meeting/call?
- What am I trying to achieve?
- What’s my rough plan to make it happen?
Going to the meeting thinking “I’ll talk to them and ask if they want to work with me”, it’s not going to get you too far.
You want to have a clear plan so at any moment you can assess whether you’re going in the right direction or not.
The goal doesn’t have to be to pitch every time. Actually, the bigger the sale, the more goals you will set along the way before heading for the pitch.
Examples of common goals for a sales meeting would be:
1) to see if you’re a good fit to work together;
You don’t know the client, you’ve never spoken to them before. Do you get on well together? Do they raise any red flags? Your first goal might be to see if you want to work with them or not.
- 2) to gather information;
Before you start selling, you first want to know more about the business. For example, you may ask about their customers, sales process, systems in place.
You want to get to know the business before deciding on whether you can (and want to) help them.
- 3) to discover challenges and pain points;
What are the client’s goals? What’s holding them back? What can you do to make the business more efficient, profitable or comfortable for the owner? What kind of pain points can you identify?
This is a crucial step in any sale – looking for ways you can improve your client’s situation. The more challenges you can help them overcome, the more valued your services will be.
- 4) to pitch & get the sale.
Once you’ve gathered all the information, you want to head for the pitch.
You’ve got to know the business owner and their business. You’ve built rapport and trust with them. You know their challenges and have a clear plan on how a new website will help them overcome them.
Now it’s time to pitch – to offer a specific solution with a clear plan to make it happen.
With free (or cheap) portfolio projects, you want to aim for 1 or 2 calls/meetings. The goal for the first one would be to build rapport, get information and diagnose the challenges. For the second one – to present a solution and pitch.
For bigger projects, you will usually need more meetings and stages, though.
Step 2: Ask the right questions.
Questions are a great way to keep control of any conversation.
We all tend to fall into the trap of thinking it’s the person who is talking that has the most control. Some of us treat the conversation as a competitive sport. The more clever point you make, the better. It’s the opposite – you should talk less and listen more.
If you want to become a good seller, you need to engage buyers. You want them to get excited, motivated, to feel you are the right partner to work with. They will trust you and be eager to work with you.
The thing is, you can only know what they care about if you get them to tell you. When you are selling, you can’t assume, you can’t tell them what they need. It needs to come from them. Assuming something during a sales conversation is a mistake. Most beginners and many pros make it.
The easy solution to this is asking the right questions. It will encourage the business owners to tell you exactly what they think, feel and care about.
Once you ask a question, let the client talk. Don’t interrupt them or rush into the next question. Listen carefully to what they have to say and pay attention to what matters most to them and why. There’s no value in their answers if you don’t listen to them and understand what they’re saying.
Not only you’ll learn a lot about their perspective, but also become the cool guy/gal who wanted to listen to what they had to say. They are busy and often have little opportunity to talk to someone willing to listen. Most of the other salesmen contact them to pitch.
If they stray too far at any point, ask another question that will get them back on track. Always keep control of the conversation, having the end goal of the meeting in mind.
Step 3: Take the lead and move forward.
The worst thing a potential client can feel is you not knowing where you’re going with the sale.
Clients buy confidence, not confusion.
If you want to keep control of the conversation, you need to lead.
It doesn’t mean being pushy or aggressive. It means moving smoothly from one stage of the sales process to another. It’s like a good movie – every scene leads to the next one.
The first stage – you make an intro, build rapport, and get to know each other. Then you find out what is going on with their business. Next, you move on to uncovering their business problems and challenges. You move from one stage to another until you get to the final stage and you accomplish your goal for the meeting.
You’re the one who’s setting a pace and keeping it moving forward. Don’t rush and take your time, but make sure you are on the right track.
To lead the conversation, you may want to say things like:
- Before we move to the pricing, I wanted to focus on your business first. How does your current website help you to sell?
- Let’s hold on here for a moment. What did you mean when you said you needed more brand awareness?
- Alright, I’ve heard a lot about your business and your goals. Let’s recap it now.
Nailing one stage, but failing to move smoothly to the next one will get you nowhere. It’s better to do an okay job and get through all the stages than to get stuck on one stage. Beware of perfectionism. Resist the urge to perfect a stage of the conversation with no clear idea on how to proceed further.
You’re a master of rapport-building, but struggle to ask meaningful questions? There’s a good chance the client might feel they need to take over control.
The three ways to build confidence and control the sale
These three tactics all work together.
First, you want to specify a goal for a particular meeting. What is it that you want to achieve? Do you want to pitch and get a sale, or you want to gather more information first?
Second, ask questions to guide the client. Let them help you achieve your goal while building lots of trust and confidence in your skills. Let them talk and listen.
Third, you want to set a pace and lead the client through the whole process. Pay attention to your goal and ask specific questions that will help you get there.
Share your experience with taking control of sales calls in the comments. What is the hardest part for you?
See you next week!
Read other articles in the 1K Challenge series now:
- How a website can help a business?
- Core skills a web designer needs to know now.
- Why do most web designers struggle to make sales?
- How to improve your web design sales 1000% by earning trust.
- How to find the perfect web design client.
- A simple 6-step process to land portfolio clients.
- When should I work for free as a web designer?
- How to prepare for a sales meeting? (With a template and my notes.)