The gap between that wish and reality can often be substantial. But it’s not hopeless. Here are five different issues that may separate you and the customer of a lifetime, along with strategies that may turn your wish list into a working relationship.
1. “I’m working with a competitor.” Most every business has a competitor with a significant client in the fold — one that you’d dearly love to bring into your own. The first step is to avoid the issue of loyalty. No matter if the customer is satisfied or not, they may feel a degree of attachment to a business with which they’ve worked for some time. Instead, offer a fresh perspective.”Ask them if the current company is giving them anything new — fresh ideas or new ways of approaching things,” says Alan Weiss, author of How to Write A Proposal that’s Accepted Every Time. “Every company changes accounting firms or others they work with regularly. It’s a way of getting new blood.” Additionally, emphasize that your prospect has nothing to lose by listening to what you have to say.
2. “You’re too expensive.” Here, your dream customer claims your costs are simply out of her ballpark. The real issue here is value. By saying you’re too pricey, a customer is likely expressing a lack of understanding about how you may be of value to her. It’s up to you to show her. “Ignore the issue of price,” says Weiss. “Show them that what you have will provide them with a 20% return. There’s no such thing as too expensive; they don’t see the benefit.”Avoid offering to cut your rates — that merely devalues what you do. Instead, try to get additional information about what the client’s financial means are. That may suggest a different product or service that matches their pocketbook without your having to offer a discount. “Ask them if they have a budget or some sort of range that they would be willing to pay,” says Elaine Berke of EBI Consulting of Westport, Mass.
3. “I don’t have time to talk with you.” Like money, time is a commodity a prospect may say he has precious little to share. First, take heart: your dream client at least has enough time to tell you how little time she has: “They’re talking with you,” says Berke. “That’s a sign you’ve gotten through.”From there, try to find out why your dream client is under such a time crunch. That means some exhaustive research to see what might be going on with your prospect. Check newspaper archives and do an Internet search for news about recent company developments, such as acquisitions, major initiatives, and other significant developments. Then, see how your product or service may help with what’s going on. “They may be dealing with something you’re not privy to,” says Chris Deren, CEO of SellMasters, Inc., a Boston sales performance consulting concern. “Help them understand that what you do may help with what’s soaking up all their time. “Deren also suggests networking with colleagues, other people within the prospect’s company and others to try to get a personal feel for what your prospect may be dealing with. If nothing else, any extra insight may impress your prospect: “He may decide that you’re one of the few people that he does have time to talk to,” says Deren.
4. “I don’t see the value in what you offer.” This also stems from a lack of understanding — in this case, that what you’re selling is genuinely valuable. Address this by emphasizing the outcome of what you’re offering, not the product or service itself. “For instance, too many businesses talk about using focus groups for research rather than how to use that research,” says Weiss. “You have to focus on the business outcome.” That means showing the prospect just how she’ll benefit in the most empirical terms possible — lower taxes, higher profit margins, less employee turnover, and other desirable results.Be sure the benefit matches a prospect’s specific goals. Research what’s truly important to a company — be it product development, market share, or overall growth — and, from there, demonstrate how that specific area will improve.
5. “It didn’t work out the last time.” It’s possible your dream client is, in fact, a former customer — one who left under unpleasant circumstances and with whom you’d like to reconnect. Rule one: Apologize — with no excuses or attempt to rationalize what happened in the past, even if that doesn’t automatically win them back. Then demonstrate how the problem likely won’t happen a second time — maybe a technical glitch has been addressed or a problematic employee no longer works for you. Provide testimonials from clients that may address the issue you had with your prospect. Finally, mention any new product or service that may offer fresh value — that, along with a genuine apology on your part, may soften even the most disgruntled former client.
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