Never do these 5 things to a prospect.
I’m still embarrassed by this old mistake.
I’d met a woman at a class I was teaching, and a few weeks after the class finished, she called me out of the blue. She said she thought she might want to hire me to help her get unstuck.
I’d like to blame what followed on an out-of-body experience, but what really happened was that I engaged my mouth before my brain. Instead of delving into her needs and what she wanted to accomplish, I started rattling off the nuts and bolts of the consulting services I offer.
I never heard from her again.
If you’d prefer not to add a similar embarrassing story to your repertoire, make sure, when speaking with your prospects, that you avoid the mistakes I made.
1. Data dump on her.
Yes, I’m justifiably proud of the consulting process I’ve developed. Yes, it works beautifully with the right clients. No, that doesn’t give me license to drown prospects in data about what I do and how I do it.
Not only did I overwhelm this woman with information, but I promptly compounded my mistake by adding another screw-up to the mix.
2. Put the spotlight on yourself.
I wasted a precious opportunity by putting the emphasis on the wrong person. What I talked about was “me, me, me” – when it should have been all about “her, her, her.”
I told her things that were, at that moment in time, irrelevant to her. Why were they irrelevant? Because she was shopping, not buying. She even told me this implicitly when she said “I think I might want to work with you.”
Had I been listening effectively, I would have paid attention to her underlying message, which was, “I want to find out if you’ll be able to do what I want done; I’m not ready to commit to you yet.”
But, since my ears apparently turned off at about the same time my brain did, I didn’t hear that message, which led me to make yet another mistake.
3. Close too soon.
In a fit of over-optimism, I interpreted her call to me as a solid buying signal, so I went for the close right away.
To convert prospect to client, engage brain, then mouth.
I – and she – would have been far better off had I launched into a discovery process to find out what she meant by “stuck” and what she was hoping I could do to un-stick her.
Unfortunately, I didn’t ask any open-ended discovery questions, so neither she nor I had any real chance to explore whether working together would be in both our best interests.
But at least in my eagerness to close, I found another way to screw up…
4. Ignore or gloss over objections or hesitancies.
Even as I was bubbling away about what I could do for her, I was aware that my prospect had become very, very quiet.
And hearing crickets is a very, very bad sign.
If you’ve rendered a prospect speechless, that very lack of response is an indicator that they’re not comfortable about something (maybe multiple somethings). If you don’t address whatever is making her hesitate, the chance of moving her from prospect to client is very, very small.
But I wasn’t yet done messing up, because I managed to tack on one final, closely related oops. (“How many mistakes can one person make in a single interaction??”, you may be asking yourself. After the fact, I was asking myself that exact same question. Sigh…)
5. Fail to acknowledge when you’ve screwed up the process.
During my bubbling/babbling, part of my brain was screaming at me to shut up, but I just couldn’t seem to stop talking.
Even then, I might have been able to retrieve the situation had I taken a breath, then spoken some uncomfortable – but highly effective – words:
“Yikes! I’ve just dumped on you like crazy; I’m so sorry. How ‘bout if we pretend I just answered your call? That way we can start over and I can say, ‘Hmmm, you’re stuck. Tell me what stuck looks like for you’.”
Even when you’ve wedged both feet in your mouth up to the knee, people are very often willing to give you a chance to redeem yourself if you’re willing to ‘fess up and acknowledge your less-than-graceful behavior.
Do any of these sound familiar? Do you know someone who could use a reminder about what not to do to prospects? Please bravely share your war stories below so the rest of us can learn from them, too.
(BTW, thanks to kimubert for posting the hands image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)This entry was posted in problem solving and tagged effectiveness, professional skills. Bookmark the permalink.