For the budding entrepreneur, the path to success is filled with roadblocks. What might seem like surefire strategies often flame out quickly. The challenge of attracting and keeping customers requires extensive research of your market and attention to detail. There may be false starts along the way, but this seven-step process will help you perfect your sales pitch and seal the deal:
Step 1: Know Thy Prospect
Do your homework to discover what makes your prospects tick or what problems you can solve for them.
Also, hang out in the same places as your prospects. I’ve found online forums and keyword search tools to be a godsend. Facebook and LinkedIn groups are also useful; just don’t appear out of thin air with an aggressive sales pitch or you may be ousted from the group.
A few additional items to research, based on Bob Bly’s BDF Formula:
- What do my prospects believe? What are their attitudes?
- What do my prospects desire? What do they want?
- What do my prospects feel? What are their emotions?
During my time as a financial mentor for college students, I had to observe behaviors to figure out how to get their attention and best serve them. Based on a series of surveys, conversations, online research, and feedback received during webinars, here are the responses to the questions posed above:
- Undergraduate students believe understanding finances and how they work will play an integral role in their future as they enter the working world and are faced with life-changing decisions involving money.
- They want straightforward resources to educate them on the elements of personal finance that matter most.
- Many feel in over their head with debt (especially credit cards and student loans) and have no idea how to get their spending under control. They are also ashamed of past financial decisions in which they didn’t read the fine print.
Step 2: Add Value to Your Prospects’ Lives
People are busy and the last thing you want to do is drown them with another product. You only have a few seconds to capture their interest or you’ll lose them.
Why the Competition Matters
Figuring out how to position your product or service in a way that conveys added value to someone’s life is difficult. That’s where the competition comes in to save the day.
Study their products and services. By determining what they fail to bring to the table, you can position your offering to fill the void and get your piece of the pie.
What’s Your Unique Selling Proposition?
Along with proper positioning, you must also have a unique selling proposition, or USP, to separate you from the masses, especially if you’re in an oversaturated industry. Prospects need to be convinced you’re the best choice, but simply conveying this message without concrete evidence won’t help. The trick is to narrow down the most compelling benefits, pick the one that tops the list, and roll with it.
When working with students, I emphasized how I was once victimized by poor financial decisions myself, but formulated a master plan to find a way out. I also explained how my affiliation with the university meant I could better help them navigate its complex financial aid system.
Another note: Developing a USP is a continuous process as marketplace conditions evolve, so don’t settle for one position and run with it for years on end.
Step 3: Present What You Have to Offer in a Way They’ll Grasp
Before we delve into the actual pitch, let’s address your website, as it may be the first point of contact for your prospects. Is the site secured, easy to navigate, and does it display your contact information? Does the copy speak the language of your prospects? If not, make the proper modifications. These simple factors could make or break a sale.
Once your site is all set, it’s time to pitch your idea. Your presentation should not be a one-sided pressure session where you’re doing all the talking, but a two-way conversation. In essence, you should speak less and listen more, or abide by the 80:20 rule: 80% listening, 20% speaking. The more they talk, the more you’ll learn about them and what issues need to be addressed in their business.
Once you’ve captured their attention with the benefits you can offer, mention all the extra features of your program. (Remember: Features tell, but benefits sell.) If you can word your proposition in a way that hits the nail on the head, you’ll win every time.
I want to illustrate this using the AIDA principle, which is an acronym for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action, created by advertising and sales pioneer for E. St. Elmo Lewis. In the scenario below, award-winning children’s book author Kentrell Martin uses this principle to his advantage when selling books at festivals:
- Attention: Bookmark containing American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet presented to prospect.
- Interest: Sales representative mentions the products are children’s books that teach ASL.
- Desire: Sales representative expresses the unique nature of the book; they are the first of their kind since they tell a story while incorporating ASL.
- Action: Once customer asks about pricing, sales representative mentions retail price (indicated on back of the book), but extends bundle offers.
Most importantly, don’t be monotone with your delivery even if you can’t evoke an emotional response from them. Some prospects may use this as a negotiation tactic, even if they’re really interested. (Picture a job interview where you got the callback, even when the hiring manager didn’t seem interested.) And if you’re not passionate about what you’re selling, why should they be?
Step 4: Handling Objections and Addressing Concerns
Are there other options available or customizable solutions that can be tailored to fit their needs? The more flexibility the better, as you’ll decrease your chances of being rejected. If affordability is an issue, present a smaller package.
If they outright reject you, realize it’s just for now. Leave them with marketing materials and retrieve their email address to add to your mailing list. Continuous communication will keep you on their radar, and they may eventually make a purchase.
Testimonials are another essential element to incorporate into your sales pitch, marketing materials, website, and social media pages, because they prove you’re the real deal and other customers’ lives or businesses have been transformed by your offerings. My advice: Never close a sale without encouraging the customer to provide candid feedback. (Many companies, including Chick-fil-A, have mastered the art of soliciting testimonials by offering free products or discounts in exchange.)
Step 5: Communicate the Urgency to Take Action Now
A seasoned auto broker once told me that in the world of sales, it’s now or never. But when we’re talking high-priced programs, software packages, consulting services, or any other product, that approach isn’t always true. There could be a series of meetings that must take place within your prospect’s organization before they reach a decision.
On the other hand, in the online world, your prospect could be convinced, but may need a little extra push to take your offer. In some instances, that could be through a blog post, webinar, or some other form of correspondence that speaks directly to their emotions.
Regardless of the field you’re playing in, you need to determine the next step if your prospect wants to learn more. Are you available to meet or join in a conference call as soon as possible to address their questions or concerns? The sooner the better, as their emotions will still be in high gear. And don’t forget to re-emphasize the key benefits.
During the meeting is also the perfect opportunity to present any special promotions you’re offering.
Step 6: Seal the Deal
This is the most critical part of the process, so don’t rest on your laurels. Instead, bring your A game and speak their language.
When it’s time to talk numbers, be prepared to negotiate. Start at the top of the pricing spectrum to boost profit margins. In “Negotiation Is an Art, Not a Science,” Forbes recommends you refrain from using a prepared script. It will come across as rehearsed and probably bore your prospects. Besides, how can you convey specific benefits to them if you’re using a one-size-fits-all approach?
A few more tips from Forbes’ “The Secret Art of Negotiating: Take Your Ego Off the Table”:
- Consider the best interests not only of your company, but your client as well. Being selfish can be a major deterrent if clients pick up on what you’re doing. Picture an industry giant dealing with a small startup; how do you expect the “inferior” party to feel?
- Remove your emotions from the equation. Small talk about common interests will relax the prospect, but don’t let it get you off track.
- Get up close and personal. Don’t be so distant and closed off; the key is to be engaged at all times so the prospect knows you mean business.
Also, consider offering incentives to sweeten the deal. But before you start griping about costs, hear me out. Increasing conversion rates — turning prospects into paying customers — doesn’t always require a freebie. The idea is to wow them before reaching the negotiating process and knock their socks off with the “as a bonus to you for being a valued customer” line when they least expect it.
An incentive to buy could be as simple as a 100% money-back guarantee, which demonstrates your confidence in the product or service. Sounds risky, but if you believe in what you’re selling, it may be worth it to get the sale.
Step 7: Continuous Improvement
The sales process doesn’t stop the moment the customer writes a check or whips out a credit card. The goal is to boost conversion rates, which becomes a lot easier when prospects come to you — because 50% of the work is already done. They know they need your products and services.
And your existing customers become your best marketers by word-of-mouth advertising, the most powerful form of promotion for your company.
At a conference I attended last February, Grant Cardone drove this point home by emphasizing the significance of customer service from inception during the sales process. If you do it right before they become a customer, it will be second nature to take care of them after they commit.
Unexpected Opportunities to Promote Your Product
We’ve discussed the ins and outs of crafting the perfect sales pitch for a specific client. But what happens if you get the opportunity to pitch your product or service without much planning — for example, at a cocktail party, or in the proverbial elevator?
Bob Bly shares the following three-step formula, which I’ve found to be quite effective, in “The Marketing Plan Handbook”:
- Step 1: Ask a question beginning with, “Do you know…?”
- Step 2: State how you solve the problem with, “What we/I do…”
Step 3: Convey your objective by saying, “So that…”
Here’s an elevator speech that works well at educator conferences for author Kentrell Martin: “Do you know that learning ASL fosters cognitive development in children? What we do is create educational resources to help bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing world.”
The prospect feels compelled to select a bundle for her classroom so students can learn basic signs.
In addition, a simple purchase sometimes grants the author the opportunity to come in and facilitate advanced training for teachers and signing lessons for students — a win-win for both parties, stemming from a simple elevator pitch.
Bottom line: There is no one-size-fits-all formula for boosting conversion rates and fattening your bottom line, but your commitment to trying out a combination of these suggestions will pay off.