How To Turn Prospects Into Clients In A Service-Based Business

Turn prospects into clients

How many times have you had a seemingly great prospective customer in the cusp, yet they did not convert?

We’ve analyzed this puzzle dozens of times. While there are some challenges unique to our industry, most are specific to service-based businesses.

How do you turn prospects into clients? I’ve found the answer is more complicated than it sounds. You must quickly weed out less-than-ideal prospects, grab the attention of stakeholders, create a sense of urgency and remove their obstacles.

You must identify the culprits and learn how to deal with them. Here are the top four!

Culprit Prospect Type #1: ‘Dance for Me!’

The Challenge
You receive an inquiry about your services. The company requests a lot of stuff, up front, from you. Last week, a prospective customer asked us to send the following (before we’ve even had a conversation):

-Your Social Capabilities (platforms and deliverables)
-Pricing and Profit implication
-Testing / Reporting Capabilities
-Cost breakdown in a tiered approach
-Process for working together

The Solution
Stop spending countless hours on RFP’s, vague requests, and customized solutions for a company that you don’t know!

You must have a conversation about their needs and their expectations to properly understand the scope of the work. This is how companies vet – and eliminate – prospective providers. Many will base a decision on a single factor, such as cost, without understanding the value you provide.  Gain an understanding of the expectations, before sending deliverables. This post offers an example.

The Takeaway
We don’t do pitches – and neither should you. (Without a thorough understanding of the company, pitches can go very wrong. This clip explains).

Culprit Prospect Type #2: The Cheapskate.

The Culprit
A prospective customer is interested in your services, but you find out they cannot afford your services. For many of us, we find out too late, and we’ve wasted our time with the prospect. Other times, they want to negotiate with you. You may or may not have room to do this, but you want the business.

The Solution
Here’s how to handle.

First, offer general pricing in the initial inquiry. We tell leads that our packages start at $xyz amount. If they can’t afford the minimum, they aren’t worth the effort. No time wasted.

If you customize pricing to suit their needs, but they want you to lower the cost, you must be strategic.

If you have a little wiggle room, then negotiate, but ask that you re-evaluate at specific junctures (such as 30 or 90 days). But, DO NOT, sell yourself short. Time is the greatest asset of a service-based business. Do not sacrifice this asset just to bring business in the door.

If you do not have wiggle room, don’t give it. Stand firm.  I tell prospects that I’m sorry it didn’t work out and, if anything changes, let me know.

The Takeaway
Time is money.

Culprit Prospect Type #3: The Non-Committed. 

The Culprit
Ever send a proposal, then… crickets?! Not a single word back from the prospect. If you’re like me, you follow-up to make sure they received the information. If they did, they may say something like, ‘Yes, and I’m reviewing it. I’ll be touch.” Then, still nothing. If you follow-up again, you get stalled.

I need to talk with my boss.

We will make a decision, after the holidays.

We’ll let you know once we’ve finished talking with other vendors.

Sound familiar?

The Solution
In the initial meeting with a prospect who requests customized pricing, be sure you have a meeting scheduledto review it. You must do that before committing to sending anything. If you send this over email, without a follow-up, it’s easy for them to lose that connection with you.

When you schedule that next step, be sure to ask if your contact is the decision-maker for the company. If not, ask them who else should be involved in that conversation. If you want serious consideration, you need the decision maker present.

Turn prospects into clients

Finally, when you have that meeting, request that they make a commitment within a certain timeframe. Otherwise, you will need to re-evaluate the plan to meet the ever-changing needs of (fill in the blanks).

Bonus tips:
#1. Do not call it a proposal. Call it a plan or an agreement. The word ‘proposal’ puts the prospect in the driver’s seat. If you wish to partner with this company, you must remain on level playing ground.
#2. Include your contract with the plan. It leads the prospect to the next step.

The Takeaway
Do not leave any meeting without the next meeting scheduled – with a decision maker! This is non-negotiable if you want to stay on their radar.

Culprit Prospect Type #4: The Objector.

The Culprit
You finally get the meeting with the decision maker and you’ve reviewed the plan. You successfully answered their questions and they appear agreeable to moving forward.  However, the prospect has some hesitation. You can’t put your finger on it, but it’s clear they aren’t signing today.

The Solution
Dig deeper! Uncover the objection(s) and respond with authority. This will take pre-planning before the meeting. Here are some common objections and how to handle them.

If they seem uncomfortable or uncertain ask, “What would make you feel more comfortable about moving forward?”

If they identify a specific objection that’s negotiable for you, ask, “Is that the only reason you’re hesitant? In other words, if it wasn’t for this objection, then we could move forward?”

If they are talking to other companies, “What are you hearing from other companies that we aren’t offering?”

If they are unsure of a long-term commitment with your company, say, “Give us a trial and let us earn your business. If it’s not everything we claim and more, you don’t have to work with us another month.”

You could also say something like, “We believe in what we do so much that we will do this for $xyz for 30 days. If you like what we do, we can move forward with a contractual agreement.” That’s the puppy dog close. Once you get a puppy to take home to see how you like him, what’s the likelihood you’re going to return the dog? Come on!!

The Takeaway
Uncover the objections and remove those obstacles. Do your homework. Preparation is key to avoiding this culprit.

Service-based providers have a unique challenge to sell their services, which are not always in the form of tangible deliverables.  We must efficiently accelerate the know, like, trust process to protect our time. I spent years defining insanity before finding a clearing. This process has helped us – and I hope it will help you, too.


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