One of the most important lessons in sales...
Here we look at one of the training videos from our
Story Prospecting online training course
This video is about asking for the business.
You're reaching out to someone you don’t know and you doing it because you want something. You want to do business with that person
How are you doing it?
Are you asking directly for it? Or are you giving something first?
That's what this video is about.
We’re calling a potential client because of the problems that we can solve for them and at some point in our call we need to explicitly or implicitly ask for something. [Pointing to Framework Image] This is the zone where we need to ask.
But do we ask or give?
Let’s start by thinking about your company’s brand awareness and with the differentiation of your products and services.
When I was selling for big corporations like Siemens and Nokia I had high brand awareness. When I picked up the phone to call a client I’d say “This is Mike Adams and I'm calling from Siemens”. I had instant brand credibility. (Unfortunately I often didn't have a highly differentiated product so it wasn't such an easy selling environment.)
[Points to graph] If you have a highly differentiated unique product and a very high brand awareness, you don't need sales people. You just need marketing and your customers come to you.
So normally we're in a situation where one or other of these [Pointing to graph] is not working so well - we need to move up to the easy corner of the graph.
It's very difficult if we have low brand awareness - they've never heard of us - and we have poor offering differentiation.
When I started in our consulting business I went from working for a large corporations with high brand awareness to no brand awareness at all. In fact, when we first started we also had poor product differentiation. We were pitching general sales training and that's a poorly differentiated offering.
Eventually we worked out that we needed to be more differentiated and we started offering free tickets to companies that had sales teams to come to our Story workshops. That served two purposes; people came along and suddenly we were not an unknown brand - they spent a whole day with us. Our brand awareness increased but also our differentiation increased because they got to see our products and services and understand how we were different and unique. So, giving away a ticket was a way to get ourselves up that path. [Points to graph]
Just step back a minute and think about prospecting. We are reaching out to people we don't know [Points to diagram]. There is an alternative to reaching out, as in a sales effort, and that is with marketing we can try to draw a prospect company towards us.
We normally do a combination of marketing and sales. Good sales people really do understand marketing and they get involved in marketing. The big advantage for sales people doing targeted marketing is that it increases their brand awareness and their product differentiation and it takes a difficult prospecting call and makes it that little bit easier.
Thinking further about the outreach that you could have in terms of marketing. Can you associate with a well-known brand? Can you partner with a better known brand or a better known product or service? Maybe you can be the agent for a better known product or service? That's another way to increase your brand awareness.
If you have a variety of products and services, then lead with your most differentiated service. That should be obvious but we didn't do it when we started it our consulting business. It wasn't until we really differentiated some services and we were able to lead with those differentiated services that we could bring in the other services.
As you become a brand, once you're understood and known it’s much easier to introduce less differentiated services.
Now to the main point of the video - asking and giving.
If we think of a continuum, where all the way over here [Points to line on graph] is what I call the big ask - I'm going to ring someone up and ask them directly to buy on the phone, for example. That’s very difficult and you would need a highly differentiated very good offer.
But I could ring them up with a small ask such as 10 minutes on the phone at another time or a 20 minute meeting. Those would be small asks.
But it's also worth thinking about a small ‘give’ or a big ‘give’.
With our Story Workshops, we gave away tickets which was was a fairly big ‘give’ but it got us a lot of business. It was a way in. So think about giving something which, by the way, is still asking because the customer has to send somebody which costs them time. There's always something that the customer has to give you when you give them something but it can be a very good way to overcome the problem of unknown brand and poor differentiation from the customer’s perspective.
So what we are doing by giving something away, in the case of our Story Workshops is moving up the brand awareness line here [points at graph] and increasing our offering differentiation at the same time.
There are two psychological principles at work.
The first is called reciprocity.
That's is when I give something. If I give you something, you feel obligated to give back. In some cultures that's a very powerful thing. When you go to countries and they are commonly giving gifts you can be pretty sure that reciprocity is playing a big part in that culture. It can be highly uncomfortable for people in these cultures to not be able to give back. They feel obligated.
And that's the reason, by the way, that there's lots of free downloads on the internet - download my free eBook etc. They're getting your email address (a small ask) but they're also creating an obligation so that they can ask for something a little bit further down the track. The classic Internet marketing trick is give once, give twice, give three times and then ask for something.
However, Sales people have known for a long time that more powerful than reciprocity is the persuasive principle of commitment to consistency.
This happens when your future customer gives you something.
When they give you something it's a wonderful thing because when they give you something they identify with the fact that they are someone who gives you something. So if you were to ask for something else, the chance is high that they will give again.
Your chance of getting something from someone who has already given you something is much higher than with someone who has never given you anything.
And that's why getting a small thing such as a meeting, such as time on the phone, such as information, such as complete this survey … means that they're much more likely to give you bigger thing in the future and that's actually how big deals are done. Big deals are not done all in one go. They're a progression of small give and take. You ask, they give, you ask for more, they give more, you ask for even more…. and that's the principle of commitment to consistency - their internal consistency – and it's a wonderful thing.
Here's the critical message from this video;
You need to ask!
You absolutely have to find a way to get to the next step. It's no good having a conversation with your future customer and not getting them to give you something. You can get them to give you something by giving them something, or you can directly ask. In my opinion both are ‘asking’. But you need to ask.
This is a very important sales lesson.