Have you ever crafted the perfect offer, put a perfectly reasonable price tag on it, sent it out to all the right people, and still come up empty-handed in the sales department?
I know I have.
One technique you’ll hear over and over again for combatting this problem is to address your customers’ objections. Are they worried about the time commitment? Show them how to fit it in. Are they concerned that your product is right for the kind of person they are? Explain why it’ll work for them, too. Are they concerned about price? Demonstrate what kind of return on investment they could get.
But the biggest sales objection I’ve run into over the years—and from conversations with our Quiet Power Strategy™ strategists-in-training last week, I’m in good company—has been an objection that’s exceedingly difficult to combat.
But not trusting you. The biggest objection to buying is trusting themselves.
As providers, makers, and marketers, we spend an exorbitant amount of time helping our prospects trust us. We share personal stories, create valuable free content, and demonstrate through testimonials that we can be trusted.
But many times your “ask” doesn’t require any more trust in you and requires your customer to trust their own ability to get the kind of results you know you can deliver.
Getting value out of a product or service requires personal responsibility. Unless you’re a snake oil salesperson, you’re not saying that your product is the magic formula. You’re not the kind of marketer that promises that “one weird trick” is going to reduce the number on the scale by 20lbs or that this secret formula will result in triple the sales.
Even if you design clothing or make jewelry or create paintings, your customers need to feel that they can put your work to good use in order to buy it. People generally don’t buy things they don’t have the confidence to wear or put things in their homes they don’t have the attitude to match.
Let’s look at an example: Amy is a career coach. She knows she can help people manage career transition, discover a new path, or land a big promotion. She’s done it many times.
On her website, she talks about the clients she’s worked with, the successes they’ve had, and spells out specific outcomes new clients can expect when working with her. She doesn’t make promises—she knows better than that—but she does clearly articulate what she can coach you to if you’re willing to put in the work.
Amy’s practice sustains her own career but it’s not thriving the way she would like it to be. She has a hard time closing new clients. They start with long drawn out emails, they evolve to long initial consultations. They come back and ask more questions. Maybe then she can close the deal.
Yet, her existing clients rave about her. They keep coming back to her even after their initial packages complete. They ask her advice (and pay her) on the little bumps in their careers.
So why don’t more new prospects sign on the dotted line? And why can’t she, for the life of her, get people to sign up for the awesome career change program she put together?
As a potential client, when you’ve had some career missteps, maybe a bad boss or a difficult-to-work-for company, you’re hopeful but cautious. That caution leads to the long sales conversation Amy is having to have to land each new client. It also means that even those who feel like she’s the right person for the job won’t pull the trigger. It’s them, not her.
And if they’re not willing to trust themselves enough to get results from working with her 1:1, they’re not going to trust themselves enough to get results working with her in a program.
Again, it’s them, not her. (It might be them, not you.)
This Sales Objection is Also a Question of Risk
We are exceedingly bad at understanding risk. And a majority of your prospective customers think they themselves are a sizable risk to their own futures when it comes to spending money on goals that can’t be guaranteed. Every time you make an attractive offer, your customers are weighing the risk that they won’t be able to put it to use.
We, of course, think they’re considering whether it will be good enough or not, whether we’re smart enough or not, or whether we’re experienced enough or not. And that may be the case, but it’s far likelier that they’re asking themselves whether they are good enough, smart enough, or experienced enough to get the results they really want out of what you’re offering.
Breanne Dyck, who started this conversation on our Quiet Power Strategy strategist training call last week, explains that to help people feel more comfortable with perceived risks, you need to help them gather more information. More information comes from experimentation (action), not from more data (inputs).
Most of your marketing strategy to this point is about data. Blog post after blog post you’re explaining concepts, telling stories, and sharing experiences. But it’s all just data until someone takes action on it. The result of their experiment becomes true information that allows them to better understand and predict future outcomes. It allows them to better assess their own personal risk and increases their level of personal trust.
That means that in order to combat this stickiest of sales objections, you need to build action and experimentation into your business model—not just data.
Knowing is not enough. Knowing too much can encourage us to procrastinate. There’s a certain point when continuing to know at the expense of doing allows the mess to grow further.
— Abby Covert, How to Make Sense of Any Mess: Information Architecture for Everybody
The best way to ask your prospects to act is to ask for a commitment.
Trust (and True Information) Comes from Commitments
Think about the way you develop a romantic relationship. If you meet your special someone online (as I did), you start with committing to email them—it’s an initial experiment. This is about as low of a commitment as you can go. Then, hopefully, you commit to a first date. It’s probably just a coffee or drink date. Then, maybe you do a dinner date. And then a day hike.
Yes, this is a process of learning to trust the other person. To suss out whether they’re the one for you or not. But it’s also a process of learning to trust yourself. Do I like myself when I’m around them? Do I trust myself enough in this relationship to know I won’t make stupid decisions or follow them blindly?
Each commitment helps you learn to trust yourself as much as it does the other person.
As you’re building your business the same process needs to apply.
People generally don’t jump from discovery to purchase—especially not high-end products or services. You need to establish a series of commitments first.
Here are some commitments you might ask for:
- Like your page on Facebook
- Join a webinar
- Exchange an email address for a welcome gift
- Share a post with their friends
- Regularly open emails and read content
- Attend a workshop
- Buy a book
- Read a detailed case study
- Visit your booth at a show
- Purchase an entry-level product
- Engage in an initial consultation
- Book a short-term, project-based package
If you want to seriously combat this huge sales objection and dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes you to close a prospect, don’t pick one or two of these. Pick 3, 4, 5, or more of these smaller commitments. Create systems around them. Build them into your marketing calendar.
Relentlessly ask for small and escalating commitments so that when you’re ready to make a much larger offer, your prospect trusts herself enough to say yes.
Now you might be asking, “Isn’t this why I’m blogging every week?”
Sort of. The thing is, blogging isn’t enough. Content strategy is huge, don’t get me wrong. But marketers who are only blogging (even blogging and sending it out through email) aren’t establishing that trust spiral that allows their readers to get closer and closer to feeling really good about making a purchase.
In my own business, I’ve built action and experimentation into all levels of my marketing:
- I write ebooks that have built-in workbooks. The action is both the purchase and the results.
- I host webinars that promise results during the call. The action is decision-making and discovery.
- I teach workshops that build action steps into strategic concepts. The experiment is committing to watching and doing the homework.
- I offer Goal Discovery sessions as part of my on-boarding process. The experiment is vulnerability and commitment.
Together, these pieces work together so that I don’t have to worry about the “trusting myself” sales objection. If you’ve made it that far in my business model and still don’t trust yourself, you’re probably not a good fit for my programs.
Remember our career coach Amy? I would ask Amy to think of 3 common scenarios that send people looking for career help. They probably don’t know they need a coach yet (and maybe they don’t), but they know they need to consult Google, a friend, or the network to get an answer. Those 3 common scenarios are:
- I’m bored at work. I want a new challenge. I’m ready for a promotion.
- I’m tired of this career. I want a new one. I’m ready to figure out a new direction.
- I’m not making enough money. I want a raise. I’m ready to ask for one.
Then, I’d ask Amy to create a commitment trigger for each of those scenarios. Maybe she has a free ebook on asking for a raise, a free audio & workbook that helps you pinpoint your interest so you can figure out a new direction, and a checklist for preparing for a promotion. Each of those she puts behind an email wall. The “ask” is for an email address.
Now, let’s follow the free ebook on asking for a raise. The ebook shares exactly how to put together your pitch. The prospect finds that extremely helpful–but now she has a new problem. She needs to combat the fear of asking for a raise. Amy knows this, so she’s got a free webinar that she invites people who downloaded the raise ebook to. It’s all about getting over the 3 biggest fears you face when you ask for a raise.
Of course, asking for a raise is personal. So every month, she leaves 5 spots open on her calendar for a free initial consultation. Once a month, she asks this same group who is ready to work with her privately and invites them to this no-hassle consultation. She books all 5 appointments effortlessly. On that 30 minute call, she equips the prospect with at least one tactic they can use to suss out the possibility of getting a raise.
Finally, she follows up and asks if they’d like to book her Get That Raise coaching package. She offers to guide them through the next 6 weeks so that they’ve got a helping hand for each part of the process. She can’t guarantee a raise, but she can guarantee they’ll feel really good about the procedure.
Each part of Amy’s process has helped to build the prospects’ trust in herself. She’s taken action and already gotten results. Now it’s just an easy assessment of risk (what risk?!) to determine whether the information she has makes her feel good about working with Amy. Does she trust herself enough to really make use of this? Of course! She already has.
Now it’s your turn.
How will you ask your audience to act, experiment, and commit in order to build their trust in themselves? There’s likely something you could do today. So do it!
It’s not often I ask you to think smaller. Today is one of those days.
You have read everywhere, and rightly so, that one of the chief ways get traction for your brand is to sell people on your purpose, your larger vision. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” I don’t even like breaking out this axiom of enlightened business anymore because it’s become cliche and misused.
Yes, your vision & purpose is key to the success of your brand, but it is not a substitute for clear statements of value. You don’t get off the hook for being clear about what your product does, how it is used, and what the expected outcomes of use are because your purpose is so grand.
A particular area in which I see this plaguing business owners is in what I will call the “transformational service sector.” Think coaches of almost every kind and consultants of every ilk. That includes many of you reading.
And even if it doesn’t, keep reading. Winky face.
Sharing your vision for your customers and the purpose of your work is directional. It helps to catch them up in the flow of your work. But it doesn’t trigger their desire to buy.
People buy when they’re ready. They need to be both ready to buy into your vision and actively looking for a solution to a stumbling block on the path to that vision.
Your job isn’t to provide a straight, newly paved highway to dream life. It’s to anticipate the happy detours and not-so-happy ice storms they’ll have along the way and guide them through. When they’re ready for a happy detour, metaphorically speaking, they’ll be looking for museums to visit, places to eat, and spots to explore. When they run into the not-so-happy ice storms, they’ll be looking for shelter, tire chains, or a tow truck.
If you’re especially observant of your customers, you know exactly when the detours come and when the ice storms will hit. You can then show up when they stop and say…
“Hey! I know you and I know where you’re going. Let me help you with this.”
“This” is what you’re actually selling. And it’s what people actually buy.
Here’s a more concrete example. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I’ve been doing some “research” on online dating strategy. One of the books I’m reading is by the founder of a company called eFlirt Expert. They offer services to help people looking for love online be more efficient and effective.
What they don’t do is try to sell anyone on the idea that buying from them will result in the perfect match or finding a soul mate. Instead, they’ve identified tasks that online daters need help with on the path to doing just that, such as picking which sites to use, building your profile for you, replying to the messages you get, or giving your profile a makeover.
Here’s what that looks like for the customer. He decides he’s had enough of bad blind dates and the bar scene. He’s ready to give the online world a go. First, he has to decide which site to use. Panic (hopefully mild!) ensues. He uses eFlirt Expert’s free dating site evaluation service. Bingo, he signs up for the recommended sites.
Then he starts building his profile and starts searching the site. He doesn’t the get the response he wants immediately. So he remembers that online dating company and goes to see what they have to offer (of course, he’s probably getting an email right about this time to remind him of what they can do for him). Profile building! Yes, that’s what he needs.
With a shiny new profile, he’s getting lots of messages from great potential matches. He wants to make sure he’s answering them properly. So he goes back to that company and signs up for email reply services. If all goes well, he’ll be dating away in no time and, hopefully, finding a relationship.
You tell me. Which is more compelling?
An offer to coach you through the dating process to find your one true love? or
3 distinct offers that deliver 3 specific outcomes?
Boom, as they say.
Before you give me a million and one excuses about why this isn’t a good model for your business, let me give you three questions you will be able to answer that prove otherwise:
- What questions do your clients commonly come to you with in the process of serving them?
- What tasks do your clients commonly need to complete in the process of achieving their goals?
- What frustrations do your clients commonly feel during the process of making progress?
Within the answers to those questions are the seeds of specific service offerings, leveraged programs or products, lead generation tools, blog posts, emails, even Facebook updates or tweets. They’re sign posts on the journey from the moment of readiness to the fulfillment of your shared vision.
Each answer is a potential place to enter the market.
One of the reasons my book, The Art of Earning, has sold so well is that it answers a question that all of my clients have had at one point or another. The Art of Growth is positioned to do the same thing by answering the question, “How can I create a bigger impact with my business but put less energy into it?” Our bestselling products at Kick Start Labs, Website Kick Start and Sales Page Kick Start, address two tasks every entrepreneur in the digital space need to complete: building a website and writing a sales page.
The more specific a task I can help my customers complete, the more likely they are to know that they want it. Not only that, the more likely they are to want it on their own terms, meaning I need to do less to push the product. They will search it out.
That’s not to say that an all-inclusive package can’t be a great product. But it’s not likely to be an easy sell. The thing is, most customers simply don’t believe your 12-week course or your VIP day will put them on the fast-track to achieving your shared vision. Let’s be honest: I don’t care how good you are at what you do and how ready your customers are for change, transformational services–from the technical to the metaphysical–simply take time, growth, and natural progression.
Any one product or service is one step in the right direction. Not a teleporter.
You can build a solid business model on breaking that journey into its natural pieces. Or you can struggle to sell something so grand it’s literally unbelievable.
Hold onto your vision. Sell the steps to it.
Want a framework for breaking your big ideas into smaller ones that really sell & get better results?
The Customer Perspective Process walks you through exactly that. You’ll learn how to breakdown the many tasks, milestones, and questions your customers will have on their way to reaching your shared vision.
Click here to learn more about The Customer Perspective Process virtual boot camp from Kick Start Labs.
There are few businesses I work with today that don’t have as one of their goals, “challenge the customer’s comfort zone.”
Consider your own business for a minute: is it more beneficial to you for your customer to remain in her comfort zone? or to be pushed beyond her comfort zone?
Then consider your customer and the results you desire for him: is it more benefit to your customers for him to remain in his comfort zone? or to push beyond his comfort zone?
If your customer is comfortable buying from chain stores and you sell handmade bath & body products, you need to make them a little uncomfortable to change her behavior for both your benefit & hers. If your customer is comfortable with his daily routines but desires a big lifestyle change and you’re his life coach, you need to make him uncomfortable to change his routines thereby achieving his desires for both your benefit & his. If your customer is comfortable communicating with her friends using the phone but you want to disrupt & improve her communication with a brand new technology, you need to make her uncomfortable with the limitations of her current MO for both your benefit & hers.
Yet given the current media & marketing trends, you probably spend more time placating potential customers than confronting their comfort zones.
You are trying to build bridges when burning them may be the best strategy.
Your customers are, by nature, explorers. They’re seeking something. It might have started with a Google search. It might have been an interesting Facebook thread. It might have been a personal conversation over coffee. But they have sought out… something. They’re looking for transformation — even a tiny one.
They may not be able to identify their most pressing needs. They may not know what they’re looking for. But they have that nagging desire to learn more. And that’s where you come in.
Customers trust business owners that have something to teach. When you can give your customer a new way of seeing even the tiniest corner of her world, you are immediately trustworthy. But new ways of seeing don’t come from being comfortable, they come from confrontation.
Today’s most powerful sales people are challengers:
“They’ve got a provocative point of view that can upend a customer’s current practices, and they’re not afraid to push customers outside their comfort zone.” — Matt Dixon, The End of Solution Sales
Now, there are two things I know about you:
1) You got into business to challenge the status quo (your own, your customer’s, the world’s, etc…)
2) You are adverse to the over-the-top, in-your-face sales & marketing techniques of yesteryear.
So I also know that the idea of “confronting” your customer both resonates and feels a little, well, dangerous. Ya wanna push them… just not too hard.
Okay, okay. I get that.
Here’s the problem: your customers are on to your “not gonna push ’em too hard” ways.
Your relationship building techniques – questions, conversations, endless free teleclasses, etc… – aren’t mysterious anymore. People know you’re buttering them up. Sure, they’ll participate. Sure, they’ll engage. But are you really setting them up for a sale or allowing them more time to stew on the inevitable “no, thanks?”
The best salespeople are still empathic, clued into needs, and sensitive to individual perspectives but, instead of following the customer’s lead, they take the reins and deliver an insight that moves the customer to action.
What do you know about your audience – their habits, their failures, their opportunities – that even they don’t know? Supplying that information creates instant fans and eager customers.
Here’s the framework for creating a challenging sales process:
1. Identify a core belief or operating principle that your customer has and challenge it.
Example: Tara Mohr knew women weren’t reaching their full potential in life & business because they were “playing small.” They were excusing themselves from big opportunities or failing to take risks. So that’s how she framed her coaching program, Playing Big. Tara used her intimate knowledge of the differences between women who play small & women who play big to challenge the operating principles of the former.
2. Use your insight as an outsider or expert to demonstrate a new idea.
Example: When I talk to makers about their frustrations with pricing, I make sure to point out that I’m not a maker. No, I’m a customer. I’m one of the people happy to pay twice as much as what they’re charging. That fosters trust & credibility for my ideas.
3. Bring in data or case studies that prove your position.
Example: Copyblogger Media shares multiple insights into well-designed sales pages on the Premise landing page. Instead of just sharing features, the sales page actually tells customers things they may not know about constructing a sales page that works. Take this to the next level by sharing real results from your clients or customers in their own words.
4. Coach your customers on how to buy.
Example: LKR Social Media Marketer explains why – right on the sales page – it’s better to buy a monthly subscription to a community than it is to buy individual solutions to problems that will quickly go out of date. Knowing the solution might be intimidating to customers, Laura cut straight through why her plan is the best.
5. Tailor that position to the person you’re talking with.
Example: Writer extraordinaire, Kelly Diels, creates a separate landing page on her site for every guest post she writes. She understands that different audiences, different types of customers, have different needs, points of reference, and interests. Hone in on exactly what’s important to who you’re talking to.
Your customers can see right through your efforts to build relationships with them – genuine though they might be. We are all in some sort of business and your tactics for creating buy-in are becoming tired.
Instead of trying to make the sale feel warm & fuzzy, allow your customers to trust in the fact that you’re confident & in control. Take the lead with new insights and fresh perspectives.
Will you accept the challenge?