How to Structure Your Sales Conversations: Part IIMar 24, 2022
You've probably seen all sorts of marketing and sales gurus out there giving away or selling their "proven 7-figure sales script," where, if you follow this script word by word, you'll close new clients every single time. You may have even tried one of these scripts, and found it sorely lacking...maybe because it was full of high-pressure sales tactics, or perhaps because it just didn't sound like you.
There's a reason for that: Someone else's script is NOT going to work for you. Sure, it may have made them millions of dollars, but that doesn't mean that using it is going to get you the same results.
Rather than giving you another sales script that just isn't going to work for you, in this episode I share with you a structure for conducting effective strategy sessions or discovery calls...giving you a general outline that you can use to sell more effectively in a way that feels natural and authentic to you.
In Part II of this short series, I dive into steps 3-5 of an effective sales conversation: understanding their situation, unpacking their pain, and identifying their desires. In the following episode, we'll dive into the remaining next steps so you can confidently conduct your sales conversations without tripping over someone else's sales script.
Today's episode is a continuation of our conversation from the last episode on the structure for an effective sales conversation. In the last episode, we talked through the structure overall, and then we looked specifically at the first two steps of an effective sales conversation, which were to set the agenda, and then to start digging into understanding why your prospect is there in the first place. Today, we're going to look at the next steps of an effective sales conversation, and dig into those a little bit deeper as well. If you haven't listened to the previous episode, I highly recommend going back and doing that before listening to this one, so that you have a better understanding of what we're talking about as we talk through each of the steps today.
Now, the third step of an effective sales conversation is to start to try and better understand your prospect’s current situation. Now that you have a better idea of what's motivating them, it's time to get an understanding of that situation a little bit deeper. And being thorough in this stage is really what allows you to be effective in the next step that follows this, which is where you'll actually be starting to uncover some of the pain that they're in, the pain that they're experiencing as a result of this situation.
That’s why it's really important not to get ahead of the process, and to focus this step on getting clarity for both you and your prospect around where they currently are, not quite yet about how it's affecting their life or their business. In even simpler terms, your objective here is to identify your prospect’s baseline situation, and the questions that you ask at this stage are really going to be specific to your own niche.
The questions that a business coach might ask here are going to be very different than the questions that, say, a life coach would ask. With that in mind, I'm going to give you a couple quick examples of questions that relate to different niches. Even if I don't share some questions that speak directly to your niche, these examples will at least show you the types of questions that you need to be asking. At this stage, a business coach might ask, “Well, how long have you been in business?” “What kinds of clients do you work with?” “What do you help them achieve?” “How are you pricing that?” and, “What problem are people facing that motivates them to work with you?”
Now, compare that to, say, a spiritual life coach, who might ask questions more along the lines of “What spiritual or religious background, if any, did you grow up with?” “How would you define spirituality?” “What's the role of spirituality in your life currently?” and, “Do you currently have a daily spiritual practice, and if so, what is it?” So you see, at this point, we're really asking questions that are still kind of high level, but just feeling around, trying to get the lay of the land, so to speak, to figure out where your prospect currently is.
The fourth step is to start to unpack your prospect’s pain. The purpose of this is for you and the prospect to get an even clearer perspective of how that situation that you just talked about is affecting them. In other words, this is where you work with the prospect to help them identify their own pain points. Structurally, this step is identical to the previous one. It's going to be you asking some questions, mirroring back what they say, and kind of continuing down that line of questioning. And like the last step as well, these questions are also niche-specific, and I'm going to go ahead and do the same thing and kind of give you a couple examples for the same two sample niches.
So, a business coach might ask, “What is your current process for getting new clients?” or, “What limitations or drawbacks have you experienced with that process?” “Are these limitations something you'd like to fix, so that you're not relying on this current process?” and, “With your current strategy and approach, how many new clients are you bringing on each month?” As you can see, looking at those questions, they're linear; they follow a particular path of naming the situation and then getting a little bit more specific, really into the pain points and how it's affecting them in their business. That's why we're asking about limitations or drawbacks.
Then for a spiritual coach, they might ask, “How is not having a consistent spiritual practice affecting you?” or, “How's it affecting your relationships?” “What are your go-to coping mechanisms when you're feeling XYZ emotions?” “Do you think those coping mechanisms are healthy or unhealthy?” and, “What are the long-term consequences of using this set of coping mechanisms whenever you feel XYZ emotions?” Again, you can see we're following a really linear thread here, starting with that situation and then drilling down into the pain points.
Once you have identified your prospect’s pain points, how it's affecting them negatively, it's time to move on to step five, which is really all about the flip side of the situation, identifying what they want. It's about identifying their desires, because the most successful and ethical sales strategies do not rely on fear as the primary motivator—that's why the next step is to focus on the goals and the dreams. Instead of scaring your prospect into believing that they're going to have some sort of apocalyptic future if they don't work with you, you're going to get your prospect excited about the possibilities that the future holds. In addition, you're going to help them envision how their life or how their business is going to be dramatically different if they take action to create these desired changes.
And really, all you have to do here is ask two or three questions that are niche-specific, but are largely formulaic. The first question should ask your prospect to pinpoint a concrete, time-based goal. In the previous step, you help them identify what they don't want, but this question is about helping them identify what they do want, and by adding a time-based element to it, say, six months or 12 months from now, you help your prospect begin to see the goal in more realistic terms, helping them to realize that their goal might be more quickly attainable than they had originally thought.
The second question helps your prospect to think more deeply about the goal, so they can envision how achieving that goal will impact their life or business. Oftentimes, when we think about the goals we want to reach, we identify the goal and then don't think much more deeply about it. We might still pursue the goal, and take actions that we think will help get us there, but when we don't understand how that outcome affects our lives, we run the risk of not having the motivation required to keep going until it's done. That’s why it's important to help your prospect understand the massive impact of achieving that goal.
The third question is somewhat optional, but I recommend using it because it helps your prospect expand upon how achieving their desire would impact their life. Whereas the second question is really about how achieving a result will impact one area of their life, the third question digs deeper and asks how achieving that result would affect other areas of their life, because oftentimes, when we ask a prospect how something will impact their life, the prospect will respond to the most obvious area of impact.
For example, someone who wants to lose 20 pounds might say that losing that weight would make them feel better physically and have more energy, and while that's true, losing 20 pounds probably also has other impacts beyond having more energy. Perhaps it's the physical stamina to be able to play in the yard with their young child, or even just to feel great when they look in the mirror. When we think about how achieving our goals will affect our lives, it's easy to jump to the most obvious answer, but when we go a layer deeper and examine how it will impact all areas of our lives, it becomes not just a simple goal, but more of an entire transformation. And suddenly, it's about a whole lot more than just losing 20 pounds.
With that, I'm going to give you several examples of what these three questions could look like, and I'm going to share them for a business coach as well as, in this case, a fitness coach. So, a business coach might ask, “Well, you mentioned that you're bringing in three clients each month. Six months from now, how many clients do you want to be bringing in each month?” “How would bringing in, say, 12 clients a month (if they said that was their goal) impact your business?” and, “How would getting to 12 clients a month impact other areas of your life?”
A fitness coach might ask, “Where do you want your health to be in 12 months from now?” “How would achieving that impact your life?” and, “How would achieving that impact other areas of your life?” You can go anywhere from the super-specific questions like I shared with a business coach, or you can be a little bit more broad like the examples that I gave with a fitness coach. It's entirely up to you, and it depends on what you find works best for you.
This has been steps three through five of an effective sales conversation, and in the next episode, we are going to cover the rest of them. That's steps six through eight, and that will be coming out tomorrow.
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