Wednesday, April 1, 2015


At some point in your career as a self-employed professional, you will find yourself looking at a stack of pending sales. If this has already happened to you, you know how frustrating it can be. There must be something you could do to make those sales close, isn't there? Maybe, or maybe not.
There's a long list of reasons why a sale may not close when you want it to, and many of those reasons aren't areas you can control. You can't force a prospective client to return your calls, come back from vacation, turn up an absent budget, or decide their need is urgent after all. But there are factors you can influence. Here's what you need to consider.
  1. Problems in selling.

    Have you been following up consistently and persistently with each of your pending prospects? Lack of sufficient follow-up may be the most common reason for sales not to move forward, and it's one of the easiest to remedy. Landing a sale may require five to eight contacts with each prospect, so don't give up at two or three.

    Have you provided your prospect with sufficient information and evidence about why hiring you is a good choice? What else could you tell her now that might help to tip the balance? Remember, too, that your prospect may have to convince someone else you should be hired - a boss, a spouse, or a business partner. Give her the details she needs for that conversation to go well.

    Did you hit the mark in the original sales conversation? It's not too late to correct any deficiencies you sense were present. What exactly did the prospect tell you were the issues that needed attention? Use the prospect's own words to echo back to him more about how you can address their specific needs.
  2. Problems in marketing.

    Did you pre-qualify the prospect before the sales conversation began? If your prospect truly doesn't have the need, the budget, or the desire to act, you're wasting your time and hers trying to close a deal. Draft your qualifying questions now for your next opportunity, and let this one go. And change up your marketing to get in front of higher-quality prospects in the first place.

    Did you spend time deepening the relationship with your prospect before making a sales pitch? It's not too late. Ask her to lunch or coffee, offer some free consultation time, or get to know someone else in her circle who could speak well of you. Next time, consider whether your prospect knows and trusts you enough to start proposing business.

    Is your position in the marketplace what your prospect would expect? It's tough to close a sale for graphic design services when the prospect thinks of you as a copywriter. Maybe you really are an expert in both those areas, but most clients prefer to hire a specialist. Narrow your marketing focus, and you'll get hired more often.
  3. Just plain problems.

    Is the prospect truly a good fit for what you do? If not, walk away from the sale. It's tempting to try to make every deal go through, but jumping through hoops to get business that's outside your wheelhouse is rarely a good idea. Stick to the type of work you know and love the best, and sales will come more easily.

    Is the prospect making you work too hard to get his business? Prospects who ask for multiple meetings, proposals, or references before they'll agree to move forward may be as hard to work for as they are to sell to. Maybe there's an easier sale out there for you that would also become a more enjoyable project.

    Are you sure you want this sale? If you find yourself sabotaging a sale with avoidance, delays, or excuses, you may be trying to tell yourself something. Perhaps your intuition says this project won't turn out well. Or it could be you're experiencing some fear of success. Talk it through with someone you trust, and figure out what's troubling you. It's hard enough to close a sale without also struggling with yourself.
Not every sale is going to close. In fact, many professionals find that only one out of three sales conversations results in a closed sale. You may do everything perfectly and still something goes awry. When this happens, you know what to do, right?

Go have more sales conversations. If one out of three conversations is likely to turn into a client, then two more conversations may just produce the closed sale you need.
Copyright © 2015, C.J. Hayden

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