Tug of war A call, chat or email comes in. Prospect asks, “Do you have…?” or “How much?”

We think, “it depends” and “we offer so much more.” We think, “sell on price, lose on price.” In other words, we want to have a different conversation than the prospect does. Here are tips for doing that, starting with some things to avoid.

Don’t try to push the river

There is an initial flow and direction in calls and emails. When taking inbound inquiries, the flow is coming from the prospect or customer and they have a direction in mind. If you ignore that you’ll have to work needlessly hard to try to change direction, and may be completely overturned in the process.

Don’t dis the inquiry

When we fail to immediately answer the prospect’s actual question, the message is that question doesn’t deserve our attention. This seems disrespectful to prospects, which for some wild reason annoys them.

Sometimes we try to educate the prospect before we answer their question. We talk about other issues to consider, the hidden effect of problems, and so on. We’re attempting to show off our expertise and/or sell them something bigger. What we actually accomplish is showing prospects we assume they don’t know this stuff, which is again disrespectful (even when they don’t know this stuff). Our effort also wastes their time, doubling their annoyance level.

What to do instead: When you’d like a broader conversation

The general approach is to answer the question and then see if they’re open to talking at greater length. Examples:

Prospect says, “We’re considering several CRM for company-wide implementation. Do you do training?”

You say, “Yes, we do. We also offer other services for implementation so it goes as smoothly as possible. Interested in hearing about those services, too?”

Or you say, “Yes. We provide that training as part of comprehensive services and support. Do you want to chat about that or are you looking just for training?”

What to do instead: When the answer depends

Give them a range (if possible) and then see if they’re open to having a fuller conversation. Examples:

Prospect asks, “How much does IT support run for a company of about thirty employees?”

You answer, “It ranges from $2,500 to $15,000 per month, depending on the kind of support and a number of other things. That’s a wide range, I know. Do you have time to discuss what you’re looking for?”

Or you answer, “It depends on the kind of support and a number of other things. Do you have time to discuss what you’re looking for?”

Best practices to pull from the example responses

  • Begin with answering the prospect’s or customer’s question.

That’s how you avoid annoying them. Answering their question also makes it more likely they’ll be open to what you say next.

  • End with asking the prospect if they’re willing to have the conversation you’d like to have.

That’s how you change direction when possible — and avoid wasting your time and energy when it’s not.

What to do when the answer is essentially “no”

The above technique is a best practice because it works extremely well. However, some prospects will not agree to talk more (gosh darn humans and their free will).

  • Some customers will not give you anything to work with; e.g., “No thanks.” You have two options in this case:

You can let it go. Just because a prospect reached out, that doesn’t mean they are a hotter prospect. Letting go gives you more time and energy for better prospects.

You can ask to reach out to them: “May I get in touch with you some time down the road?” If they agree, ask them to set the time-frame. And when you follow through, do not act as if they expressed a strong interest. Use an approach that imagines their level of interest is neutral.

  • Some prospects will say they don’t have time or they’re not ready to talk more.

Ask to set up an appointment at a later date. Use a realistic amount of time. For example, “I’d like to explore the fit when you have time. We’d need about 30 minutes. Can we schedule a meeting?”

  • Some prospects will say they’re just doing research for someone else. Do not dismiss them because they’re not the decision maker. Treat them like the valuable influencer they probably are. Two options:

Let it go, for the same reasons covered above.

Ask to check in with them to see if there are next steps: “Thanks for letting me know. Can I check in with you to see if we made the first cut?”

What to do when the prospect is not one you want

Some prospects are clearly not going to be a good fit. It’s best to keep the door open. Let’s stick with our example IT support provider, and let’s say the minimum account has twenty employees.

Prospect asks, “How much does support run? We’re a small company. Two people in one office and three in another.”

Do not say something like, “We don’t work with companies that small.” A judgmental attitude will come around to bite you when this company grows or when the prospect talks to her buddies.

Tactfully tell them you’re not a good fit and offer other resources. For example:

“We work with companies with 20 employees and up. I might be able to suggest other support providers. Would you like a couple names?”

“I’m afraid we focus on somewhat larger companies. I know some terrific IT support firms that may be right for your business. Would you like a couple names?”

One more tip

We sometimes get into a habit of slamming certain prospects or customers after the call, chat or email exchange has ended. They focused on cost when we wanted to talk about value and solutions…can you believe the nerve? We call them Lookie-Lous and “shoppers” — as if shopping is a bad thing.

What’s really going on is they didn’t do what we wanted them to do. Again, gosh darn those humans and their ability to resist our charm and technique.

It’s hard to treat some prospects with respect if you’re calling other prospects idiots, even if you do that subtly and in private. Learn to gracefully let the no’s go so you have the right mindset and full energy for the opportunities.