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Value Added: Stand Out from the Crowd


In the latest in this series looking at how coaches and trainers sell their services, Brian Griffin looks at the importance of listening to your client.

Scene: You sitting in your Prospect’s office
Prospect: “So, tell me what you can do for my organisation.”
You: “Well, we are experts in ... and can offer you …”
Prospect: “Thanks for that. Leave me your brochure and I’ll discuss it with my colleagues, and get back to you by the end of the week. OK? Thanks for coming, goodbye.”
You (as you get into the car): “I reckon that went pretty well. He seemed to like what we can do.”
You (one week later): “Is that BT? I think my phone’s been disconnected.”

Sound familiar? Look, we’ve all been there. Waiting and hoping, then when you try to call him, he’s in a meeting and will get back to you asap - but he never does. Another potential client in the bin!

You’re going to have to face it, as far as he’s concerned you’re just like the rest of them – do a flash presentation, talk his ears off and finish by attempting one of those pathetically corny closing techniques designed to make him buy, there and then. Credit him with a bit of intelligence, eh?

Do you know someone who always tries to dominate the conversation? I’ll bet you do! How satisfying an experience is it to talk with such people? A real pain in the butt – you just can’t wait to get away from them. It’s the same with prospects – they don’t want to hear your voice, they want to hear theirs! Sitting through yet another boring presentation is one of the burdens of their position. Think they’re listening to you? Think again! They’re actually re-playing that brilliant round of golf last Saturday, and only your sudden silence lurches them back to reality. He’s heard it all before. He’s courteously given you time to meet and you’ve re-paid that by putting him into a coma!

By definition, you get just one initial meeting. Its twin purposes are to capture the interest of the prospect, and for you to ascertain whether there’s money to be made here. How are you going to find this out? By asking, of course. You see, at this point he’s not interested in what you have to say, he’s only interested in what he says. This aspect of human nature can be most advantageous to you, for if you subtly guide the conversation along the path of your choosing, he’ll sing like a songbird – and in the course of which he’ll thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to pontificate – he’s never allowed to at home. And so, instead of associating your meeting with boredom, he’ll remember it with fondness – already you’re ahead.

However, unless you’ve prepared the ground beforehand, he’ll be expecting the same old thing. You need to set him up so he’s ready to participate in an open-ended discussion. This is easily done. After you’ve agreed a date for your initial meeting, write to him (on headed paper, not e-mail, and don’t enclose a brochure) confirming your agreement to meet, saying: “To enable us to get the maximum from the meeting, may I suggest that we consider such items as: which issues (e.g. IT; HR; morale; production; etc.) are currently causing you difficulties; how widespread these difficulties are; what might happen if they aren’t addressed; how would their continuance adversely effect your customers?” and so on. Don’t make the list too long; four or five points would be quite sufficient. Finalise the letter by saying that your purpose is simply to ascertain if your services might match with his needs. If you feel they might, you’ll discuss his needs with your colleagues. You’ll then put a set of suggestions together and mail them to him. He and his colleagues should go through them and amend them so they fit precisely to their needs. You’ll then return to discuss these revisions and will then be able to quote a price.

This sort of text enables you to start the meeting with control – and you must seek to retain it throughout. So when you open the meeting refer to your agenda suggestions and ask if they’re OK with him. He’ll say “fine” because he won’t remember what you wrote and will feel embarrassed asking you to remind him. Briefly re-iterate the agenda points and then start by asking him closed questions to get facts and figures about his organisation (to get some feel for the potential value to you). Now gradually broaden the questioning by bringing in Open questions, to elicit his opinions and experiences – this is where Prospects really get a chance to sound off – they love it! This is what you need. Next time we’ll question him in such a way that he’ll be practically writing your proposal for you!

About the author: Since the late 1980's Brian Griffin has focussed exclusively on helping training companies, consultants, trainers and others to better market and sell their professional services.He is a Chartered Marketer, a Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development; a Fellow of the Institute of Sales & Marketing Management and a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. He writes regular columns for a variety of media and is frequently guest speaker at conferences and seminars. For more information on go to

Related articles: Value Added: The Soft Sell
Value Added: Has Anyone Heard of You?
Value Added: Need or Want?


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