When in Doubt...

... remember the wisdom of Socrates:

 I know that I know nothing. 

Do NOT Promise that You will Call Back!

The Fastest Way to Subliminally Tick Off Your Clients

I'm going to share a professional pet peeve of mine.  How many times have you called a friend or professional associate and you get sent to voicemail?  No big deal, right?  Have you noticed how much less often you actually leave a message?  Instead, you might decide to call back in a few minutes or send a text.  Sometimes, you may decide that the notification on the person's phone of your missed call will be enough.  Regardless, you rarely choose to leave a message.

Why is that?

I think the top reason most of us don't leave a message is either: a) we know the recipient won't even listen to the voicemail and will just call us back or b) they won't even bother with the message, nor will they call back.  It's like we sense this is going to happen and decide: 'What's the point?'

Again, why is that?

I think it has to do with the promise nearly every person makes when they record a voicemail outgoing message?  What is the one thing everyone says?  Check it out:

Hello, you've reached Tom Jones.  I'm not available to take your call right now, but if you leave your name and number, I'll return your call as soon as I am able.

Did you spot the promise?  They ask you to leave your name and number and then they say they will call you back as soon as they are able.  Generally speaking, how often is that?  Are they going to call the annoying telemarketer who has an amazing trip for them to take if they just listen to a 3-hour sales presentation?  Are they going to call the sibling they are having a quarrel with and it appears there is no resolution in sight?  Are they going to call the credit collection specialist who reminded them their payment is overdue?  

Likely, no.  So what makes you think you're any different?  Just like you, I have made thousands of business calls over my career and nearly every single outgoing voicemail message says: 'Please leave your name and number and I'll return your call as soon as I am able' or some other variation of that.  However, less than 5% of these recipients ever return the call.  

It's a Trust Breaker

The late, great Dr. Steven R. Covey used to compare the winning of people's trust to making deposits in a bank.  When we make commitments and promises to others and then we follow through on fulfilling what we're promising, we are making a deposit in that person's emotional bank account.  When we break commitments and promises, we are making withdrawals.  Is it ever possible to make withdrawals and still be in a good place in the relationship?  Of course!  But those are usually after many deposits have accumulated over time.  It's also worth noting that just like Rapid Rewards points with Southwest Airlines, what you put into it will always outweigh what you take out.  In other words, it might take five deposits or even 10 to equal the one withdrawal you make when you break a commitment.

So, the basic rule of thumb here is that if you are screening your calls (even with prospective and existing clients) or you just never get around to calling people back, don't promise you will in the outgoing message.  It'll just piss them off.  Instead, try something like this:

Hello, you've reached Jane Thompson.  I'm not available to take your call at this time.  Please leave a message.  

See!  You made a request, but you didn't promise to return the call.  That might come across as being a jerk, but honestly it is better to not make promises you know you won't keep than to try to make promises that you anticipate you likely won't keep.  

You know what will impress them most of all when you do this?  IF YOU CALL THEM BACK!  It's that simple.  Try it.

For more information on how to make and keep your commitments, check out my new book:

https://www.amazon.com/Better-Business-Development-Now-Clients-ebook/dp/B07219PS7K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1505375726&sr=1-1&keywords=better+business+development+now

Forget about Closing the Sale

How many times have you said one of the following phrases?

  • I need to close the deal.

  • I want to close the sale.

  • We gotta get a close on this client.

  • Close the deal or you're fired.

  • Just get the close.

If you've worked in selling professional services six months or six years, it is likely you've referred to the final step in the sales process as a close.  For over a decade and a half in my work and study of the sales process, I've come to resent the word 'close' when it comes to the sales process.  I think your use of the word might be what's hurting your firm or company as well.

Coming to An End?

To close something implies that things between you and your client are coming to an end.  Once you close this deal, it's on to other things.  If you're a business development manager for a professional services company, that may be partially true.  You will be moving on to other things, but what if the managers and other operations personnel in your firm also take the word 'close' a little too seriously?

What I mean by that, is what if these administrators hear the words 'I closed the deal' and it causes them to relax just a little too much?  Maybe they lean back a little bit and think that the client relationship is now secure and that since there's ink on the page, no one has anything to prove.  

The above example might seem extreme, but I personally witnessed time and time again the immediate slacking off of performance once a deal is closed and it frightens me.  No business development representative goes out to win new business just to watch it slip through the firm's metaphorical fingers six months later.  

There's got to be a better way.

A Better Way

Really, there never is such a thing as a ‘close’ in professional services.  It's always in your best interest to remember that.  Instead of ‘closing’ anything, let’s work to get commitments.  The entire sales process is a series of attempts to get commitments from the prospective client while promising to keep commitments in return.  

You've got to get commitments from your prospective clients to consider using your services and that leads to getting the commitment from them to pay to use your services.  All along the way, you are making commitments to them to make sure the connection is there and it is real.  Getting commitments is what all of this is about and hopefully you will make it into a regular habit.

Brush Up on Getting Commitments

So, how do we work to get commitments?  You're probably pretty good at it now.  If you do feel as though you need to brush up your skills, I go into the process deeper in my soon-to-be-published book: Better Business Development Now: A Bare Bones Guide to Get More Clients!  

Check it out on Amazon soon!

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