If 2020 showed us anything about the sales profession, it’s that some of us have become de-skilled in “the Ask”. You know… asking for the sale.

In an up-market, businesses can often rely on excellent marketing and social media to deliver sales results.

  • But what do you do when the buyers stop proactively exploring?
  • Or when they take longer to move from one stage to the next?
  • Or if they clam up and just won’t talk to you?

In any kind of downturn, we need to reach out to our clients. We need allocate time to proactive, outbound business development and we need to ask for the sale.

ASKING FOR THE SALE (or at least asking for the next step)

There’s no escaping it – this means you’re going to have to ask for something.

Worse still, you’re going to have to ask a stranger for something.

Building relationships with people, who you’d like to have as clients, involves being bold and asking for what you want.

  • Asking for that next Zoom call
  • Asking for a meeting
  • Asking how they’re planning to solve their problems this year

As the old saying goes – If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

So, if you want to:

  • Progress your business relationships
  • Find out that missing piece of information
  • Make budgets

It’s imperative that you become confident and skilled at asking.

Question – How do you ask clients to commit, or at least commit to progressing with you?

Answer – With boldness and self-confidence.

ASK WITH BOLDNESS

Boldness is needed because you may feel a little cheeky for asking, especially if you’ve been brought up to wait until you’re offered. Remember we’re not just talking about having a second chocolate biscuit. With budgets hanging on this final quarter of the end-March financial year, you need to be daring and ask.

ASK WITH SELF-CONFIDENCE

Asking with self-confidence means asking with a good level of faith in yourself and in your company’s ability to deliver value to this customer. If you genuinely believe that your services can change their lives for the better, and you’ve spent time listening to the customer to check that their problems will be solved by what you offer, the asking starts to feel like a foregone conclusion.

After all, if you genuinely believe in the value you deliver – they’re fortunate that you’re asking, that you’re offering them this opportunity.

Remember to hold your ask lightly. Sit or stand with a comfortable posture, with open body language. Mirror your customer’s body language (only if it’s open and relaxed). Naturally, it’s easier to mirror their body language if you’re able to meet in the same room. Even on a Zoom call, mirror the positive aspects of their body language to create synergy between you.

If your customer is tense, move into a relaxed open position and check that they start to mirror your body language.

When they do, it’s your moment to ask.

GET COMFORTABLE IN THE POST-ASK SILENCE

Now it’s the moment you’ve been dreading. That moment when you’ve asked for the next step to progress the sale and silence hangs in the air.

Where the silence goes on so long that you might start to:

  • Wonder if the client heard you
  • Second-guess your asking
  • Hope you’re wearing deodorant!

If you’ve asked a critical question that helps your client identify their deepest problems, you need to give them time to think.

Maybe they’ve never thought about their problems this way before?

Perhaps they feel overwhelmed – like you’ve just opened an abyss below them, and they had no idea it was even there.

Do they feel a little vulnerable or emotional at the realisation of what lies before them?

The silence may be just what the client needs. You’ve given them permission to think about what they really want, and what needs to happen to help them reach their ideal state.

Remember that you’re building a relationship. Asking at the right time, plus the right tone and pitch in your voice means your new client relationship will cope with some silence.

The deep, considered responses your client gives could open the door to more ways you can help them. Stay calm and remember to use this gift of silence.

WHAT TO DO DURING THE SILENCE

Don’t speak! It’s listening time. Silence tells your client that it’s their turn to talk. Relax and let the silence sit between you.

Here’s a Three-Step Process to navigate the silence until your client speaks – however long it takes.

  • Maintain eye contact for the first 10 seconds, keeping a relaxed facial expression. Note – this is not a stare.
  • Be totally present. Resist the temptation to cough, or fiddle, or look at other things.
  • Momentarily break eye contact for a couple of seconds. Make sure you then look back at your client.

Remember to stay calm and you’ll avoid these distractions:

  • Fidgeting in your chair – and yes, this does show up in a Zoom meeting!
  • Fiddling with your face or hair. Especially no scratching or picking anything (shouldn’t even have to say this one!)
  • Coughing to clear your throat (to break the silence)
  • Looking away from your client for extended periods of time – up at the ceiling, across at your notes. Especially no looking at other screens if you’re in a Zoom meeting.
  • Chattering to fill the silence.

HONEST ANSWERS SURFACE WHEN TRUST IS PRESENT

Remember that good friends can sit in silence, especially while doing focused activities such as fishing. The fish like it quiet too – that’s when they get comfortable coming up to the surface.

Deep answers come from a deep place. Your comfortable silence builds trust and tells the client that you’re happy to wait for them. The silence only becomes an uncomfortable event if you’re uncomfortable.

In your preparation for this client conversation, anticipate that there could be some silence after your ask. This means that when the inevitable happens and the meeting room (virtual or in person) goes quiet, you’ve already rehearsed what you’ll do.

Wait calmly for your client to speak. Who knows – you might be completely astounded at the number of sales you progress, just by being comfortable asking and then waiting for your clients to answer.


Mary Crampton is the owner and principal consultant at Magnify Consulting