I recently had an “interesting” sales conversation. This convo led to a live video in my Facebook group, and now I’m here. Because I think it’s worth talking about, there are some valuable lessons, and it’s fresh on my brain.
Let me start by borrowing a bit of gold from one of the best books I’ve read up to this point. I highly recommend it to every single one of you: The Win Without Pitching Manifesto. It’s this brilliant little book, and you can see just how many pages I’ve dog-eared. I’ve basically doubled the thickness. And I am 1000% okay with this. The book really gets you to shift your mindset and how you think about selling and pricing and just a ton of other super critical pieces, especially for those of us who are doin’ this thang solo.
So back to disqualifying. The thing is, you want to disqualify, you need to disqualify, and it needs to happen early. The sales conversation I mentioned? It was not at all negative, and they were not this evil entity. Far from it. However, they did start the discussion by introducing themselves and stating they had visited my website and based on what they saw, they were pretty sure we would not be a good fit. Good opener, right? And yes, my immediate thought was, “And you’re calling me whyyyy?” Which is neither here nor there. My actual response was, “Okay, why don’t you tell me what you’re looking for.”
Lesson one: you are not for everyone, and everyone is not for you. This is completely normal and absolutely should not be forced. Otherwise, you’ll be miserable and the client will be miserable. If you’re not a good fit, it’s really okay, but you want to find that out early. The earlier, the better. Here’s the real curveball: rather than the client figuring that out and asking disqualifying questions, and this is going to be uncomfortable at first, position yourself so that YOU can ask the disqualifying questions.
I missed a major opportunity to do just that on this call. It was as if they were trying to get me to convince them to hire me. That’s a biiiiiiig no-no, friends. Not only is that not my job, we really want them pitching to us. For example, you can say, “I’m a little concerned we might not be a good fit because of a, b, and c.” If they respond with, “No, that’s not an issue…” and continue selling themselves, great! But if the answer is going to be no, we want that answer as early as possible. Time is our most valuable resource. Let’s not waste theirs or ours.
Back to the book. Blair Enns gives you 12 literal manifestations to abide by. The sixth one is, “We will be selective, and I’ve got two passages for you:
“No is the second-best answer we can hear. If the answer is no, we
want to hear it as soon as possible, before we and the client
unnecessarily waste valuable resources. When an opportunity first
arises, therefore, we try to see if we can kill it.”
I know, I know. That’s so contradictory to what we want to do, especially if you’re just starting. I get it. I’ve been there. We need money, so we feel like we need to make the sale (which is a WHOLE other topic in of itself). Of course you need to make money. But not for the sake of what will ultimately be your sanity. I can speak from experience here too. At some point, we’ve all taken on those clients we knew weren’t a good fit, just for the sake of the sale. And it’s usually (read: always) us that suffers. The client won’t have the best experience because we’re not having the best experience and, therefore, can’t deliver the best version of us.
Blair goes on to talk about this idea of reversing the dynamics of objections. Most of us have the tendency to avoid known or possible areas of object. But when we do that, we’ve given the client permission to raise them first, and then we try to overcome them. We want to flip that script.
“Such dynamics are easily reversed when we learn to raise the
objections first and place them on the table for the client to address.
Instead of waiting to hear, ‘You seem expensive, we might say, ‘I’m a
little concerned about the ability an organization of your size has to
afford us.’ In this manner, we want to lean into the potential
objections. If the objection is going to kill the deal, then let’s kill it
Y’all…this is crucial. Don’t be afraid of no. If that’s what it’s going to be, let’s get it out of the way. And, Donnie, if you’re reading this, I’m kicking myself for missing the opportunity to ask my oh-so-carefully-curated list of disqualifying questions. Oh, and if you guys are not in Donnie’s group yet (Success Champions on Facebook), what are you doing with your life? Get in there. Like, go. Now. And then consider becoming a part of the much smaller group “Becoming a Champion.” Life-changing, I tell you. Because THAT’S where I first heard about selling to disqualify and how I was able to come up with disqualifying questions. Like myself, Donnie has a truly unique voice and message, so I’m not even going to TRY and replicate his message. Suffice to say, it’s always worth hearing and marinating on.
While I didn’t seize the opportunity to ask my disqualifying questions, I DID, very quickly, flip the script once I realized this scenario was more them wanting me to pitch and sell what I could offer. I was asked what might keep someone from being an ideal client, and I jumped at the chance to throw some honest answers that I knew might steer them in a different direction. The interesting part? As soon as I said, “You know, it seems like you know exactly what you want a while, that’s great, I’m a brand strategist, first and foremost. If/when someone has a specific idea or direction they want to pursue that would prevent them from being open to other options, or if it doesn’t align with the strategy we’ve created, then my integrity simply won’t allow for me to continue. I don’t feel right charging someone and delivering something I know is not what they need, whether they realize it or not.” I could tell it set them on their heels a bit.
They also mentioned wanting to keep their web design in WordPress, which I don’t design on for a million different reasons. My next statement was something to the effect of, “So here’s the thing. You’re probably right, we probably are not a good fit. And you know what? That’s totally okay.” Instantaneously, I got the response of “Well, I mean, wait a second…” followed by some backpedaling. There were lots of other little places I was able to further disqualify, and at the end of the conversation, I just reassured them that sometimes people are not good fits, and that is perfectly okay. And should they want to reach out to me again, they know how to get ahold of me. I’ve received multiple messages since then.
I have no idea if that individual and I will work together. But the point is, don’t be afraid of no. Embrace it, it can be your best friend. And if you’re not getting any no’s, that’s another conversation we’ll have. Because that tells me there’s one of two (or both) major problems. There might be more, but let’s focus on two for now. One, you’re not charging enough. I know it’s uncomfortable, especially at first, but you need to embrace that too. Two, you’re not selective enough, and you haven’t really niched down. If you’re trying to serve everyone, you’re not really serving anyone, let alone yourself.
I know we just covered a lot, so let it roll around in your brain a little. Go grab a glass of wine, enjoy the crap out of it, and I’ll talk to you later.