Some Prospects Should NOT Advertise...Yet
The following was an email coaching session with a seller. You might benefit from our exchange:
Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB
Seller: A new salon has opened in town and I dropped in to get some info and possibly set up a CNA for a different date. The shop owner and two of her employees welcomed me right away and suggested we do the CNA right then. I happily started a CNA, and as I continued to ask questions — involving all three salon staff — I began to get some odd body language that felt like they were drawing away and becoming less engaged as the CNA went along. Because it's a new salon, they didn't have any sales history or knowledge of their market base.
Part of me feels like they thought I was highlighting some deficiencies in their preparations to open their shop and their realization of this was creating some stress. Or they honestly didn't know me from Adam and were wondering why I was asking such personal questions.
I have performed hundreds of CNA interviews in the past, and I have never had one start well and end so neutral. Usually, the response is more like, "Thank you, you made me think differently about my business and the way we need to market." When I left this prospect, however, I honestly had no feeling one way or another as to their prospect status.
My response: Based on what you told me, your assumption was correct. They realized how much they "don't know" about the market and started to feel somewhat "stupid." This was not your intention, of course, but that sounds like a plausible explanation for the ending you experienced.
When you're sensing a change in the conversation, it's best to ask them directly: "When we started our conversation, you sounded excited. I feel like I'm losing you, or perhaps I've said something that offended you, am I off-base here?" We call this a process question. Maybe they felt stupid that they didn't know the answers. You could have found that out at that point with a process question and altered your approach. One possible approach could have been that you identified that they didn't know much, so you stopped the "typical" CNA and instead said something like, "What can I do to provide you information about the marketplace?"
Clients don't like to feel stupid. Unfortunately, many lack the information they need to make intelligent decisions about their marketing. That means we have to walk gently in a way that "educates them," and at the same time, retrieve the information we need to help.
Advertising cannot make a bad business better. Advertising can only make a good business thrive. The question you'll wrestle with is, can you spend time and effort helping them become a good business before you get them as a client? Having them advertise before they are ready is a recipe for disaster. Is it worth the time to help them before you make a sale and earn a commission? That is a judgment only you can make.
Jeff Schmidt is the SVP of Professional Development. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.