If You Don’t Ask…

With so much emphasis in business on building empathy and rapport with prospects and understanding their needs, there’s an embarrassingly obvious part of the selling process that we can easily overlook.

Maybe we’re all just too polite, and fearful of coming across as pushy or salesy, but the maxim holds true: If you don’t ask you don’t get.

If you don’t proactively ask prospects to make a decision or ask clients to upgrade their orders, it’s unlikely that they will spontaneously seek these things out. As a result, your invested time and effort will go to waste, or worse, your competitors may tempt your prospect away.  

Why does this modest act make us feel so uncomfortable that we are reluctant to do it? 

There’s two big barriers I frequently come across:

  1. Fear: That we might scare the customer off, be rejected, appear pushy or imposing.
  2. A lack of confidence:  A certain amount of tenacity is required to prompt a client to make a decision. If you have any self-doubt in the quality or suitability of the product, or in your own abilities to see the sale through, then this will hold you back and create nervousness with the client.   

How to overcome this? It helps to make your sales process as transparent as possible: Set out from the start of every client discussion, what the sales journey looks like, and where along the way you’ll be asking for a commitment from them.

Remember your clients and prospects already know that you are a commercial entity and require sales to exist! There’s no shame in being upfront about this, and where along the way the key decisions are.

If you want to see your business grow, it is important you get into the habit of asking. Not only is it crucial to the sales process, but it’s also essential for all of your end-to-end marketing activities and any plans to scale up your business: 

  • Ask for referrals:  Each business contact you make or client you take on has the potential to connect you to many others. Be clear about who you’re looking to meet, and actively pursue these relationships by asking for a referral. People prefer to buy from people they trust, so a glowing endorsement from another client or contact may well sway the decision of an uncertain buyer in your favour. 
  • Ask for more business: Don’t underestimate the power of a simple catch-up call. Stay ‘front-of-mind’ by regularly checking-in with previous customers. This is especially so if you have a track record of delivering strong client solutions and experiences – That portfolio of satisfied clients can be a lucrative (and often untapped) asset for your business. 
  • Ask for follow-up: There are many reasons for a prospect to stall making a decision: Cash flow; Needing more time to think; Too much else going on in the business…. You will need to be proactive about follow-up rather than leaving it to the prospect to get in touch as and when. Take the lead; get a date and time in the diary for each next step, and keep control of the conversation.
  • Ask for more money:  Regularly review your rates and the scope of ongoing projects or retainer contracts, to ensure you aren’t undercharging or over-delivering. Yes, this might delight the client, but if it’s to the clear detriment of your business then it’s time to redress the balance. Do this in an account review with the client, and demonstrate how the services delivered or time spent has grown beyond the initial estimates. 

As a general rule, I bet you can always ask one more time than you think. So, rather than assume a client’s response, ask for one instead. If you don’t, a competitor will.

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