A client of mine recently asked:
“Hey JC, how should I handle a potential prospect who comes right out and says,
‘Sure, we are willing to meet with you and talk to you. My company thinks it would be a great opportunity for my team to pick your brain.’”
My client added:
“Does this sound crazy or what? Unfortunately, not for us.
In fact, that’s how most companies who want to meet with us express themselves right from the onset.
It’s amazing that many prospects today—nearly all of whom are strangers—could be so bold. They put it out there.
This response puts members of my sales team in an uncomfortable position. So much so that they wish they could say …
‘Hey pal, I have to earn a living here. Can you please remind me exactly what’s in it for me if I give you FREE advice?’
WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST WE DO? Please help us JC.”
Here is a simple, yet effective way to elevate your game when you’re asked “Can I pick your brain?”
When a scenario like the one you’ve outlined above occurs, I would INSTANTLY start asking the prospect questions. Your goal is to determine the prospect’s need and to figure out—inside your area of expertise—if you can be a valuable resource to them or not.
While I’m asking them questions, I listen to their answers intently. I am looking for clues, patterns and behaviors in what’s being said … what’s not being said … and importantly, their body language. You’re also looking to learn if this prospect is a cultural fit for your company and is one who shares your value system. It is my opinion that you can never underestimate the importance of a shared “value system” and how that ultimately translates to a multi-decade relationship. My goal is—and always will be—to be recognized as their “trusted advisor.”
What are some of those questions I ask? Here is just a small sample (and not necessarily in order):
• Can you tell me what’s the gap that needs to be filled in order for you to reach your goals?
• Will you get to where you want to be by following the path your currently on?
• May I see your business plan … or your marketing plan?
• What are you currently doing that’s working? … And how do you know it’s working?
• What have you done that hasn’t worked? … And why do you think it didn’t work?
• With the goals you have shared with me that you are hoping to attain … Are you dreaming big enough?
Eventually I come to a point where I know I can help … and if I sense the prospect is still probing deeper … looking for specific free stuff … I reiterate what I’ve learned from our discussion—then simply say, “Our next steps are …” It’s at this point I confidently share exactly how my company works.
And during my questioning I have exchanged enough in our conversation and in the quality of the questions I ask to communicate and convince them that I know what I’m talking about and that my company has got the goods—but at NO TIME do I give away the secret sauce. After all, if I did that, what would be the point of them hiring me?
In addition, I can be bold, particularly when or if they push the subject. And I can almost tell you with 99% certainty—the human nature of your prospect is to push and probe.
For example, the prospect will subtly ask you: “Well, what would you recommend?” or “What do you think we should do?”
I take a breath and pause … respectfully stand my ground and share this with my prospect:
“I believe Mr./Mrs. Smith, that during the course of our conversation today, I’ve established adequate credibility and that you definitely understand that I know what I’m talking about. If not, you wouldn’t be asking for my advice.
Having said that, solving your specific problems is how I earn my living. I have over 40 years of knowledge and experience in the (manufacturing) arena, and I get paid for that knowledge.
I guarantee that, as we work together, you will get far more value than you bargained for. Here are the next steps we need to take.” And then share with the prospect exactly how you work (your terms).
If they do not wish to work with you under the guidelines or boundaries that you have drawn, it might be time to cut your losses and move on. Take it from me—it may not be worth it pursuing a prospect who is difficult to work with. Ultimately that decision is up to you.
ONE MORE THING:
This post was put together with the aid of my great friend, colleague & client Gary L. Smith. Author of insanely amazing books like:
The Customer Conundrum,
Achieving Unusual Greatness: Timeless Lessons From the Trail Already Blazed and
The Shepherd & the Princess: 7 Keys Ways to Conquering Goliaths in Your Life.
Get these “must haves” today at http://www.optechs.com/buy/
TIP: If at first you don’t succeed using these tools …….. practice, practice, practice and
TRY … TRY … TRY AGAIN … and again until you find what works best with your prospects!
Be blessed always …