What Will Make Your Prospect Take Action?


Sunday, 9.35pm.

Sheffield, U.K.

When you think of successful people do you also think that the way they got successful was by taking risks?

Take your prospect, for example. That’s a person with a senior role in a large organisation, the kind of organisation that can afford to pay for your services.

They didn’t get there overnight. To be in a position where they can approve tens of thousands to pay for your time probably took a few years. Several years. Years where they worked carefully and conscientiously and were promoted for successes.

Do you think any of those involved taking a risk?

In a small number of cases the answer may be yes. It’s hard to think what the circumstances might be though.

In most cases, they got to where they were by not screwing up – or at least by not being seen to screw up. They got there by being risk-averse.

And that’s an important lesson for us to remember when trying to persuade someone to work with us.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because we have a wonderful new product, everyone we talk to will think the same way.

Then, when we find they don’t, it’s just as easy to think what we have is rubbish and will never get anywhere in the market.

Both these are irrelevant ways of thinking. It really doesn’t matter what we think about our product. It also doesn’t really matter what most people think about it.

The only opinion that really matters is that of the person in a position to pay money for it.

And it’s a good idea to start imagining that person as standing in front of a wall. A wall built up of all their experiences, their preconceptions, their values. The things that make them think the way they do.

Let’s take an example. If you supply a service to the public sector, the chances are that there is government guidance out there that tells public sector bodies the best way to buy services.

What do you think are the chances that any one of those bodies follows a different way to the approved one?

Slim. If you try and persuade one of them to do things differently – to select you without going through a procurement exercise, for example – they’ll struggle with the idea.

If you know them well and they really want to work with you, then they’ll game the system – create a tender that only you can win.

In many cases, however, you’re dealing with someone that has a particular way of working and what you do needs to fit into that world, to be compatible. If it’s not, you’ll struggle from the start.

In other words, you’re not going to persuade anyone to take a risk. If your selling process is based on that you will fail.

What will make your prospect take action is to structure your pitch so that you avoid risk or eliminate it. That’s really what drives people.

It’s well known that most people look at wins and losses differently. You’d probably be much more upset at losing $1,000 than happy at winning the same amount.

Try this with your young kids. Tell them if they put their dishes in the sink, they’ll get a dollar. See how eager they are to take you up on the offer.

Then, give them a dollar. Then tell them that if they don’t put their dishes in the sink, they’ll need to give you back the dollar. See how they react this time.

If they’re like most kids, they’ll be less excited about earning something than losing something they already have. That’s why discipline for children often involves taking something away from them – that makes them much more likely to stop and listen to you.

So, what does this have to do with your prospect?

Well, to get them to take action, first you need to try and tear down as much of that wall as possible. That means making it safer for them to work with you – guarantees, warranties, try before you buy options.

The less risk they have, the more likely it is that they will consider what you’re offering.

Then, you need to go one step further. You need to frame your product in terms of what they will lose by not taking it, not what they will win.

For example, you could say that your product will save them $10,000. That’s what they could win. You could also mention that their competitor already has saved this $10,000 and what that means it that your prospect’s prices are going to be less competitive as a result. That’s what they could lose.

The way in which you put your point across will make the difference between them taking action or not.

Wherever possible, try and help them avoid losing something they have, and you might be surprised by how positive they are about working with you.


As a reminder, this is the sixth post in a series that I’m planning on eventually collecting into a book on Consultative Selling. If you are reading this and are interested in this topic, please let me have any feedback, good or bad, so I can make this as useful and easy to read for you as possible.

Karthik Suresh

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