In business today, effective sales calls are the cornerstone of success, especially in the high-end market. People often focus on marketing and building an audience, when the bottleneck is actually more a matter of converting these audiences into great clients.
How you think about sales and selling, even what you call “the call” can be as important to your success as the conversation structure and your skills on the call itself.
In this article, I’m going to take you on a journey of how to lay the foundations for having a lovely experience in your enrolment conversations as well as mapping out a structure for the calls based on psychology of how people hate being sold to, yet love to buy.
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Firstly, we’re building on previous articles where I’ve talked about education-driven marketing, and just last week, we looked at professional identity in relation to who you serve and why it’s important.
Much of the focus in books, training, information is on how to market what you have to sell. But in my experience, the problem there is solved by supporting people with clarity, confidence and messaging.
In fact, we have a multitude of communications channels and media platforms at our disposal, live and online. So another problem with effective marketing is dealing with overwhelm and making decisions about what’s right for you and your business.
No, the problem today is that when we get on the phone with a potential new client or customer, a deluge of inner craziness sets upon us. We just HATE selling!
So what if we think about what makes for effective sales calls and switch our thinking about selling to one of serving?
Just as with your marketing, an education-driven consultative sales approach is distinctly opposite to the uncomfortable paradigms of hard selling, pitching and prospecting, which professionals usually loathe. If you take this more leveraged approach, you’ll soon be leaving your industry competitors far behind you.
It’s way easier to have effective sales calls if you’re inviting only those who are your most fitting people and you’ve already had some prior contact where they’ve been able to get to know, like and trust you. That may be reading your articles or a book you wrote, being part of your social media following, being in a group you lead or listening to your podcast!
This sets up the relationship a little in advance so you’re more likely to have a positive enrolment conversation. What you don’t want is to go in cold, like a blind date!
That kind of cold calling experience is usually the reason we hate the sales part of business.
Why Expert Practitioners Hate Sales
Most of the challenges my clients have around sales are centred on three things: making the offer, talking about price and asking for the sale.
Not being comfortable or effective when doing presentations or conducting sales conversations is one of the biggest barriers to success in business. However, getting better isn’t simply a matter of having the right forms of words or techniques – it’s partly about mindset and partly about laying the right foundations. The gap between thinking about a sales conversation, even practising or role playing it, and actually doing it for real can be immense.
And that’s why effective sales calls is both an art and a science. Some people have a natural flair for sales; but most of us don’t. Some will just dive in and get through it; others will avoid setting up calls altogether. In fact, they’ll make every excuse under the sun for not making calls – a coach will help you work out what’s going on and guide you to find a path to overcoming the obstacles for you personally.
So that’s what I’m hoping to do in this episode – at least to give you a few things to think about and a few things to do so you can invite your prospects to a call, talk to them and make your offer with ease and grace.
With a high-converting sales page, the copy should have done a large part of the tricky sales psychology for you. It should focus on addressing two crucial return on investment questions people will have about your offer:
(1) what’s the opportunity that will change or improve things for me/us; and
(2) is that benefit worth the fee?
In other words, what’s the outcome, benefits and impact from working with you. Your prospect wants to know how much bang they will get for their buck in terms of outcomes; quality or quantity are secondary concerns.
Surprisingly, most consultants aren’t too good at articulating the end outcomes they achieve for their clients. Their sales material tends to focus on the means to the end – what they do or how they do it, rather than the end result.
This comes back to another reason why you may not like the sales part of business. And that’s because you don’t have the clarity to steer effective sales calls in the right direction. Without clarity, there’s confusion and self-doubt, and it means you feel unsure when making the offer.
Undoubtedly, you know the person you’re talking to senses this, and it becomes an uncomfortable, stressful and vicious circle during a call. And this also can build up in advance of subsequent calls and all you want is to NOT do those calls!
After my first year or so working in the business advice or business mentoring arena, I realised I was doing something different to other consultants and coaches. While they were buying leads and appointments and working on their selling, pitching and prospecting skills, and encountering all of the resistance and stress I just described, I was having quality conversations with people who had signed up to get my information and applied for a strategy session.
Blending marketing with education for business development purposes is perhaps something I’ve always done, since at heart I’m a teacher. In every service-based industry I’ve ever worked (including health and wellness, wealth management, personal growth, marketing and business support), the direct selling part of my sales process is a simple consulting conversation.
Laying the Foundations for Effective Sales Calls
The science bit to effective enrolment calls is how you set it up in the first place, so that’s your marketing, your sales page and your invitation.
After you’ve decided on the type of platform you will use predominantly for your content and start sharing – articles, podcasts, videos, live presentations, books – you immediately begin to build an audience.
Your education-based marketing content should already have provided a warm-up, a way to help your prospects achieve the first step towards the solution they want. They start to trust you as an expert and solutions provider.
The problem you need to resolve is this: How can I get my message out on the right frequency so my ideal audience hears it and wants to engage with it and to share it?
I love talking about funnels and sales processes, but packaging an offer and putting it out into the marketplace, that’s where the rubber hits the road, right?
To capture your ideal audience’s attention and engage with them, there are three “musts”.
First, you must understand your target market’s problems, context and point of view.
Second, you must create a compelling and irresistible offer that clearly conveys what you can deliver that addresses their needs specifically.
Third, you must ask for permission to enter into the conversation of what you’re all about, inviting them to make a small initial commitment to actively step forward to talk with you.
Seth Godin, the father of “permission marketing”, he says:
“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”
From a position of permission, you can transition more easily into offering your service or programme without the usual sales pressures or pushy presentations. Although there’s merit in adding incentives to take action, like time-limited or quantity-limited pricing or bonuses, there’s absolutely no cunning manipulation techniques required.
It’s important to include an application step as part of the registration booking process. This provides an opportunity to see how serious someone is, find out more about your prospect, demonstrates you’re professional and allows you to pre-qualify who you spend your time speaking with.
It helps to give your enrolment or signup call an appealing name – best not call it a Sales Call as it sets up the wrong expectations on both sides. A lot of people will go with the norm like a “Free Consult” or “Free Session”, or a Strategy Session or a Discovery Call.
If there’s a very tangible outcome you deliver, you can go one step further and name it something that matches exactly what they are wanting help with. For example, in my consulting business, I called one of my offers a Strategic Marketing Roadmap Call because what my ideal client wants is a route through the confusion. And now I offer Digital Roadmap Consult. And it fits with the fact my consulting methodology is called ROAD!
Client Dating and Asking the Big Question
I’ve talked before about the Engage-Educate-Enrol pathway to set yourself up for effective sales calls. It’s akin to client dating, the process before you make the big commitment, in business terms, when they sign up with you.
More commonly for high-end offers, at the dating stage, there’s no “click to buy” option; the final commitment is more likely to be “closed” through your final application and enrolment conversation. But having processes and systems in place can help do most of the heavy lifting to get someone to the point of a buying decision.
Once you’re clear on your professional identity as we talked about in last week’s article, which includes aligning with your purpose and working in a profitable niche, you need to craft the offer you feel will best help your target audience.
The whole point of building a profile and authority platform, creating a lead magnet and developing a pipeline of contacts is to engage and nurture the right people towards your irresistible offer. Then what?
Well, then you have to ask them to take the next step. And in most high-end offers, that means getting on the phone or a zoom call with them and having an exploratory or strategy conversation.
The invitation is a form of permission marketing and the first step in the effective sales call process. It’s a critical part of giving your prospect their next best move towards becoming a client. So make sure it stands out throughout your sales page; it doesn’t have to be only at the end.
In a leveraged consulting model I teach, effective sales calls is part of a whole process. First of all, your sales page should have already provided the initial ideas with an invitation – the call to action or CTA – to take the next step. Unless you’re selling low-end products or courses, it’s unlikely to be an order form to “buy now”.
If you’re an agency offering a specific “done-for-you” package, I’d still advise you pre-qualify your clients. In this way, your call to action will be to “apply” for a free consult session (your sign-up call).
Your call to action for a professional services offer is rarely a “buy now” type of transaction that you commonly see for retail products. With high-end consulting, selectivity is important, because if you’re working at the top of the tree as an expert in your field, you don’t really want to be a general-admission brand.
Setting high standards for a client signals that you understand your own worth. In the same way that VIP and private clubs work, you build desire in high-end markets by being exclusive. It’s what’s called a “velvet rope” approach to attracting premium clients – offering limited availability and saying “no” to unqualified prospects.
I’ve used this in several businesses and find it’s not only great for managing my time, it also actually creates more demand and more respect during sign-up calls. Prospects have to sell themselves to me, not the other way around.
The deeper the relationship you have, the easier the enrolment conversation goes. If they only just downloaded a free resource, it may be too soon to invite them to a 1-2-1 call. But if your person has already watched a webinar you ran, been in your networking group or has been actively opening your emails, they’re going to be closer to making a commitment to work with you.
The “enrolment” conversation with you is where you can both find out exactly whether they’re a good fit for your programme and if so, ask the big question: how committed are you, are you ready to get hitched?
Generally, “hot” prospects know what they want and what you can provide and just may be looking for reassurance about saying “yes’ and signing on the dotted line.
There’s little that influences the success of a marketing campaign more than a great offer. In your sales copy, outlining where problems stem from can help someone understand why your offer is a good fit for what they need, as well as agitate the problem and create a sense of urgency to sort it.
When you drive sales with marketing content that’s engaging and educational, and you take a consultative approach in the enrolment conversations you have with prospective clients, you will tend to always have positive discussions that lead elegantly to sign ups (i.e. sales).
There are differing schools of thought on whether having a lot of low-end products works for a high-end consulting or coaching business. But it doesn’t hurt or create too much work to put at least one stepping-stone between your first date and your marriage proposal 🙂
Taking Consulting Into the Enrolment Conversation
Professional service providers are first and foremost experts in what they do; they may also have had to develop consulting or coaching skills as part of their work with clients.
However, consultants certainly do not start out as business managers or marketers (unless that’s their field of course!) But what if you could leverage both your expertise and consulting skills as part of your marketing and sales process – that would feel natural, right?
The Engage-Educate-Enrol pathway, which I set out in my book and I’ve talked about in previous episodes, is all about doing just that: mapping out a structured process to attract your ideal clientele to you, in a way that feels natural to your everyday consulting or coaching practice.
After engaging and educating your prospects, when you eventually invite someone to have a consultative enrolling call with you, it’s in the spirit of providing further service.
It’s a basic human need to be understood, to feel connected to people with common values, and to be acknowledged. Your clients are no different. Some would argue that marketing is about engaging people in order to “sell” to them, that it’s a transactional model of engagement – i.e. the marketing results in a transaction of some kind, a sale of your services so you get what you want – an income.
However, I believe a more effective model from a leveraged perspective is to think of marketing as a transformational model of engagement. People may be attracted to what you do and why you do it, but the perceived value is far higher if they feel you can help them move where they are now to where they want to be, because of what you know and are able to do.
So why not make the discovery process the initial consultation part of the enrolment conversation? That way, you can build trust, elicit needs, assess the fit, and only then decide whether the best thing for that person is your programme, product or service. It takes most all of the pressure off!
The dialogue should be non-directive and non-salesy; it allows you to have a personal meeting of minds, demonstrates your professionalism and understanding of the problem(s), shares some of the value of your expertise and, most importantly, builds rapport, confidence and trust – all at the same time.
When you structure the enrolment conversation to identify the gap between where they are now and where they want to be or the result they want – you highlight a course of action or plan. People find that very helpful and will thank you for it! Don’t give too much away though, because the natural next question is whether they want some help to implement what’s needed.
In that conversation, you’re not selling, you’re helping. Your only job in that session is to uncover their pain, need and desire, i.e. to help the prospect to admit their current reality (problem) and what it’s costing them, to look at the gap to the desired outcome, and to see the value in how you can help them towards the solution by closing the gap.
High-quality conversations generate clients (and income) and you should be having lots of them. The free session should be a high value exchange for both of you:
They are able to get to know you, like you and trust you, and you are able to pre-qualify them as a good fit for your programme;
They get to speak to you privately about their individual challenges, and you get to learn more fully how your target market see their challenges;
You are both able to decide if what you do will help them to achieve the result they want.
When there is alignment between what they want to achieve and what your programme delivers, you’ll find it’s straightforward to ask them if they would like to learn more about a programme that can help them with the problem they just told you they have. From there, enrolling them as a new client will be a natural conclusion to the conversation.
The Role of Coaching in Sales Conversations
Right, now hopefully you’re in a more positive mindset about what the sales conversation can achieve for your client, so let’s look at the process of effective sales calls as one of coaching rather than selling. By focusing on the deep emotional need that your potential clients have for what you expertly do, you can make an offer in a gracious manner.
In fact, I’d argue that if you have expertise people want and need, it’s a total disservice not to make an offer. After you spent all this time helping someone see what lies beneath the problem they want solved, they want to know how to solve it. And most likely, they are super pumped to take that next step to solve it!
Jay Abraham puts it really well: “There is only one way on earth to influence other people: talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”
So, it’s perfectly acceptable to make offers, if done graciously and in service.
But it’s certainly worth bearing in mind that, psychologically, there’s an emotional and a logical bridge to cross before someone buys.
Even if they’ve “bought” into you and “feel” what you offer is right for them – and perhaps even decided they want to buy – it’s often an emotional response to your offer (if you’ve matched with their pain points and desires). People then need some logical arguments to support what’s going on in their head before going ahead with a decision.
The skills you need here are much more aligned with a coaching conversation than a sales conversation. In the spirit of consultative sales, your enrolment call is important for both you and your prospect to find out if what you offer is right for them and is really going to help them achieve the specific outcome they want.
Interestingly, what I’ve found on both sides of the fence – as a customer and as a provider – the decision to buy or sign up is not just about the money. It’s simply about someone’s readiness to commit to a course of action.
Sometimes it’s a mindset thing: about how they feel about you; or having a certain way of working, learning and developing; or moving on from a past bad experience.
The Mindset of Serving Not Selling
To increase enrolments into your programme or service, or sell a product, it’s important to know how to communicate what you offer without coming across as overly salesy. Your aim is not to “make a sale” or “close the deal” in one conversation – it should be far more subtle, graceful and empowering for your client than that.
The sales appointment type approach is not well suited to a service-orientated business and the clients you wish to win over. You’re going from a standing start. When you generate leads and appointments or sales calls with educational marketing, you’ll save at least 80% of the time, effort and money you’re currently spending on client acquisition.
A prospective client’s decision (to work with you, hire your services or buy your product) is not something you should try to control. Instead, you can design an enlightened path for them as they travel down the buying decision stream. People buy confidence (in how you can help them) more than competence, although obviously you need to underpin your services with professional credibility.
Before starting to provide advice and guidance on the problem or need you think they have, you’ll serve clients best by asking questions and clarifying responses, in order to deepen understanding of what they want, and how they think about it all.
Educationally, what you are doing is shifting your clients’ perspective of the problem and what they think they want, and providing expert input to help them understand what they need to do to achieve a specific solution or result. This wins over prospective clients because you are “serving not selling” and “teaching not telling”.
My colleague and friend Melinda Cohan, CEO of The Coaching Console, puts it so well. She talks about helping people move from pain island to pleasure island by asking questions that prompt visual pictures of what those states look like. It’s super fun and very effective. I’ve had people go from tears to laughter during the course of this conversation.
From a customer service perspective too, this makes perfect sense. Take your local gadget store, where the sales people kind of jump on you as soon as you’re just through those big glass doors. The good ones though are truly attempting to understand your situation and what you need and help you pick a product that suits. If you get this, it may be easier to see how education works so well as a “sales” tool even during an enrolment conversation.
From experience, I know that when people feel motivated towards a goal, they are more open to understand the underlying issues in their problem and I’ve been able to help them take a decision on my approach to getting the solution way more easily.
Because the problem is that your prospects don’t always know what the end goal looks like, and therefore they won’t immediately be able to articulate why it’s important to them. You know, generally speaking, if you ask people what they want, they’re not sure. But they can sure give you a whole list of things they don’t want!
In the psychology of all this, we know that people are more motivated to move away from pain than towards pleasure. So you have to help them see the possibilities by getting them to paint the ‘before and after’ picture.
Focus on Eliciting Needs and Highlighting the Gap
In practice, what you’re doing is eliciting needs and highlighting the gap between where they are (and all the challenges – the pain points) and where they want to be (the possibilities – the pleasure points).
There are two things that need to happen.
First, you engage and “consult” with or “coach” the prospective client to understand the thinking behind what they say they want, open up their problem, and look at what’s behind the pain, stress or frustration they have. Only from this vantage point can you start to indicate a possible solution (or set of solutions), i.e. what can be implemented to resolve or improve the problem they have outlined, taking on board their context.
Using this kind of consultative or coaching approach of asking questions and exposing the real underlying problem(s), your prospective client starts to become “educated”, to understand their situation better and see possible ways forward more clearly from the expert angle.
Second, your prospective client catches on to the reasoning for how your service or product aligns with their problem and delivers the solution they want and will value.
And by the way, your existing clients are a great source of market intelligence for understanding the concerns, needs and pain points of your target market. Plus the problem language they use to articulate these makes great sales copy.
One might therefore argue that every conversation with a prospective client is actually also a market research activity not just a sales activity. As you learn how to articulate better the problems they are having, you should notice even casual conversation with your audience gets easier. And you will undoubtedly gain clients from these interactions as people get the sense that you’re on their side and understand their challenges.
However, never assume you always understand the current situation, as we live in rapidly changing times and quite literally “things change”. Embrace opportunities to enter into dialogue with your target audience or new prospective clients.
How to Map Out Your Discovery Call Process
Mapping out your discovery call process is something I teach in the iSuccess Business Academy training and I spend a lot of time coaching clients on how to have great enrolment conversations. I’m going to do a whole episode just on this one topic, so I’ll just give a brief outline today because it does fit well with what we’ve talked about for using consultative sales to enrol clients.
In my consulting process, after finding out a little about their organisation or business and the challenges they are facing, I always start with the key question: “what does success look like to you” or “what (change) do you want to see”. This encourages (actually forces) them to identify where they are now and where they want to be – closing the “gap” is the tangible result I help deliver.
I also ask clients “why is that important to you?” because this moves the conversation to a deeper emotional level and highlights their current pain or dissatisfaction with the situation or problem.
If illuminating emotional benefits is important in consulting, it’s doubly important in sales! What you do, how you do it and what outcome you achieve for clients are worth differentiating. Your prospective clients will mostly be thinking about the means, because that’s what they’re used to thinking and hearing about. So you need to steer the conversation so you’re not just batting back answers to questions like ‘how does it work’.
Having a structured outline for the conversation is really important – and that helps demonstrate your leadership and facilitation role in the consultation. It keeps you on the straight and narrow, elicits the before and after picture (as we talked about) and ensures your prospect gets what they need from the call.
We call this “consultative sales” because people who feel they are being consulted, listened to and understood, not talked at, while at the same time learning something about the problem they have, are more receptive to working with you.
So in your enrolment call (or whatever you decide to call it), if you want to optimise how well your calls convert to clients, you’ll want to have an outline or script – as a compass and guide for the direction of the conversation.
Remember the point about helping someone to see and acknowledge the “gap” and what may be a blindspot or block? That’s why you need a strategy for the strategy call. You need to show leadership and help the person to make a decision that will empower them.
At the end of your sales process, your payment process should be as straightforward as possible and what you do to onboard your new client should reassure your new client that you mean business and have a structure to what you do – professionalism.
A good enrolment conversation gives relief, hope and incentive that the full solution is within reach. You need to provide the prospect with a lot of value without giving too much away. It’s most definitely not about delivering one big sales pitch.
If you truly believe what you provide can help them, the next natural step is for them to enrol in one of your programmes or sign up for a service. But whether or not they enrol there and then, the enrolment conversation should be useful and positive. A lot of clients don’t say yes the first time you ask, but may well make the decision at a future date. So you want people to come away from their session with you feeling positive and good about themselves and you, and even excited by the possibilities.
Everything kicks off when you create relevant, useful content to engage and educate the right audience. Because that starts the process of building a trusting relationship with your most ideal prospects so when you get on a call, you can get to know them on a personal, one-to-one level.
And that’s it for today – hope it gave you some insights so you can go away and map out your process and understand how it fits into your customer journey.
My parting wisdom is this. Enrolment should be a positive experience for your prospects. So don’t focus on making a sale and getting clients signed up; focus on getting consult sessions booked in and getting to know your people.
If you’d like to experience an effective sales calls – book a discovery call and find out whether what you need is what I got!
Book a Discovery Session with Jay
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And then we can figure out what kind of support available in the iSuccess Business Academy best suits your time, pace & budget. Our pricing is totally transparent 🙂