In part #2. of this blog post series, I'm diving into what we can put into place to help your potential clients show up as their best selves **during sales calls**, and set up the relationship dynamic from the get-go, and how to gracefully navigate when red flags show up! (I tackle all the scenarios for red flag clients in this 3-part series*)
**if you missed it, go back and read part one
SETTING THE STAGE: DURING THE SALES CALL
What you want to keep in mind during the sales call is that the person on the other end wants to trust you and move forward. No one hops on a call skeptical and hoping to prove it ain't worth their time and money.
Here's what you can do to make them feel they can trust you:
1. TAKE LEADERSHIP
Guide the sales process. Ask questions, don't wait until your prospect does. Tell them how this works, and lead the way.
2. CLEAR SALES PROCESS
Send YOUR link. Have the call in YOUR zoom room. Provide them with links, instructions and reminders. Gaps in this process, or you waiting for them to book you in for their sales call, makes people feel you're second-guessing yourself.
3. HAVE YOUR PITCH READY
Based on their questionnaire/application form answers, pick 2-3 offers they might be a perfect fit for, and make sure your pitch for those offers is ready to go, including clear communication around pricing, payment plans, bonuses etc.
4. BUILD CREDIBILITY
Yes, even on the sales call. It's not just something you do in your content (credibility building). If you often forget to insert client success stories, or other credibility markers like places you've been featured and more, create a “cheat sheet of awesomeness,” with reminders of some cool things to mention on the call.
5. TAKE BACK POWER (WHEN NEEDED)
Feel the prospect starting to guide the process, instead of trusting you to do that – you want to hone the skill of flipping back that dynamic back to where it belongs: in your hands.
DREADED SCENARIOS: WHAT TO DO/SAY WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
- Showing up late to a sales call
Usually, it indicates they're not prioritizing what you offer. Unless this person comes from a culture that has a different relationship with time (this happens). The question really becomes, can you be OK with this person showing up this way when you're working together? Or do you interpret it as disrespectful?
- Not showing up to a sales call – an easy first red flag client sign
Possibly a misunderstanding. Stay on for 5 minutes, then disconnect. If the questionnaire is exceptionally promising, I'll have my assistant reach out and inquire if there was a timezone hiccup/confusion about the date. If yes, they get one final chance to reschedule. If the questionnaire is average, no reschedule. Be discerning where you and your team spend your time.
- Not turning on camera (refusing)
Put in your call confirmation email that you expect them to show up on camera. If they still refuse, simply say, “I'm sorry, but I choose to not have calls with people who don't want to turn on their camera, any chance you can change your mind? If not, no problem, we'll wish each other a beautiful day” [then pause and wait for them to process and respond].
HOWEVER, even the fact they weren't initially comfortable being seen, very often doesn't bode well. If you're a coach, you can choose to call it out, “why are you not comfortable turning on your camera?”
- Driving while talking (or doing any other activity #multitasking)
Hard no for me. If they can't show up with their camera on, and looking decent, in a quiet spot, I interpret that as them not being very serious. Presence is an integral part of transformation, and if people struggle with this, that instantly disqualifies them as clients (a.k.a qualifies them as red flag clients)
- Telling you how the call should go (or steering the conversation)
Turn the table and flip the script by raising your hand, asking them to pause, saying: “I've got this, I've got you… feel free to lean back and let's take a moment and get to know each other a bit more and see where we're at. Now, let's start with [what you want to start with].”
- Loud background noise, distractions all around
Don't accept this. Reply with: “Listen, I have a really hard time hearing you/focusing with the noise that's going on. Can you find a more quiet spot in the next 2 minutes? If not, please reach out to my assistant to reschedule our call.”
If they do, they're serious and they simply miscalculated. If they don't, you just saved yourself 30 minutes.
- Gossiping of any kind
Reply with: “I'm so sorry you had that experience. Also, it doesn't feel in integrity for me to talk about this individual without them being in the room. I suggest you bring your complaint to them directly. Although I get your frustration, I'd love to spend our time focused on what you want to experience moving forward.”
- Complaining about past experiences with your competitors
Big red flag. See if you can steer them toward taking responsibility for their experience, by saying things like, “what did you take away from that experience?” and “what do you think the lesson was?”, and “how are you going to make sure you're not going to repeat this experience?”. If they're willing to go there, maybe give them a chance. However, if they show any other red flag behavior, be very careful moving forward, if moving forward at all.
- Having no sense of a balanced back and forth/ talking over you
Why would you want them to be your client? That's going to cause serious issues when you're in a project or package with someone. You're going to spend most of your time listening to what they think is important to share, rather than you getting the information you need to help them move forward. If you call it out, and they are open to shifting this dynamic, it's a maybe. If you get the sense they keep going back to “just talking,” I'd say it's a no-go.
- Experiencing discomfort/unease in your body (your go-to)
Mine is jaw tension (because I try to smile when I'm not feeling it – AWKWARD), your body tension go-to might be back pain, headache. Witness your body during the call, and when you're experiencing discomfort or pain, ask yourself: “what is it telling me?”. Usually, it's your body saying “no thanks.”
- Feeling you're slipping into wanting to already overdeliver
When I hear myself pad my offers, or offer extra, direct support, I know that person isn't a good fit for that offer. That's why they're needing “extra.” Only give extra as a reward for showing up, follow through, and quick implementation. Not in order to compensate for the fact they're not really a fit.
NOTE: with “extra,” I mean long email exchanges, voxer access, bonus calls (especially when you're not really feeling like it, but feel obligated for some reason), EXCEPT when those things are smart bonuses you love to deliver on.
- Finding yourself “proving you're worthy”
Ask yourself: “what did your prospect say or do to make you want to respond by defending yourself, your work and worth?” If you can't come up with an immediate response, that's OK. Let the prospect off the call (working with someone who makes you want to work to feel worthy, is going to be very expensive money). If you can catch the thought/pattern that caused you to have this reaction, and you feel ready to shift it, this can be a huge growth opportunity.
- Wanting coaching on the spot (not respecting it's a sales call)
Call it out: “I get that you're so hungry for [what you offer] and I love that. And I want to kindly remind you that this call is for us to vision together and talk about how I can potentially support you, are you in?”
If you can, deliver it with humor (makes it more palatable).
- Wishing the call was over
Do I need to say more? Um, nope. Afterwards ask yourself: “how could I have picked up on the lack of fit based on the interactions prior to the call?” (like tweaking your questionnaire questions).
- Asking you for all kinds of “proof” (numbers, stats, percentages)
Here's what I do: “before I share some cool results with you, what do you need to see to feel comfortable moving forward?” Based on that I share a client success story (that will resonate based on their specific desires and situation), show them some screenshots or will pull up a video testimonial that will help dissolve their fears, share my screen, and say, “this share is 3 minutes, as you'll hear, they are very similar to you because of X, take a moment to listen, I'll go refill my tea.” Come back, and ask, “So, what are you taking away from this?” HELP THEM SELL THEMSELVES.
- Not shutting up to listen
Instead of being offended, ask yourself, “why are they feeling so nervous they feel the need to talk and talk and talk?” Gently call it out (raise your hand to stop them if necessary): “Can I flag something for you? [wait for the nod] “you're not letting me join in this conversation… usually, it's because people are afraid, or nervous or maybe worried… what's going on right now, what are you experiencing in your body?”
If they tune in and share what was happening, breakthrough! If not and they get defensive? Let them go!
- Blaming others (victim mentality)
You can create the biggest breakthrough by calling it out:
“I don't know the full extent of your experience. But I'm noticing that it makes me nervous when I hear you talk about your former ________ in such a negative way. How do I know you're not going to talk about me that way, a few _____ from now?”
- Deferring the buying decision to others
What you want to do is figure out if they're just trying to get off the call without having to say, “no, dammit… I don't want your stuff.” OR if they're just the kind of person who makes all financial decisions with a significant other. OR if they're not in charge of their own finances and life decisions. Only proceed if it's the middle one, as a rule of thumb.
If it's the middle one (simply always makes decisions together with a partner) then you want to support your potential client in having that conversation in a way that maximizes the chance of the partner supporting the investment. How? By making sure the potential client is 110% in. Our partners want to keep us safe, and so the moment the potential red flag client shows her insecurity around this being the right thing, they'll say don't do it.
So dig for concerns, and make sure you tease out as many as you can on the sales call and set them up for a successful conversation by repeating their self-confessed yes (motivation for change, and why they can no longer accept life as it is), and coach them through the conversation they're going to have with their partner.
- Wanting to refer you to others before they've bought themselves
For real? Yes, for real. I've found without a doubt that people who hop on calls with me and start saying things like “OMG, I should hook you up with X, they totally need what you have!” ends with not only not making the referral, but not buying themselves. Solve?
I'm so excited you're seeing the value! Just so you know though… I'm very picky about who I allow onto my client roster, and I don't accept referrals unless they come from someone I've known for a while, and have a very positive experience with. So let's focus on creating that positive experience both for you and me, and I'm sure that down the line there's room for all kinds of magic in sharing our rolodex of wonderful people”.
- Requesting an email/PDF/proposal post call to help them make up their mind
Usually it goes like this: “This sounds great, can you send me a proposal so I can look it over and make my decision?“. And usually that means, “I'm not getting the offer, and this is wasting my time,” or “I don't want to move forward, how can I get off the call without giving that away?”
I like calling it out (delivered with a smile):
“I'm happy to summarize, but I don't do proposals and here's why: usually it means the prospect isn't into the offer, and wants out in a polite way, if that's the case, you don't owe me a yes, and we can say goodbye and wish each other the very best, OR… there's a piece of vital information we've missed in our conversation that you need to make your decision. Which one is it?”
If the first, let them go.
If the second, ask them, “what is it you're not sure about?”/ “what is it you feel you need to know?”
Note: in some industries, and especially when working with corporate, proposals are needed and expected. Because there is a set of decision-makers. Or if “proposal review” is a part of their policy.
- Talking about how impressive they were in the past (they're rebuilding)
Signals insecurity. They need to talk themselves up because they're feeling low, and they don't want it to show. So they talk about their big past success, to mask the fact they're unhappy or even embarrassed about where they are right now.
I poke the bear:
“What are you proud of right now?”, “No, not the past, like, right now this moment”, “Nothing much? Let's talk about that… what would make you proud of yourself and excited right now and how do you feel I can support you in creating that?”
- Believing they’re entitled to a discount of sorts
Get to the bottom: “what gave you the impression that you would receive a special rate/discount?” Because if there's a source of confusion you want to know, and fix the miscommunication. Gracefully explain there's no discount. Something along the lines of, “Here's what I know: I do my best work when I'm well paid and I've no worries about cash flow or paying my bills. That means, I'm committed to charging rates that support me in running a healthy business, and I highly suggest you do the same.”
- Accidentally hopping on with someone who is not the decision-maker
The moment you discover they're not the decision-maker, there are two things you can do:
#1. Ask them how you can best support them in selling the decision-maker. By asking things like, “how does X make decisions?”, “what do they need to see in order to feel comfortable moving forward?, “Can I prep an email with a quick loom summarizing our call, and add some video testimonials?” (making the job of the person who is on the call with you super easy).
#2. Request a reschedule with the decision-maker present: “This is not something I'm comfortable with unless I talk to X. Can we schedule a 15-minute call with them present?”
Now, of course, the trick is to actually hold your ground, and end the call if you receive a “no, that's not possible.”
- Certain types of crying
Tears are beautiful. And often go along with the deeply transformational moment we call a “sales call.” AND… sometimes someone starts crying in a way that feels disproportionate to the experience. Check-in with yourself, are you comfortable with witnessing strong emotions? (If not, that's why it might feel uncomfortable and it has more to do with you than with the prospect). If you are, this could be a sign that the (potential red flag) client is going to bring a lot of baggage into the project or coaching package, and it's going to be heavy lifting with a bigger risk of the client being dissatisfied, angry or upset down the line.
- Feeling (not happy kind of) tired after the call or foggy-headed
If you feel like this after one call, think about what it's going to feel like having this person in your life longer term. No, thanks.
- Confusion about payment options despite clear explanation
It often means their capacity to pay attention and retain information is being taken up with something else. You need to uncover what that something else is, instead of cheerfully (but secretly slightly annoyed) repeating the details.
“I'm picking up on something, and want to check in… I've shared the details with you, but it's not landing. Is there something else, a fear, a thought that's taking up your bandwidth right now…? Tell me more“.
Now, there are people who struggle to retain certain details. If they're asking you to repeat with a “I know I should've caught it the first time, I'm asking you a favor” kinda way, that's OK. Quickly repeat. If they're truly confused, use the line (or a variation thereof) above.
NOTE: I personally struggle to hear and retain numbers. I need to see them in order to comprehend them. This might show up with potential clients as well. I usually type up the payment plan options in the chat as well as speaking them, just to be sure.
- Turning it into an interview (they just keep asking questions)
It actually shows that either you've not put enough credibility and personality into your content (remember the content triangle?), and they're trying to ascertain too much information in one conversation and it's starting to show. Pause the sales conversation, and say:
“Hey, I'm feeling you'd just love to know a bit more about me as a person/the kind of results I help my clients create, let's take the next 3 minutes for you to ask me some questions. What would you love to know?“
And start focusing on creating the opportunity for your potential clients to really get to know you prior to the call by showing up consistently, sharing personal experiences and preferences, and adding credibility-building elements to your content.
AND… maybe they're simply a bit of a control freak (which often indicates fear). Flip the script by saying something like, “Before you ask me more questions, let me ask you a few,” and proceed to ask questions that give this person the clear message you don't just work with anyone and they better qualify themselves as a perfect fit. As in…
“So how big did you say your current email list is?”
“How many retreats have you facilitated?
“How are you doing with turnover in your company right now?”
Take back the lead.
- Asking for guarantees
“I don't give guarantees. And if you're meeting a [what you do] who does, run, don't walk. HOWEVER I have a stellar track record and I'd love to show you a share of a past client of mine who reminds me of you because of [reason], let me share my screen for a sec… “
Share your screen and watch the [short] video testimonial together. Unless you offered and got the feeling they were totally not into it. If that's the case, call the “not being into it” out, so that you can either end the call and stop taking up your and their time, or create a breakthrough moment of honesty and admitting what they're experiencing (like maybe they've invested before and it wasn't a success, or they're deep down afraid they won't experience results like the ones you use in your marketing. If that's the case, follow up with “why do you believe this isn't possible for you?” and start uncovering).
- Focusing on what they'll refer to as “investment trauma”
The risk here is that they'll repeat the experience, simply because they haven't processed it and gotten to a place of closure. I love calling it out:
“I sense you're very frustrated with your experience of investing and still not getting what you needed. That sucks. Now, sometimes when people are still caught up in the emotions of their past experience, it distracts from being present. Are you ready to leave the past in the past, and give this a fair shot?”
If they reply with “yes,” ask them “how do I know if you're upset with me or the experience?”, and/or get a commitment that if they feel they're not getting what they need, they'll immediately reach out to you and your team.
There needs to be a clear understanding though, that although you're committed to giving them a fabulous experience, you're not going to bend the structure of your business in an attempt to please them.
If they reply with “no, not really, not yet,” thank them for their honesty and refer them to someone who can help them process their experience.
- The “I've tried everything, nothing worked” mentality
Instead of you doing the work and trying to make them feel good about themselves, “It's not you, you've just not found the right person to help you till now,” I want you to support them in taking responsibility. If they say another, “I tried this, but that didn't work either” reply with: “why do you think it didn't work?” or with:
“I care about your success and the last thing I want is for our work to be another “didn't work out” experience. That's why I refer women who can't seem to get to where they want to be to a mindset expert, would you like that, or can you see your role in these things not working out?” (followed by your kindest smile).
- Just wanting to spend time with you (no intend to buy)
As soon as you notice it, say this:
“Hey, I love hanging out with you, and I also sense that _________[what you offer] isn't at the top of your list right now. How about we reconnect in a few months from now?”
When they rebook a call, and their questionnaire still looks wishy-washy or not a fit, have your assistant reach out to them with a cool resource for her to get started, or a referral and don't hop on an additional call if you don't feel like it.
- Promising a potential future “opportunity” in exchange for your free labor
Don't walk. RUN. In my entire time building my business I've only ever had negative experiences with this. And have seen deeply upsetting things happen to friends who fell for this. Even exchanges are extremely tricky at best, and can cause disastrous tangles at worst. Just the time you spend figuring out “a fair exchange” is a time/focus suck, and if you'd spend that time getting new (non-red flag) clients, you could've easily paid for that kind of service/offer without the strings attached.
- “I first need you to do this thing (for free), then I'll decide if I hire you”
Here's what you can say:
Free labor is not in alignment with my values, however… what do you need to see in order to feel confident moving forward, because I get it, you want to make sure we're the right fit, especially since you have a lot riding on this project:
some testimonials, a sample of my work, do you want to speak to a past client?”
- Can't tease out a strong self-confessed yes (motivation around change)
If it's a recurring theme for you, keep honing your sales skills. If it's specific to this lead, call it out:
“I can see experiencing [transformation you offer] would mean the WORLD to you, but can you put into words for me why it matters, what's at stake?”
If you still don't get a strong motivation (something you don't want to leave until the end of the call), let them know…:
“Here's what I know… if you want [transformation], you'll need a compelling reason why to pull through the days it feels hard, or even impossible. And you'll need something stronger than what you shared with me. This is no judgment, it's simply what I've learned from supporting hundreds of people like you. Do you want to journal on this question for a day or two, and we circle back, let's say [hop over to your calendar, take a moment to come up with an option], Friday morning at 11 am?”
Only offer this IF they're a good fit otherwise (based on for example their sales all questionnaire answers). This way, they can spend the next 48 hours convincing themselves instead of you trying to do the heavy lifting. Always remember, it's not your job to sell them on your offer. It's your job to help them sell themselves on your offer.
- You feel uncomfortably confronted by something they say or do.
I journal about the things that cause a strong reaction in my body, because usually they hold powerful lessons. HOWEVER, when a potential client causes you to stop saying what you truly think and feel, and you feel it's hard to be honest, you're not ready to show up as the leader in that relationship, which is essential for them to trust you enough to follow your lead (the only way you'll get results).
- Them getting defensive
You can try to call it out (“I notice you're upset, what's going on?”), but… if they slip so easily into defensive mode by what you're saying (instead of being curious and present), that's going to cause serious breakdowns in your work together. Reconsider if you want that person to be your client.
Next up is The Red Flag Book part #3, dedicated to red flags (and how to respond) in the onboarding process and at the top of the package or project!