Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Prospects
Image source: Scott Maxwell, Flickr
Prospects

Dear Bev,

Do you have any tips for knowing when a prospect is ready to buy versus when someone is going to drag their feet and potentially not commit? We have too many situations where we prepare the paperwork and it remains unsigned but we don’t know why.

Paul P.

Dear Paul,

This is an issue I address all too often with coaching clients of mine. It’s a common problem – the meetings seem to go well, the buying signals (“yes, we need to do this”) are there, the chemistry seems right but then you are left in endless follow up mode trying to get a response. Is it a no? Is it a maybe? Is it a not yet? Hard to know when you can’t even elicit a response from someone!

There are a few things that go wrong in these types of scenarios and it’s not always about recognizing who will drag their feet and who won’t – it’s missing opportunities on your end too:

  1. Understand their process – you probably have a step-by-step approach you use to help prospects make decisions. You can, and should, outline this for them. It’s critical for the next step I’ll list. But, you also want insight into their process. When do they expect to make a decision? What information do they need? How do they prioritize what’s most important? Be sure to gather this information at the outset. It’s not enough to know they are interested, you need to know how they think and how they’ll make a decision.
  2. Confirm commitment – this means at each and every step of the process you are outlining expectations for what will come next, and then confirming what’s happening. It’s important that you don’t move totally into delivery mode where you are sharing information and expecting the prospect is tracking with you. You need to confirm they are committed and ready to move. If you have done a good job in step 1 of understanding their process you can confirm next steps against what they’ve already told you they need to do and by when.
  3. cknowledge the elephant in the room – everyone is busy. When sitting in a meeting with a smart professional (like you!) the prospect might be excited and know they need your help. Then, they leave. Life intervenes. Other issues rise to the surface as being most important. They might want to move forward, and mean to move forward, but they can’t see their way clearly to do so. Pre-empt this by letting them know this often happens and that you want to avoid it for them. You have an ethical responsibility to help them make a decision – one way or another.
  4. Provide documents for signature only when you have received a commitment – this is a very important piece. Unless the person has said, “Yes, we are ready to sign and this is the date we will be ready to move forward,” or words to that effect, don’t send any documents! It seems to be the logical step once you have covered all other bases, but it’s the last card you hold. If it seems you are ready to ask for the business, let them know the next step is to send documents but that you never do that unless you hear a positive “Yes!” for moving forward.

By Beverly Flaxington, read the full article here.