So, now you’re waiting for the client to decide. Sometimes, waiting for the decision is worse than anything else, because you want todo the right thing by the client, and keep aside the time they have asked for. But you also know you have to do the right thing by your own business, and sell those days as quickly as you can.
There are some important things to be aware of when waiting for clients to make decisions. These are ways you can help the client make a decision .
Convince Clients: How the client makes a decision – Convincers
The convincer system concerns with how the client convinces themselves of the right decision (which could be a ‘go’ or a ‘no go’, but at least it’s a decision, right?).
People are convinced of a good decision, or a good deal, in four distinct ways:
- I have to see it to believe it. Some people need to see things for them to be official.
- I have to see it written down to believe it.
- I have to hear it to believe it. Need to hear in order to be convinced it’s real. They like “live” meetings and voicemail updates.
- I have to feel it, touch it or experience it to believe it. These are people who will operate on gut feelings quite faithfully. They still need to get the information, but you will maybe need to give them some time to digest it, and you may need to walk them through what’s happening so they can experience it.
The complication with convincer strategies is that the sensory channels through which clients are exposed to information are only a part of it. The other part is the number of times or exposures it takes to get the message across. Some people are convinced in a single exposure. Others take three or four exposures to be convinced that something is true or working. Some people need a length of time to pass – a day, a month, or a year – before they’re convinced. However, there are always a small number of people who are never convinced.
It’s important to make sure that your updates or sales calls are frequent enough to satisfy the client’s convincers. These will help in convincing them that you are doing a good job and delivering what they expected. Some clients will take three or four updates to be on your side. Others will be convinced once they see a good project plan.
Whatever you do, engineer your client updates to meet their sensory convincer. Ask them how they’d prefer to be updated. Present them with the options and ask whether they would rather have the updates on paper, by e-mail, by phone, or in person. Do not ask if they’d like to be updated, but how. You need to keep updating them to ensure that their ‘number of times’ convincer is met, before any real tests of faith are required.
Darma was puzzled at the culture in her newest client organisation. It was a large multi-national, and the international managers would often send official voice-mails to everyone’s voice-mail box, announcing important changes.
She couldn’t get this. It didn’t make sense to her not to have something officially written down, or even on an internal website to back up the changes.
Then I told her about people needing to be convinced of things in different ways. She finally got the picture.
Convince Clients: Diagnosing your own convincer strategy
To understand what a convincer strategy is, think about this. You walk into a client’s office, and they offer you a cup of tea or a piece of cake at morning tea-time. They may ask once, and you’re happy to go with it. But some people need to be asked three times,and only then do they say yes.
How many times did you think about buying your last car? How many magazines did you read, how many test drives did you do, how many times did someone tell you about a good car, before you were convinced it was the one you should have?
In a similar vein, how many times or how long do you need to do something, or be exposed to some information in some format before you know you understand it, and can say you know it? This is your convincer at work.
Convince Clients: Detecting a client’s convincer
Detecting a convincer system is pretty easy. Often the client knows unconsciously what it is. Ask them about a hobby you know about from pictures on their walls, or books on their desk. Ask them how long it took for them to know they wanted to take it up. Or how many times they did it, before they knew they wanted to keep doing it.
Or ask them about a previous consulting assignment, or the last people they employed – what decided them to finally go with it, what decided them to stop doing it, how long did it take before they hired them. Their answers will become your best guess at their convincer, until other evidence comes in.
Convince Clients: Using their convincer
Here are some examples of what you could ask:
Q. So I notice you play golf. How long did it take you to decide to take it up?
|What the client says||The client’s convincer|
|Well, I had a couple of lessons, and I knew I’d like to do it. It relaxes me.||Feels right, probably needs to do it, or get an experience of it twice|
|I’d been thinking about it for about a year, but it finally made sense when the MD invited me out for a round. Then I took some lessons to be credible.||Makes sense, and they may take a year to reach a decision.|
|I saw a few of the guys going out after work one Wednesday, and the next time I invited myself along.||Looks right, and they need to see it once.|
|I was listening to the radio, and I heard key business figures talking about how golf had opened up many opportunities for them. Then I was talking to my brother-in-law, who told me about some business deals he’d been doing. Finally, my doctor told me to take up some form of exercise. So now I’m on the course every week.||Sounds right, and three exposures helps them decide.|
Q. How did you decide to recruit Terri as a new sales director?
|What the client says||The client’s convincer|
|The interview panel talked through all of the normal procedures, of course, but the thing that finally decided it for me was when Harry told me how she’d been invaluable at Salesco.||Sounds right, with a minimum of two exposures (perhaps three, because we don’t know how many times in the normal procedure asks them to talk about the right candidate).|
|I put her through her paces at the interview, and then I took her on a tour of the department. She seemed comfortable with the people. In the end though, we had to make a decision. I would have been more comfortable to have her come in on probation for a month or so, just to get a feel for how she fitted in.||Feels right, probably a minimum of a month to make a decision|
|I checked out three of her references; her track record was excellent; she seemed like the most logical choice, given our requirements.||Makes sense, three times convincer|
|I went to visit Salesco one day, and I saw her interacting with staff. That’s when I invited her to come look at our organisation. We looked at each other’s history for probably a full three months before we even started discussing anything more concrete.||Looks right, minimum three months to make a decision.|
Be aware, of course, that your own convincer system will be in action as well – be careful that you don’t have a 6 times convincer, and need to hear, see, do or reason through their convincer system 6 times to be convinced that you know their convincer!
Convince Clients: Satisfying the client’s convincer
The client’s convincer strategies will influence at least:
- Your marketing campaigns – what you send them, in what format, and how often.
- Your sales presentations or demonstrations – what you tell, show, or do for them, the information you give them, and howoften or how long you expose them to it.
- The way you manage your projects – how you update the client, or take them through new ideas or changes, how often and how long.
Here are more clues by convincer system.
Convince Clients: Strategies to satisfy the client’s convincer
- Have professional-looking materials, and neat sales materials.
- Make sure all your corporate materials look good together, and that the schedule of fees is not just an additional piece of paper, but is integrated into the set.
- Get your photo in industry journals.
- Make sure you offer your client some references who can tell your client about:
- How good you are.
- How much value for money you are.
- How they got such a good return on investment from your services.
- Also, aim at getting an advocate within the organisation who can talk about you to the decision-maker.
- Leave voice-mail, or call them, to let them know about projects you’re completing.
- Get on radio, and let them know you’re on so they can listen, or bring them a recording of the interview.
- Have a schedule of fees – not just a list on a piece of paper. This can change as you go to see each client, but it needs to be consistent with your corporate image, and not just an add-on.
- Include your terms and conditions with the schedule of fees.
- Have written testimonials.
- Publish articles in reputable journals (and send, or give, your clients some copies, or keep them on your web page).
- Give the client an opportunity for a pilot project.
- Give them a “walk-through” of the organisation for free, ending up with some information based on your experience, from spending a day or so in their business observing what goes on, so they understand what you can do.
- Take your client to another client site to experience what’s happening there.
- Get the client to do something to demonstrate to them how your project works.
- Let them play with models or simulations.
Including the number or period
If your client has a multiple-times convincer strategy, you need to do the things you do for them at least that number of times. So, if their convincer is a three-time convincer, you need to have at least those 3 telephone calls; or leave at least 3 voice mail messages, or give them 3 references before they’ll buy, or buy into, an idea. Similarly, you may need to meet with them that number of times, or run into them 3 times before they call you about a job. Or, it could be that your client needs to wait a certain amount of time, before being convinced that they should make the decision.
Jane corresponded with me by phone, voice-mail and fax for six months, and then suddenly it was super-urgent for her to start the next week. Jeff talked to me for a whole year before he finally took up the project. It took him that long to decide.
So remember this, and keep in contact with clients who waver.
Convince Clients: A Summary
In summary, your clients are all individuals. You know that. Whenyou begin to ask them targeted “chit-chat” questions, and discover their convincer systems, you can make selling projects much easier, with less time wasted, fewer dollars spent on unwanted materials, brochures or un-appreciated ad-campaigns.
Find out what system – seeing, hearing, feeling, or making sense – your client is convinced through. Then, find out how many times or for how long they need to deliberate or be exposed to something to make a decision.
Whether they decide to go with you will be determined by many factors. But, at least you’ll understand when they’re likely to decide. And if they decide not to, at least you haven’t annoyed them, or wasted your own precious time.