>In this economy there is no magic bullet. I think we all understand we have to do things the old fashioned way. Moving contact to customer, means you have to build the relationship, identify the true need, and follow-up until your customer is ready to buy.

While many of us have accepted there is no instant gratification, I still have folks tell me they are struggling to even get that first appointment. They’d be happy to “stay in for all the innings,” if they could just get to first base!

Relax, if you are stuck trying to get over that first hurdle, a quick review of your sales system and strategy may reveal the block. Author CJ Hayden wrote a terrific book called “Get Clients Now” in which she shares her reasons why getting that first appointment may be tougher than it has to be. Read on to hear her reasons, and my tips, ideas and solutions for removing the block and start moving your prospects to customers!  

1. Your phone skills are not up to speed – you are nervous or unprepared when you get on the phone, and aren’t able to engage people in the conversation. Calling is easy and natural when you have  and feel good about the reason you are calling. I am sure many training departments would argue with me about this, but in my opinion scripts that someone else writes for you are a waste of time. You know buying is emotional, well so is selling.  If you want to get appointments, you have to be and sound authentic. If the words and reasons you choose to call are yours you will convey authenticity and confidence and people will respond positively.  Luckily, there are a million reasons you can call prospects and customers, and you can easily find one you can feel good about it (we don’t have time to cover in this blog, but promise I will cover  this soon.) Sit down with your friends, best clients, or co-workers and brainstorm ideas, you’ll be surprised at what you come up with! 

2. You are not using the right words – consumers don’t understand how you can help them. Many of you have heard me talk about that all important communication line (or elevator speech.) How you choose to introduce yourself is a critical step in getting your first appointment. Telling people you are a CPA is nice, but sharing with people that you are a CPA specializing in helping individuals understand how to use their financial information to run their business more effectively, is better. Or telling people you manage a retail store, well okay. How about sharing with them you manage an innovative retail store, that focuses on helping professionals create high fashion wardrobes on a budget. When you communicate value in your introduction, people understand immediately who you are, what you do, and how meeting with you would be a benefit.

3. The prospects you are talking to are not qualified – they don’t have a need, can’t pay or are not at a point where what you offer is their top priority. Have you clearly identified your target market? Did you do your research before your started making calls? What are your criteria – how do you determine who to follow-up with after networking events? What do you know about your prospect personally and professionally? If you don’t have good answers to these questions, you are taking a shotgun approach to getting that first appointment, your prospects know it and they won’t let you through the door. In this economy, time is as valuable as money, you get one shot, so be prepared.

4. You aren’t well-known enough – have not been recommended – Prospects have a lot of choices, they can buy what you are offering any where, any time. If you want to open doors, your prospects need to have seen, heard, or met you before they’ll open their door and give you their time.  Believe me, lack of image and recommendations will hinder your ability to get that first appointment. I have written and spoken about this subject many times; in this economy you have to position, market, and sell. Prospects have to have heard of you (image), they have to consistently see or read information about what you do (market), and you have to directly ask for the business(sell). This is one of the biggest changes I have seen in the sales cycle in the last three years – it takes a takes all three if you want to turn prospects into customers.  Can’t get the first appointment? You need to build your reputation and create your image, luckily in this day and age that is easy to do (more in a future blog on this too!) Trust and value are the new ROI, when people have heard of, seen or read about you, they are more likely to trust you.

5. Your competition seems to have the market locked up – your prospects are being well-served by others. In my opinion, no market is ever locked up, and no competitor is ever doing such a great job that you can’t get at least a piece of the business. Gaining market share in a market where your competition has a strong hold requires you to have patience and listen. Patience – there is nothing wrong with telling prospects you are happy they are well taken care of and letting them know if anything changes you are there. Listen – if you can ask great questions and really listen you’ll find the opportunities and challenges your competitor missed. Want to unlock a locked up market? Be patient and listen.

Next, don’t assume your prospect understands your value. Do you now how you are different, the value you add, and the benefit clients derive from working with you versus your competitors? Face it, there are so many people out there who do what you do for a living. The only thing separating them from you is how you do it,and the value you deliver to the customer. If you want to take business from your competitors, then you need to help your prospects understand the value you add!

6. You are offering what you think your prospects need instead of what they think they need – you are solving the wrong problem. Listen! Do you know and understand your prospect? When we are selling we tend to lead with what we want to sell instead of listening to hear what people want to buy. People will not be open to talking to you, unless you talk about solving their problem. So how do you do that on a phone call, or when you’re setting up the first appointment?First, you’ve learned a lot from your research, so you have some idea of the challenges or opportunities your prospect may be facing. Second, your communication line speaks to value and benefit. Third, first appointments should simply  be to ask for the opportunity to come and learn about them, and their business, nothing more. How often I have heard people ask for appointments by saying, “I would just like a few minutes of your time, so I can share with you who we are, what we do, and how I feel we could help you.” Sorry, time is money and this person just told me in a few words that this call will be all about them. 

7. Your packaging doesn’t make sense or work for your prospect – you may be charging by the hour and they want to pay a flat fee, or your prospects wants to start with one or two of your services and you are offering only a full package. Sell less to sell more! Again, trust and value are the new ROI, sell your services the way your client wants them. If you can get your foot in the door with even some small service, or part of your service, you have just earned the opportunity to do more business. Some business leads to more business. People love custom, all business owners think they are unique, so let people know you customize your products and services, your open to adjusting your services to fit their time frame and their needs. 


8. You are offering so many products or services your customer is confused trying to figure how what exactly you do or how you can help. You are good at what you do, and you understand the value and difference your products and services can make in your prospects life. You know that, but they don’t. They don’t even know if or why they may need what you are offering. So before you start trying to tell them all the amazing things you offer, and the miracles you can perform, simply listen. Let them tell you how to sell you their product. If you ask good questions, they’ll tell you exactly which products and services to offer first, and how to offer them. If you’re willing to listen, prospects will tell you exactly how they want to be sold.

Follow these tips and ideas and doors will start to open. I think we over complicate sales. New methods, techniques, skills all take a very simple process and make it scary and difficult. Selling is truly about helping other people, by asking great questions, listening, offering great solutions, and being patient.