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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  April 14, 2014

3 Reality Checks When Selling to First-Time Buyers

Originally published by RainToday.com

If you are well known in your industry, chances are you get a lot of inquiries from folks who are just starting their journey. They know what they want in a general sense; they just don’t have enough expertise to be effective in getting there. Enthusiastic and confident, these prospects sound like they are ready to buy. Don’t get too excited yet. Here are three reality checks to explore before moving these prospects into the qualified leads category.

1.  What Needs to Change

Many new buyers have a dream. They see so many signs that point in this direction. In their head, this idea is a no-brainer. While it’s tempting to use their desire to sell a bigger project, the best time to deal with these assumptions is during the sales process. A subtle but strategic reality check now saves a lot of grief later when they realize much more effort is required than they ever thought possible. (This is how bad clients are born.)

The key issue here is not the buyers’ assumptions. These folks don’t know what they don’t know. What’s important is how willing they are to let go of their perceptions. If the prospect is “stuck” now, you can count on working with those unrealistic perspectives later. Even if they later realize they were wrong, you will still be blamed for not providing a fair warning. There are no winners here.

Example: a newly departed corporate executive wanted me to help him become a sought-after thought leader. The problem was his market strategy was based on his “stardom” in that setting. I asked a few questions to test his assumptions about the differences between the two environments. He didn’t budget. I politely suggested my product line and got out fast.

2.  What It Will Take

Newcomers also have no idea what they are getting themselves into. So, before you start talking about what you can do, talk about the journey. Educate them about what is required of those who are already successful. Test their resolve to go outside of their comfort zone.

My favorite story to tell combines possibility with challenge. I will share a story about someone who has a similar background and goal and how successful they are today. Then I will explain what they had to do to get there. Finally, I will ask, “What are you will to do outside your comfort zone to make your goal a reality?” The answer will tell me if the prospect is really willing to do what it takes.

Example: one thought leader wanted my help in launching a seven-figure practice. Then I told him what he would have to do to reach that goal. When he heard the cash outlay, the timeline, and the risks involved, mid-six figures looked a lot more doable. He appreciated my candor, and I appreciated working with a realistic client. Everyone is a winner in this scenario.

3.  What They Should Expect

Finally, let’s deal with all that positivity. Newcomers can be so upbeat they don’t know how to interpret the twists and turns a new adventure brings. It is our duty as experts to make them aware of bumps they will hit along the way. Not everything will work out perfectly as planned, and they need to take those changes in stride.

The most common inquiry new folks ask is, “How long will it take for me to become famous/become rich being positioned as a thought leader?” I love this question, as it o pens the door for adjusting expectations.

The answer starts with “It depends” followed by one thing in their favor and one challenge to overcome. Next up are the “what if” questions: “What if there is a delay in your marketing tools? What if I tell you you’re going to have to adjust that new book you’re writing?” The answers to those questions tell me how they will handle the curve balls along the way.

Example: a successful business owner wanted my help in promoting his credibility for a new product line. He didn’t know about the other players that are already prominent in his new market. When I asked him how he was different from the competition, his response was, “Well, I’m just better.” Maybe so, but he’s not willing to deal with those obstacles. He thought this effort was a slam-dunk. I bowed out–quickly.

Let’s Be Nice

All of us are new at something. So, let’s create good karma by treating new buyers with a heavy dose of education and patience. Sometimes it means bursting a few bubbles.  If you do that gently, though, you will have a more realistic client who will trust you (and keep you around) for a long time.

 


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.