Here’s the scene. You want to buy a service from someone but you’re not quite sure if he or she is going to do the job to your satisfaction. What do you do?
This isn’t an unusual situation. You’re about to deal with someone or a company you’ve never dealt with before. Maybe it’s time to add a new furnace to your home or perhaps you’re getting your vehicle repaired at a garage for the first time. How do you know they’re going to do a good job? How do you know you’re not going to be “ripped” off? What can they do to put your mind at ease before you spend your hard-earned money?
We wanted to add a two-level deck to the side of our home this summer. Now, I’m pretty handy with tools but when it comes to building something this big and comprehensive, I don’t know a deck from a dock, so I wanted a pro to do the job.
Like most people who don’t really know what’s involved in a project like this or what a reasonable price is, we went out for the traditional three price quotes.
We finally settled on Mike who was the highest quote but had done an excellent job of positioning himself and his ideas for the deck. Again, not knowing much about this type of thing, we wanted some assurances before we moved ahead with this big-bucks job.
We called Mike and told him that he had the job and that we wanted two references. It was at this point that Mike informed us that “he doesn’t do references.” After a brief chat about why he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) provide us with references, we thanked him and moved on to our second, and less expensive, choice.
Mike doesn’t do references and we don’t do contractors who don’t do references. Mike lost the job simply because he wouldn’t come up with the names of one or two satisfied customers.
You may have never had an order taken back from you because you were unable to provide references or other evidence of performance, but how many sales have you lost because there was a nagging doubt in the prospect’s mind that you didn’t put to rest? You may never know the answer to that question.
How many of you forget to bring out some testimonial letters at the appropriate time in your presentation. Heck, how many of you even have testimonial letters with you to bring out?
If you have doubts and concerns when you make a major purchase, it’s safe to assume the same things happen with some of your prospects. What can you do to put your prospect’s minds at ease?
No matter how good your product or service, or how wonderful your sales presentation, a couple of questions are floating around the prospect’s mind. One of those silent questions is, “Can you prove it?” and another is “Who else says so?” Answer these questions effectively and you’re well on your way to a sale.
I’ve implied that these questions are silent and many times they are, but they still exist in your prospect’s mind. Other times, like our request to Mike for a couple of references, they’re not so silent. Either way, it’s best to be prepared to answer them effectively.
Here are three “prove-it” sales tools to help overcome your prospect’s natural concern.
The first of these tools is the tried-and-true testimonial. The most popular form of testimonial is undoubtedly the testimonial letter from a satisfied customer. Don’t be afraid to ask for a testimonial letter when you know your customer is particularly pleased with what he received in terms of product, service, or after-sale support.
You can get more mileage out of a testimonial letter if it’s undated. Sometimes you can request that the letter be not dated, or you can simply make a copy of the letter with the date removed.
Verbal testimonials can be used when you have satisfied customers who are willing to receive a phone call from your prospect. The interesting thing about verbal testimonials is that prospects rarely call. Just knowing they can is often evidence enough.
Sometimes just showing the prospect a list of the companies or customers you’ve done work for in the past-a customer list-is enough to put the prospect’s mind at ease.
Portfolios of case studies or pictures of previous projects and past successes are also powerful forms of testimonials.
(2) Tell a Story
The second prove-it tool is the use of stories — true stories, not fiction. Using examples or stories of satisfied customers who have used and benefited from your services is yet another way to provide peace of mind to your prospect. The rules for using examples are that they should be:
- Accurate (don’t embellish the truth!)
- Right length (short)
For example, at SalesForce we often share the story of Doug Lees who, after he took our sales training program, increased his closing ratio from 41 to 54 percent, an increase of almost 32 percent.
(3) Use Experts
Our third prove-it tool is the use of outside sources. Using the testimony of expert sources or publicly available statistics to prove your point can also do the job.
Having impartial, third-party testimonials from well-known and respected people, respected industry organizations, or government agencies are all powerful selling tools.
You can often find this type of evidence by scouring the Internet. Once you have a web address for the information you want your prospect to see, you can pass on the URL to him or print out the information and give it to him directly.
Remove the Doubt
Like any good craftsman, you need to have the right tools in your tool belt if you are to do the best job you can. We’ve just explored three of these tools. Use them to remove the doubt and make the sale.