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by Jim McCraigh in Getting Clients Now, Selling More

Isn’t it great when the phone rings and a prospective client reaches out to us in response to our marketing efforts?  But, sometimes, in our anxiousness to “get meetings”, we as coaches and consultants can have a tendency to rush in and meet with anyone who will listen. The problem is this can lead to a lot of time and money wasting sessions that go nowhere… and even permanently damage our chances in an organization. Over the years, there’s been a traditional model that many coaches and consultants have used for determining if they are meeting with true decision maker(s) or not. While it is still mostly valid, it is not enough to learn who the real decision maker is!

Let me explain…

It’s well known that one of best the ways we can improve our success rate when approaching prospective clients is to qualify them as true decision-makers early in the process.

The time-tested protocol for determining if you are meeting with a true decision maker is the M.A.N. model. I’ll cover it below because it is important you understand it and use it to qualify prospects.

Then I’ll give you the inside scoop as to who you should REALLY be talking to!

Don’t skip the M.A. N. method, as it is key to your ultimate success… but read to the end of this post where I’ll share the rest of the story.

The M.A.N. model is an acronym for Money, Authority, and Need. This model asks this question… Does the prospect have sufficient money to pay… the authority to buy… and a current need for your services?

Let’s look at each one separately…

Need

I wish this acronym were reversed, with need first… but it wouldn’t be as easy to remember.  The need, the pain or the problem the potential client is facing is far more important at this point in the process than authority, money or anything else. Need comes first… without it, we must disengage early in the process and go on to the next prospect. Spending too much time with unqualified prospects will limit our income!

The best way to gain insight on your prospect’s problem or need is to ask them questions and listen to their answers. Asking will help you understand the nature and scope of the problem or opportunity.

By asking the right questions, you will be able to better uncover needs and qualify prospective clients…

  • “What are the most critical challenges that you have now?”
  • “How have you been solving them so far?”
  • “How long have you had this problem(s)?”
  • “What outcome(s) are you looking to achieve?”
  • “What will be the consequences if it is not resolved?”

Here are some other questions that will help you determine the level of perceived need that the client feels…

  • “How big of a priority is this for you?”
  • “Do you have time to begin implementation now?”
  • “Do you feel like we’re on the right track?”
  • “Should we start working on a letter of agreement?”

These last four questions are trial closes. The answers to these type of questions will help you determine the extent of their felt need… and where they are in the sales process. If the prospective client waffles here… you’ll know they have little or no perceived need right now.

(For more help on this, check out my post “Cracking the Client Acquisition Code: When Do Clients Hire You?”)

Authority

Determining authority doesn’t have to be tricky. Resist automatically disqualifying prospects who seem to have no authority… they can help you identify who the true decision-maker is. In fact, developing an “internal champion” on your side can work wonders when you eventually get around to talking with the decision maker. Just make sure they get credit!

Other than by virtue of their title or research you’ve done, here are some questions to ask to help determine the extent of someone’s authority …

  • “In addition to yourself, is anyone else involved in making the decision to retain my services?”
  • “How are such decisions made?”
  • “If others would be involved, would it make sense for us to schedule a call or meeting with them?”

Resist asking the question… “Are YOU the decision maker?” It has a very high likelihood of offending the prospect! 

Money

Most consultants will tell you that money is always a major issue in any decision to engage them. Here is where I will differ from the conventional wisdom. If you are talking to the right person in an organization and make a convincing case, they will almost always have the power to funnel funds around from other priorities.

If most of the answers to the questions in this last section have been positive, it’s time to take it to the next level…

  • “What is a good time for you to schedule our next meeting?”
  • “Ideally, what would be the focus of our next meeting?”

I mentioned earlier in this post that the M.A.N model was important, but not the only thing to consider. Certainly, it is important to be sure we are talking to someone who can make the decision to retain our services. But there is more… something that will set you apart from everyone else and give you a leg up, especially when you are competing against others for the business.

So here is the inside scoop about who you should really be talking to. Highlight it… underline it… and remember it going forward. Here it is…

True decision makers will retain your services because they wish to realize their aspirations or reduce their fears. In other words, these prospective clients act to benefit themselves or protect themselves personally.

Forget about all the altruistic stuff about the company saving money or increasing revenue.

Sure, that looks good in a proposal, but 99% of the time that’s not really why they will engage your services. They want a promotion. They want a raise. They want recognition. They want to outperform their peers. They don’t want to be fired, get passed over or look ineffective.

So the REAL question becomes

Who in the organization will benefit the most from what you have to offer? If they are a true decision maker you are well on your way down the right path!

He or she who stands the most to gain or lose… personally. Identify them and you’ll be farther along on your way to earning the money you deserve.

 

 

 

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