It's the moment you've been waiting for.
The moment that generates a twinge of excitement and hope.
Followed by that sinking feeling that you could be about to waste 30 minutes of your day without receiving a single dollar in return.
It's the initial phone enquiry from a prospect.
And what you say over the next 20 minutes will have far reaching consequences for your business.
What Do You Say?
Most builders do not have a script they follow when taking that initial call. And that one mistake is costing them thousands of dollars every year in lost profits.
Not just in lost sales, but in lost margin.
How can an initial conversation with a prospect determine the margin on a contract proposal 6 or 12 months later? We'll cover that later.
Right now let's start with the script. It doesn't need to be complex. Not even word-for-word to start with, although you may want to document exact phrases to use if you have a sales team managing your sales process.
A bullet point list of objectives to cover in the initial discussion will suffice to start with and at the very top you should write one thing...SMILE!
Yep, smile. Even if you are on the end of the phone, smile!
It doesn't cost anything and the action of smiling will improve your delivery. No one wants to deal with a grumpy builder, or even an aloof builder, so smile and you will come across as a warmer, friendlier person. Now just to be clear, I'm not saying this will make you warm and friendly. If you are a grumpy old man then at best you will appear a little more tolerable. But I'm guessing that if you're reading this blog then you're probably a pretty good person and most people like you. Still, it never hurt to take that friendliness up a notch.
The next thing you need to note down at the top of your checklist is, "it's all about them."
It’s All About Them
Naturally they will start off by asking YOU questions. So when that happens there's a tendency to talk about ourselves and then wait for the next question. It feels good talking about yourself and your company doesn't it?
Let's be honest, it's most business owners' favourite subject :-) But it's not going to help you to get a prospect to the next stage in the process. Speaking of which, we will cover off objectives in a minute as it's crucial.
So, when the prospect starts by asking you a question, go ahead and answer it, but follow up with a question of your own.
You see what's happening here?
You've taken control of the conversation. And from the very first conversation you've taken control of the negotiation.
Yes, this is a negotiation from the very start.
Your Objective For Every Conversation
Well it's because you have an objective. Remember objectives are critical to your entire sales and marketing process.
Every phone call, every email, every text message. In fact EVERY single time you communicate with a prospect in your sales funnel you always have an objective. And that objective is to get them to the next stage in the funnel.
And guess what?
This prospect just entered your sales funnel.
So what happens next?
Qualify Quickly & Eliminate Time Wasters
The first objective is always to qualify quickly. That way you can get rid of the time-wasters and get back to whatever you were doing on your computer before the phone rang.
So if that's your objective, you're going to want to ask them some qualifying questions. Obviously these will depend on the type of building work you specialise in, or your Unique Selling Position (USP) as business consultants like to call it. So, let's say you are a custom home builder, you might need to find out a few important things about the prospect before you go any further such as:
Do they have land or do they have plans, or maybe...do they have a soil test?
Well let me help you with that Mrs Whittingham, I have a special arrangement with XYZ soil testing and they give me a 35% discount on all my soil testing. You'll need a soil test in order to determine the cost of construction for your new home. I'd be happy for you to use my account and get that discount rather than you paying full price, or even full price plus a builder's margin which is what normally happens in this industry. Would you like me to organise that for you?
It's Easier To Turn A Customer Into A Client
See what happened there? Not only did we further qualify the prospect, we also ascended them through our sales funnel.
Of course, if you don't build new homes, or the prospect already has a soil test then you might want to try a different tactic. It could be a concept design, construction drawings, engineering or even demolition. Who cares. All we are doing is changing the relationship from prospect to customer and when that happens our cold lead is 20 times more likely to become a client.
Now, let's get back to the point of the article. When you speak with a prospect, or even a client for that matter, it's not about you.
Unfortunately It's All About Them
As boring as it sounds, it's all about them.
So don't tell them how long you've been in business, or how your granddad started out by building houses and you're a third generation builder.
They don’t need to hear about how you build quality homes and that you are trustworthy.
Crikey, they thought that bit was a given.
"You mean there are builders out there who build crap homes and can't be trusted. Jeez, I need to do some more research before I get involved with this building lark!"
What they do care about is HOW you can help them solve a problem.
What's Your Problem?
All prospects have one thing in common.
And that is a fear. A concern regarding the home they are about to build.
You see, every single one of them will fall into one of three categories.
You may well have a list of 20 frequently asked questions.
And you may have been asked each of those questions in a 100 different ways.
But every single one of them falls into one of these categories.
We're running out of room here (yep, even the internet get's full sometime's :-) ) so we're going to cover these 3 fears in another article.
In the meantime, don't waste your time on time-wasters!
Make sure you use a qualifying checklist every time you speak to a new prospect for the first time.