Do you want to super-charge your communications to empower yourself to close more business, save time and get what you want professionally and personally?
Try using the “Asking Formula,” an easy, straight-forward approach for asking for what you want . . . and getting it!
I recently heard John Baker, the founder of the “Asking Formula” speak at a Professional Sales Association meeting and immediately saw the power of the 6-step process (reading the book cemented the process in my mind):
- KNOW what you want. (obvious, huh?)
- ASK for it. (Be direct. Say, “I’m asking you . . .)
- SHOW what you are asking for. (Visually show outcome, if possible)
- DEVELOP Best Reasons. Listen to their story and pick ONLY 3 Best Reasons which are client-focused (i.e. “you told me you want . . .”)
- STOP TALKING and repeat your ask.
- SHARE Facts/Details if needed.
The problem with the way that many people ask is that they start with step 6, sharing facts and details, overloading people with information they may not want or need. Information which may confuse them. A confused mind never buys. John Baker says that when you ask for something you want by “looping through information” you are what he calls “a Bad Ask.” I didn’t want to be a “Bad Ask,” so I started applying the process, even a slightly modified version in email.
Below are actual email exchanges in a communication with a prospective client, who contacted me via my presentation coaching website, VirtualSpeechCoach.com, last week.
Email via contact form from website:
I would like some more information (and pricing) on your courses for effective speaking skills and presentations. Our agency does a lot of client presentations and I believe there is a lot of opportunity for us to improve and become better at communicating our message.
(email address of prospective client)
1. Based on the email domain, I was able to find the company online and also read a brief bio on the person who contacted me. Her bio included one of her favorite quotes.
2. I then sent the email below. What I wanted was a phone appointment. Note that I ask for the appointment up front, giving a “choice close” of two times and then provide some best reasons and the requested information, closing with repeating the ask:
Thanks for contacting me about presentation training!
Would there be a good time for me to call you? I’m on vacation this week, with limited Internet access and spotty phone coverage, so next week would be better for me. If Monday, the 24th would work for you, I’d be available at 10 AM or 1:30PM for a phone call.
Your quote on your company’s website, embodies the first step of a great presentation (love the quote):
“The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.
Your team can change the future with a new attitude about presentations, and then some training on creating and delivering winning client presentations. If they can get clear on the message, and deliver an engaging presentation that differentiates them from competitors, they will increase their ROP (Return on Presentation).
Your team can work with me both in group training and on an individual basis.
Here are fees for both:
Popular topics for group training include:
- Creating a Killer Keynote
- StorySELLing: Strategic Storytelling for Sales Professionals
- Putting the Power Back in Power Point
- Powerful Presentation Strategies for Confident Communication
I’d love to chat with you to understand your needs better. Let me know if the 24th would work for you.
Reply from prospective client:
Hi Diane, thanks for getting back to my request. I’m available June 24th at 10:00 so let’s schedule that time to chat.
Enjoy your vacation!
Then, on the 24th, prior to my phone call, I looked at the company website more closely, jotting down notes to possibly mention during conversation. I also looked up the contact person’s LinkedIn profile, which didn’t have much information on it, but I did note that she had been at her present company for 3 years.
I called her exactly at 10 AM, as we arranged and got her voice mail. I left a quick message, saying I was sorry I missed her, but would try calling back in a bit. I then made a request to connect on LinkedIn, and about 15 minutes later, the request was accepted, so I figured she might be available and I called back. She seemed in a rush, so I suggested I call later in the day, but she said, “Well, there’s no time like the present. Why don’t we talk now?” OK! In the conversation, I started out paraphrasing her initial email to me, saying something like, “You wrote that your agency does a lot of client presentations and that you feel there is a lot of opportunity for your people to improve and become better at communicating your message. Tell me more about that . . .”
We then had some back and forth conversation, in which I let her do most of the talking (I listened, asked questions and made occasional comments, such as when she said that they tend to dump too much information, or “vomit information,” I extended the concept by saying something like, “And too much information can be confusing. A confused mind never buys.” She loved that phrase, “A confused mind never buys.”
After determining their needs, and also what she thought they might want, I made a verbal proposal, similar to, but not exactly what she was thinking. For example, she had proposed 2-hour workshops, but I said that 2 hours was probably too long and that 90 minute workshops would be better. Below is my follow up email that “asks for the sale” and recaps the conversation. The ask and the best reasons are clearly stated up front.
Follow up email to conversation with prospective client:
Glad we fit in the quick phone call. I look forward to hearing from you within a week or two regarding moving forward.
I’m asking you to hire me to help you help your clients, for the following 3 reasons:
1. You want to close more business by having client-focused presentations
2. You want to execute more closely the promised approach on your website
3. You want your employees to communicate with more confidence which will enhance your “corporate culture.”
Just a recap on what we talked about:
The challenge: When your people present to clients, sometimes they are so anxious to share information, they don’t take the time to read the client (i.e. “vomit information”). PowerPoint Presentations often have too much information. While presentations can be on the phone or via webinar, the most important are face-to-face.
The desired outcome: Want to leave clients feeling good about hiring XXX (Client’s Business). Want to tell a cohesive story that they will understand and trust. This will result in increased profitability through more closed business.
The proposed solution:Three, 90-minute small-group workshops, with follow up on “homework.” Plus, additional one-on-one coaching.
- Structuring a Message that Connects (including the pre-presentation work of “listening”)
- Effective PowerPoint Presentations (including using iPad)
- Powerful Presentation Skills for Conference Table Presentations
Your Investment: $X per workshop ($X for all 3) plus an additional $X for individual (or smaller group coaching).
“A confused mind never buys”
BINGO! We’ll be in contact after communicating this with the owner. Our president, XXX, is completely on-board too. We’re very excited about this opportunity. Thanks Diane!
The combination of a little research, a little listening and the “Asking Formula” appears to be a winning combination! Try the “Asking Formula” and ask for what you want and get it!
Would you like a subtle strategy to get your prospective clients, customers or even prospective employers leaning forward, wanting to hear how you can help them?
Try using a client attraction story with the the Then-Now-How strategy. This strategy was developed by Craig Valentine, a top business speaker and a Toastmasters World Champion Speaker.
The secret to the power of the Then-Now-How story lies in the order that you present the points.
First, you tell about a “then” situation with a client like the prospect. You want to focus on the problem that your client had that was like the prospect’s problem.
Second, you tell about the “now” situation. This is a benefit focus where you talk about the client’s results of having used your product or service.
Third, you tell “how.” By delaying “how” until after the “now” you get people leaning forward and wanting to hear the how.
It’s like when you see weight loss products or services advertised.
You see the “before” picture and the “after” picture and you want to know “how.”
Here’s another example, one I use for Toastmasters:
Several years ago, Barb, an older woman in her 60’s joined my Toastmasters club. I was thrilled! (Mostly because I was the only other woman in the club). The day came for her to give her first speech, the ice breaker speech. She walked up to the lectern like she was on a death march. She set her notes on the lectern, gripped the lectern with white knuckles, looked down at her notes and never looked up. Then she started shaking and her breathing became shallow. I thought she was going to faint. It was one of those speeches that both the speaker and the audience are glad when it’s over.
She sat down next to me and didn’t say a word until the end of the meeting when she turned to me and said, “That was awful. I quit.”
I didn’t want her to quit. I didn’t want to be the only woman in the club again.
“Barb, why did you join?’
“Well, I want to help do some fundraising for a medical missions team. But I don’t think I can speak in front of people.”
I managed to convince her not to quit that day.
Fast Forward 6 months. Not only had Barb successfully raised thousands of dollars by giving presentations for the medical mission effort, but she had even won our club speech contest.
It was through the supportive, encouraging environment of Toastmasters that she was able to go from fear to finesse as a public speaker. The regular practice and advice and feedback from fellow Toastmasters helped Barb meet her goals and gave her the skills that give her continued success.
Just like Toastmasters helped Barb, Toastmasters can help you, too.
Did you see the pattern (Then-pain of the fear of public speaking, Now—successful at public speaking, How-Toastmasters)?
Try a Then-Now-How client attraction story and get your prospects leaning forward!
This concept is in my new presentation for sales groups, “StorySELLing.”
As I pulled out the Christmas decorations from storage last night, preparing to send a few ornaments to my newlywed daughter for her first Christmas without me, I waxed nostalgic about the fun holiday times when my children were younger. One of my favorite memories was making cookies with my daughter. Well, actually it was more about eating the cookies than making them. I especially loved eating the gingerbread man cookies, probably not so much for their taste as for the recollection of the children’s story, The Gingerbread Man.
Remember the story? An old woman is baking the Gingerbread Man when he hops out of the oven, saying “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!” The old woman, her husband and a multitude of other creatures chase after the Gingerbread man until a sly fox finally tricks him and gobbles him up.
As a child, the lessons I learned were 1. Don’t brag because it eventually will result in your demise and, 2. Someone who offers to help you might be a liar and actually want to hurt you instead.
But, looking at the tale with fresh adult eyes, and seeking positive lessons, I see a couple that stand out:
1. The Bandwagon Effect (or social proof): If other people want something, it must be good.
2. The Chase Effect: Creating fear of loss through forward momentum produces a desire to posses.
At first only one person wanted to eat the Gingerbread man; no one else knew he existed, so they had no desire to eat him. It was only when he started running away, with someone chasing him, that others noticed him, and noticed that he must be desirable because others wanted him.
The lessons of the Bandwagon Effect and the Chase Effect have applications both in personal life (dating, for example) and in business.
In business, testimonials, ratings and reviews are a few ways to create your own Bandwagon Effect. If you are approaching a client, consider providing testimonials from other, similar clients. Of course, you have to get those testimonials first! The best time to get a testimonial is when you have delivered a product or service with excellence. If you are a solopreneur or employee, ask for a LinkedIn recommendation–that way you have it on your LinkedIn profile and you can use it elsewhere (website, marketing materials, etc.).
You can also create a Chase Effect. People naturally want what they can’t have, especially if they feel they deserve it or already have a sense of ownership. Now this does not mean making it difficult for people to buy from you, but it does mean creating a sense of impending loss if they don’t take action quickly. So, you have limited time or quantity offers. If you are an employee, your skills and time are the limited resources that you offer.
But the Chase Effect isn’t just about fear of loss, it is also about time moving on, about needing to take action now. Think about how you feel when you see something advertised with “only 95 left.” Isn’t there a part of you that feels a sense of urgency to act before you lose out? Or, if you have ever sat through a time-share presentation, you know the feeling of being shown how wonderful your vacations could be, the vacations you deserve, and at a great discount, “today only.”
Take the grown up lessons of the Bandwagon Effect and the Chase Effect and be your own Gingerbread Man–just don’t brag too much and watch out for those foxes! Run, run as fast as you can . . . to the bank!