If you’re like many sales reps, making a strong ask might seem like the hardest part of your call.
After all, your ask is the moment when a single, well-phrased sentence could lead to a booked meeting with your prospect. A single, fumbled sentence could end your call. Sometimes, it feels like the build-up to your ask is so thick that—for just a split second—time slows down waiting for your prospect to answer.
“Actually, if you could just send me some information, that’d be great.”
This article introduces a strategy for making your ask the easiest part of your call.
Consider this: unlike most parts of your call, which require meticulous listening skills, nimble pivots, and a sensitive balance of persistence and respect, your ask requires none of these things. In fact, you can use the same structure for your ask every single time. After all, if you’ve gotten to the point of your call where an ask is truly the right move, then the hard work is behind you, because it will be obvious to both you and your prospect that an ask is the reasonable next step. All that your ask requires is that you incorporate the three S’s.
Simple, soon, and specific.
See if you can pick out three reasons why this ask—all to common—is weak.
“You know, there’s just so much more to our product that we really haven’t gotten into yet. What I’d really love to do is get some time on the calendar to dive into this in more detail.”
Before you keep reading, actually take a second and think about what you’d improve here. When you’re ready, see if any of the ideas below came to mind for you.
Here we go.
First of all, no one cares what you’d “really love to do”. Your ask should be about your prospect, not about you.
Second, “get some time on the calendar” fails to establish your solution as a priority. There are 365 days on the calendar. Pick one.
Third, “dive into this in more detail”. All this tells your prospect is, “We’re going to talk more.” How can you expect your prospect to give you a “yes” if you don’t make it clear what you’re asking?
Now consider this alternative.
“Because you care about improving pain X, do you have a few minutes available tomorrow to discuss a few strategies you can use to make that happen?”
Simple. “Because you care about improving pain X” is about as simple as it gets. You’re not selling trying to sell your product. You’re not describing features. All you’re doing is taking the challenge that the prospect posed to you, confirming that you understand its importance, and implying that the logical next step is a meeting.
Soon. If you usually ask to meet with your prospects “sometime in the next couple of weeks,” for example, your calendar will be filled with meetings 3 and 4 weeks down the line. If you usually ask to meet with your prospects tomorrow, however, next week’s calendar will be packed. This is known in psychology as the anchoring bias1, and it’s a shockingly effective way to create a sense of urgency in your sale. Also, did you know that a prospect that agrees to meet with you tomorrow is more than twice as likely to show up as a prospect that agrees to meet with you next month2?
Help your prospect keep your solution top of mind by scheduling for tomorrow, not for a month from now.
Specific. Tell your prospect exactly what she should expect if she says, “Yes.” A specific ask makes it easy for your prospect to picture what’s being asked of her, and as a result, easy for her to commit. A vague ask is scary, and most people say, “No,” to scary things.
Try experimenting with different asks keeping these three S’s in mind – simple, soon, and specific. Once you discover an ask you like, own it. Tweak it. Make it yours.
It won’t be long before your ask is the easiest part of your call.
Yours on the grind,
- According to independent data I collected (n = 81 meetings). January 2016.