The honest salesperson: What to do when prospective clients demand experience you don’t have

by | Oct 28, 2016 | Inbound Branding

Sales honesty can seem like a rare quality... like the panhandler saying they're planning to buy beer.

If a prospect demands experience your agency doesn’t have, be honest. You might still close the deal… and if not, it gives you “fast failure.”

It can be frustrating when prospective clients demand case studies of your agency doing exact certain work for an exact type of client. You should certainly specialize by client-vertical, but prospects’ insistence on precise experience is annoying.

This is especially challenging when your agency is focusing on a new client industry, since you have potential but not a broad track record.

An agency owner reached out for help in her sales process. Her agency was relatively new to her chosen client-vertical. Her marketing was working—she was getting inbound leads—but she and her team didn’t have a ton of case studies. She shared:

“We’re now speaking with the right companies: bigger prospects with bigger budgets, with problems we know we’re a perfect match to help them overcome. What we’re struggling with is providing the social proof they need to be convinced we can deliver on our promises.”

The problem was that she could share related examples, but not perfect-fit case studies. She continued:

“The thing we keep getting asked is: ‘Can you share a case study from a <ClientVertical> company like us?’ But we just don’t have one.”

[TEMPLATE] Limited Track Record? Be Honest!

I think there’s a lot to be said by being honest. Say something like:

“We haven’t worked with a company exactly like you. If that’s a requirement in your agency selection process, we wouldn’t be a good fit. But from you’ve described, we would likely be a match to help you, based on our expertise in <benefit to them>.”

Then pause, and wait for them to respond.

They may say the precise-fit experience isn’t as important after all, or they may say it’s definitely a requirement. Either way, you’ll get a valuable answer.

Why Honesty is Best

That approach won’t work on everyone, but most prospective clients will appreciate the honesty. Remember that in the client’s selection process, other agencies may be promising anything to get the deal—honesty is refreshing.

It’s doing the right thing—plus, it’s fast failure.” That is, if precise-fit past experience is a must-have for them, you’d never close them anyway.

You might as well save time! It’s also a reminder about building your network of referral partners and getting your 10% referral fee, if there’s a fit.

Question: What do you do when clients insist on experience you don’t have?

Image credit: Sign photo by Angela Bethell, via Creative Commons

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