Monday, May 18, 2009

Creating an Effective Script

Have you ever mentally coached yourself for a conversation or confrontation? There are times when we want to step into a situation knowing exactly what we want to say, how and when. Prospecting is defiantly one of those times.

Creating a plan to:

(1) Deliver the message you want delivered, and

(2) Obtain the information you require.

Is what scripting is all about. If you are prepared, you can enter each conversation with an increased level of confidence in yourself and in your message.

So, what is a script? It’s an outline for a purposeful conversation. In other words, the script guides or controls the conversation. When you do it right, the prospect won’t even be aware that the conversation is structured. Part of wearing your prospecting hat is to have the script so well practiced that the prospect feels the conversation is spontaneous.

This isn’t as foreign as it might seem. Just as I mentioned, we are all prone to rehearsing our words before we open our mouths at certain times. In fact, most conversations have some sort of script, but it’s often very general and “off the cuff.” Knowing this can give you a distinct advantage. If one of the participants has the whole conversation carefully worked out in advance the dialogue proceeds the way that person wants it to. You can be in control of the conversation.

One of the secrets to guiding the conversation is to create a list of open ended questions which the prospect can answer that takes the script in the direction you want it to take.

With a well-developed script, you can:

Make a great first impression on behalf of your company

Get past the receptionist to the Decision Maker

Determine whether the company or prospect is qualified

Gather relevant marketing information for your Marketing & Sales Database

Prioritize the company’s value as a prospect to your business

Generate sales opportunities

Maximize your productivity during your prospecting time

As you’re crafting the script keep your three over-riding goals in mind:

1. Qualify the Decision Maker

2. Determine the timing of the prospect’s next planned purchase

3. Set up a Next Step, or what is going to happened after this conversation

Beyond the initial greeting, the development of the script depends on the specific project you are creating. Remember, this conversation is about asking questions and listening to what the prospect needs so that you can prioritize your future actions, not delivering a sales pitch.

Here are some general hints on developing questions:

• The script should result in a short conversation; no more than a couple of minutes, unless the decision maker wants to ask questions or talk longer. There are a number of things you could ask that would be helpful, but efficiency is critical. There is a trade-off between information gathering and effective time management.

• The questions you ask should elicit information you need to advance your agenda. Create questions that give you measurable data.

• Try not to start off with open-ended questions such as “Is there anything that you need in your company?” It puts people on the spot, and the answer will probably not have much to do with your specialty anyway.

• Ask questions that move you towards a determination of whether or not this person has a need you can fill.

• Try to ask questions that will give you valuable, actionable information no matter what the answer is. A well-thought out information gathering or yes/no question can give you a lot of data.

• Ask questions that naturally branch. Whichever branch the prospect takes, have back up questions or information for that branch. This is one way you can direct the conversation. These questions might begin with leads such as: “Do you?” “Have you thought of?” and “Are you happy with?”

• Know when to give up. If the QDM is not willing to answer questions, thank him or her, politely terminate the call and go on to the next prospect. Don’t continue to move ahead if clear progress isn’t being made.

It is important to remember that while you are seeking Sales Opportunities, you’re looking for the right kind or fully qualified Sales Opportunities. So, this process is as much about disqualifying, or “weeding out”, as it is about qualifying. The prospect’s qualifications are measured with a tool we call the Willingness Range. This is one of the trickiest parts of the script to write. Without delivering a sales pitch you need to ask questions that will show how ready or willing the QDM is to commit to a sales meeting. The more the prospect is willing to commit to a course of action, the higher the Willingness Range. The higher the Willingness Range, the higher the qualification. The lower the Willingness Range, the lower the qualification.

You want the questions to culminate in a realistic commitment on the part of your prospect. High Willingness Range qualifying questions would be something like: “Would you like to discuss that idea sometime?” “Is there a day that’s better than another to schedule that discussion?” “Would you prefer a morning or afternoon appointment?” All these questions require the prospect to make a commitment.

Don’t be too quick to offer literature. Offering written information requires only low levels of Willingness. It reduces the need for commitment and effectively ends your conversation. Literature plays an important role in the process, and you may want to use it, but most prospects will willingly accept literature as a simple tool to end the conversation.

Remember, writing the script is a process and you should expect to revise and rewrite it several times before you arrive at a final version. A script is a dynamic document, and as the economy changes, as new technologies emerge, and as other conditions change, you will need to revise your script to fit the situation. Paying attention to how prospects respond to and keeping careful records will help you analyze what is working and what is not. Keep the things that work and rework the things that don’t until your prospecting conversation is a pleasant experience for both you and the prospect.

For more insight into prospecting scripts, see: Questions That Can Make You Money

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