In part two of this series on increasing your sales conversions we looked at selling the initial consult. Getting the initial consult is a great feeling. But now you’re in the client’s home and, despite what you told them over the phone, they’re hoping you have a magic wand that will make it all go away. You know you don’t. You know it will take time and multiple sessions to change behavior. But while you may not have a magic wand, you do have a professional knowledge and skill set. In this final piece of the series, we’ll look at how to sell that knowledge and skill set in the form of a training package that maximizes the chances your clients will reach their training goals.
Start With a Perspective Shift
Just a reminder here that, like the phone screening process we discussed last time, this is not a job interview. The initial consult is a time to conduct an assessment interview, share your findings with clients while normalizing behavior and explaining the possible range of outcomes, sell your training services, and share management tips to take the edge off and keep everyone safe.
The More You Train, the Less You — and Your Clients — Gain
It’s always tempting to jump in and start training at the initial consult, or to share with clients everything you can that might help — explaining to them all the exercises they might do, for example. But the more you train at the initial consult, the less likely you’ll be asked back for a training package. It’s that simple. Some clients will feel that they’ve got lots to try, so why not save a little money by seeing if they can give it a go themselves first? Others will be so overwhelmed by all the information and instructions thrown at them that they’ll be reticent to commit to more. Either way, the result is the same: You lose revenue, the clients don’t reach their goals, the dogs don’t get help.
You cannot confer all you know from the countless hours of book and hands-on study you’ve put in by simply telling it to someone else. You can’t turn a dog owner into a competent novice trainer in 90 minutes, and it undermines our profession that we behave as though that’s possible.
“Giving the store away” in the initial consult serves no one. But it’s hard to resist doing so. R+ trainers tend to come at the work from a place of altruism. We want to help. And we enjoy talking about training. And we’re not generally confident sales people; we worry that we won’t be asked back. So we try to front load all the information in an eager attempt to help the dog as much as we can while we’re there. But in doing so, we inadvertently have the opposite effect: We undermine the sales process, which means the dogs and their people go without the help they really need and called for in the first place.
Keep the Goal in Mind
Conversely, the more you train after the initial consult, the more you and your clients both gain. If you’re currently letting your clients decide on training from week to week, or offering pre-set packages for them to choose from, I recommend replacing these practices with customized packages for each client. You are the only one at the initial consult with the expertise to make a decision about how much training is needed. To allow clients to choose less training than they need to reach their goals is to set them, yourself, and their dog up for failure. A doctor would never give a patient the option of not finishing a course of antibiotics, even if they started to feel better after the first few days.
You do your clients no favor trying to save them money. By selling them less time with you than they need, they get less from the money they do spend. And you risk the relationship with their dog worsening when they get through the training frustrated that it “didn’t work.” Your clients’ finances shouldn’t be your responsibility. As a business owner, your job is to sell your services to people who can afford them — and who understand their value.
As a dog trainer and lover, you naturally want to help people regardless of income level. But to make your services more accessible, don’t sell less of them. Instead, take credit cards and offer payment plans so that more clients who value your services can take advantage of them.
And remember this crucial point: Dog training is not a volume-based business. You can only serve a small, finite number of dogs. If you aren’t paid reasonably for doing so, it will be hard to stay in business, which will mean helping fewer dogs.
Talk Turkey and Make the Sale
So be bold and take charge: Sell the amount of training you believe will give each client the best chance of reaching her goals. And just as with the initial consult sale, don’t be shy about talking turkey. The trick is to give the number — how much the training will cost — and move on. Don’t wait for the client to ask; that causes discomfort for you both. Simply state the cost and move on. This projects confidence (even if you don’t yet feel it), and confidence helps to sell. And always remember: You have something of true value to sell, and the clients called you and booked an appointment because they need you.
Memorize Your Script
Having a practiced guideline sales script will make the moment of sale much less nerve-wracking. Develop yours to match your own style, but here’s a sample for a starting point. This moment is designed to come after you’ve interviewed your client and shared your assessment and what you believe to be the range of possible outcomes.
“Again, I’m so glad you decided to contact a trainer. I’m sorry this has been such a frustrating situation. The good news is that I think we can get you some solid relief and change. I’m going to recommend [ ] weeks of training, which will cost $[ ]. I’m giving you my package discount rate, which will save you $[ ]. If it’s helpful, I do take credit cards and can set up a payment plan as well. Given that this behavior has been going on for quite a long time and that, as we discussed, there’s a fear component involved, we’re going to need time to give us the best chance of success in reaching your goal of having Barney able to walk with you through the neighborhood without barking at anyone.
Each week I’ll come to your home as I did today to help you and Barney with the next step of the training plan. The training plan will have two main goals: Some exercises will be designed to help change the way Barney feels about the neighbors. If he doesn’t feel fearful of them, he’ll have no reason to bark at them. At the same time, we’ll teach Barney some new, polite behaviors to do when he sees people, so he has something else he can do instead of barking.
If this sounds good to you, I have an opening for a new case and can start next week. Would you like to do that?”
Notice that this script puts the money number right up front after a simple statement about being able and glad to help. The rest of the script briefly explains the need for the amount of time you’ve stated, reminds the clients of the goals they wants to work toward, and paints a simple, outlined picture of how that will be done — all giving the clients time to digest the number and gauge it against their desire for change.
The end of the script brings you and the client to the point of decision. This is critical to avoid needless discomfort as you each wait for the other to do so, and to bring the consult to its natural conclusion. Without this step, it’s easy to stay long past time answering questions and giving the free advice that lessens your chances of selling a package — and your client’s chances of getting the ongoing help that will make a real difference.
If a client asks for something different — for example, if she can just do a couple of weeks and then see how it goes — the answer is no. You’re the trainer, it’s your business, and you want to see your clients successful. It doesn’t make sense to allow clients to dictate how your services work. Have a script ready for these moments so that you can confidently, gently, but firmly say no while reiterating the importance of the training package. Here’s a sample to build from.
“I’m sorry, no. I take only a small number of clients at a time and I require my clients to commit to the full training plan. My goal is to give you the best chance possible of reaching your training goals and I find that is much less likely when there isn’t a commitment to the entire process. A few weeks in, you’re likely to begin to see some changes. It can be tempting, given how busy life can be, to give in to the relief and decide that progress is enough for now. But I know that when we don’t finish the full plan, the new behavior begins to unravel and the old ones come creeping back, and I don’t want to see that happen. I don’t feel ethical training in small spurts, because the time and money you spend won’t gain you what it should if you don’t let me take you through the entire process. [And, if you suspect the hesitancy has to do with money, you might add:] I know it’s a lot to commit to at once, but if I can help with a payment plan I’m happy to set that up.”
You should find your sales conversion rates begin to climb using these techniques, and your sales confidence with it. You won’t get everyone, of course, but that’s the nature of any business. When clients say they aren’t ready to commit, or need some time to think about it, or that it’s just too expensive for them, simply tell them you understand — that it is a large commitment — but that you’ll be there should they change their mind.
And always keep in mind, throughout the entire process, that what you have to offer is invaluable. You deserve to be paid for what you do, and you’ll help more dogs — and help them more — if you are. The exact right clients are out there for you. Improving your conversion rate is about targeting your marketing and prices to those clients, and then confidently moving them through your phone and initial consult sales process. I hope this series has helped you to find that confidence — or at least given you some tools to begin building it.