You Gotta Ask!

We’ve all heard a “shaggy dog” story—you know, those long-winded tales that seem to go on forever, slowly wasting more and more of our precious time, leading us down one rabbit hole after another, as we wait helplessly for an ultimate pay-off….that never comes.

Usually, when we finally realize the joke’s on us, we feel silly, sheepish, and fully taken advantage of. (And, if we’re smart, we’ve learned to exit the room whenever that shaggy storyteller takes center stage.)

Well, the old shaggy-dog story sometimes takes a slightly different shape in the world of business, but can be encountered just the same, and although it may show up in different forms, the end result is the same: NO PAY-OFF.

If you work in sales or any other job in which client service plays a major role, you can probably think of a few “shaggy dog” clients (or more accurately, potential clients) you’ve come across over the years.

You know, friendly folks that express a great interest in what you provide, and, from all indications, appear lined up to be your next big sale.

So you follow your sales process-you meet with them, provide value, follow up with phone calls, e-chats, texts and Skypes.   You might even wine and dine them, shuttle them to high-ticket events, deliver a gift basket here, a swag bag there. All that while these things are COSTING you time and money.

But instead of a final payoff, your “shaggy dogs” just continue to tug at your leash, needing just a little more time, a bit more information, or just one more OK from corporate.

And eventually, it dawns upon you that your payoff is never going to arrive.

But guess what? You can take steps to cut to the chase, and while it sounds like the simplest thing in the world to do, many don’t do it: You can just ASK for the BUSINESS.

That’s right—get a commitment to action from your would-be client for a decision within a specific time frame, within a specified range, and in a mutually agreed upon manner.

You see, when we let ourselves be taken on a fishing expedition, only to be left holding an empty hook, we’ve taken a major loss not just in dollars, but in the most valuable commodity of all: our time.

Here’s a quick trick that, if you haven’t done, you absolutely need to do now: calculate the value of your time. Take your annual salary, divide it by 2,000 (the average, give-or-take, number of hours worked in a year), and you’ve got an hour’s worth of YOU.

Now, multiply that times the number of hours one of your time-eating clients has cost you, compare it to the income they generated, and check your ROI. Was it worth it?

Your personal return-on-investment is far too important to be left to chance. There’s absolutely no shame in addressing that elephant in the room—finalizing the deal!—before you’ve ordered up a truckload of peanuts.

Asking for the business is a critical component of the sales process, and a habit you owe it to yourself to establish—before you end up waiting for a punch line that never comes!

Grow Big or Go Home!