Selling to Charlie Brown, or folks like him. They are really good people who can become loyal repeat clients, and who may also send you quality referrals. We all have some Charlie Browns in our client base and among our potential clients, but sometimes dealing with them can present challenges. With a Charlie Brown type of client, there are two possible pitfalls:
1. Wishy washy
Charlie Brown: Next year I’m going to be a changed person!
Lucy: That’s a laugh, Charlie Brown.
Charlie Brown: I mean it! I’m going to be strong and firm.
Lucy: Forget it. You’ll always be wishy-washy!
Charlie Brown: Why can’t I change just a little bit? I’ll be wishy one day and washy the next!
Selling to them can be a challenge because these noncommittal souls don’t have a strong feeling one way or the other about your product or service. After your presentation, you can’t tell where they stand. They might say they need more information, or they want to talk with someone, or they need time to think about it. These slow-paced folks can be hard to read and are often indecisive.
2. Remorse buyer
Selling to Charlie Brown is also a challenge because this behavior type tends to be a remorse buyer. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving contains a classic scenario of remorse buying. In the story, Charlie Brown was minding his own business when his friends invite themselves over for dinner. He is unable to fend off their pushiness, and has no idea how to get out of the awkward situation.
Charlie Browns are easily led, especially if you’re excited: they feed off of your positive energy. But as soon as they’re away from your influence, they second-guess their decision. They are likely to cancel their order very quickly. Another common tactic of the Charlie Browns is to buy something small in an effort to get rid of you. These lovely people are unfailingly polite, to the point that they really don’t know how to turn you down directly.
Avoid the pitfalls of selling to Charlie Brown
1. Prequalify the lead
Begin by finding out if your product or service is right for this person. Why is this important? Because as wonderful as Charlie Browns are, they can be time-wasters. You may push for a meeting, only to realize too late that they didn’t really want one. Or maybe you snookered them – you met them at a leads group and suggested meeting for a cup of coffee, and then you tried to turn it into a sales call. Remember that get-acquainted meetings should not be used for this. It’s easy to snooker Charlie Browns into a meeting because they typically are friendly people-pleasers. If this happens, don’t fall into the trap of making a premature sales presentation to an unqualified listener.
2. Ask probing questions
Intelligent questions can jump-start the conversation and help you better understand your client. You need to know where they’re coming from and what they’re looking for. For instance, Joe will ask “What three things would you change about your business?” If someone calls me to ask about LinkedIn training, the first thing I ask is, “What are you looking for LinkedIn to do for you?”
If they give a general answer, which is common, ask lots more questions. Try some of these:
Tell me about your business.
What’s working for you?
How are you generating leads right now?
What are you wanting your business to improve in?
What kind of leads are you looking for?
Questions can help clients identify problems
How would you like to have somebody walk up to you and say, “Hey, this is a problem for you!” Wouldn’t it be better for them to ask you a question about your perspective, leading you to identify the problem for yourself? When you ask someone their opinion, you are validating them. You’re saying, “You matter to me,” and that builds connection. When you help someone identify their own areas for improvement, they not only appreciate the insight, but they are also more empowered to resolve it.
Everyone connects better with a person who expresses genuine interest in them. If you start off talking about yourself and what you sell, your Charlie Brown will hear nothing but his teacher…wah wah wah wah wah! When you ask questions, keep in mind that you are validating your client by asking his opinion, you’re finding out more about him, and you’re seeing if you can help him. Understand that you can’t fill every need, so you won’t be the right fit for every client.
3. Slow down
When you’re cultivating Charlie Browns, slow down the process. The average sale happens after the eighth contact so be patient when selling to a Charlie Brown. Give them opportunity to do some independent research, and direct them to resources like your testimonials. Back off and give them plenty of space. They are slow decision makers who often like to have lots of information or lots of time, or both. Make sure you take care of your Charlie Browns: they’re valuable clients.
4. Keep in touch
Eighty percent of people who don’t buy – because they either don’t want or can’t afford your product – will buy from you within two years, if you build rapport with them. Keep lines of communication open. Don’t call them every week, but touch base every once in a while. Even if they never buy from you, they might send you a quality lead.
Be thinking about selling to Charlie Brown and individuals like him. Write down their names. Plan to keep communication open. Revisit your list periodically, knowing that last year may not have been the right time for them, but maybe this year is. Give them time and space, be genuine, and watch your Charlie Browns grow into valued members of your client family.