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How to dance with your prospects

(MoneyWatch) When a prospect calls, your objective should be to start dancing and see if leads to romance. To that end, there are two moves you need to learn that they'll never teach you on "Dancing with the Stars."

The first one is what might be called the "assessment meeting T.A.P. dance." The initials stand for time, agenda, and purpose. Before you start firing questions at a prospect, you need to get agreement on the ground rules for the first meeting. This is nothing new, and is in fact an old concept that many sales trainers have taught for years.

The first step of the TAP dance is to agree on how long the meeting should last. How much time will you need? Will it be a 15-minute phone assessment or is a one-hour face-to-face meeting in order?

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Next, what is the agenda you will follow? Prospects worry that you are either going to wing it or subject them to  some ordeal, like when the tacky used car salesman throws their keys on the roof and says, "Now what do I have to do today to get you into a new car?" That isn't romance -- it's assault. Instead, set an agenda where you agree that you will ask a series of questions. And tell prospects that when your questions are over, they can decide if there is no fit or if it makes sense to keep talking.

In the "purpose" phase of the dance, share with the prospect why you are meeting, and that is to exchange information. Say that you will be asking more questions, and invite them to pose their own. Underline that your purpose is to provide any information they need.

After the prospect has agreed to these ground rules, then it's time for the assessment meeting. Now the next dance begins. This is where you guide the prospect through four discussions: future goal, current state, roadblocks ahead, and success journeys of others. Essentially, you're offering the prospect a conversation that will help them get clarity about what they want and how to get there.

1. Future goal. Help the prospect get clarity about their desired outcome. Where do they want to go? What is it they hope to achieve? Get them to pretend they have worked with you before and  that it was a success. What does success look like? Start with the positive first. Take them to the happy place they want to be. Psychologically, this is critical. If you start with pain points, the mind stays negative.

2. Current state. Ask the prospect where they are right now in relation to their goal. Help them clarify their assets. This is the time to do a little pain probing to see how the current state impacts them on various levels. This is also the time to give them credit for positive steps they have already taken.

3. Roadblocks ahead. Ask what prevents them from reaching their goal. What might prevent them from succeeding? Help them get clarity about problems of time, money, and risk.

4. Success journeys of others. Ask if they would like to know how others in their situation got from where they are now to where they want to go. Of course, they should say yes. This is where you have to go off script. Tap into your mental database of similar people you have helped. Tell a quick story or two about other prospects you have helped achieve success.

After this comes one extra step. Ask the prospect if they would like to know how you help people like them. The answer should be an enthusiastic "yes," and you can now put on your best moves.