The Elegant Trick I Learned from a Prospect


“Here’s a trick I came up with to book calls with my prospects. They’re usually really hard to get a hold of because they’re typically moving around…out in the field.” 

I was all ears.

A few years ago, I took a call with a potential client that sold to construction. To the uninitiated, the construction industry is typically a hairy market to sell into. This coaching prospect’s target persona was part of a mobile workforce; always on the move, and rarely at their desk. His challenge was not only booking a demo with these construction folks but also making sure they’d show up to it. They needed a compelling way to get their prospects to take the demo, but also to make sure they’d show up to it.

Generally, when you’re on a Zoom call with a prospect, there’s a good chance you’re on their Top 5 priorities list at that exact moment. Family, Friends, and Faith – in no particular order – might well be in their Top 3. Perhaps there’s another item on their list that takes precedence over you. But there’s good reason to believe that because they are giving you their undivided attention, you are in their Top 5. The problem starts when they press the “End” button on the Zoom call. Once you’re not in direct contact with them anymore, they get flooded with requests for their time and attention. A child comes home with an at-home project that needs to be completed two days from now. The dog gets a nasty case of indigestion. The husband has to deal with his overbearing boss. The point is that you start sliding down the priority list. And fast. 

While you were #5 on the list when you ended your call, you might well sit at number 19 just 48 hours later. So, how does one stay near the top of the priority list? By making sure the prospect stays on the track to getting a deal done. By controlling the sale and selling next steps. Usually, that takes the form of booking the next meeting and communicating the value the prospect will get by attending it.

If you’ve dealt with me in any manner regarding sales or go-to-market, you know how much I love the concepts of Selling Next Steps and Controlling the Sale. These principles are the glue between the steps in your sales process. If you execute well on both, you’ll be reducing dropoff in your sales funnel. And in the end: closing more deals.

Controlling The Sale – to those that don’t know – is an idea meant to fight human beings’ inclination to not act in their best interest. We all know we should eat less and exercise more. But very few of us stay on track with those initiatives, despite our best intentions. Faced with a glazed donut on a Sunday morning, most of us succumb to temptation and indulge in a sugary bite. “How does this translate to the word of sales?”, you might ask. Well, because most people don’t do what they should be doing, we need to install forcing functions in our sales process to make sure they do what’s best for them, in the end. 

Selling Next Steps is the concept that unveiling your product or service to the prospect is just not enough to make the sale. You have to earn your prospect’s time and attention throughout the sales process. To do that, you need to sell the next step. Meaning, you need to convey to them why they need to be attending the next meeting, or performing the next task. They need to understand the value that’s in it for them to keep going down the path with you. If that message doesn’t land, you run the risk of them dropping off and not showing up in the latter stages of your process. I ask my clients this all the time, “What value can you offer them in the next call that would make them attend it? What would make this next meeting ‘Must-See-TV’ for them?” 


Back to our conversation with the potential coaching client. I was already intrigued by his leadup. His quandary was real. What I heard next was eye-opening.

“When I cold call them or email them, the main ask is ‘Can I buy you lunch?’. Who doesn’t like free food? Most people jump at a free meal because the rest of the world doesn’t give away free lunches. But we don’t stop there. Once we get a date and time booked on their calendar for the demo, we call them the morning of to take their order for UberEats. We call them up and say, ‘I’m calling to take your order, as promised. What do you feel like having for lunch today? We’ll have it delivered to you at noon, as we discussed. Just in time for the demo. Let us know if you need anything else or have any questions.”

The whole interaction stuck with me because it was brilliant. 

Buying someone lunch is a generous thing to do. You come from a place of altruism and abundance. You’re selling the next step; ensuring that folks will want to book a product demo, in part because they’re getting a delicious meal. And calling them the morning of is an elegant way to make sure they’ll show up. You’re controlling the sale all while adopting a posture of serving your potential client. You’re catering to them. And you get to remind them they have a product demo to attend in a few hours. 

The result? More booked demos and a lower no-show rate.  

The learnings from this anecdote apply to everyone designing sales processes and dealing with customers. How can you control the sale and sell next steps in such a way that your prospects will feel catered to? 

Answer this question well, and you’ll see prospects acting in their best interest, and less dropoff in your sales funnel.