Clueless Close

Don’t Make Decisions For Your Prospects

I’m consistently reminded by clients and boot camp alums of the power this one insight has on them.

Don’t make decisions for your prospects.

Most recently, I got a note from the head of advancement for a college who told me this ONE insight TRANSFORMED fundraising for him in 2016.

So, I think this is the perfect insight to reflect on as we start the new year.

  • Don’t assume the prospect has a ‘giving level’ just because they gave at X the past three years. Maybe they haven’t been asked.

  • Get comfortable with the Clueless Close. This is a great example of a way to ask – authentically – in which you’re not making a decision for the prospect.

  • Use this insight to question assumptions. At some point this year a natural partner will say to you, “You should ask for $X. That’s the right number for this prospect.”  

    Unless that statement is product of extraordinary strategy and dialogue with the prospect, don’t make a decision to LIMIT the ask. (Don’t worry about under-asking or over-asking. (See tip #6 in 9 Tips to Help You Get to the Ask.)

    When you catch this thinking you can coach yourself by asking, “What would this prospect give if they were totally committed to the impact? If this was their number one cause?” See if you can build your comfort to ask from this place.  

    Related: I sometimes find myself saying (with TOTAL authenticity), “It’s not my job to try and decide the appropriate investment level for you. It’s my job to make sure I make the best case for how we can have an impact and then let you decide if that’s right for you.”

  • Guard against the voice inside that says, “Maybe now is not the right time to ask.” We exist to save lives, change lives and impact lives. Deciding it’s not the right time to give a prospect the opportunity to save, change and impact lives goes against everything we are trying to teach.

Point of emphasis: This is an insight (or a guiding perspective), not a strategy.

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The Clueless Close

Of all the closes we cover, the Clueless Close has resulted in more gifts for our coaching and
training alumni than all the other closes combined.

It represents the EASIEST way to ask, especially if you have no idea what to ask for or you have some fear and need a go-to line to make the close.

Use the Clueless Close for visits where:

  • You have great timing, but your lack of information lowers confidence; or
  • You have a qualified prospect on a first visit.
In its simplest form, the Clueless Close is one question:

Where do you see yourself?

One great way to do this is with an engagement tool that includes a funding plan or
traditional campaign pyramid (examples below).

Goal: 500 Families @ $1000/Family
1 @ 100 Families
2 @ 50 Families
4 @ 25 Families
10@ 10 Families
20 @ 5 Families

Hospice House: $5.0M
1 @ $1M
2 @ $500K
4 @ $250K
10 @ $100K
20 @ $50K

Example 1:

After you’ve walked through the vision and funding priorities, you come to the
funding plan and ask:

Based on everything we’ve talked about, I would love to ask you about being part of this plan. Mrs. X, I’m not really sure where to go. I don’t know much about your capacity but you’ve indicated you would ‘like to make a really big difference’.

We have several funders on board with us [checking off – with a pen – committed gifts]. I
would like to go this route and ask you, where do you see yourself?

(You can let the prospect think about it and respond. As with any question, it’s critical that
you LISTEN to the answer and PROCESS the response.)

The prospect responded by saying “I think I could only do this [pointing to $50,000] this year.” Key words: THIS. YEAR.

Important note: Obviously you can’t use the Clueless Close when you’re with your top prospects. If you know you NEED to ask for $1M or you NEED to ask for project funding (tied to a specific number) you can’t afford to be clueless. Use the Clueless Close with first time funders when your funding plan is not dependent upon a specific commitment.
Be prepared for the answer.

Example 2:

On a different visit for the project, I tried to ask the same question, but that prospect started laughing before I even finished. “Nick, I’m not on your chart.”

I paused and said: Could you tell me more about what that means?

He responded, “My wife and I are committed to seven big projects right now.”

Key Words: RIGHT. NOW. These are big community philanthropists in the middle of some huge funding commitments. He was telling me that though he loved our project, it couldn’t be one of his top projects right now.

At the end of that visit, he committed to $10K. The goal of every visit is to maximize the relationship at this given moment. In this case, there was a lot of potential for the future as he and his wife finished up with other projects, and I now had more information about capacity than I had before.

The Takeaway: The Clueless Close is a great way to ask when you don’t know what to ask for. And you will no longer be ‘clueless’ after this close.

Click here to download audio on on the Clueless Close + 19 more Closes.

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