9 Tips to Help You Get to the Ask

You just made a great visit… did you ask?

This morning one executive director answered, “Well, no. They [insert prospect] started talking about the economy and I just got uncomfortable.” Yesterday it was, “I can always get some fired up but then I don’t know how to get to the money.”

This list is some coaching for everyone who has ever said, “I felt uncomfortable getting to the ask.”

  1. Always ask.

    It may not be the right time to answer yes but it’s always the right time to ask. If this bothers you, see #2.

  2. If you’re uncomfortable you can soften the ask, but (again) always ask.

    Asking advances the ball. More than that, a prospect cannot guess what you need. That being said, sometimes we’re just really uncomfortable or worried about messing up – especially in the first few visits. If you need to, here are some ways to soften the ask.

    • “Would it be okay to have a follow-up conversation about ways to financially support this project?”

    • “We’re going to need 10 Angel Investors (@$100,000 each). I know this is one of the first times we’ve really had a serious conversation about XYZ. Could we have a talk about the Angel level some time this year?”

    • “Based on everything you’ve seen here today, are you in?”

  3. Be authentic.

    Being authentic makes you an immediate sales expert. It can also help you work through your discomfort in getting to the ask.

    I do a role play at every Boot Camp. I think a big takeaway is for people to see me fumble my way through parts of the visit search for ways to get to the ask. It’s sometimes even awkward – but always authentic and so it works.

    Examples:

    • At start of call: “I really want to cover three points on our call if that’s okay. I would love to share where we’re going, get your feedback and talk about how you can help.”

    • “I’m not really sure how to transition at this point but I think it’s important that we cover the funding plan.”

    • “If I may, I’m going to circle back to the funding level. I need to be so bold as to push on this a little bit because, quite frankly, there are not a whole lot of people to talk to about this.”

  4. Use the Altitude Framework and Presentation Tools.

    This is one important reason to have a Presentation Tool. It helps to manage the flow of the call. I will often make a poster 2′ x 3′ that includes Purpose, Priorities and Plan. It insures that we get to the numbers every single time. It becomes a piece of the discussion, not a choice to leave in or out.

  5. Ask for "Permission to Proceed".

  6. We also call these transition questions – because they TRANSITION the flow.

    • “Would it be okay?”

    • “Would it be possible to?”

    • “At this time, I’d like to talk specifically about the Funding Plan if that’s okay with you.”

    • If there was a poor job of predisposition, you might even be able to get away with: “I know we didn’t come here today to talk about numbers but it certainly seems like we’re in sync about the projects. Would it be okay if I were to share the Funding Plan?”

    Asking for permission to proceed allows you to be comfortably assertive.

  7. Always get a number, project or level on the table.

  8. Your ask could be a number but it could also be something else (tied to a number). In other words:

    • A Number. This could be $20,000 or $1 Million.

    • A Project. “Could we talk about underwriting the Science Center?”

    • A Level. “I know this is our first time getting together but it’s going to require the foundational support of leaders like you. (The Presentation Tool illustrates that foundation support is $500,000.) Would you be open to having an ongoing discussion about being one of founders?”

  9. Don’t stress about under-asking or over-asking.

  10. Don’t worry about under-asking: This is a relationship. In a relationship, we can continue to work on a number over time if we remain authentic.

    One way we might end up doing this: If we got a $100,000 commitment, we would, of course, continue to work with our investor on our plan. It’s very natural to come back a month, three months or at some period of time in the future and say, “Here’s where we were. Here’s where we are now. Is it possible to talk to you about to talk to you about increasing that level of investment?”

    Don’t worry about over-asking: If you over-ask, the prospect will let you know in a number of different ways. None of them is going to be detrimental to the relationship. Just remember this. There’s no way you can possibly be expected to know what that prospect is capable of giving. You know that and they know that. You can’t over-ask as long as you’re able to rationalize the number (ask) based on the information you have.

  11. Do pre-visit affirmation.

    It’s natural to be nervous. Do your affirmation BEFORE the visit – not DURING the visit. She accepted the visit. This alone makes her a Qualified Prospect. As for my own affirmation process I will often write out all the reasons why it’s great to ask – in the parking lot before I walk in.

    Examples:

    • He loves our projects.
    • Owns four companies. He has capacity.
    • Been looking for a cause. We’re it!!! It’s my responsibility to show the enthusiasm, energy and excitement for this project.

    Sometimes, I write out a call memo BEFORE THE CALL to create a self-fulfilling prophecy and as a way to help me visualize the visit (see example).

  12. Don’t make decisions for your prospects.

    Tom’s put together some great thoughts on this so I won’t repeat.

    We always need to give our top investors an OPPORTUNITY to HELP! We should never make up their minds for them. They believe in what you do. You are preventing them from experiencing an opportunity to help… because YOU have decided that you can’t “ask them for any [more] money.”

    The thing about the economy right now is that it creates/loves fear. I think a lot of sales people hear something negative (on the street or on a visit) and immediately make a decision for their prospects. DON’T.

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