Patience is the byword for successful conversion of prospects. It’s a process, and though things can sometimes move quickly, most contact with prospective customers is gradual.
The Wise Guys blog published a piece a couple years ago that gives a great overview of how to make progress with new prospects. They emphasize the importance of choosing people who are similar to clients you already have. You can ask yourself what problems you’ve been able to solve for those customers and why they were interested in meeting with you. Then, find prospects that share some of these characteristics.
Assembling and maintaining a good list of prospects is important, but the one moment in the process that often seems most crucial is making the call to ask for a meeting. It’s important to prepare for this call. While you don’t need to stick to a script, it can be very useful to at least outline the points you would like to cover.
Keep in mind that the goal for this call is just to secure an appointment. Don’t think ahead to signing the final contract now; one step at a time. Your attitude on this initial call should indicate interest in what you can do for the prospect. Your mission is to find out about their goals and priorities, then describe how your firm is equipped to help meet them.
This sample script from the blog gives you some idea of how best to guide the conversation:
First, introduce yourself, but don’t say the name of your company, and establish the fact that you’ve never met:
“Hello, I’m_____________. Do you have a moment to speak with me?”
Permission to speak
Next, ask if they have a moment to speak with you. If you receive permission to continue, move on to the reason for the call.
If your prospect answers “no” when you ask them if they have a moment to speak, ask them if there’s another time today they might be able to talk:
“No problem. Is there a better time today we can talk?”
When they realize that you plan to call back today, you might receive a (possibly reluctant) “go ahead”.
Start by explaining the reason for your call, and then turn the focus on the prospect by steering the conversation with questions like these:
“Wow, I don’t hear that very often. Can you share some of the details of what you’re doing so I can understand what’s working so well (and maybe use it for myself!)?”
“If changing your approach isn’t a top priority right now, what are your top priorities?”
“It sounds like things are going pretty well. Are you ever concerned about [INSERT COMMON PROBLEM]?”
Meet a Need
When the prospect shares a concern, respond with:
“That’s exactly why I called. Our clients experience a lot of the same dilemmas and obstacles. You may never become a customer, but when we meet, you’ll gain some good ideas either way.”
Suggest a follow-up
If, despite your charm and professionalism, the prospect declines to schedule a meeting, indicate that you’d like to follow up. You can even suggest calling back in 3, 6, or 9 months, depending on their preference.
Know when to fold ‘em
Finally, always be prepared to accept a “no.” When you hit that wall, move on and get in touch with another good prospect.