What do you do after you’ve met a prospective client at a networking or social event? What do you do after giving a presentation to a business group and collect several cards? And what do you do if someone suggests you call an associate about your services?
Well, you follow-up, of course!
But what do you say on that follow-up call that can turn this new prospect into a new client?
Knowing what to do and what to say is one of the most important skills you can master as an Independent Professional. After all, it’s not likely you’ll get many prospects calling you out the blue saying they are ready to work with you today (and money is no object)!
No, you need to engage this prospect in a conversation that leads to a sale of your professional services. And this is how you do that.
First of all, the purpose of the follow-up call is not to make a sale.
The purpose of the call is to set up an appointment for a selling conversation. And if you can do that successfully, you’ll dramatically increase the chances that the prospect will become a client – if you do it right!
The Follow-Up Call Process
1. When you reach the prospect, introduce yourself: “Hi Janet, this is Richard Bell, we met at the Chamber of Commerce two days ago and you had expressed some interest in increasing productivity in your organization. Is this a good time to talk for a minute?”
2. State the purpose of your call: “Janet when we talked at the chamber about productivity, you mentioned that productivity could be better in your company. Can you tell me a little more about your company and some of the issues around productivity?”
This is a non-threatening way to start a conversation. You are not pitching your services, but finding more about the prospect’s situation and needs. You want to ask a few key questions to learn if this is a qualified prospect or not.
3. Here are some questions you can ask: “How long have these productivity issues been going on? What have you done to address these issues? What has worked and what hasn’t worked? Do you think things are likely to change? What is the cost to you of these productivity issues?”
You want to bring out the pain your prospect is experiencing without being too heavy-handed about it. It’s simply a low key conversation where you are showing real interest and concern.
4. Next ask what she would like things to be like: “If you had more productivity in your company, what would that look like? How would things be different? Tell me more about that. What would be the big payoff for increased productivity?”
The first questions were about the past and present and what is not working. The second set of questions is about the future, what they’d like things to be like. Ultimately people get interested because things are not working, but they buy the outcome or the future you can help them realize.
5. Next, give her hope that change is possible: “Janet, from everything you’ve told me, I think it’s very realistic to increase productivity in your company. I’ve worked with hundreds of companies very similar to yours who were experiencing many of the same issues.”
Note that you are not pitching your services. You are simply giving some hope that their situation can improve and that you have helped others in similar situations improve.
6. Then make an offer to explore further: “I’m pretty sure I could help you with your productivity issues, but I’d have to have a more in-depth meeting and find out more. What I’d like to offer you is a complimentary Productivity Strategy Session where I analyze your productivity issues and then explain the ways I might be able to help you.
Notice that this is all low-key. No pressure, so no resistance. All you want to do is talk in more depth. You might do this by phone or you might do this in person, depending on your business.
7. Finally, close for the Strategy Session: “So how does that sound to you, Janet? Could we find a time to meet in the next week or two?” And then answer any questions she might have about what you’ll do in a strategy session.
What you’ll do is: 1. Find out a little more about her situation, 2. discuss the goals she has for her company, 3. Learn about any challenges she may have about reaching these goals, 4. Explain how your services work if you think you can help her.
One reason you may have so much trouble with follow-up calls is that you think of them as “selling calls” where you need to convince the person to buy your services. But no selling is happening on this call. You are simply connecting and seeing if there is an issue where you might be able to help.
During this call you might use a story or two that relates to their current issues: “Well, what you’re saying is not that unusual; I worked with a client recently where they had exactly the same productivity issue. The good news is that it’s easier to solve than you think if you understand the motivation of your employees. Now tell me about…”
Ultimately, the purpose of this call is to set up a “Strategy Session” and you’ll only do that if you are showing real interest and don’t jump ahead of yourself trying to get a meeting before you’ve established a solid connection.
Of course, the success you experience on follow-up calls like this also depends on the situation and needs of your prospect. If they have a legitimate issue, your chances are good for setting up a Strategy Session, however, if you really can’t identify an issue or anything they want to change, best to end the call and move on to the next follow-up.
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