It can be a lot of work to get the attention and interest of a prospective client. It takes time and effort to put out the word about your services, to say nothing of getting a qualified lead.
The purpose of all your networking, speaking, social media and content marketing is to generate qualified leads, people who may pay us for our professional services.
The truth is, when many Independent Professionals get a lead through all their marketing labors they don’t know what to do with that lead. If you are successful at consistently converting leads into paying clients, you are in the minority.
First of all, why is this? and second, what do you need to do to more consistently convert leads into paying clients?
The first reason we don’t convert more leads into paying clients is because we are taken over by irrational fears that something bad will happen to us if we stoop so low as to convince or persuade someone to do something! We might be rejected or say the wrong thing and make a fool of ourselves.
We don’t want to be seen as pushy or manipulative. So instead, we go into “passive mode” where we expect the lead to contact us, ready and willing to pay us their hard-earned money without any effort on our part.
This isn’t speculation but comes from observation of hundreds of clients I’ve worked with over the years. They are so petrified of asking for a prospect to do something, that they wait for the prospect to ask them!
So, relax, it’s not all that bad. In fact, it’s pretty easy if you know what to do and follow a process. This helps reduce those fears and builds confidence.
In a nutshell here are the things you want to do when you get a lead. The lead can come from almost anywhere, from a contact at a networking event, from a speaking engagement, from someone responding to your website or social media, or from a referral.
This is what I’ve been coaching my clients to do for years and it works very well.
1. Contact the person as quickly as possible. That day or the next day, if you can. Obviously not a problem if they contact you, but often you’re the one with the card, the name and the email.
This is not a sales call. You are following up to see if the lead is real and qualified. I’ll often call, and then if these person is not in, I’ll leave both a voicemail message and an email message to cover all the bases.
Suggest a few times you could talk. Make it easy for them to say yes to one of those times instead of them having to get back to you with times. And keep trying until you ultimately get a response.
When do you give up? Well after trying 5 or 6 times and they don’t get back to you, you should get the hint they aren’t interested. But definitely try a few times. Everyone is busy, and fitting in a conversation with you may not be their highest priority that day. Don’t take it personally!
2. When you get the person on the phone let them know why you are calling.
“Hi Jonathan, we connected at the ABC Business Conference last week and you showed some interest in my services. Is this a good time to talk for a few minutes?”
“The thing we talked about was the issue of giving feedback to employees and how doing it more effectively can lead to great gains in productivity. How much are bad feedback practices an issue in your company?”
Mostly, you want to ask questions and avoid pitching your services. After all, you don’t know exactly how you can help them yet. But if the conversation goes well, and they are showing interest and have a need, you want to suggest another meeting.
3. What I usually recommend is making a suggestion like the following:
“Jonathan, from what you’ve told me, the issues around employee feedback could really be hurting your productivity. What I’d suggest at this point would be a more in-depth conversation that I call a ‘Productivity Strategy Session.’
“In this session, I’d like to find out more about your situation, your goals and your challenges and then if I think I can help you, I’ll let you know more about how my services work. How does that sound?”
If the initial conversation has gone well, there’s a very good chance they’ll set up a strategy session. A strategy session is also called a selling conversation.
4. Next, you want to give the prospect some information and something to do before your meeting.
I suggest that you send some materials about your services, either in the form of a pdf or a page on your website. The point is that you want them to know something about you and how you work and help your clients before that meeting. This tends to make the meeting shorter and speeds up the sales cycle.
Ask them to read this material before you meet and also ask them to fill out a short questionnaire. The material about you educates them about you, the questionnaire educates you about them.
On the questionnaire (which can be online, or sent as an attachment or in the body of the email), ask the questions that would help you know if this was an ideal client or not. Don’t make it too long or complex or they won’t fill it out. But try to get some ideas about the challenges they are facing in the areas you help your clients with.
5. Finally, send a reminder email a day or two before the meeting and remind them to both read the material you sent and to send back the questionnaire. If they fail to do both, consider pushing the appointment day forward. Some people will set up a meeting out of politeness, not from interest. If that happens, you probably rushed the first appointment and didn’t connect as well as you could have.
That’s it! The next part is the strategy session itself. I’ve covered that before in this space and will no doubt cover it again in the future.
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