Nothing frustrates me more than a prospect wasting my time. Like most of us, my business relies heavily on signing with prospects looking to buy sooner rather than later. In fact , I don´t bother meeting with a prospect unless he is ready to sign a contract and pay a retainer to get started. I find that most of the leg work can be done via phone, fax and e-mail. When the client is satisfied with the information he´s received, then and only then will I agree to a meeting. I don´t know about other businesses but this sales approach just seems to work better for me. My time like everyone else´s is extremely guarded and valuable so the less time I use up going on sales calls that don´t pan out ,the more billable hours I have available. This is especially true if you are a one man operation like me. Time is a commodity that I just can´t afford to waste. And that got me to thinking about other sales professionals and what they go through before during and after an appointment with a prospective customer. Are you certain that the person, is ready to buy? Will they be making a decision soon? Is it absolutely necessary to meet with the customer to sign them? How many visits does it take to close the deal? Because I book appointments for my own clients, it´s especially important to book only those prospects who meet a certain criteria. I want to make certain that it´s the type of appointment that I would go on myself. For those of you needing a refresher on the criteria here it is. The prospect must"?¦
Have a need for your service/product-You can´t sell something to someone who has no interest or a need.
The prospect must be looking to make a decision or get a quote within 1-3 months (typically it takes that long for a cold call to become a sale in most industries)
The prospect must have a budget and be ready to spend it. A prospect may be interested but may not have the cash to spend.
They must be ready to meet and understand the purpose of the meeting.
If this criteria isn´t met, quite simply I don´t book the meeting. There is nothing worse than showing up for a meeting without a clear reason for being there. I also like to think of this as a way of determining if I can actually work with the prospect, Because let´s face it, not everybody is going to be a dream to work with. There will be times when you simply can´t get the prospect to make a commitment to an appointment, and at those times I think it´s better to contact them at a more appropriate time. Better to not set the appointment in the first place than set it with someone who is "just not into you or your service".
When it comes to confirming an appointment, better safe than sorry. Some people may simply forget that they´ve set up a meeting and others just think that it´s no big deal to blow off a meeting. Either way I think it´s always a good idea to call the day before, just to make sure. However there are a few things you can do to make sure that you have a better than 50% chance of meeting with the prospect.
The day after you set the appointment, be sure to send the prospect an e-mail or fax thanking them for speaking with you on the phone and remind them of the date, time and purpose of the meeting. Be sure that your note is written in a way that reminds them of your conversation and key topics of conversation.
Be sure to ask if there is anything specific that you can bring to the meeting (i.e. your portfolio or samples of your work if you´re a graphic designer) so that they can get a better understanding of your work and capabilities.
Make sure you both have a clear understanding of what´s expected at the meeting. For example is it appropriate to expect to sign a contract at this meeting or is this a" meet and greet" to establish a rapport with the prospect?
Be sure to find out if anyone else will be attending the meeting so that all the interested parties are there at once. There is nothing worse than meeting with a prospect and being told that they need to "discuss the matter with their boss".
Do a bit of research on the firm before you go to the meeting so that you know something about the company and prospect´s needs. Having a better understanding of how you can help them is to your advantage and will allow you to show the prospect that you´ve done your homework. Want to score even more points? Be sure to ask the prospect questions about how his division operates. People love discussing their work with others.
Want more bang for you buck? Find out if there are other departments utilizing services like yours. For example, many firms use outside graphic designers to produce collateral pieces for the firm. Typically it´s the Creative Director making the final decision. However, if you´re part of a large corporation like Wells Fargo Bank or Bank of America, then your firm probably has several divisions acting independently of each other. Each department has their own budget and therefore can hire outside vendors at their own discretion. Which means that if you can get several department heads in one room and pitch them on your firm, you stand a better chance of working with at least one of those departments. Once you´ve established credibility with one department head the others will follow. It´s a great way to build a reputation with a large established organization, and build your credibility among others in similar industries.
Before meeting with a new prospect, I sometimes put together a special promotion to generate interest. There is nothing better than getting a client excited about saving money through a special "limited" offer. But be careful not to "bastardize" yourself by undercutting your services. If you don´t see the value in what you do, no one else will either.
Find out if there are any conferences or events taking place the prospect will be participating in. This is a great opportunity to make contact with others in similar industries as your prospect to sell your services. As long as there is no conflict of interest there is an opportunity to do business with many of your prospect competitors and associates.
If you´re like me then you probably do a lot of speaking engagements. This is a wonderful opportunity to get your prospect to come in and find out more about what you do and how your services can help. If you have a particularly large turn out even better because it says to the prospect that many people are interested in you and what you have to say as a leader in your industry. It lends credibility to who you are and what you do and adds value to your services.
Ask the prospect if they would be willing to come to your office for the meeting. It gives them an idea of how your operation works and puts you a bit more in control of the meeting.
Personally, I like to send information to a prospect before I meet with them to insure that they know who I am, what I do, how much my services are and what their level of interest is. By asking my prospect specific probing questions I can determine their level of interest before meeting with them. This saves me the time, energy, and trouble of meeting with someone who´s not really ready to meet with me or has no real need as of yet. Keep in mind; this is my way of booking appointments. You should find a way of doing things that work best for you.
Be sure to bring plenty of business cards with you. There is nothing more embarrassing than meeting with a sales person who shows up with a prospect without business cards to hand out.
I hope these tips help to make your appointments more effective and your sales quota better than ever.
Tony Wilkins is the author of "Telemarketing Success for Small and Mid-sized Firms available in most bookstores and online at www.amazon.com and www.xlibris.com you may also find out about his workshops and services at
http://stores.ebay.com/telemarketing-success via e: mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 415-267-4872 .If you´d like to be notified of a new posting for this column ,please contact Tony Wilkins at email@example.com