This is a guest blog today, one that I find quite helpful.
By Robert Middleton
There is one marketing activity that strikes fear into the hearts of most independent professionals: making follow-up phone calls. Everyone avoids it, and no one is very good at it.
A follow-up call might be defined as a call you make to a prospect to explore if he may (or may not) be a good client for you. The purpose of this call is to ultimately set up a selling conversation where you’ll convert the prospect into a paying client.
There are many opportunities for follow-up calls.
You might call someone you met through a networking event. You might follow up with an individual referred by a client or associate. After giving a talk, you might have several people you can reach out to. And then there’s the “warm call” where you follow up with a past client to drum up some new business.
As author Napoleon Hill said, “It’s always your next move.” The reality is that very few of the people you connect with through networking, speaking engagements, and referrals are going to call you. That’s your job. And how you do that job can be the difference between success and failure as a self-employed professional.
Other than the familiar garden-variety fears that everyone experiences in making follow-up calls (I’ll be rejected, I’ll be seen as unprofessional, people don’t want to be bothered), we avoid making these calls because we just don’t know what to say.
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The purpose of marketing is to generate attention and interest in your services. Every business identity, website headline, article title, and verbal message needs to accomplish this. The same goes for follow-up calls.
Here’s a proven step-by-step process (with scripting) that will make these calls easier and more successful. They’ll get the attention of your prospects and make them want to take the next step in working with you.
1. The call introduction. You’re simply reminding the prospect who you are and giving the context of the call.
“Hi, Richard. This is Sara Harden. We met last night at the Chamber networking mixer. We talked about your teams at HighTech Co. Is this a good time to talk for a minute?”
It’s clear, simple, and considerate of their time.
2. Create a message designed to get attention and interest. What you want is an “Ultimate Outcome Statement,” which is a short marketing message that lets your prospect know how you can help them. An ultimate outcome has nothing to do with process and everything to do with results.
“Richard, I conduct a program for teams that has a track record of doubling productivity and results in less than a year. I thought you might like to know about it.”
That’s a bold, attention-getting statement. Of course, this outcome you’ve stated needs to be real, something you’ve done and can do again for other clients. Come up with the most powerful ultimate outcome that you can legitimately deliver.
Such a statement will pique their curiosity and usually get a response such as, “Hmm, sounds interesting. How do you do that?” or “Uh, sure. How does the program work?”
That’s all you need. Of course, you’d love an over-the-top positive reaction to your message, but mild interest works just fine. But the only way you’ll get this is to focus on results and avoid process like the plague.
3. Tell a little more about your program, but keep it in the language of results.
“This is a program I’ve done for two years with six different companies. Typically I’ll work with teams that are underperforming and help transform them into the most effective team in the company. A recent client was behind on every single metric. Now they are leading the most profitable initiatives in the company.
“I don’t know if this program is for you or not, but are there any teams in your company that aren’t performing at the level they could?”
Your example proves that your service produces a powerful result. Almost every prospect will be interested in knowing how they can produce similar results. It’s hard to ignore or brush off.
4. Transition this follow-up call into a selling conversation. If you’ve done the job of communicating your ultimate outcome and using a story or example, you will almost always engage the prospect in a conversation that can lead you to a selling conversation.
What you need to remember is that a follow-up call is not a selling conversation. It’s the warm-up for one.
The next part of the script is to make an offer for a selling conversation.
If you’ve caught the attention and interest of the prospect, you’ll know by the questions they ask. If they ask how the program works, who’s done it, what the specific results were, etc., it’s time to offer what I call a “Strategy Session.”
“Richard, from what you’ve told me, it sounds like you’d like to see some improvement in your teams, if not a breakthrough in their productivity.
“What I’d like to offer you is a Team Breakthrough Strategy Session. This is a 90-minute complimentary session where we explore your situation, goals, and challenges in more depth. And then at the end, I’ll let you know if I can help you or not. How does that sound?”
In my experience, this usually sounds very good to a prospect. You are offering your time for free to explore with them whether you can help their teams have a breakthrough. This isn’t seen as a sales pitch but as a valuable conversation that could make a huge impact to their success.
And that’s exactly what a strategy session is.
5. Give your prospect two assignments before the strategy session: information specific to their concerns and a questionnaire.
“OK, Richard, I really look forward to meeting with you next week. Before that meeting, I want to send you two things. The first is an article called “The Seven Deadly Sins of Teams.” It will give you some valuable insights into what derails teams and how to get them back on track.
“The second is a brief Team Questionnaire that I’d like you to fill out and send back to me before we meet. This will help me understand more about your situation, which will make the strategy session more productive.
“Will you be able to read the article and fill out the questionnaire before we meet?”
Many doubt that a busy businessperson will find the time to do either, but my experience has been just the opposite. Whether you are selling coaching services to a small business owner or an intensive one-year change program to the CEO of a multinational company, they appreciate that you have a process and the confidence to ask for what you need to help them produce results.
Most of us wait for the phone to ring with a qualified prospect on the other end. If only that happened more often! No, you need to make the phone ring. And by following the steps in this article, you’ll get a whole lot more appointments with qualified prospects eager to explore doing business with you.