The Second Hardest Part about Prospecting

The key to getting great meetings is consistency: consistency of methodology used to construct the reach-out, consistency of messaging pushed out to prospects across the different media, you use and consistency of being there early and often. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Having the right people on board to manage the process or using the right kind of firm to manage it for you is key to effectively developing a well-oiled front-end of your new business development or lead generation process. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Finding qualified leads and convincing them of your value is no easy task. It takes time, patience, and persistence. And once found, the job isn't complete. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> What I've encountered in my world of helping marketing services firms, acting as their outsourced lead generation/business development firm, is there's usually a lot of enthusiasm, energy, and excitement leading up to and coming directly out of a meeting. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> What follows is a bit akin to how a car dramatically loses its value as soon as it leaves the lot. Agency principals get distracted with other things (like managing existing business, putting out fires, dealing with personnel issues, etc.), and they don't stay with the prospect well enough to see it through to closure and success. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Unless an RFP is in hand, or a proposal is a specifically discussed next step, closing the sale takes almost as much effort as opening the door. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> You have to stay on the radar; you have to show the prospect you're there to help and add value to their world. Because if you don't, they (just like you) will get distracted and put off moving on the things they talked to you about. And the "mojo" will start moving too slow. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Here are five key steps you should take following your initial meeting with a prospect, all of which can better your chances of winning a piece of business:<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>1. Reconnect ASAP.</b> Immediately after the meeting, either you or your new business manager must follow up to see how the meeting went and/or determine if there was anything left unanswered. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>2. Be there.</b> Find reasons to stay in front of your prospect, because if you don't, someone else will. You never know when the prospect is going to be ready to make the move to start the project or move on some other project&#x2026;or better yet, be ready to make that agency change. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> So while the prospect might be fine today, tomorrow they might wake up and have their boss breathing down their neck, or find their budgets cut and be in need of better efficiencies, or simply tired of the creative that has blessed their business for so long. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>3. Add value.</b> Simply being there isn't enough. You need good reason to connect&#x2014;and this doesn't include an award you received or some new creative you've recently produced. What we're talking about here is insights, ideas, new thinking, and fresh perspective. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Say you find an article about something related to the prospect's world. Send the link off to him with a message saying, "I thought you might find this interesting and helpful." If you're attending a trade show, send him the "top five insights" you gleaned from it. Suggest how some of these might be helpful in moving his business forward. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> If you see something about competitive activity, make him aware of it&#x2014;and if appropriate, offer some perspective relative to things that can be addressed to meet this new threat. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>4. Don't give up.</b> Some agency principals "dog it" until the cows come home, and oftentimes it's key to their winning more business. I've seen more agency principals get discouraged when someone doesn't call them back in a few days (or sometimes as long as a few weeks) after a call in after the initial meeting. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The prospect's world gets just as busy (if not busier) than your world. Understand you're not their number one priority&#x2014;which means you need to try and nudge your way up the priority scale by being there when he/she decides to make it more of an important issue. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>5. Keep yourself seeming fresh.</b> When you're in conversation with prospects following meetings, or exchanging e-mails about some value-add you've pushed their way, use that time to talk about the new things going on at your agency. This will keep the prospect excited, energized, and motivated to want to eventually work with you. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Bottom line: Closing business isn't a short-term adventure. Some 30 to 50 percent of what RSW turns over to prospects converts into a bid, pitch, proposal, or RFP situation about three months following an initial meeting. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Opportunities are never ready-made. They take hard work, creative thinking, and breakthrough, value-added persistence to make prospects take and keep notice of your compelling value and points of difference. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> So if you're going to put the energy in upfront to get the meeting, put the same amount of energy into the back-end to win the prize. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Mark Sneider is the managing director of RSW.</i>