My friend Rich works for a large regional bank and sometimes does seminars for his fellow bank employees. Rich was kind enough to share his notes with me from a seminar he presented, entitled “Rules for Working with Attorneys”.
It was clear to me that with a little editing, these rules could apply to work with any type of prospective client:
1. Make your time as important as her time. When a prospective client tells you that she’s very busy, let her know that you understand, but tell her that you are very busy, too. Set up a mutually convenient time to talk.
2. How someone does one thing is a good indication of how he does everything. Rich tells the story of a sales rep trying to deal with a prospect who would motion aggressively for her to leave whenever she paid him a visit. She was shocked when Rich’s advice was to stop trying. He explained that how this man was as a prospect—rude and nasty—is how he would be as a client. “Why would you want him as a client?” Rich asked her. “If he throws you out of his office, that’s a sure warning sign!” Take the hint! There are many more prospects out there who won’t be such trouble.
3. Find ways to let your client in. Offer to connect them to your networks. This will open the door for them to do the same for you.
4. Always conduct research and do pre-call planning before seeing your prospects. Use the internet. Find out from your networks—either through Linked In or by asking around—if someone knows a person and can tell you a bit about him or her. If you find someone who knows, ask for an introduction, or get the okay to drop this contact’s name with the prospect. A referral or warm connection beats a cold call every time.
5. If you drop in, differentiate yourself by being there to set an appointment. Many sales professionals drop in and expect to be seen right then and there. Show your prospect that you respect his time. If you drop in, make your purpose to find out his availability, and to put a meeting into his calendar for a later date.
6. Learn about her business before asking for her business. “It’s not about you,” Rich tells his coworkers. “It’s about them, so ask lots of questions.”
7. Be polite to “gatekeepers”, but be assertive and ask for them for help. Gatekeepers have two seemingly conflicting functions: to keep you out, and to help you out. Ask them firmly to help you. Demonstrate your value. There has to be a good reason for them to let you in to see their boss, but there has to be an equally good reason for them to refuse.
8. Be on time. Nothing more needs to be said here.
9. Offer to show him the money. Most business and professional prospects are primarily interested in how you can save them—or make them—money. Make sure you are clear about how you can do one or both of these for them.
10. Build rapport. While you’re asking about his business, ask him about him—why he does what he does, how he got started, what he finds most rewarding. Have you ever met someone who wouldn’t enjoy spending a minute or two talking about himself?