I’m honoured to share with you a post from my colleague and friend, Steve Foran. His story on prospecting actually inspired a few tears on my part – in a good way. Read on:
Last weekend I experienced a collision between my philosophies of gratitude and effective phone communication. Both philosophies are very powerful and in my assessment, the potential of each is untapped by the vast majority of society today.
First, some background – I met Mary Jane Copps about 5 years ago at a program she led for the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers. While I already knew from first-hand experience that busy decision makers struggle to return phone calls, I learned three things from Mary Jane:
- the majority of sales do not happen until after the buyer is approached 5 or 6 times (I forget the exact percentage and number of attempts)
- most people give up after 1 or 2 calls
- you shouldn’t take unreturned calls personally nor interpret them as a sign of no interest. Instead, adopt the perspective that our prospects are genuinely interested in learning about products or services because it’s their job to improve their business. Our job is simply to make our prospects aware of what we have to offer, the problems that we solve, and open the door to begin a conversation
I hurriedly went back to my list and approached it with these three things in mind. And I found prospects who did become clients because I committed to a process of persistence, not giving up, even when I didn’t hear back from them. I didn’t know if it was going to work, but taking The Phone Lady’s advice has paid for the program many times over.
The process of prospecting … I call it planting seeds and every prospecting activity is a seed. It could be a phone call, an email, a book in the mail, a card or handwritten note, a magazine or journal article, whatever. A seed is something that engages a prospective client with value or information to help them in their business… ultimately to help them make informed buying decisions. This approach builds trust and rapport, and supports the prospect in their decision making process.
At some point since meeting Mary Jane, I realized that the work I’ve been doing, using Gratitude to build and maintain positive productive workplace cultures, has deep connections to the work of drumming up business. So I’ve been able to more intentionally incorporate gratitude into my business development activities.
You see, we know that Gratitude is the driving force behind our need to serve and help others (if you don’t believe it, then hire me). So should my service philosophy be conditional i.e that it is only avilable for current paying clients, or should it also extend to prospects? There is certainly utility and rational logic for only putting energy into serving paying clients but it flies in the face of my values and beliefs about the power of gratitude. So now I combine gratitude and prospecting.
So, last weeked, the collision happened. Here are my numbers relating to one client leading up to the weekend:
- 1 book
- 1 card
- 2 proposals (both lost)
- 3 meetings
- 10 emails
- 13 articles
- 14 phone calls
Each of these are seeds. Some of the seeds were related directly to hiring me and how I could solve a problem. Others were items of value (some created by me and some I sourced elsewhere). Some were related to opportunities that would assist my prospect’s business and did not involve me at all.
Here are a few more numbers
- 1 referral that introduced the two of us
- 4.5 years (I’ve been working a way at this for a long time)
- 2 feet of snow in Washington DC
- 6 pm phone call on Friday evening asking if I could keynote their annual conference in the morning because their speaker was stuck in DC
After the call, we met briefly and by 7pm my prospect was now a client. I said to him, “I think this is the fastest that I’ve identified a piece of business, booked it and delivered it.” He encouraged me to share my numbers at the conference because his attendees offer professional services and would benefit by using a similar approach in their businesses.
After my session, he joined me on stage to offer thanks and shared with the audience what it was like to be on the receiving end of what I sometimes still think could be interpreted as a persistent, nagging sales person … the kind we all want to avoid. While I was hoping he would be positive, I was blown away by his take on it. He told the audience to consider the following:
- the interactions provided him value and were not bothersome (this surprised me)
- he may have returned at most 3 of the phone calls and said not once did he feel judged … he sensed my gratitude and desire to serve (NOTE: it’s hard to be genuinely grateful if we let rejection and self doubt dominate and cloud our thinking … so practice gratitude)
- when the cancellation came, he said there was one person he thought to call … and my number was in his phone
Here’s a few things for you to consider for your business approach:
- Every business development seed is a way to express your gratitude. Remember, when you express gratitude, you do so with no expectation of return. So freely serve both customers and prospects.
- Do not interpret an unreturned phone call (or email) as a slight, nor as bad manners, nor as lack of interest. If you do, you will have a hard time experiencing gratitude and an even harder time being genuine with your prospect when you eventually speak. Mary Jane says “Your call just did not make it to the top of the priority list today.”
- Be ready for the call… because it will come.
The work with this client has been fulfilling on so many levels but after he closed out the session I realized that I was wrong – it definitley wasn’t my fastest piece of business. It was my slowest!