Do you find yourself chasing prospects around?
First, they act interested, then they don’t call you back. Or after the first meeting they procrastinate and won’t even take your calls.If you’re like many entrepreneurs you advertise your products or services, mail information or meet prospects at industry events then attempt to follow-up on all of these “leads” to see who wants to buy something. And still – nothing happens.How can we motivate prospects to take action?Many marketing gurus tell us we have to DIFFERENTIATE ourselves – that we have to create more PERCEIVED VALUE.I say this is not a matter of “perception” but rather a matter of reality. The real question isâ€¦ What can we do to actually BECOME valuable advisors for our prospects?We want to be “perceived” as different from other salespeople yet we act just like them. Most of us are still ACTING like salespeople. And most salespeople see all prospects as the same and treat them the same. The fact is that every prospect has a different timetable. They each have a unique set of circumstances that influence their actions. For this reason, one-shot follow just doesn’t work.What does work? A coordinated campaign that provides real BENEFITS for the prospect. In fact the only kind of campaign that does work is on that provides benefits for the prospect BEFORE they decide to do business with us. Oh come on Mark, how in the world can we do that?The Prospects View
Think of how marketing is “perceived” from the prospects point of view:FIRST: They see an ad that tells them how fabulous our product or service is. This may spark their interest and they may even call us to find out more, but does it benefit them? NOSECOND: They get something in the mail that tells them why they should do business with us. Some of this may ring true but does it benefit them? NOTHIRD: They get a call from us asking if we received the information requested with a clear intimation that the next step is to meet with us so we can “close” the sale. Does this provide them with any benefit? NOAnd we wonder why they blow us off?The Root of the Problem
The problem starts with the follow-up process itself. In most businesses, especially small businesses, new prospects are usually contacted only ONCE or a maximum of TWICE via mail and telephone. There is always the good intention to follow up again later, but the discipline required to do this is sorely lacking. I know because I’ve been there. There are always a million other things to do. Sales appointments. Meetings. Paperwork. Coordinating advertising. Dealing with employees. Client issues and ad infinitum.We have to remember that for every person who responds to our message, there are 2, 3, 10, maybe more, who ALMOST responded. They heard our message. Thought, “that’s interesting,” but were unsure. Perhaps they made a note and put it aside. Maybe they stumbled over the note a day or two later and read it again. Maybe, they even got to the phone and were about to call you, when someone came to the door and interrupted them. Finally, the note got buried with everything else on their desk and was forgotten forever.These people who ALMOST responded WILL respond to another nudge, or two, if the nudges come at the right moment and the message contains some kind of benefit for them. This is what marketers call “Residual Influence” and it’s an often-overlooked tool that’s the real key to successful follow-up.Understand the Timing
In my experience I have found that prospects fall into four distinct groups. Let’s refer to them as: NOW prospects, SOON prospects, FUTURE prospects and, NEVER prospects. Following up with each of these different groups requires a different approach and a different type of benefit for the prospect.”NOW prospects” are ready to make a buying decision. The only question is with “who.” The goal here is to determine their motives and link your product or service to that motive. It should be relatively easy to secure an appointment with this type of customer. But beware, any delay in following up on this type of customer can and WILL cost you business. There are never enough of these.”SOON prospects” are in the early stages of consideration. Typically they are thinking of making a purchase in the next six months but must resolve one or more issues. This could be budget, options, selection or the timing could hinge on another event. It is critical that you discover what these variables are. This presents a tremendous opportunity to provide some information or referrals that might BENEFIT this prospect and move them toward making the right decision. Know that they crave information that will help them with their decision. They also require some handholding and appropriate but consistent communication during the consideration process.”FUTURE prospects” are people who are not likely to make a decision within the next six months. These people are usually not very interested in your product or service at the present time because they are preoccupied with other issues. FUTURE prospects could also include your past clients, and customers with whom you have a long-standing relationship. I recommend that marketers develop industry updates that could be beneficial to theses future customers. We don’t want to spend allot of time with FUTURE prospects now but we do want to develop a relatively inexpensive but informative way to maintain contact with and influence over these prospects. The trick is to develop a method to keep these prospects in the pipeline by giving them something of value. Email is a great way to do this.”NEVER prospects” have no intention to purchase from you. These people will waste as much of your time and energy as you let them. They may like your information and the benefits you provide but they have no intention of dealing with you. Perhaps consistent and regular follow-up could convert NEVER to MAYBE, but you might never know, and it might take a tremendous amount of effort. Hint: often times prospects ONLY interested in price are NEVER prospects. If all they want is a cheap price are they worth the time?How to Tell the Difference
The problem is, how do you tell which type of prospect they are? And how do you do this without wasting your valuable time on the NEVER customers? You need to have a complete follow-up system that addresses the needs and wants of each group. The good news is that the system I’m about to describe deals with all four types of prospects automatically – you don’t have to worry about what type they are, and you won’t waste any time dealing with “tire-kickers”.A Typical Approach
While this can be applied to any industry let’s assume you are a real estate agent and you get an inquiry from a young couple. Mr. and Mrs. Smith that are thinking about selling their home and moving up to a bigger one in your area in the next 6 months. They are requesting one of the FREE Special Home Seller Reports you offer on your web site or in your informational marketing program. Most agents would determine that this is a SOON prospect and would send the report and then call to try to get an appointment. This would not result in a listing because Mr. and Mrs. Smith simply are not ready to move at this time. Learning this, the agent would create a follow-up for six months. At that time they would call Mr. and Mrs. Smith only to find that they listed their house and it’s already been sold. Has this happened to you?Using the Residual Influence Strategy
But by using our “Residual Influence” strategy we handle things quite differently. This time we tell the prospect that we are different than any other agent. We ask questions determining what they want to “learn” about. Then tell them we will teach them for FREE! We schedule a series of twelve appointments with the couple – one every two weeks for six months. At each of these twelve appointments, we sit down with them, at their convenience, and explain everything they could ever possibly want to know about buying and selling a house. We agree to educate them. To go above and beyond what every other salesperson is doing. To provide a BENEFIT for the customer even BEFORE they make the decision to buy from us!At the first meeting, we explain in great detail how they can find the best mortgage at the lowest rate. At the second meeting, we explain how they can find the best homes at the lowest prices.
At the third, we tell them what can be done to their house to immediately raise its market value. And so on. Every two weeks for six months, we impart all of our real estate expertise to ensure that they can make the best possible decisions. This is actually in the best interest of the customer!Now, if at any time during this six-month period the couple decides that they are ready to make their move, whom do you think they will call? The answer is obvious: YOU! By spending the time to educate them, and by demonstrating your expertise, you have become their preferred choice – the only choice. When the time comes to list their home, you will be viewed as a trusted advisor, NOT a salesmen hunting for a commission. Residual influence in action.As I say, the residual influence strategy can be used for just about any kind of business, product or service. It is a universal way to both improve your relationships and help your prospects see you as a unique option in a marketplace crowded with copycats. Again it’s not so much about being “perceived” as different it’s about actually BEING different.