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I Don’t See Why We Have To Meet For Lunch

I Don’t See Why We Have To Meet For Lunch

For a long time, if someone showed even the slightest interest in my wealth management practice, Washington Financial Group (or just seemed like a potential client), I would ask them if they wanted to grab lunch so we could learn more about each other. I always thought it made sense. There was no better way to spend my time than meeting face-to-face with a potential client or strategic partner, right?

As cadre has picked up steam, we have been extremely fortunate to receive more introductions to prospective members than we could keep up with. This is obviously a great problem to have, but we literally could not keep up. Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking “Cry me a river!”, but I’m not here to brag about how many referrals we’re getting. Rather, I’d like to tell you about the time management challenges we faced, and what we did about them. (This is a broad topic, so for the purpose of this blog, I’m limiting it to meeting with people who think they might be interested in your business, but don’t know much about you.)

The problem we had was that most of the folks who were referred to us, by default, wanted to meet for lunch. This has become THE way for a lot of us to learn more about a business or service, and cadre was no exception. They would say something like, “Hey, John told me about you guys and it sounds pretty cool. Want to grab lunch to tell me more about it?” That seemed reasonable enough. I had been suggesting this for years, and I’m sure most of you do (or have done) the same. The problem was there simply was not enough time in my day. And now, with all of the ways we have to communicate, I’m not sure it’s the best use of my time, or yours.

As with any business, a good portion of the referrals we received were not likely to result in our doing business together (or in the case of cadre, becoming a member). I also knew we had a great description of our model on our website, and that we had intentionally used language to help weed out our prospects. So we told anyone who was interested in joining cadre to read the details on our website prior to our call. This way they would have a good overview of our business and we could have a productive call.

Shockingly, not everyone complied. I had three or four calls a day – intended to be 15-minute discussions – that were turning into hour-long conversations because the prospective member knew nothing about our model. I was being asked the most basic questions, which our website (had they read it) already answered.

One day, I had 45-minute conversation with a person that was going great until they asked how much we charge. They thought it was too much, and the conversation ended. That was it. Something had to change! If I had required this person to review our content prior to the call, there never would have been one (which is fine when you’re meeting enough people who think what you charge is a bargain).

So that’s exactly what we did: We started telling prospective members to take 10 minutes to learn about our business, and if it resonated with them, we would set up a 15-minute phone call to answer any specific questions they had. This has worked very well. Several referrals have not bothered to get back to us, which means less time wasted for me. Those who do schedule a call are extremely interested and almost always become members.

I was recently turned on to Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Six Pixels of Separation. Marcus was struggling to keep his pool installation business afloat in 2008, and was spending a lot of time meeting potential customers at their homes to discuss his services. He kept getting the same questions over and over, and as we experienced with cadre, many of these prospects did not end up being candidates for his business. He was spending too much time traveling to, and meeting with, people who could have been ruled out as customers in five minutes, had there been a way for their questions to be answered ahead of time.

Marcus wised up. He created a blog for his business, and many of his articles provide ready answers to frequently asked questions. When someone thought they wanted to buy a pool, he began directing them to his website, where he provides a ton of useful information. Any general questions people have are answered there, and his website serves as a great qualifier of potential customers. (Incidentally, it has since become the most visited pool website in the world!) In his excellent blog post titled “Assignment Selling,” Marcus shares how he now assigns prospective customers homework before agreeing to meet with them. During the aforementioned podcast, Marcus said that he now tells people that if he’s coming to their house, it’s to sell them a pool. He admits that this sounds audacious, but the point he makes is meritorious: Businesses with great content have rights that other businesses do not.

The next time you’re thinking about meeting a potential client and neither of you knows much about the other, I encourage you to consider the alternatives. If you have a great website, an eBook, or have authored articles, send your prospect there before having a meeting. If you don’t have the content, consider scheduling a Skype call so you can at least save yourself the travel time. Still, I hope you’ll consider the time investment of developing some strong content, so that prospective clients can easily learn more about your business without having to take up so much of your time.

I can only speak from my own experience, but making this shift has freed up a lot of my time, and made me much more productive and efficient. Do you typically suggest meeting someone in person before learning more about their business? Do you agree to meet others when they make this request of you?

 


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18 Comments to I Don’t See Why We Have To Meet For Lunch

  • by tsb
    On January 10, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Let’s face it, lunch is the only free hour many of us have and if someone is willing to give you the time then you are lucky. The only other time might be after work and some of your wives don’t allow that, no names mentioned but silly IMO if you want the business. Seriously, do you really think we should invest our time to read your website and decide if we want to meet you? I would rather meet a person in person and develop a relationship. So you have identified, what I am sure is your number one first objection, your fees! They are high and I am certain that few say they are a bargain. Since you have identified this problem and you point it out in your article then I think you should fix them. Possibly then that objection won’t exist anymore. Quite honestly, after that I quit reading. You are in a service industry, so unfortunately you need to service people if you want their trust and for to them give you their hard earned money. I would pull this article if I were you. Sincerely, A friend!

    [Reply]

    Derek Reply:

    Hi “tsb”,

    Sorry you didn’t like the article. I think you misinterpreted what I was trying to say and hopefully would have realized this had you read the entire post, but if I can’t keep you engaged until the end that’s my problem. :) It wasn’t about price (or overcoming objections at all) and I didn’t say that our fees are a problem (nor do I think that). You ask why you would invest time reading my website instead of meeting in person? Why should any prospective client have to invest an hour of their time to learn about a product or service? Why would you want to take time out of your day for a lunch (and away from your meaningful relationships) to learn about a service, if you could take 10 minutes to better clarify if it’s worth a larger investment of your time (for whatever reason)? It works both ways, and I respect their time as much as my own. Thanks for your comment and “friendship”.

    [Reply]

  • by Debbie Weil
    On January 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Derek,

    Bravo!! You couldn’t have said it better. This is very similar to saying “No” to the question: “Can we have lunch so I can pick your brain?” Uh, no. For many of the same reasons.

    [Reply]

    Derek Reply:

    Thanks Debbie! For me, it’s about using my time effectively and setting proper expectations if I am going to meet someone.

    [Reply]

  • by Laz S.
    On January 10, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    I like your points. Time is the most precious commodity and successful people have learned how not to waste it. You are a specialized service and people need to understand and appreciate what it is you offer. I see the post above. I’d like to answer it too because it has validity as well. I’ve found in my business I have similar problems to Cadre. I provide professional services for the most demanding and discriminating health care consumers. I am not for everyone. People who are price driven can go to other practices – where there is a lesser level of service and technology but the service is “medically adequate”. I prefer to go to the best health care providers myself and will seek them out across the country. I have a child who needs reconstructive surgery due to a congenital defect. I am going to go to the best surgeons in the country and this means traveling long distances (California).
    Trying to get to the point here, Cadre is more than the free networking channels e.g. linked in. This is the Wal-Mart of networking for the masses and can be attended by anyone. Cadre’s difficulty is in communicating what they do effectively in their web-site so people can understand what it is they offer. This is the challenge for all businesses – to differentiate themselves. I am highly impressed with the caliber of people in Cadre. If the price of membership were lower quality may likely suffer. Yelp for example, any pissed off or even fraudulent character can get on there and write a review (there is a class action suit against them now). In my opinion these free sites are often open to crazy people who discredit the validity of the net. My point is I think it is important to charge an appropriate fee in order to attract the higher end folks. If you want to hang with the freebee crowd then accept the sacrifice in quality.

    [Reply]

    Derek Reply:

    Thanks for the comments Laz!

    [Reply]

  • by Ian Altman
    On January 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Derek – your message is all about opportunity qualification. You know that whether you want them to or not, your prospects will research your products and services on your website… and for that matter sites that you don’t control. However, as much as prospects can learn, they need your help to determine the fit for your products/services with respect to their situation.

    Top performing sales professionals know how to manage their time and sparingly invest their time on the best opportunities. If you can politely direct them to your site as the first filter, then you might make more effective use of their time and your time – which everyone should appreciate.

    [Reply]

    Derek Reply:

    Thanks Ian! You, of course, are the master of getting professionals to increase their sales and revenue by focusing on getting rid of the dead weight.

    [Reply]

  • by June
    On January 11, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Derek, I can honestly say I have never read every word in someones newsletter, but I read yours and found it very useful..wanna have lunch? :-) Seriously, I face the same issues of separating the tire kickers from those that really want and value professional services. I am continually trying different screening techniques. I don’t want to provide unique one of a kind solutions, only to find out someone is unwilling or unable to pay for them. I would welcome successful techniques from others.
    Thanks for sharing.

    [Reply]

    Derek Reply:

    Thanks for the kind words, June! I agree with you, and this has just helped me separate the tire kickers from the legit before each of us commit an hour of our time.

    [Reply]

  • by Jay
    On January 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    The post was great. As efficient as I thought I was with my time, this article gave me lots of ideas of how I can save time for not just me, but for any prospect or potential business partner as well -that adds value to both our lives and that’s a great thing! Thanks for the blog and keep up the great work! Looking forward to the next one!!!

    [Reply]

    Derek Reply:

    Thanks Jay! Glad I could help, given how much I have learned from you when it comes to being more efficient. :)

    [Reply]

  • by Lisa
    On January 11, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    Hi Derek,
    Well said. The true definition of wealth is discretionary time. You created more wealth for yourself.

    Let me suggest another way to gain more wealth: consider making your posts 400 words or fewer. Take it from an old blogger from way back :-)

    Lisa Nirell
    Author, “Energize Growth NOW: The Marketing Guide to a Wealthy Company”

    [Reply]

    Derek Reply:

    Thanks for the feedback, Lisa! I actually think that true wealth is defined differently by everyone, but free time is the catalyst to making “it” happen. I got the same response from my editor regarding length, so I promise to keep the next one shorter- LOL! It had been awhile, so I had more to say than usual. :)

    [Reply]

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