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?