Deconstructing Your Prospect Leads
How do we interact with business prospects when they first come through the door? We let the team do the talking.
For the most part, we don’t have any outbound sales efforts. Probably like you, most of our opportunities come from word of mouth and direct referrals. Typically, we get between five and 10 total leads per week. Of these, about two or three are legitimate. This may seem like a hell of a lot, a normal amount or on the slow side depending on who you are and the type of work you do. For us, it became more than we could handle and a big part of the reason we started looking for a better way.
If you’re having trouble getting leads, check out this article on Finding Better Clients we wrote last year. The key thing is to be yourself. The number of leads you get is also based on how long you’ve been in business and how good of a job you do for your clients. We’ve been around for nine years and do a pretty good job overall, but we’ve messed up a few times, too.
Vetting the lead
Most of our projects start with a separate paid Discovery phase which sets the tone for cost and shows us just how good a fit we are (if Discovery doesn’t go well, we’re both free to walk). Just having the money, however, doesn’t make for a good client. That’s where our new biz process actually helps weed out the hard-to-work-with or more controlling clients.
We also do a fairly thorough web search on the person contacting us and the stakeholders for the opportunity. We’ve found people who had federal indictments, fraud charges and worse by just typing their names into that little Google search box.
Introducing the lead to the team
Probably the thing I struggled with the most was trying not to influence the team. As the person who was previously in charge of new business, I knew what I thought would be best. Sometimes, in our new prospect emails, I would unintentionally use positive or negative language to guide the team to the decision that I wanted. Luckily, they ignored me completely. Jerks.
Sample Prospect Email
Here’s a sample of the info we’d bring back to the whole team after an initial call. From here, interested nGeneers speak up if they’d like to be a part of the project.
We spoke this morning with Billy P. Slicer, VP of marketing at the Panopticon Pizza Parlour Co.
The company’s original email said they were looking for a “digital marketing agency to assist our marketing department with our web presence, marketing campaigns and social media needs to become the Big Brother of pizza in North America.”
Billy just started with the parlour about three months ago and is a self-described “data geek.” This means he’s all about getting numbers via research to find out who they are in the marketplace. He already has that research under way. He considered just hiring a person to be the digital marketer, but said it’s easier to work with an agency than a person and he wants a long-term relationship with that firm. He has a media outfit in place for traditional print/TV buys.
Their competitors are the big boys: Biggie Smeltz Pizza and Pop’s Shop Pizzeria (with Pie In the Sky third and Pizza Pizzaz a very distant fourth). With the backlash against corporate pizza, it’s a perfect time for repositioning their brand and building their awareness.
- They will be redoing the web site this year. He knows their current site sucks.
- He has a goal of the beginning of July to have things in place, but he was totally on board when we mentioned a phased approach, so I suspect there’s leeway there. Right is more important to him than fast.
- Once they determine the brand positioning, they want their new partner to bring the art: how to present the brand graphically, how things feel.
- He would like a proposal, but said don’t get complex. He doesn’t expect it to be a full-blown strategy document, but wants to know how we’d work with them (Weekly meetings? Mechanics such as that).
- He’d like a monthly retainer. He’s not about hours or even cost; he’s about value.
- He has two proposals and wants one more. Said he’s not in a huge hurry, but week after next would be nice.
Chime in if this is something you’d be interested in signing up for. If we can rally enough interest, we’ll get back in touch with him to work out the next steps and set up a team call.
Let us know if you’re interested and any questions you have by tomorrow.
These are some examples of how team members respond to the prospect email update.
- Do we know how the current project got so bad? Was he part of it? Would like to know more about the client team. We can figure that out on a call if there’s enough interest to take the project.
- There’s no way July is possible, that’s practically tomorrow. What’s the rush? Is there a big pizza conference around the corner?
- Who’s working on the brand positioning? Will we have a say in it? Can we wait to see the positioning before we take the project?
- A proposal? That comes out of the Paid Discovery right? Or is this different because of the rushed timeline and work in progress on the brand? Feels kind of shaky to me, and I freakin love pizza.
- What does monthly retainer mean to him? Shouldn’t we dictate our normal process? Unless we’re hard up for the work, I’d say we need to lead a little more on the relationship or they’ll end up driving.
- Do they have any concept of how much this could cost? Do we?
- Whoa! This is a cattle call? He’s shopping around? I’d rather work with people that know us and want to work with us.
Prepping the Prospect
As you can see, the team is keeping things in check. Once the team shows interest and we clearly understand the concerns, we send the prospect a follow-up email getting them up to speed.
While you’d suspect a prospect would give us the finger and walk away at this point, it rarely happens. In fact, they become more attached to the team because we obviously care and have solid experience. By being real up front and not “selling” the prospect, we level the playing field. Some prospects aren’t in a position to change the rules. This is good to know because we see they aren’t really in charge. Nothing is worse than having the actual decision maker show up three months into a project and tell everyone they’re doing it wrong.
Jelly for your thoughts
We’ve talked about how to walk prospects through the door with the team leading the approach. There’s definitely a learning curve while everyone gets settled, but it seems to be working for us. So we want to know: What is the biggest challenge you face bringing new business in the door?