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Six Rules for Wooing Prospects

Any number of books have been written on winning new business. After 15 years of working with CPAs and lawyers, not to mention developing my own business, I have boiled the process down to six fundamentals. These rules assume you have already found the prospect and have entered what marketing guru David Maister would refer to as the wooing stage.

  1. Remember how small the world is. You never know where referrals and clients will come from. One of my clients puts it this way: “These days, you can never tick off anybody, anytime, anywhere, because everyone’s so connected it will come back to haunt you.” (Well, she didn’t actually use the word “tick”, but this newsletter is for public consumption.). If you get the urge to behave poorly or pass on ugly gossip about someone, resist it. Strongly.
  2. Study your prospects as you meet with them. Think (and talk) a whole lot more about them than about how good you are, or about what you and your firm do and how long you’ve been doing it. How does your prospect like to do business? How does he or she communicate? What is his or her personality type and how can you adjust to fit it?
  3. Take the initiative after a meeting. When you don't hear from prospects for a while, contact them. Don't wait too long for them to contact you (maybe one to two weeks at most). You can simply say “Hi, I’m just checking in to see if we’ve made any progress on XYZ since our last meeting..” Prospects are as busy as you are, and you might not be the first thing on their to-do list. However, they might be really happy to hear from you, particularly if you followed Rule #2, so don’t be shy about contacting them.
  4. Use the resources at your disposal to help the selling process. Don’t be a lone wolf; call in your colleagues when appropriate. In doing so, you increase the intellectual capital available to your prospect, and if handled correctly, it will work in your favor.
  5. Offer added value up front. Let prospects know, for example, if you are available to do presentations to their staffs on important technical issues. That's unusual and valuable client service that will differentiate you from your competitors.
  6. Be flexible in your discussions with prospects. Say "We can work with you on that" often. Flexibility equals reasonableness in a buyer’s mind, and it leaves the door open for positive and successful negotiations down the road.

© Melinda Guillemette 2009