From the September 2006 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

When the Party's Over

Over the first two installments in this series, we've looked at three of the five factors that determine whether a seminar marketing effort will be a success. By now, you should know how to boost your Acceptance Rate, Show-Up Rate and Appointment Request Rate into the "Seminar Success Zone." Now it's time for the last two -- and some notes on following up.

Appointment Set/Show-up

Your minimum goal is to set up at least as many appointments as your prospects requested on their post-seminar report cards. Some of these will be from people who did not actually request an appointment. You always call everyone, but start by calling those who requested further consultation; you'll lose just a few of the people who said "Yes," and pick up at least a few of those who did not answer in the affirmative (or at all).

The show-up rate at your office should be very nearly 100 percent of those who set up appointments. There are several reasons that this may not occur:

1.Procrastination. You or a highly qualified assistant needs to be on the phone making the calls on the day after the seminar. Every day that you delay results in fewer appointments set. Hot leads grow cold fast.

2.Wrong person. You have to be very careful to determine who in your office actually sets the appointments. In one case, a client I was coaching was getting a rotten percentage of appointments set compared to appointments requested. I asked him who was setting the appointments. His reply: "My son."

I told him to do the next batch. He did, and the results were fabulous.

It's important that the advisor be the one to call, at least to get the hang of it and know what to expect. This way, when turning this over to another person, you can gauge your results against his or hers.

3.Office location. Here is where you may have to be brutally frank with yourself. If your office is in a tacky, run-down, unattractive, hard-to-reach or hard-to-park location, you will have a high no-show rate. I once had a client take photographs of the outside of his building, the street where his building was and the parking. It turns out that people had to drive up a driveway into a somewhat dark and foreboding parking lot. Many evidently just kept driving.

4.Appointment not set soon. Ideally, you will be able to get the prospect into the office within a week or 10 days. If you're setting appointments weeks in advance, don't be surprised if they fail to arrive. One reason I recommend smaller seminars (optimum attendees: 24) is that you don't have to set appointments more than a week or so away.

5.Unprofessional confirmation procedure. A standardized confirmation procedure will greatly influence your show-up rate. The day the appointment is set, set up a letter to go out seven days before the appointment and schedule a phone call the day before. If the appointment is less than three days away, send a fax or e-mail. For appointments more than three days away, I want a piece of paper in my prospect's hands with a map to my office.

Close Rate

Your close rate is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Every other component of the Seminar Success Zone may be perfectly fine, but without a sufficiently high close rate, your entire seminar marketing campaign will be unprofitable. Professional results entail that 40 percent to 50 percent of the people who come into your office after a seminar become clients within a reasonable period of time. Of those who don't, some will be people you don't want. Some will be people you do want but can't get. Still others will be what we call "green cherries" -- qualified but can't do anything right now for any of a number of reasons.

There are three major causes for failure to hit the 50 percent mark:

1.Your office. You don't get a second chance to make the correct impression. Your office has to be an environment where your clients feel comfortable.

If you're in a working- or middle-class marketplace, an opulent office environment may raise questions in the mind of your clients and prospects. "Is this what I'm paying for?" But if you are in the fabled "high-net-worth" market, your office had better match the offices of the other professionals your wealthy clients and prospects deal with.A client I was coaching once seemed to be doing everything right until it came to actually closing the deal. I had him send me pictures of what his reception room and office looked like: cheap Ikea furniture in the reception area. His service assistant's bookshelf was a mess. He obviously had no taste.

What's the right look? Tough question. Visit the offices of the doctors, lawyers and accountants that your clients use. Your office should not look too different.

For example, I have a client in Alaska. Alaska is a very outdoorsy hunter-fisher culture. He has mounted game in his lobby. It's great for Alaska, but it wouldn't hunt in Beverly Hills!

2.Your closing procedure. One obvious possibility: Your closing rate isn't up to professional grade because you don't know how to close. If you suspect this is the issue, read "The Second Law of Closing" on my site (billgood.com/seminarhelp).

3.Your sales procedure. If you believe your closing procedure is up to snuff, the problem, dear advisor, is not in your stars but in your sales procedure.

Needless to say, advisors follow countless different procedures in order to assist clients and prospects to make up their minds.

Whether you are using my procedure, your own or someone else's, here's how you de-bug a failing sales procedure. First you have to have a procedure! Summarize the steps; you could even create a little form to make this easier.

At the end of each presentation, grade yourself on each step. You will typically find a particular step did not go well. There's your problem. As you work on that step, you will find that future presentations smooth out but perhaps fall apart later in the steps.

Evaluate each presentation. As you handle the parts that make up the whole, you will find you are converting more and more prospects to clients. In time, you will hit the 50 percent mark.

Post-Seminar Management

Let's say that 50 percent of the clients attending the seminar request an appointment.

What about the other 50 percent?

Some of them, perhaps 20 percent, are what we refer to as "eaters." Tomorrow night, they'll be at someone else's seminar. Then, next Tuesday, they will be enjoying sushi compliments of another competitor. That's part of the game.

But most of the remaining 30 percent are shopping around with an eye toward developments in their lives that may not happen for another year or more. The person who brings them in will either be the last person they see before the trigger event actually transpires, or else it'll be the person with the best post-seminar management.

Here's what we recommend:

1.Everyone who attends gets a "thank you" letter.

2.Everyone who attends receives a phone call.

During the phone call, ask those who do not set an appointment whether they may be preparing for something down the road. In particular, look out for expectations of a property sale, rollover or inheritance.

Once you find out what the big event is (and when it's likely to happen), start a standard monthly drip. Every seminar attendee that qualifies for this treatment should receive a letter every month and a phone call every 90 days. As you get closer to the event, call personally to stay in touch and nail down more exactly what is happening.

Let's assume that out of the 30 percent who are shopping, you land half. You just went from a 50 percent success rate to 65 percent. Your post-seminar management procedure can account for a big chunk of your seminar business. Don't neglect it!

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BILL GOOD is chairman of Bill Good Marketing. He is the author of Prospecting Your Way to Sales Success and the co-author, with his daughter Jenny, of A Very Good Guide to Raising a Daughter. For more information, see www.billgood.com/daughters.

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