Once you receive a referral to a new prospect, the initial phone call to that prospect is very critical. You don’t want to do or say anything that will hurt your client’s relationship with your referral source (or your relationship with your client). You want to be proactive, but not aggressive.
You’ve probably discovered that not all referral prospects are created equal. Some prospects are very open to your call, while others remain guarded. Over the years, I’ve used a contact strategy that works effectively with all types of personalities. If you reach an open person, the strategy works. If you reach a guarded person, the strategy works. I call this strategy Call-Mail-Call. It’s a proven strategy that I’ve been teaching financial advisors for years. What follows are the three steps in this process.
Step 1: The approach call
Instead of sending that “warning letter” that so many salespeople send, just get on the phone. Your agenda is simple — to gain permission to send them a little information, and create a verbal contract to allow you to follow up to discuss what you’ve sent. It’s an easy “yes” for most referral prospects. Open people will not be offended, and guarded people will appreciate the softer approach. (It takes more time to build trust and earn the first appointment with these guarded types, even when contacting them from referrals.) Even though your initial approach is to just send information, you can still end up with the appointment. I’ll show you how.
After you introduce yourself and mention the name of the friend, colleague, or family member who introduced you, you tell them you’d like to introduce yourself by way of sending them a bit of information about the work you do and how it might apply to them.
After they say, “I guess that would be okay,” you say, “There’s a lot of information I could send, but I only want to send what’s appropriate to your situation. To make sure I do that, I’m wondering if I could ask you a few quick and simple questions?” This should lead to another easy “yes.” (One caveat: Make sure you say “quick” questions. This language has been tested and refined over many years of use. Use it!)
This approach allows you to move through their guardedness into a little conversation. Many prospects will open up and give you great information that will allow you to build rapport and trust. With open individuals, in many cases the conversation will reach a point where you can go ahead and ask for the appointment to deliver the information in person. To make this happen, say something like: “Say, Barbara. I was going to mail this information to you, but you know, based on our conversation, I think we should get together as soon as possible. I can bring the information with me. Can we set something up?”
If the prospect doesn’t move to setting an appointment with you, if at all possible, try to get them to agree to scheduling the follow-up call before you end this initial call.
One final note: If you have difficulty reaching the prospect, and you’ve determined that this is a quality prospect worth pursuing, you can send the information without actually speaking to the prospect. You should, however, leave a message on their voicemail, send them an email message or leave a message with an assistant that the information is on its way and that you’ll be following up in a few days. Though not the pure strategy, it can still be effective.
Step 2: The information packet