The key to successful prospecting is having many prospects. Many experienced producers will tell you some you thought were live prospects are stringing you along, yet suddenly you get a call from someone you thought was a lost cause. The conversation might start with: “We talked several months ago. I saved your card…”
The challenge is you don’t know who’s who. Here are two guidelines that can help.
You need to “touch” a person at least six times before you get onto their radar screen.
Different people have different preferred channels of communication. Find the right one.
Staying on the Radar
Most agents and advisors of a certain age have seen episodes of Columbo, the 1971-2003 TV series starring Peter Falk. It’s a cult series often on MeTV and other cable channels. The plots usually featured Lieutenant Columbo determining early on the identity of the murderer and continually showing up (staying on their radar) until they confessed. Some lists of the most famous fictional detectives place him high, if not topping the list. (1) His tagline was: “Just one more thing…” He perfected follow up.
Channeling Your Inner Columbo
Here are seven ways agents and advisors can stay on a prospect’s radar, without being pushy.
Find the right channel. Some prospects favor e-mail. Others texts. Some read mail. Others answer phone calls. Some hold conversations when they run into people. Try three channels. See which one gets a reply. That’s your primary channel for future contact.
New information. That’s where Columbo was brilliant. His rationale for continually turning up was to share various new developments in the case. This would be information he thought they would consider important. If you do this well, your prospect will connect hearing from you with learning something new and valuable.
Your newsletter. It’s probably sent via e-mail. Maybe you can tailor it with compliance-approved content that plugs in place. It’s informative, not salesy.
Relevant articles. What’s old becomes new again. Years ago, I was taught to clip an interesting article from the newspaper and send it to a client or prospect with a note: “Thought you might find this interesting.” Although you can buy several copies of the paper and mail the same article to many people, the individuality says: “Of all the people he could send this to, she chose me.” Some advisors copy articles (illegal, copyright rules) or send links (impersonal). An irregularly shaped newspaper clipping gets attention.
Postcards on vacation. Some clients and prospects are close friends. A California advisor sends postcards when they travel! They take a second to read. The photo is interesting. He picked up a big account this way. Postcards communicate: “Thinking of you.”
Phone calls. In a perfect world, prospects tell you: “Call me after tax refund checks arrive.” That rarely happens. Perhaps a call a month, ideally with new information will keep your name familiar. Even if it’s only on voicemail or caller ID, they are reminded who you are.
Seeing them. We often prospect social acquaintances. You see them at parties and meetings often. If you zoom over and bring up business, they will quickly start avoiding you. If you are a fan of the 1990’s cult British sitcom Keeping Up Appearances, (2) you are familiar with the line: “It’s the Bucket woman!” When you see people, make sincere small talk. Ask about their family and recent vacations. They will respect your tact.
10 Turnoffs to Avoid
You’ve seen salesmanship executed badly. Just in case, here’s a reminder:
Calling often, maybe every day. They will avoid your calls.
Directly jumping into business. Whatever happened to polite small talk?
Being blunt. Have you made a decision yet?
Dismissing the spouse. Can’t you think for yourself?
Sounding desperate. If this was romance, desperate people don’t get dates.
Being pushy. This opportunity is too good to miss.
It’s all about me. Please sign. I really need to hit my numbers this month.
Getting their name wrong. I really care about you Mister Smith…I mean Mr. Smythe.
Will you make up your mind? I don’t have all day.
You can back out anytime. You are under no obligation.
Why Efficient Follow Up Works
People make decisions on their own timetables. They might be waiting on a bonus check or insurance settlement. Their current agent may be retiring, but they want to stick with them until it’s official. This is why you have many prospects in the pipeline. Some come through earlier than expected, others never do.
Good follow up works for another unexpected reason. If you are prospecting business owners, middle managers and professionals, some of them work in sales or have sales departments reporting to them. They often complain to their fellow managers that many of their salespeople are terrible at follow up. You are demonstrating this skill. It earns their admiration.