Monday, July 22, 2013

Seven Steps to Get Prospective Client Meetings

How can you crack open the door to meet potential new clients?  I worked with an architectural firm that specializes in health care design and has offices in NY, PA, Ohio and Florida, and I was able to accomplish two major goals for them:

1.     Get the principals in the door to meet and present their capabilities to the vice president of facilities in seven institutions.
2.     Develop a customer relations database of 300 institutions which included a chronological account of my contacts with these institutions.

How did I go about attaining these goals for my client?  Here’s a step by step:

Step One – We first established various parameters for the targeted institutions:  geographic area, size, type (acute, psychiatric, etc.) and maximum travel distance from one of my client’s offices.

Step Two -- Using a list of hospitals from a commercial vendor, we incorporated the basic information of each organization into a contact management software program and segmented prospects by size, type of facility and location.

Step Three -- We drew up several positioning points that established the unique skills and expertise of the firm.  These talking points were incorporated into every type of contact we made and they were strategically inserted into letters, emails, phone conversations and presentations. 

Step Four – We assembled a portfolio of online project sheets as our core marketing communications materials.  I referenced these projects when I called prospective hospital clients and we were able to immediately send the appropriate project sheets with a tailored cover letter as a follow-up.   I did this from an email account on my client’s web site, not from my office. 

Step Five – I researched and called  each institution to find out who the senior person was who hired architects; began to make the institution aware of my client’s capabilities, and established the preferred contact method – via email, postal mail, landline or cell phone.  

Step Six – I sorted the potential clients into various lead categories – hot leads, not interested, call back in six months, unable to contact yet -- and followed up appropriately.

Step Seven– Eventually, I set up meetings with seven prospective clients.  I remained the key contact until a few days before the meeting, when I turned the responsibility of keeping in contact with the prospect over to the partners and business development executives of the firm. 

Long Term – To keep roiling the pot of potential clients, I weekly check my database and follow up.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sidebar Strategies

Being nimble, assertive, creative, and data driven are certainly the best overall business development and marketing strategies.  Sometimes, however, just being there, when the competition is not, is a successful business strategy.   At other times, not burning bridges with past clients can offer a surprisingly successful segue into  attaining future work.

Recently I had the opportunity of meeting with a potential client before she announced she was looking for a consultant.  How did that happen?  I keep a targeted list of 40 near-by national and regional colleges and at least once a year I send out very basic promotional material to their public relations directors and follow-up with a phone call.  This builds awareness of my services,  helps cultivate relationships over time, allows me to update my prospect list and is a superior way to gather  raw intelligence about my competition. 

The director from one school responded to my email with a cheery note saying my timing was perfect, that they were looking for a publicist and writer, but were struggling with how to conduct the search.  I met with the director, and she hired me without even putting out a request for proposal to other consultants.  Just being there before others turned the trick.

When you get fired from a job, it is natural to resent it, but try not to overtly express resentment because the bitter after-taste will linger with the client long after you are gone; whereas if you express appreciation for the work you have been privileged to complete, the good feelings can lay the foundation for future work.

A year ago, after I had been working as a consultant for a large medical institution for over a decade, a new VP was appointed and he wanted all work done in-house.   I was told my services were no longer needed.  In parting, I said I greatly valued the exciting work I had been assigned to do over the years (which was true) -- and left.  Within a year, I received an email out of the blue from this same VP who was now a Sr. VP at another institution, and, knowing my work, he asked me to undertake a large number of projects.  I don’t think that would have happened if we had parted on a sour note.