Turn lunch into great referralsArticle added by Bill Cates on October 8, 2010
Bill Cates

Bill Cates

Silver Spring , MD

Joined: October 13, 2006

My Company

Referral Coach

I keep getting e-mails from readers who want more ideas for meeting new prospects in person. Due to do-not-call regulations, personal introductions are now more important than ever before. This article contains proven strategies that will help you gain personal introductions with great prospects.

Lunch and learns — A productive way to meet prospects in person

What is a "lunch and learn"? Every rep puts their own twist on this idea, but essentially, a lunch and learn is an event that allows you to be in front of five to 10 prospects who have been invited by one of your clients, friends or even a prospect.

At a lunch and learn, you spend about 10–15 minutes speaking to the attendees about an important financial topic. If you can keep the attendees in the same age group, industry, financial situation or some other commonality, you can further tailor your remarks to their specific financial/life concerns.

Whatever you choose to talk about, make it timely and relevant. You want to bring real value to these folks, so they feel their time has been well spent.

Some reps like to hang around for the lunch after their short talk, while others will leave the folks to socialize and/or discuss the topic amongst themselves. I think that the stronger your relationship with the person who helped you set up this event, the more likely that you’ll want to stick around to socialize or answer impromptu questions.

Getting people to lunch

So, how do you get people to this event? I’ve seen three ways that work well, but you might find others.

First, ask your clients. A client who is unwilling to introduce you to specific individuals for one-on-one contact may be perfectly willing to help put a small group together. Also, a client who has already given you some referrals should also be willing to extend their influence on your behalf with this type of event.

Another way to get people to your event is with the “fish bowl” approach. Ask a restaurant owner for permission to put a fish bowl in a visible place in the restaurant, offering a free lunch for up to 10 people. Patrons will drop their business cards in the bowl. To remain perfectly do-not-call safe, make sure it’s clear that you will be calling them.

Call the people who drop their cards and explain the type of work you do. Tell them that in exchange for your ability to deliver some brief but valuable information about an aspect of financial planning, you will pick up the tab for the lunch — up to 10 people. Make sure the restaurant owner/manager understands that this little fish bowl of yours could generate a ton of lunch business for them. Oftentimes, restaurants will even give you a nice discount for this arrangement.

Another way to assemble your group is through your “natural market.” You can have your friends, family members and colleagues help you assemble groups for lunch and learns.

The more established your business, the more care you want to take in making sure that every attendee fits your ideal client profile.

Of course, this concept can easily be translated to other venues, such as a golf lesson or group manicure. Be creative. Tap into the interests of your client, because they know people with similar interests.

Don’t forget about in-house seminars

Okay, so you already know about in-house seminars, but are you using them to full advantage? Many of your clients would be willing to help you get in front of their peers at work in an educational format. Often, where they might be unwilling to introduce you one on one, they’ll work hard to create an event at their office.

Unlike lunch and learns, whose educational component is very brief, these in-house seminars can go from 30 to 60 minutes. Make sure you have some sort of sign-up sheet to capture the names and contact information of the attendees.

By the way, in-house seminars can also be held in places of worship, country clubs and many other venues.

If you have a marketing budget or sponsorship from a fund company, you might be able to provide lunch or an after-work snack. Food never seems to hurt.

In-house seminars have been an effective way to meet prospects in person for a long time. Make sure they are a strong part of your marketing plan.

Teaching point

Regardless of the event — lunch and learns, in-house seminars, public seminars, etc. — here’s my formula for speaking in front of a group in a prospecting venue:

1. Educate — Make sure you provide tangible value to your group. Give value first.

2. Entertain — Be natural, genuine and have fun with your group.

3. Entice — Entice them to want to know more. Plant a seed of doubt in their mind about their current situation.

Copyright 2010 by Bill Cates
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