Don't panic, but prospect as if your life depended on it
By Sandy Schussel
Sandy Schussel, LLC
I pushed too hard the other day. Or did I?
I was trying to get Janis, a relatively new financial services representative who works at a branch of a large insurance company, to take the last available seat in my workshop program. I had offered her help with the tuition, and she had committed on the phone to joining me. But several days before the program, she wrote to me explaining that she had run into a problem:
"I’m having a huge reversal right now. Just lost $11,000 in premium on Tuesday. I will have to forfeit at this time and get back to the phones this week. My apologies."
I sensed desperation in her email. In my mind, I saw this moment as a critical one; as the perfect indication that Janis should be in my program, even at a further reduced rate. I asked her to call me by 4 pm, but she didn’t call. So, I wrote:
"You didn't call me back yesterday. My sense is that you're panicking — it seems life or death. You clearly need help and I want to give it to you. If you have any interest in continuing in this career without burning out, call me today and commit to getting help.
OK, so my last bit of language was a little strong. Here’s what she replied:
"I'm slightly put off by your tone when you say, if I want to continue in this career then I will commit to getting help. My dear, if I don't succeed in this career, then it was a stepping stone and a foundation for something better. I am wise enough to know that this career doesn’t define who I am, my character does. I have a greater purpose. Working here is just seasoning to a pot."
I loved her thoughts, so I responded with an apology:
"I did not mean to put you off, and I apologize for speaking as strongly as I did. Thanks for the explanation. I did think I was hearing panic, but from your note, I can see that it was just temporary disappointment and a lot of determination."
But then I thought about how she responded to what she had viewed as a crisis. What had I missed? Her immediate answer for her setback was to be cold calling into the night. While cold calling can get you some business, the whole point of my workshops was to teach better ways of getting clients. Janis’s decision not to participate virtually doomed her to continue using a far less potent approach.
Here’s what I could have been helping Janis learn to do:
1. Start with people she knows already. Even at its best, cold calling involves not being able to reach most of the people you call and succeeding in making appointments with fewer than 10 percent of those you actually reach. Rapport is harder to establish because there’s a higher level of wariness on the part of the prospect, so converting someone into a client is a difficult challenge. Calling someone you already know, or someone who has been introduced by someone you know, gives you a significantly higher chance of setting an appointment and of converting prospects into clients.
Instead of grabbing a list and frantically making call after call, Janis might be doing much better if she slowed down and thought about who she could invite to the office one day, or who might be able to introduce her to someone she would love to help.
2. Tell people who she wants to work with. You can identify individuals you want to work with. If you know one well enough, contact him or her and say so yourself. If you don’t, contact someone who does know him or her, and ask for an introduction. Studies have shown that even people who are reluctant to give referrals to a professional will be happy to exercise their “influence muscle” to make an introduction to someone who has requested it specifically.
3. Use social media. Facebook and LinkedIn will give you the names of people your closest friends and associates know. Use those names for ideas about whom you might want to meet by introduction.
4. Life or death. I could have asked Janis to explore this question: If your life did depend on getting a new $11,000 client this week, what would you do?; Janis’s current career choice may only be “seasoning,” but if she really thought about and harnessed what her panic seemed to demonstrate, she would wrangle new clients much more quickly than she ever could by simply going back to the phones again and again.
For most professionals, it is possible to use their "inner circles” and a balanced sense of determination to find and create new clients more effectively than through cold calling.