Five (different) tips for landing the next retainer.
In Part I, we discussed the fact that, while you are not technically in a sales position, you can learn a few tricks from successful sales reps. You also received the first two tips.
Pressure’s on, so here is a recap of the first two, plus those other three tips:
- Build commonality. Build a relationship by finding a commonality between client and provider.
- Differentiate. Anticipate clients’ questions and concerns to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
- Create a continuum. This isn’t the Star Trek thing. It’s building a timeline that extends as close to the final solution as possible. Then the immediate steps, like signing up, become a much smaller part of the whole process. If the ultimate goal is to file certain paperwork with the state government by November 12, that becomes the end of the timeline. It requires a series of events to occur in a specific order and by certain dates to meet that ultimate deadline or goal. The more detailed the timeline, the easier you’re making it for your client, and the better your chances of closing that business. The client starts to think about follow-up and the various next steps. Signing your paperwork actually one one of the easier boxes to check. This may take a little more effort up front, but you probably have similar templates saved someplace already from other clients.
- Just ask. Talk about differentiating. How about simply asking for the client’s business at the end of the meeting? Here’s an idea to make it a more bearable process. Focus on the step after the signature, then back up when you have the client’s agreement on that step. “John, in order to hit our November 12 date that we’ve outlined today, we’re going to have to get your Form 59 drafted by Friday. Can you gather your invoices and meet Thursday at 3PM back here? Great! Let me pull your retainer paperwork and we’ll get going.” If the client isn’t ready to sign now, make sure you ask why. This is important data that you can use to improve your future success. If the prospective clients are shopping around for free information, or don’t have money, or weren’t yet sure they wanted to go through this process, or ultimately signed with someone else, you can modify your meeting format to try to uncover this earlier in the process. Winning is the best result, but you can often learn more from the losses, including when no decision is made. Don’t waste the data.
- Follow up. The client signing up on the spot is best, but if the decision is delayed, within what timeframe is it normally made? One week? One month? This timeframe is critical for the prospective client to continually see your name and message. Send a thank you email right after the meeting, highlighting a next step, so it’s on the prospective client’s PC. Have a senior partner send a note. Send a relevant article about the business at hand or the commonality you’ve developed. Communicate an additional step to consider. Understanding confidentiality requirements, send a reference or general example of successful work done for another client. All these ideas, and they’re just a starting point, send the message that you care, you’re thinking about the prospective client, and that you’re already making progress. Keep it nice and simple, just a paragraph or two to minimize your time and keep their attention. Compare that with the other provider who just goes on to the next meeting. From whom would you buy?
If you are still a little concerned about how best to try these ideas, test them first. Lure a friend or associate with the promise of a free meal, coffee, or adult beverage. Then talk through these ideas or role play. Create a specific client example, try to find that commonality, build the timeline, and then ask for the business. You can have fun laughing as you learn, and you’ll be better prepared to try these ideas on prospective clients. Don’t forget to send your friend a follow-up note afterward…
If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.