The three-meeting rule
Sales reps selling products at mid-size and large companies know you can’t convert prospects to clients in one meeting, but many service professionals – especially freelancers – seem to have forgotten this. The bottom line? It takes at least three meetings (interactions) to really understand a prospect and determine if your services can be part of his or her long-term solution.
Think of it like dating. You wouldn’t expect a marriage proposal on the first date, right? (And unless you are Britney Spears, you wouldn’t say yes either.) Business relationships need the same time to develop. Too many professionals get caught up in the exciting prospect of new work and do one of two things.
- Project his or her own ideas and tactics without first getting buy-in from the prospect or without giving the prospect time to catch up.
- Fail to take the necessary time to make sure the client is a good fit for his/her personality and capacity.
I’m a #1 kind of thinker. I get caught up in the good media stories and brainstorming the potential audiences for the product/idea, without paying as much attention to the potential red flags. To counteract this natural tendency, I set the following goals as part of my three-meeting rule:
Meeting #1. Bask in the fun of getting to know a company and contact for the first time. Ask a lot of questions. Listen a bunch. Get excited about the possibilities.
Meeting #2. Come back to reality. Form some opinions. Test out some theories and solutions.
Meeting #3. Address objections (on both sides of the table). Reach agreement about where things are headed. Begin to formalize and set a timeline for implementation.
If it seems front-loaded, it is. But isn’t it worth the upfront opportunity if you end up with a client that understands the value of what you do and knows you have a vested interest and understanding of what they provide?