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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Remember the old television ads for AT&T – "Reach and and touch someone." Well, the idea of reaching out is important, but it takes more than that if you want something to happen. No, your a goal is a meeting and, ultimately, a new client. 

Some of the most frequent questions I hear are, "But what exactly do I say when I reach out?" and "What works to get the attention of a prospective client?" or "Wont they feel I'm interrupting them?" and "How do I get that appointment?"

Here's how I explain it: 

Marketing is communication and communication is a series of conversations. And direct outreach uses several different types of conversations. In all, there are nine conversations in this process.  

In reality, there are two primary conversations – a short one when reaching out and connecting, and a long one when meeting to explore working together. I break the short phone conversation into three distinct conversations and the long meeting into six conversations. 

If you follow this approach, you'll be surprised at how effective and easy it is and the welcome reception you'll get. 

Each conversation has a purpose and a structure. 

The scenarios for these direct outreach calls are varied. They might include a follow-up from an event you both attended or from a presentation you gave. They include calls to prospective clients who were referred to you and past clients you think might be ideal for a new service you're offering. Remember, these are not *cold calls.*

In many cases, direct outreach includes a short email to introduce yourself and then a follow-up call. But, depending on the situation, it's fine to just pick up the phone and call. I'll only send an email if I can't reach them by phone. 

Part I Conversation: Attention - Interest & Qualification

1. Conversation for Attention

The first thing you say must be about the person you're talking to – not about you. So it helps to know something about the person you're calling, and mention that. The easiest way is to look at their website before you call. 

"Hi Janet, This is Tom Bennet, our mutual friend Julian told me about your exciting new business in transforming nursing homes. I just took a look at your new website."

"Hi Charles, it was great to have you on my intro webinar yesterday on how to increase profitability. I really appreciated your participation."

How can you resist an opening like that? You can't! You've now shown your interest in them and in turn, they'll be open to listening to what you have to say. Next you want to generate some interest in what you're offering. 

2. Conversation for Interest

The next thing you'll say is your core marketing message about who your clients are and their problems or aspirations. Which one you use depends on your business. 

"Julian might have mentioned to you that I've helped people from many service businesses like yours who are unsure how to get the word out about what you do."

"As I said on the webinar, Charles, I've helped more than a thousand businesses like yours increase their profitability."

I usually follow this with: "Is this a good time to talk for just a minute?"

OK, now they have a clear idea of who you work with and how you can help. Next you want to see if you're on the same page by qualifying them.  

3. Conversation for Qualification

You want to find out if you can help this person or not. You're not focused on whether they're interested in your services or can afford you yet. In fact, you don't even mention your services. 

"Janet, could I ask you just a few questions about your business (or situation) to understand what you're trying to accomplish?"

"Charles, you mentioned a few things about your business on the webinar. Can you tell me a little more about your business?"

When I start my direct outreach with these three conversations, I've found that people are happy to talk with me. In the qualification conversation, you might ask a few basic questions to see if they would be a good client for you. Questions such as:

Can you tell me a little about how your business works?

What's the challenge you're facing right now?

What kind of outcomes do you want to see?

Are you open to talking about some ways I might help you?

This qualification conversation might last from five to ten minutes by phone. And then you want to suggest a more in-depth meeting:

"Janet, from what you've told me, there's a good chance I could help you. What I usually do at this point is set up a more in-depth complimentary meeting – about an hour or so – to learn more about your situation, goals and challenge and then explain how I can help you. Shall we set up a time to meet?"

I can't recall a time that someone was not willing to take this next step if I followed this process closely. 

One thing I *always* make sure to do is send some detailed information on my services *before* I have this next meeting. I want them to know that I understand them, the kind of results they can expect and the details of how I work with my clients.

A few things to take note of in this first outreach conversation: 

1. Script out the three different conversations to fit your situation. See how simple they are. You don't need to make this complicated. 

2. Practice these conversations out loud until you can make them natural. This is key. If you were going to be in a play, you'd memorize your lines and practice wouldn't you? How is this any different? It's not! 

3. Sometimes you may send an email before you call. In that case, use conversations one and two just as I've written them above and then close with something like:

"If this interests you, I'd love to chat for a few minutes and learn more about your current situation, goals and challenges. I'll give you a call, or just let me know if you'd like to speak."

I'm going to continue this next week with the Part II Conversation: Exploration - Possibility - Clarity - Commitment - Fees & Action

Cheers, Robert

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Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, and individual coaching and consulting through his Marketing Action Coaching. If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the Marketing Plan Workbook and join the Marketing Club Forum for free.