A while back I was introduced to a way of engaging clients in an initial phone conversation that absolutely *clicked* for me.
So, I took the core of the approach, adapted it for the way that advice conversations work and shared it with some clients.
But I made a terrible mistake. I called it The Pre-Vet Call.
Nobody likes the word "Pre-Vet".
Now, I'm not talking about the kind of pre-vet that involves your submitting plans for the assessment, I'm talking about the part where you have a telephone call with a client before you first meet with them.
It's still a terrible name.
In retrospect, I should have opened the dictionary first. It would have told me that "vet" means...
....to critically examine the worthiness of something or someone.
Urgggh. Bad. "Pre-vet" is even worse...
... to pre-examine someone to find out whether they're worthy of your examination.
Makes my skin crawl. It feels like the curriculum-naming equivalent of the back tattoo you get in Seminyak for a dare.
So, I changed it. Now I call it the First Contact Call. I think it's one of the best things in the program and something that everyone needs.
Let's go through two scenarios.
- You get a lead. Somebody wants to talk to you about what you do. Woohoo!
- You set up a meeting.
- (Maybe) you send a pre-meeting questionnaire ( but let's be honest, in most cases, what you get back isn't going to be the most comprehensive picture, if you get anything).
- They come in. Maybe they're already sold on what you do, maybe not. They ask questions, you ask questions. Maybe you present your value proposition presentation. All the time, you are sizing each other up.
- You realize you're at different stages. They're window shopping to understand what they need, whether they need it and what it's going to cost them. You're already in client acquisition mode.
The meeting is ultimately doomed because your objectives are different.
You want clients. They wanted something else.
You just cost yourself 60-90 mins of wasted time.
- They reach out. You happily suggest jumping on a call.
- Right from the start, you take charge. Your demeanour is friendly, open but also you're taking the conversation somewhere. You're a professional wanting to understand exactly what the problem is and how you can help, not a sales dude trying to persuade an outcome.
- You get permission to lead with one simple question. You're into it without any assumption this is leading anywhere (which relaxes everything). Quickly, you get clear on why they're calling you today and what they're looking for.
- The problem begins to emerge. You hold back allowing them to talk. They tell you what they want, what they don't have, what they need and what they need from someone like you. They also tell you this is important and a "now" thing.
- The time is right. You simply flip it around, outlining what you've heard, asking for confirmation and suddenly the door opens. They realize you've been listening. They feel heard, feel you understand the problem. They're not just open to the next step, they're motivated for it.
- You end the call 15 minutes later with an agreement to sit down and scope this out properly.
Which sounds better to you?
You see if you get this right, you're not just picking who the clients you want to work with.
You're getting the opportunity to demonstrate value really, really quickly and move forward with total commitment.
I think a first contact call is one of the best things that any business can do...
...but let's stop calling it pre-vet, ok?