How do you turn an initial contact with a prospect into a fully-fledged business relationship? It's the essence of sales – but it's an area where many people really struggle.
Robert Middleton has an excellent analogy for this process which he calls “Marketing Ball”.
By the way, if you're an independent professional (a consultant, coach, therapist, psychologist, etc.) and you want to attract more clients and win more business then head over right now to Robert's Action Plan Marketing site and sign up for the free marketing audio and workbook. I must warn you though – within a week of reading his free material I had been so impressed I bought his “whole shebang” package.
One of the core principles Robert introduces via the analogy is the importance of progressing “one base at a time” in sales. You can't expect to go from initial contact to a sale in one hit. In fact, it may be too much to expect to go from first contact to even a meeting directly. You need to take things one step at a time by adding value and providing information to your potential client to build up the trust needed for them to take the next step.
A case in point: one valuable source of new opportunities for service businesses is new startups. Lacking an incumbent, there's a much better chance than normal for accountants, solicitors and other providers to establish a relationship.
When I started my new business, I had nearly a dozen letters from accountants, web designers and marketers – each keen to talk to me about how they could help me (or perhaps, more accurately, how they could get business from me).
To give them fair credit, they had at least made the effort to scan for new business formations to identify high potential clients for themselves.
However, none of them took it further than that. Other than sending a letter to make me aware of their services – none of them did anything for me that would make me want to do business with them.
If they'd perhaps sent me a short guide to start-up finances, or successful small business websites or other useful information related to their business. Or if they had offered me something of value for free – 30 minutes of their time to share some of their experiences on what works well in their field. Perhaps even mocked up a website for me or made suggestions for my marketing approach. Any of this would have demonstrated both their competence and their client-focus – their desire to be helpful and their willingness to invest in doing so.
But no. Just an advert. Just them telling me how good they were.
All that effort to find me, then they couldn't get past first base.