One of the most common traps I see new infopreneurs fall into – and I’ve done this myself, too! – is equating a prospect with an actual, paying client. We meet someone at a networking event or have a phone call with someone we met through social media. The person sounds interested in what we do, accepts our business card, and maybe even says “Yeah, we could have used someone like you that one time.” They may attend a webinar we give or download a white paper we wrote. We end the encounter confident that the person will be calling us shortly with an assignment, but then we never hear from them again.
In my experience, failure to convert interest into engagement is often caused by some combination of the following factors.
Nice vs. necessary
You are talking with someone whose need doesn’t match their ability or interest in spending money addressing it. Maybe you’re providing a service the person thinks is nice to have but not mission-critical, or their organization has prioritized other initiatives. Until you are talking about the prospect’s most pressing problem, you probably don’t have their full attention and you won’t get their business.
“Good enough” is good enough
While interested in what you offer, the person is satisfied enough with the status quo. The cost to change their procedures or processes is too high – in terms of time, energy or personnel. If you aren’t offering the prospect something that is clearly superior to the current situation, you can’t make a sale. This is particularly true when you are offering a service or product already available to your client through internal sources. Consider conducting some reality-check interviews to find out what your prospective clients really need and that would make you irreplaceable.
“You cost HOW MUCH?!?”
You are talking with someone who, for whatever reason, doesn’t have the budget to pay your professional rate. It is tempting to reduce your rate, particularly if you are talking with a prospect with whom you would like to work. Resist that urge; a client who always requires a discounted rate or who complains that you are so much more expensive than so-and-so will never be a happy client. Make sure you are talking about your prospect’s biggest concerns and focus on the high value you provide. In fact, my approach when pricing myself for a public presentation or keynote is to charge a high enough fee that I lose at least a quarter of the invitations because I exceed their budget. (Of course, I make exceptions when I have other, overriding reasons to speak at the conference – many of the participants are my client base, or the conference is located somewhere I have always wanted to visit.) This pricing philosophy, while not for the faint of heart, results in my knowing what my market will bear and pricing myself at the top of that range.
“Pick me! Pick me!”
While you are talking about a service that the person is in immediate need of, your prospect isn’t convinced you are the person to address that need. You may be giving the impression that you are desperate for work, that you don’t fully understand the client’s business, or that you are more concerned with getting paid than with your client’s outcome. If you spend your time talking about your background or expertise instead of asking questions to better understand your client’s needs, you’ve demonstrated to your client that, yes, it’s all about you. Good networkers know that the less you talk and the more questions you ask of the other party, the more the other person leaves the conversation thinking you were a fabulous conversationalist. And, of course, you learn a lot more about your prospect’s needs and priorities when you are listening then when you are talking.
As you evaluate the effectiveness of your various marketing strategies – and yes, you do have tangible metrics and quarterly goals, right? – notice which efforts are not resulting in new revenue, and consider whether you need to change who you’re addressing your messages to and whether your message is addressing what your prospects need, value and will pay for.
[This originally appeared in the AIIP Connections blog of the Association of Independent Information Professionals.]