The Key to Responding to a Prospect Inquiry
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Here’s one of the first questions I ask new coaching clients: “Do you have a standard way to respond to inquiries about your services?”
No one has ever said yes.
The lack of thought and absence of structure given to this issue is shocking. Think of the time, effort and expense that went into generating the inquiry. It will be quickly squandered if your response is inept.
A recent, personal experience illustrated how to effectively reply to a prospect’s initial inquiry.
My recent experience
I’m putting together a proposal for a new book. I reached out to several design firms I found on the Internet. I’m looking for a very unique design that will differentiate the book from others of its genre. In my introductory e-mail, I provided my web page, how I found the designer and gave a brief description of the type of design I had in mind.
Here are excerpts from two responses:
- Thank you for contacting ---. I'm a design consultant here and your book sounds very interesting to me personally – let alone professionally.
In fact the dilemma you face is the same as when our founder produced the book which is our manifesto. Most other books about presenting are – well – a bit dull. --- was determined that a book about visually interesting presentations should be practicing what he preaches. I probably don't need to tell you how much resistance he got from the publishers.
- Thanks for the email – looks like we just missed each other, as I left for lunch. The project sounds fantastic, and I’m really interested in hearing your ideas.
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These were great responses for the reasons discussed below. I am in discussions with both firms.
Here’s what they did right.
Making an emotional connection
Both firms achieved something quite difficult to do in an e-mail: They made an emotional connection.
They expressed enthusiasm for the project. The first response related my inquiry to an experience his founder had when he published a book. He was cleverly able to convey the competence of his firm by relating this experience. Consider how much more effective this approach was than setting forth the background and experience of their design staff.
The second response conveyed a high level of interest in this assignment. I don’t know if it was genuine or not, but it seemed sincere (“The project sounds fantastic.”). He then did something that was textbook perfect: He showed an interest in my ideas (“I’m really interested in hearing your ideas.” He also humanized himself by noting a detail (“as I left for lunch”) that you might expect him to share with someone close to him.
He didn’t indicate how eager he was to discuss his ideas or tout his credentials. He focused on me and my ideas.
I felt he was someone who would really listen to me.