Get the answers both you and your prospect need.

Get the answers both you and your prospect need.

Time is money.

I’m not sure who originally said that, but it’s true. We all have only 24 hours to use in a day and 8 hours of that should go toward rest.

So that leaves you with 16 hours each day to live, build relationships, develop yourself and make a living. When you realize you have a very limited amount of time each day, it will put into perspective the amount of time that gets wasted—whether it’s spending too much time on social media or performing a task that would cost less to outsource.

Recently, I was talking with another copywriter about calls that waste our time. Both of us are used to having a prospect contact us to learn more about what we do. But there are those who either try to squeeze out a consultation or spend an inordinate amount of time trying to vet us while taking forever to get to the point.

I remember laughing the first time I heard a manager say to someone, “You just need to give me a quick yes or no. For instance, when I ask for the time, I don’t want to know how to build the watch.”

I’ve since learned that people process and communicate information differently. There are those who are “just the facts, ma’am” types. Then there are those who don’t really know quite what they want but they’ll talk and talk until they figure it out.

However, realize you don’t have that much time to cater to those who aren’t organized with their thoughts. Those are the times you’ll have to be firm with your time limits. Otherwise, a prospect who isn’t sure what they want will often be happy to keep you on the phone for an hour.

Remember: you are in control of your time. Only you can steer the prospect toward a productive phone call. If he or she ends up wasting your time, it’s often because you didn’t control the conversation.

You may be called “blunt,” but think about it. Would you rather have someone waste your time or get the reputation for being a person who gets down to business right away?

Here are some tips to help:

#1 – Immediately alert the prospect of your time limitation

As soon as you take a call with a prospect, immediately let them know that you only have X number of minutes to devote to the call. You do not need to apologize for this or explain it.

You simply say, “Hi, I’m glad we have the opportunity to talk. I have 15 minutes I can give you so let’s dive in.”

The moment you explain how much time you’re willing to give to the prospect (15 or 30 minutes, or whatever you’ve decided to give), it tells the prospect a few things, all of which are good.

  • You value your time
  • You value their time
  • You know how to set boundaries

If you’re a freelancer, this is especially a good way to start a client relationship because they’ll know you’re focused on productivity. This bodes very well for hitting project milestones and deadlines.

#2 – Ask the prospect questions

The first question should be, “Why did you reach out to me?” Or something along those lines. If this is the first contact with the prospect, you want to know what it is they need. That will also let you know if you can help them or not.

For instance, if I talk to a prospect and their need is to have someone write social media updates for them, I can immediately cut the call short because that’s not what I do. I can refer them to a public relations agency or suggest another alternative.

If the first contact has already occurred through email or another type of introduction, then you need to dig deeper with your questions, such as:

  • Why are you seeking this type of solution now?
  • Who has provided this solution before and why are you seeking a different vendor?
  • What is the time-frame for this solution?
  • When do you want it to be completed?

Asking such questions will give you a good feel for the prospect and her situation. Beware of any prospect who does not have a semi-firm date on when they want delivery. If they don’t have defined dates, then it’s not an urgent need.

Without a sense of urgency, projects usually have no need to be completed in a timely fashion. The prospect is satisfied to just coast along, feeling as though she’s accomplishing something just by working on the project in tiny increments. This ends up eating away at your time because you’ll always be trying to speed up the project so you can move on to your next task.

It also may be a good idea to write down these questions so you can tick them off quickly during the call.

#3 – Wrap up the call

During the Q&A, you’ll get a good idea of whether you can help the prospect, if they’re ready for your solution, and if they’re a serious prospect or just a “tire kicker.”

You’ll know if it’s a good fit. If during this time you receive any “red flags” about the prospect, pay attention. For instance, if the prospect talks incessantly, never answers your questions, and comes across as pushy or demanding—then that’s the type of client they’ll be. Pushy and demanding.

Of course you have the freedom to take on such a client. But realize you’ll likely be working with someone who will demand a lot of your time, often taking it away from other business efforts, client work and at times, your personal life.

If everything went well and you’re interested in helping this prospect, the next question should be along the lines of, “What is the next step?” You need to end the call because the important information has been discussed and now it’s time to figure out what to do next.

It could be that the prospect needs a proposal or quote within the next few days. Or the prospect could need more information such as marketing collateral, samples, or even a conversation with someone else in their organization before moving ahead.

You’ll discover what that next step should be at this point of the conversation. After knowing what it is, it’s time to say goodbye.

The key to having these type of productive phone calls is to keep it on track with the questions. When the conversation starts to shift to something that isn’t crucial, gently but firmly lead the prospect back to what’s important. When you take the reins of the conversation in your hand, you’ll feel much better about prospect calls and avoid the “time wasters.”

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