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The Joys of Small Business Rainmaking…

…Or How I’m trying to turn a frustrating sales call into a readable & useful blog post…

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Sometimes rainmaking isn’t smooth…

3 Weeks ago…
“I’ve got a great referral for you.  They need tons of help in marketing, they think success is 1 new client from their website in the past year, they’re a local law firm, they want to meet with you…”

– my pulse quickens – this is great!  Exactly the kind of lead I want, exactly the way I want it (referred in), exactly the kind of company I enjoy helping (and it works!) – All is fantastic!

2 weeks ago (via text)…
“Can u b @ their office @ date & time?  I’m @ their office & will make appt 4 u”

– pulse quickens again – woo hoo!  right up my alley!
– text back, “heck yeah.” (I’m professional like that)

Today…(Meeting day!)
Wear a sport coat.  Everything is printed out and prepared, I’ve done the research and I’ve pre-sold my qualifications with great reports on some of the gaps in their online marketing efforts, I’ve done all I need to do, this should be less a “sale” and more a “here’s where we’ll start tomorrow…”

Get to the office 5 minutes before the appointed time (of course, I’ve been in the parking lot for 10 minutes prior to that but let’s not look TOO eager).

Walk in – no one up front at reception.

Couple of minutes go by.

Receptionist comes up – “Hi, how can I help you?”

“I’ve got a meeting with Jennifer at 1:00″

“About what?”

“Your marketing challenges.  John Smith made the appointment for me a couple of weeks ago with Jennifer.”

5 (feels like 500) seconds of skeptical silence ensues.

“I’ll go see.”

2 minutes later…

“She doesn’t have you on her calendar.  What do you do again?”

“I’m a small business marketing consultant.  I work with businesses like yours to iron out marketing challenges, typically starting with online marketing frustrations….” I’m beginning to prattle on…

“Well, Michelle handles our marketing.  I’ll see if she’ll talk to you.”

THAT’s not a good sign…Warning! Red Flag! Bail Out!!!!

Or just sit there for another 15 minutes waiting on Michelle, who never came up, and then finally take the material you brought, scribble what you hope will be interpreted as a cheery note on the front page, hand all the material to the receptionist with a quickly improvised “I know I surprised y’all, it’s no problem, just please give this info to Michelle and ask her to reach out to me if she’d like to talk.”

Got out to the car, called the referrer and regaled her with what happened, heard her apologize and just chalked it up to the joys of rainmaking.

But there are some lessons here…

  1. There is always room to qualify better.  There were red lights prior to today – lack of email response to pre-sales education material, not having actually spoken to the prospect before showing up at their office.
  2. Referral marketing is rarely easy but it’s usually very profitable.  I really appreciate the referral even if it didn’t go wonderfully, sometimes (many times?) that happens.  Look for ways to make it even easier to refer you.  Duct Tape Marketing has a great “perfect intro in reverse” method for referral marketing I can make better use of.
  3. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.  When a lead that you thought was going to be great wasn’t, it’s just another opportunity to practice your value proposition (and work on handling gatekeepers better).

I don’t think I’m the only business owner this has happened to, especially in the professional services realm where not only do we heavily rely on referrals for new business but also where things legitimately flare up demanding immediate attention to the exclusion of other meetings and where honest mistakes happen and something doesn’t make it onto a calendar.

No biggie.  But in the short-term it’s frustrating.

There’s a potentially happy ending here…

Once I got back to the office and checked email, I had an email from Michelle apologizing for not meeting with me…I responded that it was clear I surprised them by showing up and it was no problem, enjoy the material (free research for them!) I left behind (particularly a couple of gaps I noticed in their online presence) and I’m happy to reschedule anytime.  So, hopefully not all is lost.

Plus I got a blog post out of it.