I had an interesting thing happen a couple of months ago when I was trying to connect a client to a pretty well known boutique PR agency. Now, I always train my employees and clients to pre-qualify everyone. Don’t take a meeting unless they are with the decision maker, make sure they have a budget and aren’t just talkers etc., but this just took it to another level.
I cold called the PR agency, because I didn’t have time to look for introductions, and their front desk lady, I’m assuming, answered with a rather snooty and irritated voice. I told her I would like to talk to someone in sales or one of their publicists, because I have a client ready to sign up with an agency, and she says: “Ok, yeah, someone will call you back in a week or so.”
What??? I told her I have to speak to someone immediately, as they don’t want to wait a week. Again, with a tone that sounded like “I don’t know who you are, so I don’t want to do anything for you,” she told me the same thing.
Now, 2 big errors here. First of all, she didn’t even ask me what kind of budget they had, or when they were looking to start. Nothing, no interest whatsoever. I’m sure she gets lots of calls from people who want free, or low price publicity, but my client happened to have budgeted $25,000 a month for 6 months for publicity. Of course, I didn’t tell her that, I just hung up and laughed. She just lost her company a minimum of $150,000 for being snooty.
Second of all, she gave me no alternatives, no names, no introductions, nothing.
But instead of this being a rant, I would like to teach you a couple of things:
- You never know who’s calling. Train your staff and yourself to sound extremely polite, pleasant and welcoming.
- Pre-qualify. I have trained my staff to almost immediately say something like: “That sounds very interesting, I’m sure we can work something out. May I ask, what kind of budget are we looking at, so I can direct you to the right person to talk to?”
- In the cases where the ones who call in for our services have a budget that is too low for us, I have strategic partnerships in place, and I send the prospects to them instead. They do the same for us, if it’s too big or something they can’t handle, we get the gig. Teamwork. My team member, or I, will say something like, “That’s fantastic. You know, that is a bit below our minimums, but let me recommend you to a fantastic guy/gal named so-and-so, who is absolutely amazing, and would gladly work with you on that budget.
What does that do? It leaves them impressed that we didn’t shoo them away because their budget was too small, and it doesn’t leave a bad taste in their mouth. Now, they can call back when they are at our budget level and know that we’ll be there for them.
It’s a new era, unless you are a super high end, multi-million (or billion) dollar brand, and preferably not even then, don’t ever be snooty to people who are interested in working with you. Ever.