The Plumber Who Taught Me Prospecting

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Since starting this series on prospecting, I’ve received a lot of questions from readers, and also some great tips.

Thank you!

As I said in my last Marketing Memo, prospecting is simply the process of introducing yourself to people who have a likelihood – and that’s key – of being interested in your services. There are many ways you can do that. You can make a call, send an email, use social media, get introduced somehow, meet at a networking event, etc.

One email I received yesterday asked, “I’m using email as my main prospecting method. How many emails should I send each week?”

I understand why she asked that. But her question concerned me a little. It implied that, when you get right down to it, prospecting is really just a numbers game. If you make enough calls, send enough emails, or reel off your elevator speech to enough people at a conference – you’ll eventually land some clients.

But that’s not what prospecting is really about.

So what is prospecting really about?

Well, the best way to answer that is to tell you a story – a short fable, actually – that I often use in my articles and workshops. It goes like this…

A plumber knocks on your door one evening asking if you need any plumbing work done. It’s obvious that he’s canvassing the neighborhood trying to drum up some business. You politely say, “Sorry, I don’t need a plumber.” So he hands you his flyer and goes on his way.

A flyer you barely look at and eventually toss into the kitchen recycling bin.

A few weeks later, another plumber knocks at your door. But he takes a completely different approach. Instead of pitching his services within five seconds of saying hello, he instead offers you a free booklet: “5 Ways to Lower Your Hot Water Heating Bill… Without Turning Down The Heat!” You say, “Yes, thank you!” and take the booklet. You can hardly wait to read it.

Then, a couple of weeks later, you receive a thank you card from that plumber, with a note offering to answer any questions you might have about the booklet and hot water heating. Wasn’t that nice of him?

Then, a couple of weeks after that, you receive a friendly letter from that plumber, with a 20% discount coupon for “Emergency After Hours Service”, should you ever need it. Also included is a fridge magnet with his 24-hour emergency number. That magnet goes on your fridge door, right next to the Thank You card!

See what’s happening in that story? That plumber is positioning himself as a helpful, friendly expert. Someone you’re getting to know. Someone you’re getting to like. Someone you’re probably going to call when you have a need.

That’s prospecting.

And it’s not about numbers. It’s about relationships. You’re initiating and building relationships with people today, who may be able to do business with you someday. That “someday” may be this week, next month, or later in the year. It doesn’t matter. The more relationships you build with prospects, the more clients you’ll attract. It’s that simple.

So when prospecting, don’t count calls or emails. Instead, ask yourself, “How many relationships with potential clients have I initiated this week?”

That’s the real measure of prospecting success.

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