How do you react when a prospect invites you to meet?
Do you welcome the opportunity to talk face to face?
Or do you start calculating how much time it will take?
While getting out of the office and meeting people is a good idea in general, it can be disruptive.
For starters, you have to get yourself ready — the whole shower, shave, makeup, hair routine.
Then, you might need to arrange for childcare and reschedule other standing commitments.
And if the meeting spot is in another part of town, or a different town entirely, then it will eat up even more time.
Before you know it, your whole day is blown!
And after going through all of it, you might find that the prospect isn’t a good fit for your business.
So what should you do?
Getting invited to face-to-face meetings can happen regularly. So it’s a good idea to have a plan in place for handling those requests.
Otherwise, you might accept every invitation that comes along — and end up burning valuable time.
How to Respond to “Let’s Meet for Coffee”
Here’s how I recommend you respond:
1. Thank the prospect
Even if you immediately know you don’t want to meet, you should ALWAYS thank the prospect for the invitation.
It’s kind of insulting to invite someone to coffee, and they respond “No, thanks” without hesitation.
So always warmly thank the prospect for the invite — regardless of whether you’re excited to meet up or not.
2. Ask for a phone call
If you’re not sure whether the prospect would make a good client, ask for a phone call before arranging to meet. Use that call to ask questions about the project, such as scope, budget and timelines.
Let the prospect know that you want to be respectful of their time.
So you might respond with something like this:
“Coffee sounds great! It would be super to meet you in person. However, before we set something up, I want to make sure I’m a good fit for what you’re looking for. You’re a busy person, and I want to be respectful of your time. So let’s start by scheduling a short phone call. This will allow me to ask you a few questions and better understand your needs. If everything looks good after that call, then let’s set up a time to meet.”
By going through this process, you’re qualifying the prospect and increasing the odds that your in-person meeting will be time well spent.
By the way, another benefit of this exploratory phone call is that it helps you build rapport with the prospect. You’ll get to know more about them, and they’ll get to know more about you.
So if you DO end up having a face-to-face meeting, you’ll feel less awkward and the meeting will go more smoothly.
3. If the prospect doesn’t meet your qualification parameters, let them go
If the call reveals that the prospect isn’t a good fit for you, then you can (politely) let them go.
If you have a colleague you can refer them instead, then do so.
“Breaking up” before you meet face to face is easier because neither of you have invested a lot of time into the relationship.
4. If the prospect DOES qualify, set up a meeting
If the phone call reveals that the prospect would make a good client, then put a face-to-face meeting into the calendar.
Keep in mind that if you’re just starting your business, you’ll need to exercise more flexibility in who you work with.
If you’re more established, you can apply your qualification guidelines more strictly.
5. If prospect is put off by this process, they’ll probably be a problem client
If you get resistance from the prospect at any point in this process, (i.e. they don’t want to schedule a call), then that’s a sign of a problem client.
Because if the prospect isn’t willing to bow to this small request, how helpful will they be during a project?
Qualify Prospects Before You Meet
So before you agree to meet up with a prospect, ask some questions first.
As a freelance writer, your most precious non-renewable resource is your time.
So save it for prospects who have a good chance of becoming clients.
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