By Nick Augustine, Social Media Strategist
I saw an article in the entrepreneur a few days on asking for business when a Facebook or Twitter friend or follower asks you questions and for advice or tips.[i]
The author suggests responding no more than three times before you ask for the business and schedule an appointment or sale. This makes sense. Setting boundaries is appropriate.
I learned very early in my career to limit phone consultations to 15 minutes. The initial consultation or exchange should be used to determine whether the client has an issue the professional can address. If I make an appointment I will advise on strategy and either the client will pay for consulting time or they will sign on as a client.
Chatting on Facebook and Twitter offers a quick opportunity for you to share a link to an article or resource that adds value and quickly answers your questions and can help move closer to a client engagement situation.
Young business professionals are often targeted by people only looking for free advice, who ask for detailed proposals, and then take those concepts and try to run with them on their own. Here are some tips on asking for the business after you exhaust the 3 free exchanges (or 15 minute call).
When you ask for business:
- Send an e-mail identifying (1) the prospect’s issue, and (2) your solution, and (3) remind them of the amount and length of your back and forth and note that it would be “appropriate” for them to hire you if they are interested in engaging your services.
- In your e-mail, tell the prospect you will call in two days, at a specific time, to follow up, if they don’t first reply to your e-mail with direction. Make the call specifically as scheduled and if your prospect is not available, leave a voicemail and leave the ball in their court (maybe a one-week follow up call is appropriate, depending on the transaction).
- Give people the benefit of the doubt – some people are awkward or unsure about hiring professionals. They might be also be waiting on money they expect to use paying you. Keep it professional and be available and don’t close the door – so often prospects go silent for some time then call one day to hire for the services they need.
If a potential client makes you jump through too many hoops to earn the engagement, you might want to take a pass on the work – it is likely the same individual will become a problem client and turn on you the second you don’t meet their expectations, reasonable or not.
Do engage people online, and remember that there is a live person at the other end of your social media exchange; our social networks are full of potential referrals if you ask.