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June 15, 2015 How To

How to educate prospects and clients

We all dread the call that starts out, “How're you doing today?”

You know right away it's a cold call and they really could care less how your day is going. When this happens to me, I'm turned off right from the start. Cold calling rarely works. You've got to know someone and they've got to trust you before they are going to give you their business.

Think of your prospects and clients as people first, not dollar signs. A salesy, pushy person who is always trying to sell something sends people running in the other direction. A person who is willing to engage in thoughtful conversation and freely share his or her expertise will gain the esteem of a prospect, even if that person isn't ready to become a client.

It's about creating relationships, building a reputation and carving out a niche over time. How do people think of you now? Do you they know you for your expertise? Do they look to you as a resource?

Here are five ways you can cultivate new clients — and keep your current clients happy — by showing what you know:

• Pursue speaking engagements that put you in front of your target audience. Craft talking points that provide information and tips your audience will be able to apply to their own organizations.

• Give away good ideas. When I am preparing for a prospecting meeting, I always come up with two to three solid ideas that I know will help further that prospect's business goals. I share them with no strings attached. They can take those ideas and run with them, whether they hire my firm or not.

• View others in your industry as partners, not the competition. There's room enough for everyone. I belong to an Agency Management Network in which the “competition” gathers twice a year from across the country to share best practices and ideas. It is professionally fulfilling, and I have definitely gotten as much industry knowledge from being a part of this group as I have given. We also serve as referral sources for one another, and have partnered on projects. I also belong to the Maine Public Relations Council, which brings together public relations practitioners from across the state to share ideas and help each other.

• Use networking as an opportunity to make yourself shine. When I meet someone, I find out as much as I can about what he or she does and what makes that person tick. Based on the feedback, I might suggest an association that would be worth joining, or offer to make an introduction to someone in my professional circle or even use my marketing expertise to recommend a strategy that could be used to grow his or her business. I always try to leave the prospect with something to remember me. I also try to connect via LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook so I can stay in touch.

• Consider hosting a complimentary seminar. Work through your local chamber to make it happen, or set it up yourself and invite top prospects. Attendees will walk away with knowledge they can use and a taste of what you can do for them. When they need the type of service you provide, they'll remember you.

Sharing some of what you know will make people want to do business with you. They'll trust in your abilities and appreciate you aren't just chasing another sale. As marketing author and blogger Seth Godin says, “Being trusted is the most urgent way of building a business.” You get trusted by putting yourself and your content out there for people to read, share and respond to.

This short list of tips I've provided will help you turn your own industry knowledge into a prospecting tool. It's also another tool I've just used to show what I know.

Nancy Marhsall is the owner of Augusta-based Nancy Marshall Communications, one of Maine's best-known and longest running PR firms. You can reach her at

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