November 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio November 2000 Current Issue
November 2000 Independant LifePLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Independent Life


The hardest part of running your own business is selling your services

By Frank Goldstin

Soon after a planner decides to become an independent, the realization hits: This is a sales-intensive job. And what you are pitching to potential clients are your own skills.

The hardest part is making those initial inroads. Here’s how to get started.

Make yourself known to organizations you would like to have as clients.

Do your homework. Learn about the company you are calling on, what its core business is and, if possible, what types of programs it produces every year.

Have materials ready. You need a marketing kit or brochure that outlines your services and provides background on your company. It helps to have an informative Web site to which you can refer potential clients. Photographs of events you have planned speak volumes.

Send the kits out fast. After identifying someone who seems interested, get your information out while you are still fresh in his mind. Send kits out via messenger or overnight.

Follow up. Your cover letter should include a promise such as, “I will call on Friday.” Then be sure to call. People remember these things.

When following up, be prompt, personable, patient and persistent. Leave concise messages. I called one corporate planner once a month for a full year. The effort finally paid off with a call back and new business.

These important strategies will help when you are sitting down with potential clients.

Come prepared. Have an outline for the meeting, and stick to it. Review with the client what you hope to accomplish, i.e.: to present your capabilities and services, and to learn about the client’s needs and programs.

Share plenty of details. Explain how you work, how you charge for services and what support systems are in place to provide a safety net for your client. This is your opportunity to show how rock-solid your company is.

Listen and ask questions carefully. One key objective is to learn the hot buttons you should emphasize in your pitch. You might also find out where others before you have failed, which can give you an advantage.

Ask for the business. Once the meeting is over, you will know if what you do fits with what the client needs. If it feels right, go for it ask if you can submit a proposal.

Send a thank-you as soon as you get back to the office.

The last part of the selling process is the proposal stage.

Study the request for proposal carefully. Make sure you understand the objectives, criteria and services requested. I liken the RFP process to being arrested: You only get one phone call after you receive it, in this case to the client contact. This is your one chance to ask questions and to confirm when you will be submitting your bid.

Present a complete proposal. The document you create should be detailed, addressing each area of concern and presenting a solid financial summary. Be sure it is free of errors and typos. Send it by overnight mail or by messenger, and follow up a couple of days later to make sure it arrived. (But you already know it arrived, because you tracked it, right?)

Offer references and past project profiles. Have these ready and waiting to send at a moment’s notice.

Once you get the job, send another thank-you note. Then, develop an action plan to service your new client and keep the lines of communication open at all times.

Finally, it’s time to deliver the goods. Remember: The job you do now determines whether you’ll get the client’s future business.

Frank Goldstin is president and CEO of G/M! Productions, a meeting and event production firm in Chicago.

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