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Recently, I was asked by some agency friends what advice I could give them about pitching for new clients. As every in-house marketer is bombarded with sales calls from SEO specialists, content marketers and website developers (to mention a few), it’s clear that there are huge numbers of service providers competing for new business. The way to stand out from the rest is, in fact, quite like dating. It’s no surprise given that in a very short space of time you’re out to make the very best possible impression and lock in a second date, so to speak. 

1. Showing Interest and Making the Approach

Whether you’re introducing yourself in person, via email or through LinkedIn, the initial communication is paramount to eliciting a positive response. Avoid the mistake many salespeople make when they offer an opportunity to “show you a demo of our latest product”. Nobody wants a one-sided date. Demonstrate your enthusiasm to learn about the other party just as much as you’d like to show them what you’re capable of.

2. Look the Part and Be On Time

Naturally, you will research your prospect and their business before your meeting so you’ve prepared the right content to discuss. During this process, you’ll also be able to get an insight into their specific role, level of seniority and the culture of the business. Dress appropriate as to not intimidate your prospect. If they’re from a small, relaxed company, tone down the corporate attire to smart casual. And be on time!

3. Being Clear On Your Intentions

In this world, tainted by Tinder, it’s often hard to know if the other party is looking to sign you up for a short-term contract, or whether they will put you on retainer. Be clear about the level of involvement you’re hoping to achieve. Do you specialise in project work? Are you best suited for long-term partnerships? Let your prospect know, so they don’t feel pressured or cornered.

4. Set a Time Limit and Don’t Just Talk About Yourself

For the same reason that many first dates are cautiously held at bars over a few drinks, it’s a good idea to set a time frame for your first meeting to ensure your prospect feels relaxed and doesn’t have to set up the ‘fake call’. Accordingly, despite the fact that you’ve probably Googled the hell out of your potential client, you still won’t know what they’re truly about. To get around this, ask them questions between telling them about what you do. 

5. Sealing the Deal - the Leave Behind and Follow Through

The sign of a successful first date is getting a second one locked in. Hopefully by the end of your meeting you’ve given away just enough to gain interest and trust. You’ve been interesting, entertaining and informative, and now your prospect would like to find out a little more. Instead of leaving them with a 30-page presentation about your mission, vision and capabilities, you could invite them to join you at an upcoming industry event. Show that you’re not trying to make a quick sale, but are truly invested in being the best in the field, and the best to work with. Sometimes, no matter how well suited you are to each other on paper, after the first date it may be clear that the chemistry just isn’t there. Having the grace to act with dignity when you both know that it’s just not going to work out is key in enabling referral opportunities. If you can’t have them for yourself, at the very least, arm them with the knowledge to pass your details on.

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