November 18th, 2014

Components of your initial prospect email contact

If you’ve actually taken the time to specialize in your services, then at some point you'll see your inquires dramatically increase.

I get between 5 and 10 a week, which includes prospects emailing me as well as referrals from other developers. These referrals are typically for work that I specialize in, that the other developer doesn't offer.

These new contacts are on top of all the other regular stuff I do in a week like serving my current clients and new requests from existing clients.

For a long time I struggled to stay on top of this huge pile of emails.

Then I took some time to build out my standard prospect sales process.

Today I want to show you the basic flow of my initial email that all prospects get. My hope is that this will help you refine your process as well.

Section 1

I open with a greeting, making sure to address the prospect by name.

In my opening paragraph, I will usually tell the prospect that the project sounds interesting, but that I’m pretty picky about the clients I take on, so I have a few questions which help me figure out if we’re a good fit or if the prospect might be served best by someone else.

Section 2

Then I move straight into the questions.

I've crafted my questions to focus on some specific things.

These are not just random questions, but very specific things I need to know.

By asking these questions, you may learn that though the project is important, the prospect isn't quite ready to get started.

For example, I had one prospect who wanted a bunch of custom stuff for Easy Digital Downloads and the Frontend Submisions extension to power an author marketplace.

What they didn’t tell me in their initial email was that they were still waiting on the EDD install. They also didn’t tell me that they were writing their own book which needed to be finished before they launched the site.

While getting the Frontend Submissions customizations going was important, it wasn’t as important as writing the book.

I realized the sales process was going to take much longer and maybe not even happen if they couldn’t get their book written. So I passed on the project until they had their book written or were actually ready to have the custom work done. It wouldn't be an effective use of my time to walk through the full sales process with a prospect still in ‘random research’ mode.

Another key question is "Who are the decision makers?" It's important that you know whether you're talking to the employee doing research or the boss that's coming to you with an emergent business issue?

If you’re not talking to the decision maker then you need to make sure that you get to talk to them very early in the process. Even if you’re compatible with the employee you may not be with the decision maker which means you’ve just wasted a bunch of sales time.

Section 3

Now that we have our initial prospect questions asked in the email it’s time to start telling the prospect you may not be able work with them. The next 5 lines only include one line that indicates I might be a good fit for a prospect.

The rest of it says we may not have matching time-frames, or matching budgets or maybe someone else is a better fit.

Can you guess why you spend so much time telling the prospect you may not be a good fit?

Outside of the obvious, that you may not be a good fit.

You spend time telling them you may not choose them, to draw them in to the purchasing process more. It’s called loss aversion.

They already feel like they might be losing you (yeah I know they haven’t even really started yet) and nobody likes loosing something they thought they would be getting.

That’s a big email

Does that sound like a lot of typing to do for every new contact?

Of course it does, but to keep my process efficient, I let TextExpander do the typing for me.

The TextExpander snippet has 5 ‘fill in’ areas for the client name and a few project details then I click send and I’m done.

Total initial interaction time is typically less than 60 seconds and the useful content I get back in responses from prospects increased by 5000000%. Or at least a lot.

But what if...

What if the prospect doesn’t answer the questions you sent?

Well that’s a post for tomorrow...

photo credit: huguesndelafleche cc