Ride the Roller Coaster

The word “prospect” on dictionary.com generates the following definition: An apparent probability of advancement, success, profit. The outlook for the future, good business prospects. A potential or likely client.

Today I have eight identifiable prospects in my business: they run the gamut from Larry’s master bath tile rip-out and reinstall; Steve’s driveway curb/paving rip-out and reinstall; Alex’s interior/exterior remodel; completion of Robin’s spec home (she wants to fire her current builder); Ed’s $300,000 tear-down and custom build on his lot; Ira’s find a home site design/build $800,000 custom; Mark’s bid on custom plans; a competitive bid against three other builders for a 7,000-sq.-ft. $1.2 million job; and John’s $3 million custom redesign of an 8,400-sq.-ft. home on which he spent $100,000 with another architect who designs and builds. John wants us to propose a new 6,000-sq.-ft. $2 million job.

This is a current snapshot of my prospect roller coaster. All told, these prospects represent my hopes for $4.8 million in sales in the first quarter of 2009. This could be a great quarter or it could result in no sales at all. The ride with each prospect is full of ups and downs, surprise curves and mysterious disappearances.

Emotionally, the roller coaster ride can be exhausting. Your hopes rise and fall — sometimes crash and burn. Sometimes you think you are so close to the end of the ride and suddenly a new twist or a dead end appears.

Sometimes you think the prospect is gone forever and the phone rings and they say, “Remember me?”

The key is to enjoy the ride while keeping the communication between you and your prospects timely, informative and comfortable so their final decision to become your client is an easy one for them to make.

Each prospect process begins with the initial contact. In my business, I often get an e-mail inquiry from a visitor to my website. When a prospect e-mails an inquiry, he expects a return call within minutes. So respond immediately.

The first phone call is a critical event. Be prepared to multitask. Do not make the call from your car unless you pull over with a pen and pad in hand; I suggest you be seated in quiet, at a desk. Your objectives include: gathering key information about the prospect’s status; Does he have a plan that is ready to go? Does he own land? What is his approximate budget? Does he have financing in place? What is his family situation and his significant other’s name? Does he have children? How old are they? Does he already accept your professionalism or does he need to be sold?

Ask if they have spent time on your website and if the answer is yes, you should feel confident they are comfortable with your credibility. Do not use this call for selling — this is an information exchange. Your prime objective is to determine if you want to meet face to face. If yes, make a determination as to where the most appropriate meeting place is. Is it your office, or a new home or remodel you have under construction? Or do you want to meet at their building site or home? If they want to discuss remodeling, it is safe to assume they want you to see their home so it is best to suggest meeting there.

The number of twists and turns that a prospect roller coaster ride can take is almost infinite. I have learned to expect that I will give my best effort to each prospect and ultimately accept that the final decision on whether a prospect becomes a client is not entirely in my control.