[IMGCAP(1)]Last month, I wrote about the need to set the hook quickly when a prospective client takes your bait. In our hyper-competitive world, we don’t have the luxury of responding when convenient for us—we need to immediately drop everything and engage.

Once we’ve confirmed with the big fish that we are interested and are ready to help, we need to know how to manage the fish as we are reeling them in. Reel too fast and you risk pulling the hook out, reel too slow and the tension on the line will weaken and your fish will wiggle off.

The first step is often to build rapport and identify commonalities and connections with the prospect. If your prospect is relatively unknown to you, ask within your network if anyone knows of them or has connections with them. Use Linked In to search for connections in common and do some basic due diligence on their company and industry so you are prepared to talk intelligently about their business.

Next, you need a great discovery meeting.  Sure the client NEEDS an audit, but what do they WANT? Find out what is REALLY driving their decision making process. What do they like or not like about their current provider? What do they want out of a relationship with your firm? What are their biggest challenges and pain points? What are their plans for the coming year? Who is making the decision and what is the process? What will it take to get the work?

Once you have the answers from your discovery meeting, it is time to craft a customized proposal that focuses on your value propositions. Why are you the best provider to serve them? How will you bundle their needs and wants aligned with your services into an irresistible package? Make sure your cover letter and proposal is laser-focused on the prospect, their needs, and how you will solve their problems.

Consider offering multiple choices—for example, a price for the audit in your busy season, and a price if you can do the work in the summer. Finally, forget your firm history and lengthy descriptions of your expertise. You would not have made it to this stage in the game if they didn’t think you were qualified!

If they liked your proposal, and everything was within their decision parameters, you may be invited in for an oral presentation. This meeting is usually to determine if your firm and service team are a good fit for the company/management/ownership.

Don’t bring a copy of your proposal and simply read it during this meeting! Assemble an appropriate group of people from the service team and deliver a captivating and engaging oral version of your proposal – focusing on your value propositions. Don’t use more than half of the total time doing this, because you want plenty of time for Q&A with the prospect. You need to understand what their concerns are with bringing you on board. Address each item as best you can—nothing should really come as a surprise if you’ve done a good job of discovery. Ask for the business before you leave.

Post-presentation, find something to follow up with the prospect about. Show them that you listened, are interested, and are ready to do what it takes to earn their business. But, make sure to respect their timeline (hint: you need to know it to avoid bothering them). When you win the business make sure to find out what factors contributed to your win, and if you lost, why you lost.  In conclusion, reeling in a big fish needn’t be stressful, but there are some techniques you need to embrace to make sure you are keeping the right amount of tension on the line. Good luck fishing!

As the director of practice growth and marketing consulting services at Koltin Consulting Group, Art Kuesel helps firms grow and add millions of dollars of revenue to their top lines. Reach Art at 312-662-6010 or akuesel@koltin.com.