3 Tips (Plus Script Starters) For Getting Your First Meeting With a Prospect

3 Tips (Plus Script Starters) for Getting Your First Meeting with a Prospect

Knowing how to ask for a first meeting is like knowing how to ask a “friend” for a first date.

Nerve-wracking, uncertain. Taking a deep breath. Asking…

Thankfully, you have more than starry eyes to help build prospect relationships. Donor data and marketing tools across print, social and digital mediums enable us to reach the right people, at the right time and certainly, with more confidence.

Knowing how to ask for a meeting, however, is part art (your intuition based on experience; colleague input), and part science (your data). As you move forward with booking first meetings, incorporate these three tips.

1. Lower their guard.

You’ve got mere seconds to encourage prospects to decide that it’s worth their time to both agree to and sit through the first meeting. Consider the first moment from their perspective. The prospect’s received your call out of the blue. She was probably thinking about a million other things. Acknowledge this point upfront.

SCRIPT STARTER:

“Good morning, Mrs. Smith. This is Ann Bates with AdoptUsKids. I’m so glad I caught you today! Is this a good time to chat?”

Be sure to use your prospect’s name in your greeting for immediate, personal connection. It subliminally lets the other person know that you’re giving all your time to her; hopefully, she’ll do the same in return.

2. Tell them why & what’s in it for them.

Most often, the first meeting won’t be about money or gifts. Instead, it’ll be about listening and bonding. Think of it as an “I”-opening time to impart ideas and inspire.

Open your request to meet by sharing what’s in it for them, so they can immediately see the value in spending 20 minutes of their valuable time with you.

“Scheduling meetings is really a decision game.”

—Luis Vazquez, Mighty Introvert blogger

Consider several approaches for building your case for scheduling a first meeting. You’ll naturally refine your script as you go along, becoming more confident in your delivery. Stick with those methods that feel most comfortable and authentic to your style and goals.

Advice visits are tried-and-true ways to open doors for a first meeting. During this type of visit, you’re looking for input and opinions. It’s not lip service you’re seeking either; make your question about a topic that your nonprofit really wants more information about, so it can serve its people better.

SCRIPT STARTER:

“Good morning, Mrs. Smith. This is Ann Bates with AdoptUsKids. I’m so glad I caught you today! Is this a good time to chat? First and foremost, I want to thank you for your support. Your recent gift (make this personal based on their giving history) ensures (be specific) the 147 foster children we placed in homes last month were welcomed with a care package, (describe the impact) providing them special items to call their own. I’d enjoy an opportunity to meet and learn more about your decision to support adoption (again personalize). Would you be up for a cup of coffee or lunch? We also have a new program we are exploring, and I’d value your feedback.”

TIP: Be transparent. Tell prospects what you’ll do with their feedback, and/or if someone will follow up with them for more information.

3. Wrap up with next steps.

Offer two meeting times and the option to meet where they feel most comfortable. Also, share how long you expect the meeting to take and be clear that you won’t be asking for money.

SCRIPT STARTER:

“Good morning, Mrs. Smith. This is Ann Bates with AdoptUsKids. I’m so glad I caught you today! Is this a good time to chat? First and foremost, I want to thank you for your support. Your recent gift (make this personal based on their giving history) ensures (be specific) the 147 foster children we placed in homes last month were welcomed with a care package, (describe the impact) providing them special items to call their own. I’d enjoy an opportunity to meet and learn more about your decision to support adoption (again personalize). Would you be up for a cup of coffee or lunch? We also have a new program we are exploring, and I’d value your feedback. Would Thursday at noon work for an hour-long lunch meeting—or if you don’t have that much time, perhaps 9 am for a quick coffee?”

“What is this about, anyway?” If the prospect forgets or gets confused about what the meeting is for, Mike Scher, CEO of Frontline Selling, suggests what he calls a rinse and repeat. Slow down, back up to step 1, lower their guard and start again.

In choosing a meeting spot, go to them—wherever they want to meet, whether that’s in their home, a nearby coffee shop or online. It’s your job to adapt. Send a calendar meeting invite or remind them a day before. The invite gets it on their digital calendars. A short, handwritten confirmation note works for those who keep appointments on paper.

KEEP IN MIND: Setting up first meetings can be scary. You don’t have to be perfect, just prepared. And if you’re getting nowhere, remind yourself that it isn’t personal, nor is it a reflection of your talent or expertise. Go back and refine your script; reach out to others and ask for advice. “There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re having a hard time getting through to someone; everyone does. Persevere. Try different channels until you find one that works (phone, email, text, social media, etc.),” says Claire Axelrad

How do you get a first meeting? Any tips for new planned giving officers who are making their first calls? Scroll down and leave us a reply in the comments section.

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