Do you ever avoid talking about giving with new prospects because you’re afraid you’ll scare them away?
Ever feel like you’re making a lot of friends but not raising any money?
Maybe you’re wondering if all those “getting to know you” meetings will ever lead to anything.
What if you could build great relationships with your prospects AND have real, purposeful, non-awkward conversations about giving?
It is possible! That’s what this series has been about – qualification visits that actually accomplish something.
We’ve already covered the psychology of qualification visits, as well as how to prepare. This post will focus on what to say
And so will next week’s post.
I have tons of specific details and language suggestions to share, but I know you’re not in the mood to read 2000 words right now. We’ll cover first impressions, rapport building, and probing questions today and get to the rest next week.
Before We Get Started
Now, just a word on listening, since it’s talked about a lot in the fundraising blogosphere: “Listen your way to a major gift!”, or “For major gifts – listen, don’t ask.”
I won’t deny listening is important. And, ultimately, we know what the listening advocates mean: don’t just talk at prospects; don’t make it all about you. These are helpful reminders.
But be wary of over-simplification. If your takeaway is only, “listen more, talk less,” you might be missing the point.
Listening is indeed part of being a good conversationalist. But I’d argue that to have meaningful qualification visits, you also have to know what to say and when to say it.
You need to be able to ask good questions, strategic questions. And you have to build rapport to put people at ease and help them open up.
OK. Let’s get into it.
I talked about the importance of first impressions in the previous post on preparation. Getting off to a good start sets the tone for the entire conversation.
My recommendation is to script your opening. Make it simple; make it natural. Here’s an example.
You: Hi [Name], it’s so nice to finally meet you!
Prospect: Nice to meet you, thanks for inviting me.
You: You get here OK?
Prospect: Yeah, it was no problem at all.
You: Good. Have you been to [restaurant name] before?
You: Well, we’re in for a treat.
Pretty basic, right? That’s the goal!
You want to make your prospect as comfortable as possible. A simple, easy back-and-forth is just what you need.
With an opening like this, you’ve also set the tone. You’re taking early ownership of the conversation by asking questions.
Now, you don’t have to talk about the restaurant, but I find it helpful. When meeting a new prospect, it’s the only shared experience you have up to this point!
Energy is also key at the outset.
You’ve met people whose energy and enthusiasm are infectious. As soon as they greet you, you perk up. You feel more alive.
We associate this energized feeling with having fun, doing something important, etc. Everyone likes their energized self.
So, how do you infuse a conversation with energy?
I’m going to borrow from author/speaker Nicholas Boothman again, who offers a helpful visual for giving someone a jolt of energy. This will likely be the cheesiest things you read today, but I want you to try it.
Boothman’s advice is to imagine all the energy stored in your body and gather it up in your heart. When you greet someone, do the following all at once: smile, look them in the eye, say “Hello,” give a firm handshake, and fire that energy from your heart to theirs.
Practice this before trying it with a prospect. I’ve found it effective in getting a conversation off to a good start!
Good conversationalists seem to be able to build rapport with just about anyone. They relate with ease and go deep quickly. Believe it or not, there’s a process to this. I covered it pretty extensively in this post.
I’m a big fan of Dr. Carol Flemming’s “Anchor, Reveal, Engage” (A.R.E.) method.
Essentially you’re “anchoring” with shared experience and building from there. The script above starts with the shared experience of being in the same restaurant together.
The next thing you’d want to do is “reveal” something personal and then “engage” your prospect by asking her to do the same.
So, continuing with the conversation above:
You: I appreciate a restaurant that knows how to cook steak, but isn’t too pretentious. What are some of your favorite spots in town?
Prospect: Oh, I don’t know. We go to [other local restaurant] fairly often.
You: Oh, I’ve been meaning to try it. What do you like about it?
Again, it’s simple. But that’s all you need at this point.
Continue with this pattern, ask open-ended questions (who, what, when, where, why, how), and before you know it, you’ll settle into a nice groove.
Relating is also important. To the extent possible, you want your prospect to think “this person is just like me.”
As you were preparing for the visit, you did some poking around online to learn a little about your prospect. You’ve probably picked up at least a few things. For example, does he have a family? Does he travel? Sports fan? Foodie? Entrepreneur?
Hopefully you can relate to at least one of the things you discovered about your prospect. Take the conversation in that direction. If you and your prospect both have kids, that’s an easy one.
Now, definitely do not say, “Hey, I saw on Facebook that you have a couple kids.”
Instead, bring up your own kids, your prospect will probably offer something about theirs. If not, you can just ask, “Do have kids?”
If you need to practice, read this!
Knowing the Unknowns
Before the visit, you made your list of what you know and don’t know when it comes to your prospect’s gift capacity and inclination. Use it to guide some of the questions you ask during your visit.
Here’s a list of questions that will help you probe for both:
- Get away for any vacations this past summer?
- Oh, you have kids! How old?
- Sounds like business is good. How many employees are you up to now?
- How can we raise the support we need for this project?
- Do you know anyone who can help?
Inclination / Affinity
- How are you feeling about the direction our organization is headed?
- What do you think of our plan for addressing the problem?
- Are you involved with any charities here in town?
- Have you heard of our signature event, the _______, which supports _______?
- What keeps you busy when you’re not at work?
Until Next Time
We’re just getting started! Leave a comment to let me know what you think so far. Have any “go to” questions you use to probe for capacity or inclination?
The second half of this post will go up next week. It will cover transitioning the conversation, whether to ask or not, next steps, and parting impressions.
Yes! Your timing couldn’t have been better. I’m 20 minutes away from walking out of the door for a first-time donor meeting. The Knowing the Unknown points just offered some great reminders. Many thanks. 🙂
Thom Feild says
Hi K., liking this post so far. Looking forward to the 2nd part. What occurs to me is it would be great to have lines/script to “frame” the meeting if an ask isn’t going to be on the program. Wondering if it’s along the lines of, “I’m really glad you were open to meeting with me. I was just hoping to reach out, meet you, and see if you have thoughts on XYZ University heading into the next campaign. Or if there are others you think I should try to meet.” Or NOT that — but your ideas from experience! Thanks.
K. Michael says
Thom, great point. Being prepared to “frame” the meeting is wise. I didn’t cover it in this post, but it’s a good tool for getting a conversation back on track if the prospect is super chatty or unfocused. I’ve also used it for “down-to-business” types who don’t seem interested in small talk. Either way, it’s a great way to transition from opening small talk to the more meaty part of the conversation: “Well, thanks again for taking time out of your day to meet with me. I look forward to hearing a little more about X, updating you on Y, and highlighting some ideas for how we might work together. “
Monica T. Maye says
Outstanding series! Thanks for sharing!
You say to make an ask in that first meeting (if it’s right and flow chart approved!) How do you determine what that ask should be?