The Subway Strategy (Issue 567)

In which we are reminded that the best way to attract prospects is to demonstrate our capabilities to them.

I couldn’t make out his voice as I tippy-tapped down the stairs into the musty subway station, but the haunting,  trebley-vibrato of his electric guitar pierced the incoming train rumble. I recognized it immediately –  Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” – “No, I…. don’t want to  fall in love….No, I….. don’t want to fall in love…”

His small amplifier behind him, and microphone and guitar case in front, open for donations, he worked his way up and down the guitar’s neck as I stood to one side, listening and admiring.

“I put a guitar solo in there to make up for my lousy voice,” he croaked, smiling over the train rumble and his music.

“It’s a great solo,” I said, smiling.  I put some money in his case and listened more, watching others pass by, staring away or dropping bills or coins into the guitar case.

He worked through another beautiful riff and I approached to drop more money into his case.

“Do you have a card?”  I shouted over the noise of an outgoing train.

At first he didn’t hear me, so I pantomimed my request.

He stopped short and said, “No, but I can write my number down for you.”  He pulled a pad from his backpack and started writing.

“Where are you from?”  he asked.

“Concord,” I replied. “20 minutes from here.”

“What do you do?” he asked.

“Consultant,” I replied.

“Consultant, huh?”  he said,  writing.  He smiled and handed me the paper on which he’d written his name, Jonathan, and phone number. “I give lessons and play parties,” he said.

Jonathan was masterful.  He attracted me with his music – I stopped to listen, passing the first qualifying screen. He engaged me with his croaking quip about his lousy voice – I smiled and engaged – second screen.  I demonstrated desirable behavior – I put money in his case, the third screen. When I approached, he qualified me with two questions, the answers to which could tell him something about my economic means.   And, as we finished, he delivered a seven-word positioning statement to see how I responded.

I turned to go, nearly bumping into a large man who’d stepped up behind me.  And as I turned, the large man addressed Jonathan, “I’ve been listening to you and I’d like to take some lessons.”

As consultants and sales representatives, we share a common challenge with Jonathan – attracting prospects and clients by demonstrating what we do – and we use a comparable strategy – speaking at local, regional, or national conferences and meetings, our version of playing for change in the subway.

Like Jonathan, when we speak, interested people from the audience line up to meet us, exchange cards, tell us about their problems, and become PROSPECTS!   Just as I did for Jonathan.

If we don’t have a “subway strategy,” we must find other ways to show up in front of prospective clients or referral sources, demonstrating our expertise, our values, and our work ethic.  Writing articles, if we can write, is a close second best to speaking. Volunteering in civic or other organizations is a good way, particularly if the members or clients of the organization are either prospective referral sources or prospective clients.  (Leadership positions in such organizations are important, if we can reach them, because the leadership position puts us side by side with other community leaders (referral sources or prospects) and because the position gives us the ability to demonstrate our strengths to them.

The key is consistency, showing up repeatedly, demonstrating our capabilities so that (again, like Jonathan), at the one time that someone needs our help or knows someone who needs our help, they think of us, confident in our abilities because of their experiences with us.

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