“The meeting just dragged on and on. I just couldn’t bring it to a close. Later, I realized that I had been talking with them for almost two hours. I hope they weren’t as bored as I was.”
All of us at one time or another have had a prospect meeting that lasted forever. The development officer quoted above said that he tried several times to end the meeting, but the couple continued to talk.
More importantly, he didn’t want to upset the prospect or terminate the conversation, especially if there might be a forthcoming gift. Clearly, this was a meeting early in the relationship with the donor, more of an exploratory or qualification meeting.
So how does one successfully end an everlasting prospect meeting?
More importantly, how does a development officer know when to end the meeting?
I suggested on the outset, making sure that you know exactly what you want to accomplish in the meeting. There should be a list of definable objectives prepared in advance.
At a minimum one would hope to learn:
- The connection with the college or university,
- The last time the prospect had set foot on campus,
- Basic demographic information such as family, job, interests, hobbies, etc.,
- Giving priorities,
- Affinity for the institution,
- Wealth indicators (job title, vacations, automobiles, boat/plane ownership, residence, property, etc.), and
As one is conversing, simultaneously there should be an evaluative process taking place, that is, deciding if there should be a second or future visit based upon wealth indicators and affinity.
And, if so, how can the development officer use this first visit to tee up the next?
Once the development officer has sufficient information to determine the next steps (if any), it is time to bring the meeting to a close. Forty-five minutes to one hour is ample time for a meeting with a prospect.
To end a prospect meeting, I suggested a simple process.
Begin by thanking the prospect for his time. Close any portfolios or note taking equipment. Pick up items that you brought with you, such as a briefcase or purse. Talk about how you enjoyed meeting the prospect, and how much you are looking forward to the follow-up.
And move steadily toward the door.