Every fundraiser I know has left at least one meeting with a prospect and asked themselves, “What just happened in there?”

One of the most common ways we get sidetracked, and leave without accomplishing something meaningful, is when the conversation gets off track and we are unable to bring it back. This is usually accidental – although we’ve all known prospects who seem quite skilled in diverting the topic from philanthropy!

We’ve also seen our leaders and allies get sidetracked in prospect meetings. Our faculty, volunteers, physicians, and others can be hesitant to move from the comfortable warm up to the business at hand, or from business to philanthropy.

When we lack the ability to make progress in our meetings that move a strategy forward, we lose the momentum in our strategies. Transitions give us the ability to create momentum, focus, and ultimately – more successful strategies AND meetings!

These transitions for common conversational road blocks will help you make the most out of your prospect meetings, whether you’re representing your organization alone or staffing a leader through the dialogue:

  • I know you said you only have 20 minutes, and I want to be respectful of your time.
  • It’s wonderful to get to know more about you, and I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our work at our organization.
  • I promised when we spoke on the phone that I wanted to discuss how you can be a part of this, so may I share some ideas?
  • Would you be comfortable if we shifted the conversation to this project we’re seeking community support for?
  • Your feedback on this new initiative is critical to our next steps, would you tell me about…
  • You’re right, it is a big project. Would you be open to learning how you can be a part of it?
  • It sounds like you’re excited about this program – I’d love to share how you can support it.
  • It’s been great to hear about your story as an alum/patient/etc. May I ask about you as a supporter/community leader/etc.?

Transitions are most effective when they match your style and feel natural. As you noticed in the examples, asking permission to transition can be an effective technique if it suits your approach.

Regardless of style, however, the skillful use of transitions can lead to more impactful prospect meetings – and ultimately, more success.

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