Getting through to potential customers has never been an easy business. In the "old" days, the obstacles were human, in the form of receptionists, personal secretaries and assistants. Now in addition to the company hierarchy, a smart salesperson also has to contend with the barricades that today’s communication technology can entail. Getting the names of decision-makers, never mind actually reaching them, can be a tough task If voicemail and voice mail boxes that are permanently full; unanswered emails, and automated phone answering services are styming your sales persons, read on. Reaching qualified sales prospects can be done-but it requires an approach with more pizzazz and more planning than traditional cold calling. Here are some approaches worth considering:
- Make sure you know whom your best targets are. Who is mostly likely to need your products and services and where do these qualified sales targets gather? In what industry sector(s) do they operate or in what geographical regions do you market goods or services? For example: if you sell retail display equipment and many of your ideal target prospects are opticians, find out what eye care professional and/or trade associations are important to most opticians, read the eye care trade publications and determine which trade shows are well attended. If your sales efforts are local/regional find out what activities are conducted regionally by professional associations that attract opticians.
- Foster the personal touch. In our high-tech, high-speed world, handwritten make significant impact. When you see personnel news, promotions, achievements etc. in trade publications or local newspapers drop a personal hand-written note of congratulations to the contact at the target company. Follow-up with an invitation to lunch.
- Trade shows (see #1) provide great opportunities to meet and connect with prospective customers. However, successful efforts require significant advance planning. Don’t just show up at booth exhibits-the key people are usually much to busy with their own customers to give you much time-- but plan well ahead and look for opportunities to create visibility for your company’s products.
- Taking a small exhibit area on the show perimeter and conducting a daily raffle or prize drawing can encourage prospects.
- Participating in official show events-on expert panels or discussion groups.
- Hosting a seminar over breakfast or lunch for managers at target companies. Request reservations and build a solid prospect database.
- Explore what your local/regional Chamber of Commerce offers in the way of programs and seminars. See which, if any, attract businesses that represent good prospects for you. Consider active participation in scheduled program activities, if the group’s membership comprises sufficient sales prospects to justify the expenditure. Alternatively, propose a seminar or sponsor a lunch for the business group.
- Network, network, network. Don’t be shy about asking friends, business contacts, neighbors and family members for help. Ask your friends if they know the person you wish to meet at a specific company, and if they would be willing to introduce you or help you make contact.
Finally remember, once you are in front of a "live" prospective customer, you must be able to clearly and concisely explain the benefits of your product and service that will capture the prospect’s attention. Wherever possible give tangible examples of benefits that mean something to your prospect-e.g. boosted client’s sales 25 percent or increased profit margins by 10 percent, etc.
Successful selling like most other things needs thorough homework, advance planning and decisive action. Here’s to your success!