New business development is harder than ever for a myriad of reasons. Relationships matter less, procurement has a tighter grip on spending, and prospects are doing research on the Internet and making buying decisions long before they ever speak to a sales representative.
But perhaps the biggest difficulty is that customers today are so busy, and so overwhelmed just trying to get their jobs done, that they don't have time to field calls, sort through their inboxes and entertain yet another knock on the door.
However, for the sales person willing to think in terms of quality versus quantity, there are ways to get those doors open.
Research first. You've undoubtedly received
smile and dial calls. They go something like this:
Hi, Phil, how is your day going? I hope I'm not calling at a bad time. My name is Jim Jones and I'm from Employee Benefits USA. We're an award-winning employee benefits firm that works with companies of all sizes. I'd like to learn about your problems and see how we can help you. Can we schedule an appointment?
Why would that prospect spend his time educating you? Instead, first invest time to study the individual, his organization, his industry and the key problems he struggles with. What are his company's business objectives and challenges in realizing them? Why is your solution worth moving away from the status quo?
If you demonstrate that you've done your homework, you'll instantly gain credibility with the customer. In part, this is because few of your competitors bother. But it's also because you've positioned yourself as both knowledgeable and willing to work hard for their business.
Then, lead with your value proposition. Too many prospecting calls are about the vendor, not the customer. Your strategy should be to quickly get to why it's worth it for the customer to give up his or her precious time to talk with you.
Determine the primary drivers that would cause a customer to use your offering and what benefit they receive from using your solution. Add metrics whenever possible. Our fictitious salesperson Jim's new approach might sound like this:
Phil, Jim Jones calling. My firm helps companies struggling to implement employee benefits programs that attract and retain top talent without depressing gross profits. Utilizing our customizable program, our clients were able to reduce employee turnover in 2013 by an average of 29 percent and for new hires, increase their offer to acceptance ratios by 23 percent. Now we're talking.
Give before you get. Are you a sales person who's just in it for the deal, or are you an advisor who cares deeply about the success of your customer? Do you push commodities or provide solutions? They'll not likely put it that way, but that's what the customer is trying to establish. Ultimately, the sales process is the transference of trust. Begin developing that trust by giving your prospect something of value before expecting something, even a meeting, from them.
Educational content is one of the easiest ways to do this, whether blog posts or whitepapers from your own firm, or articles you've curated. (Relevance is key; a generic article or one on a topic of no interest to the customer can have an effect opposite the intended one.) Perhaps there's a conference you think the individual would want to know about, or maybe you can make an introduction that would be valuable to their career or help with a problem they're trying to solve. You'll distinguish yourself as a person worth knowing.
An added bonus: Research shows that when we receive something we have a psychological need to reciprocate. In the context of prospecting, that reciprocity can easily be an opened door.
No response does not mean
no. It boggles my mind how quickly sellers give up because the customer didn't respond. Absent a direct response or the purchase of a competing product, it's impossible to know whether the answer is
Customers have all kinds of interests competing for their time, and they create their own methods of screening the myriad of solicitations they receive each day. Once, I had a prospect finally answer my call on the seventh try. He shared with me that he never called a salesperson back until the seventh try; it was his way of sorting the persistent from the cherry pickers.
Building a relationship is a multi-step affair. Nurture patiently but proactively. Set up a campaign strategy with regular touch intervals. Mix up the messages and the approaches (calls, emails, snail mail, conferences, LinkedIn).
And don't be afraid to ask in an email if they would like you to stop contacting them. If you've used the tips above, a few will say,
yes—go away! But chances are that more will say,
I've just been so busy, but thank you for persevering. Let's set up a call.
Karen Jackson is founder and president of Jackson Solutions LLC, a metro New York-based sales growth advisory firm. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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