What do salespeople need to do in today’s tough business environment to catch the attention of decision makers?
I recently uncovered some compelling data in a series of conversations I had with decision makers representing several industries, including: insurance services, publishing, hospitality, communications, manufacturing, hardware supplies, a post-secondary institution, and pharmaceuticals. I asked them the best ways to reach them and what it would take in order to actually meet with a salesperson.
The research revealed that the top three issues governing whether or not to meet are:
1) The salesperson’s knowledge of the prospect’s business and industry
2) The salesperson’s knowledge of his own business and industry
3) The salesperson’s ability to demonstrate how her product or service will increase revenue or decrease the costs of the leader’s organization
10 Sales Tactics
1. Knowledge of Prospect’s Business or Industry
Respondents expect salespeople to “do their research,” “know my business beyond our website,” and “understand me and my role and how your offering can help me.” A recurring theme that emerged from these discussions was that most of the time salespeople are not prepared when they meet customers. Most have a tendency to “wing it” leaving these decision makers frustrated and feeling as though they had wasted their valuable time. It’s all about adding value for your customer – and knowing what value is to each company and individual you call on.
2. Knowledge of The Salesperson’s Business and Industry
What trends are happening in the salesperson’s industry that the customer can capitalize on? How can the salesperson’s product or service add value to the prospect’s company and “give them a competitive edge”?
3. Demonstrate Benefit (Increased Revenue, Decreased Costs)
What cost savings or revenue improvement can the salesperson’s product bring? Are there good examples drawn from other customers? Can a salesperson quantify increased revenue and decreased costs with solid numbers?
4. Reach Out on All the Channels
All of our respondents indicated that they expect you to try to contact them many times using different media: phone, email (refer to your company’s policy on the CASL legislation), LinkedIn, Facebook, a Twitter follow, text, messaging, or even a handwritten note in a handwritten envelope so that it stands out.
Recently when I communicated with a prospect by text message to follow up on a proposal, he granted me the business by return text! And don’t just reach out once or twice. If you have no success, don’t give up. Respondents all said that they respect the tenacity of consistent follow up. Research shows that it takes 8-12 touchpoints these days to get a first meeting with a prospect, so persevere, it will pay off. I met with a prospect last week who I began reaching out to ask for a meeting 5 months ago. When we finally met he commented on my diligent follow up! I had truly earned that meeting!
5. Ask for Referrals
Regardless of the method of contact, decision makers will likely grant you a meeting if you use the name of a referral — a mutual friend or business associates who vouches for your work. LinkedIn is a great resource to find out if you and your prospects know any of the same people.
6. Use Voicemail — For the Right Reasons
Don’t hesitate to leave a voicemail (even though all of the respondents in our discussions indicated that they will not return that phone call). Think of voicemail as a periodic touchpoint – say once a week for a couple of weeks and then every few weeks after that, followed by monthly or quarterly, interspersed with other methods of contact.
7. Conduct Compelling Research
Without a referral, our respondents indicated that the only other reason they’d grant a meeting with a salesperson was if the salesperson had provided a very compelling reason. Compelling reasons are based on research prior to first contact. The prospect’s website is a good start, but contains very limited and often “marketing-oriented” information. Salespeople should check a company’s annual report, industry publications, newspapers, and set up a Google Alert or RSS Feed to receive information daily or weekly by email.
8. Be a Source of Valuable Information
One salesperson at a printing company set up a Google Alert to receive information as it pertained to her target market – hospitals. When she received information about imminent legislation that the hospitals would have to abide by, she called them and shared this information over the phone with a possible idea for a way to address the legislation with some of her solutions. As a result she was able to get 7 appointments out of the 10 prospects she called. And none of them knew about the upcoming legislation, so she also became a valuable source of information to them.
9. Make It Relevant and Personal
Make sure the product or service you are selling is pertinent to the company you are targeting. How can your offering make the prospect’s company better, give them a competitive edge, reduce costs or increase revenue? On the phone be brief – explain what’s in it for the prospect and what’s in it for you. One of our respondents remarked, “Make me feel special. And please don’t send a generic email.” If you choose to send an email, customize it. Include the relevant information you’ve uncovered in your research and how it could be of business value.
One respondent clarified, “Know me personally. Show you care about me and what I might be interested in. Understand my role and how what you’re offering will help with a point of pain in my job. And tell me how we can make money with your product or service.”
10. Build Relationships — Don’t Pitch
Finally, respondents also expected salespeople to build a relationship right from the beginning. Don’t pitch — be genuine and caring and most of all be quick about it! Develop a value proposition that is unique in the marketplace, make it specific to the company you are speaking to, and base it on the information you uncover in your research.