All sales professionals should create and then carry with them a specific — by name — list of those who have been targeted as future business sources and a strategy to win their business.

Focus Precedes Success

Salespeople should develop their target list with the assistance of:

  • Your sales leader
  • Your support staff
  • Receptionists at targets’ offices
  • Industry periodicals
  • Your centers of influence — networking
  • By talking with other clients and attending industry meetings
  • Your own observation

   Consider your business niche when making your list. Identify those for whom you can bring the highest value. What strengths can you emphasize to differentiate your products or services? Who are the best business sources for your company?
   High achievers then ask their current, satisfied clients or centers of influence for referrals to those whom they have targeted.

Step II

   With your target list organized you are ready to set up an approach campaign. The key to approach success lies in creating a favorable image before calling for an appointment. Today’s prospects are too sophisticated to respond to cold calls. We want to build an image which will cause the prospect to be willing — if not eager — to see us.
   A good approach campaign, in which you pre-market yourself, changes the acceptance ratio considerably. The greater the positive image, the greater the success.
   Our experience shows that different marketing activities result in appointments the following percentages of the time:

   Cold Call (no pre-marketing) — 10%
   Pre-approach letter — 20%
   Marketing campaign — 40%
   Referred lead plus campaign — 60%

   A pre-approach marketing campaign consists of mailing helpful information to your prospect about every four working days for up to six weeks before calling for an appointment.
   Systematically delivering useful business development ideas encourages your prospect to perceive you as a potential business associate — thus someone who is worth seeing.
   Ideas you can provide are limitless. Study their web page and financials if they are a listed company. Call centers of influence who know the company.
   Your intelligence homework will develop concepts or suggestions which can help your prospect. As a sales professional, consider what useful information you can mail that has benefited other clients.
   Our job as professionals is to help our customers make more money. A continuing research effort would focus on what very successful clients are doing — and then share those concepts.
   Sales and work organization ideas which are universally applicable are great to use. Articles from your company newsletter or marketing materials which are helpful — not product pitches — also work.
   These mailing do not need to be fancy or professionally prepared. But they should be legible, informative and confined to one page. Attach your card with a handwritten note: “Thought you would find this interesting.”
   Send at least five mailings over a month, followed by a personal pre- approach letter with your resume or bio attached. If you have a testimonial letter from someone your prospects respect, then also mail that.
   By trial and evaluation, determine the optimum number of mailings for your industry to lower approach barriers. For some industries, and for some products, consider sending these mailings to your prospect’s home, rather than to his or her office.

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Step III

   You’re now ready to call for an appointment. Here are a few hints on telemarketing:

  • Concentrate on getting the appointment; don’t discuss what you want to talk about.
  • Call from a place which has little background noise and where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Call on Thursdays for appointments next week.
  • Identify yourself slowly so that the person being called learns your name.
  • Don’t ask: “Did you get my mailings? Assume that he or she did.
  • Ask the professional question: “Did I catch you at a convenient time? Do you have a moment to speak? If they don’t, arrange an appointment to call back.

   Once your prospect has said that he or she is ready to listen, then state your purpose: “In the past few weeks I have mailed you several items which I hope you have found helpful. The purpose of my call is to arrange twenty minutes when we may exchange some beneficial ideas. May I suggest next Tuesday — or what is good for your schedule?”
   If you get resistance, try a benefit approach: “You are one of the most successful business persons in the area, and I’m one of the more successful sales professionals. I’m confident that twenty minutes together could be the beginning of a very beneficial business relationship.”
   Another objection response is: “Gamble (or invest) twenty minutes of your time against twenty minutes of mine and I promise not to stay a minute longer unless you invite me to.”
   Or, “I can easily understand that being as successful as you are, you are committed to another vendor.    But I’m confident you’ll agree that no one has a monopoly on great ideas. Gamble twenty minutes of your time.”
These attempts to close on an appointment time will usually result in a commitment. Before restating the time and thanking the prospect, suggest that he or she reserve a conference room or other private forum for your meeting — since you have some things to show them.
   Every effort should be made to get a prospect onto neutral ground, such as the conference room or a nearby restaurant. Doing so avoids phone interruptions and gets him or her out from behind a desk.

Step IV

   Invest in yourself. Personally contacting business sources one-by-one limits us, due to the amount of time required. Consider leveraging your opportunities by having a personal marketing system help you make contact.
   You can do this without hiring a marketing assistant by investing in a computer and installing software designed to make you more productive.
   Several contact management systems exist. New and updated versions of business software are hitting the market daily.
   Nationally recognized brands include Act, Goldmine, and Maximizer. Most are available at your local computer store and retail for less than $200. For some industries, specific software exists as well.
   Another alternative is company customization via Lotus Notes, which can be done relatively quickly and at a reasonable cost.
   A summary: To maximize our potential, we must continuously upgrade our business by working with fewer but more productive sources. Create a specific target list, and then reach these top prospects and gain their attention in a positive way by conducting a pre-marketing campaign.
   Directing these efforts towards your targeted sources will enhance your income, reduce your call reluctance, increase your professionalism and help you enjoy a magnificent career as a sales professional!

Jim Pratt is the CEO of the Pratt-Daly International Sales Consulting firm based in San Diego, CA. Jim’s experience includes leading sales forces of one to 4,800. You may reach Pratt-Daly at 800.374.0300.