When you’re planning to make a sales call to a prospect what do you think about? Do you brainstorm all the best features of your product or service and make sure you’re very clear on your USP’s? Do you think of a special offer you could entice your prospect with to get her to agree to meet with you?
How about researching the prospect’s company, or the prospect himself to see what his interests are so you can sweet talk him when you get through?
None of the above are wrong, (although I would advise caution on the sweet talk bit) but I’m keen to share with you what working in direct sales for 30 years and running a team of telemarketing professionals for almost 10 years has taught me. I’m going to share with you how to conduct the ‘Rolls Royce’ of sales calls for maximum results.
Step 1 – Establish The Need. Does the prospect have a genuine requirement for your offering? Don’t guess, confirm. Sometimes it’s obvious (everyone needs insurance, an accountant, stationery etc.) but self cleaning hydraulic filtration units warrants a phone call and research online to check.
Step 2 – Get Your Facts Straight – It’s not enough to know that there’s a need. Find out who the current suppliers are, what is bought and how much if possible. I know this can be tricky but it is possible with a little imagination. Call the company and ask to speak to someone in the right department (not your prospect) and say your putting a quote together and want to offer a discount but you need to check your figures are correct. Am I right to say that you’re currently ordering over 10,000 units per month? You get the idea. This knowledge will pay dividends later when you come to pitch your proposition.
Step 2 – Who Deals? – You need to be clear on who the stakeholders are and whether they’re influencers or decision makers. For example, software that allows the accounts team to produce year end figures in the flashest of flashes would sound great to the chief accountant (the influencer) but the cost might dissuade the FD (the decision maker) to buy it. If your approach is to be successful you need to take into account each players hand and deal with them in the right order and in the right way. Talk their language. Accuracy and ease of use will be high on the influencers radar but extremely tangible cost savings is the only thing that will see you sat with a nice cuppa in the FD’s lair. Brainstorming all the reasons why they should say ‘yes’ is valuable but listing the reasons why they would say ‘no’ is essential. Only then can you plan your attack.
Step 3 – Write A Nice Letter. Research shows a real trending return to so called ‘snail mail.’ A very well worded letter (take your time here) to the right person(s) is a really great way to court favourable attention early on in the process. (I’ll send you an excellent ‘How To’ on writing highly effective sales letters if you email me). Done right your prospect should be at the very least impressed with your approach to date and intrigued by your offering. The letter needs to demonstrate your very clear understanding of the issues and how you, and only you, can meet them head on.
Step 4 – Make The Call – So, here is how to get past even the most zealous of gate-keepers. It’s quickest if I just type it out as it will happen:
You: Davina Peters please.
GK: Who’s calling please?
You: John Sanders.
GK: Is Ms Peters expecting your call?
You: Yes, I promised I’d contact her this week.
This should be enough to get you through but let’s take it up a notch…….
GK: May I ask what the call is in connection with please Mr Sanders?
You: It’s regarding the content of a letter I sent to her last week.
GK: Well, I’m Ms Peters PA and am privy to to all her dealings so can you elaborate?
You: Of course. You are currently paying £40k too much year on year in corporation tax and in my letter I outline how to stop that happening with immediate effect. It concerns your offshore concessions and the way in which you lodge your pre-tax dividend allocation. There’s a way to negate this and I would like to show your boss how I would achieve this, Miss Jenkins. That’s why it’s so important that i speak with her.
Now, it’s an extremely powerful thing to demonstrate so much inside knowledge (you even know her name!!) that in almost every case you will be put through. The above approach is only possible with real research and stops the “Well, if you’ve written to her and she’s interested she’ll contact you won’t she?”. All sales people hate this response but they don’t arm themselves sufficiently to deal with it.
Step 5 – Make The Appointment With A Stand Alone Benefit – When asking for an audience you must be clear on what it is you want to achieve and what’s in it for them. “I’d like to show the difference in production figures and financial consequences that’s had on a factory roughly the same size as yours that we’ve been working with now for the last 12 months. I’d also like to talk through how we can help you streamline your packaging options to enable you to run two products on the same belt simultaneously. this will take no more than 45 minutes and I have Tuesday 15th and Friday 18th free to suit you.
In addition, have a stand alone benefit. I’ll also bring along a report we’ve recently completed “The Top Seven Mistakes Made When Instructing A New Recruitment Company And How To Avoid Them” which I’ll bring along when I visit for you, to keep. Establishing expertise whilst giving something for nothing – that’s clever.
Step 6 – Fortune Is Follow Up – Always follow up your visit but don’t email – call, much more personable and have something to say other than ‘what d’yer think then?’ One of my favourites is to think of someone I could introduce them to, tee it up and lead with that. I often don’t even mention our meeting until they do (and they always do) which is much gentler and more professional. They must see you as an equal, a busy, well respected and well connected business person in your own right, someone they should be dealing with themselves.
The above process is time consuming and the reality is that you won’t have time to do this for all your prospects so draw up a short list. Make a list of 10 or 20 companies you’d really, really, really like to win a s a client and then work the above process on them. The last time I did this I got three F2F visits from fifteen prospects and one new client. Is that worth two days’ work for you?