When all of the smoke clears and the results are in, the bottom line as far as marketing and sales are concerned is prospecting. Direct sales is still one of the most effective methods of advancing the equation.
A common saying in sales is, “Nothing happens until a sale is made.” A more precise perspective could be even more defined by stating that, “Nothing happens until a prospect is turned into an interview.”
Prospecting is defined as a process of identifying people who initially have no interest or awareness of your product or service, and then making them aware of what you have to offer.
Prospecting back in the day use to mean lots of cold calling on prospective customers, but today that has pretty much gone by the wayside. With the introduction of social media, computerized marketing, and the fast pace of modern business, there isn’t time to spend physically going from prospect to prospect without a previous contact or introduction.
Of course it depends on what is being sold, but for the most part we are in an age of attraction marketing and a big case has to be made for getting to the responsible party of the prospect. Major industrial goods will take more time to consummate a sale, and an organization that sells promotional items will be a lot quicker to paydirt.
The entire approach of getting new prospects and customer has changed forever as buyers and prospects are turning off their phones and putting your emails into spam accounts. In order for the buyer to even talk to a salesperson, it will have to be for a very good reason. There is just too much at stake and not enough time to waste at chit chat and small talk.
Trade shows, civic clubs, prospecting clubs and bulk ads don’t work so well these days, so there has to be a different conversation in order to get somebody’s attention.
Even though it seems that things have changed, and in many ways they have, there are some solid principles that have stayed the same. It is just that there are different definitions and processes at work here.
No one can continue to do what everybody did even 5 years ago, but they must come up with new ideas that are attention-getters.
True innovative marketing and prospecting was demonstrated by insurance salesman Ben Feldman back in the 60s when he would call on the owner or CEO of a business and hand the receptionist an envelope. He then instructed her to take it directly to Mr. Big. In the envelope was a $100 bill with a note saying, “This may be the only tax-free money your family will ever receive,” and most of the time he got an interview or an appointment.
Feldman wanted to get the attention in a direct way and he could afford to invest $100 bills to get the big sales to the top man. A modern day equivalent might be sending a specific hard hitting video by overnight showing the one solution to a problem that the prospective company might have. This means that you will have to do some serious research about your prospect, such as in what kind of problems they are likely to have based on their business model.
The video could be sent by email, but perhaps more impacting could be a package with a CD, and a statement on the package exterior illustrating the problem and how it can be solved. It could read, “To solve your slow inventory turnover look inside.” There is a good chance that this may be the problem, as you have done your research on this company.
Another technique is to partner with other sales organizations who are selling different products to the same company. It is a chance to gain the confidence of the “circle of trust” and in many cases they are some of the same people. Bankers, attorneys, CPAs and suppliers are many times able to give insights to a way to “get inside” and they will offer suggestions if they think your product or service will help their clients.
Another great technique use to be to invite a CEO to a seminar, and nowadays that just falls flat and is outdated. But take that same idea one step further and invite the CEO to a function where he can rub shoulders with other CEOs to an invitation-only CEO luncheon, and you might get a friendly call from the assistant of the CEO.
Here, you are not pounding the CEOs with a hard hitting message, you are just allowing them to mingle and network, and to get to know you a little bit better. The event can just be a sharing session with the CEOs themselves providing the show, and everyone will win.
You can sell the event as a “round table” and line up the speakers from a group of the heaviest hitters, and their egos get massaged as well as the other CEOs who feel privileged to be involved. So in this case, connections are made, introductions flourish, and relationships are started, and you are remembered as the catalyst who started it all.
Another method that still works is for you to become the expert in a field. Write a book (for real.) If you are not a writer, hire a ghost writer. You can pass out your book by mail, or by email and send it as an eBook. Be sure that you get some heavy endorsements, or it won’t work. You are going to have to have a sure fire selling proposition, but isn’t that what your product or service is going to have to do anyway?
It is not all that difficult to become an expert, just get to know everything you can about your market and your product, and how it can solve the big problems. And that is what you, as a sales person should be doing anyway. A book just lets everyone know that your “expertise” is going to solve their problems.
Prospecting is still designed to achieve the same results, but in today’s marketplace, going about the process is much different.