Getting your proverbial foot in the door is the first step in sales. It’s also usually the hardest. In a highly competitive market, how can you get your sales prospects to meet with you or agree to an appointment?
The general answer is that you need to differentiate yourself from the pack by making yourself stand out in a positive way. Here are some ways you can do that.
Ask your existing clients for referrals
Your satisfied clients will already know the value you can provide and they can be your best potential source of new business. If they recommend you to people they know, you’re halfway there. A referral from a trusted source is powerful and it sure beats cold-calling.
Research your sales targets
It’s easy these days to find out a bit about the people or organisation you’re targeting. Social media is great for that. For example, you can find out about people’s hobbies and interests. Opening your conversation that way before moving into a sales pitch with your target is a great way to break the ice. Effectively preparing for a sales call is just as important as the sales call itself.
Use technology to personalise yourself
It’s also easy now to use multimedia to create an impacting first impression. For example, you can shoot a short video on your smartphone and send it to your prospects to introduce yourself. Use technology to sell yourself and encourage your sales targets to meet with you.
Having photos of yourself on your printed and electronic communication also helps to personalise you. There’s an old saying that “people buy people first, products second”. This simply means that people generally like to trust and develop some sort of positive relationship with salespeople before they buy. Any way you can personalise yourself in your target’s mind will help you to stand out.
Don’t leave messages
If you’re cold-calling a prospect on the phone, avoid leaving messages. They’re easily ignored. Especially if the person knows you’ll be trying to sell them something. It’s far better to catch your target directly. If you must leave a message, don’t leave any more than one and give the person a good reason to call you back.
Similarly, emails can be easily ignored. But if that’s the only way you can contact your target, give them a reason to get back to you. For example, close the email with a question. And as with phone calls, don’t send multiple emails if your initial one goes unanswered. Try another approach instead.
Use hand-written notes
A personalised, hand-written note can help you to stand out. It shows you’ve taken some time to think about your sales target, rather than just sending a generic and impersonal e-mail message. A hand-written thank-you note after an initial contact can be especially powerful, even if it’s just thanking someone for agreeing to an appointment with you.
Send a potential conversation-starter as a gift in the mail
Most people get a lot of emails these days, but not as much physical mail. When you do send physical mail, send something that will make you stand out, like a small, inexpensive gift. When you do make your next contact, it’s more likely your sales target will remember you.
Respect your client’s time and space
There is another old saying that “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”. Sometimes, it’s just not the right time to speak to one of your sales targets. If they’ve had a bad day or you catch them at the wrong time or place, the worst thing you can do is to go the hard sell.
You need to have the emotional intelligence to recognise these situations and defer your sales pitch to a more suitable time. For example, you might say something like, “I can see you’re busy, when would you have a few minutes spare to talk?”
Use a time clock
Many people are wary of talking to sales people because they fear they won’t be able to get away from them. Remove that fear as soon as you start talking to a new prospect. For example, ask them for five minutes of their time and use a clock as your prop. Tell them at the start of your discussion that if you haven’t shown them enough value to give them a reason to keep talking to you after five minutes, you’ll happily walk away.
Use free samples and trials
Most people love a free sample of something they’re interested in. A product a person can try before they buy (or a service they can experience before they fully commit) can help to reduce their fear of wasting their money.
Branded nick-nacks that you can leave behind are a great way to keep you and your business in a prospect’s mind, even if they won’t (or don’t need to) speak to you right now. Inexpensive things that we all use or see every day like coffee cups, fridge magnets, note pads and pens that have your business’s name and your contact details on them are a great investment. They’re a constant reminder to your sales target. They help to keep you and your business at the top of their mind if/when they do need to talk to you.
Arrange a meeting at a convenient and desirable location
If you need to travel to meet a sales target, tray and arrange a meeting at a place where they might want to go. For example, you could offer to buy them coffee or lunch to get them away from their office. You can then use your interpersonal skills to develop trust and a positive working relationship in a less formal environment. If/when you arrange a meeting like this, make sure you show up on time. To be safe, arrive ten minutes early.
Focus on the value you’ll provide
Products and services usually have a bundle of features and benefits, but all of them are designed to cater for a specific need or want. When you’re making initial contact with a sales target, find out some information about them and their needs before you start talking about what you want to sell. Ask open-ended questions.
That approach will make it more likely they’ll want to continue talking with you. You’ll then be able to focus on the value you can provide to meet their needs when you do make your sales pitch, making it much more likely that you’ll be able to close the sale.
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