SI Review: September 2013

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Power Seller: First touch

How to make contact with potential clients strategically

By Sylvia Lan

The number of potential clients that dismiss a salesperson’s practiced presentation are often too numerous to count. The fact is that many of us often don’t fully understand a client’s business or industry before we make first contact.

Further, it is hard knowing about the prospect’s requirements before you even meet with them. What do you do? Where can you discover more about your prospect, their industry and upcoming initiatives.

Here’s my way.

First, get to know your prospective clients. This first step will help you determine if your prospect is ready for your attention and/or services. There are many online tools that can help you gain knowledge about your prospect. And I know this sounds tired, but time is definitely money for any salesperson looking to achieve their goals, and for your prospect, as well. The clock is ticking as your competitors make deeper inroads into your client and before your management re-assigns the prospective client to a newer, hungrier salesperson. But don’t meet or reach out to your prospect(s) until you have armed yourself with information about them.

Before you reach out to your prospects make sure you understand your competitive advantages. How are you different from your competition? Determining what makes you stand head and shoulders above your competition is easy. You should already know your own organization and all the tools that are in your war chest.

Then begin your outreach to the potential client.

Develop your list of contacts within the prospect. Determine whether you will call (dialing for dollars!) or email. Create your script for calling and/or emailing and be sure to mention a topic pertinent to your client. Now, you’re ready to begin your outreach. Create your value statement, open-ended probing questions, preliminary account strategy and you’re off!

Once initial contact has been made, you need to keep the following six tips in mind.

  • Your sales strategy should be developed with “The End” in mind. This involves identifying the target audience.
  • Know why executives buy. Understand C-level business drivers.
  • Identify the client’s agenda.
  • Use relevant buyer language so you are viewed as a business advisor, not just a vendor.
  • Determine your sales window of opportunity by focusing on qualified opportunities and by using your research.
  • Outline your client engagement plan and goals.

The Art of the Follow-Up

Once the strategy is formulated, fine tune as and when needed. Remember no sales strategy is foolproof. After establishing a relationship with the client, make sure you follow up. The art of the follow-up requires that you learn to recognize different personality types that are involved at the client end and connect with them by adapting your approach. This requires that you establish your credibility by either presenting your professional background and/or relevant successes, and by showcasing industries your company has successfully supported at strategic points especially to new contacts during the sales process. Then if you commit to something during your sales presentation ... do it! Send notes thanking your prospect for their time. Periodically forward pertinent information that moves the sales process along.

As you embark on this process, remember that persistence is a good quality in sales, but don’t cross the line. Harassing your prospect guarantees sales failure. Know when to slow the process down and/or retreat for a time. Or, get smart and send the client a tip or tool that sparks his or her interest. Creativity matters.

At the end of the day, salespeople need to remember it’s all about their client’s pain, budget and their upcoming initiatives. So be smart about their requirements, even before you embark on making contact. Be a partner, not a pest.

Sylvia Lan is account director for Aquent. She can be reached at slan@aquent.com

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