Most salespeople still seem to think that the only way to find new business is through that tried-but-true technique known as "cold calling." For those of you who need to be enlightened, this involves getting a list of people who have never met you, know nothing about you or your company, want to know nothing about you and your company, and are not expecting a call from you and your company.
As I understand it, your objective with these "prospects" is to interrupt their day with an out-of-the-blue phone call and try to persuade them, based on some clever "pitch," to give you an appointment. Is it any wonder most people doing this kind of work find it as distasteful as the people who they are calling?
Prospecting = Marketing
This is not to say that prospecting isn't a good use of your time; it is a critical component of your ability to successfully grow your client base. However, prospecting is not a selling activity. It is a form of marketing. Marketing is what you do to get opportunities to sell. Selling is the result of effective marketing. Using this definition, cold calling is easily the least productive use of your marketing time. Is there a better way to get qualified buyers to see you?
Turbo-charging your results
The most productive and under-utilized prospecting tools available today are the contact management software programs such as ACT!, Maximizer and Goldmine. These programs have the ability to store and manipulate data on prospects and customers. They also have the ability to put you in the direct-mail marketing business - with an often-overlooked function called Mail Merge.The Mail Merge function allows you to create a form letter and, using a laser printer, produce and send your letter, ready for your signature, to any grouping of prospects that you want.
However, instead of sending out large amounts of mail, try the following disciplined approach to this powerful tool. It is a proven concept that will pay huge dividends if you stick with the program.
•Pick the 200 best prospective accounts in your market and limit your marketing to these key accounts. (Eighty percent of your new business really does come from 20 percent of your market).
•Group your 200 accounts into eight sub-groupings of 25 accounts each.
•Every Friday afternoon, for eight consecutive weeks, send 25 letters out to 25 of your key accounts.
•Every Wednesday morning, for eight consecutive weeks, call behind your letter.
•Try reaching the people you missed that Wednesday, first thing Thursday and Friday mornings.
•Every Friday afternoon, send out the mailing for the next grouping.
•At the end of the eight-week cycle, design a new letter and repeat the process.
Designing an effective marketing letter
Your skill level in writing effective copy will have a direct impact on the results of your outbound call effort. Here are five keys to writing an effective letter:
1. Keep it to one page. If the prospect can see the beginning and ending of your letter at first glance, they are much more likely to take a moment to read it.
2. Have a strong opening statement. Say something profound that gets the reader's attention and prompts them to continue reading. Asking a question is always effective. Example: "One area of your business is costing you thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses. Do you know which one it is?"
3. Bullet the benefits. Bullet-point 4 to 5 quick blurbs that tell the reader what is in it for them.
"Our new widget technology will enable your organization to:
4. Request a next step. For most sales people, this will be a request for an appointment.
5. Ask them to expect your call. This is critical. It gives you your reason for moving past the person's gatekeeper when calling. "I am following up on business correspondence that Mr. Jones received from me yesterday, and he should be expecting my call. Is he in, please?"
The Bottom Line
If only two of your weekly 25 calls are successful, you will have over 100 meetings over the next 12 months with the most important prospects in your market. You can add the results of this activity to whatever you were going to sell in the upcoming year.
The other benefit of this approach is that it educates these people on what you offer. Timing - the one factor over which you have no control - truly is everything. When your prospect has a need, someone is going to get a phone call. Effective marketing will ensure that your phone rings - instead of your competitor's.
Landy Chase, MBA, CSP, is an expert who specializes in speaking to corporations and associations on advanced professional selling and sales management topics. After nearly 2,000 client programs, his re-hire rate exceeds 90 percent. For more information, visit his website at www.landychase.com or call (800) 370-8026.