If you are looking to improve your business model, sales, or market share, have a good look at the number of times that you call your customers or prospects on a regular basis. Persistence pays when it comes to opening up opportunities in sales with your clients.
Why Make Contact?
Prospects are always on the lookout for tips and ideas to help them do things at a better price or a lower cost. For this very reason you can be a solid source of knowledge and information relative to your industry. If the competition is not serving their clients well or keeping in regular contact, you have an opportunity in waiting.
Far too many sales people stop the contact process after just a few approaches; if they can’t get the prospect or client to move to the next step in the sales pipeline, they shut down the contact process and simply move on.
Top salespeople keep the contact process going with real and relative ways. Here are some ideas to help with that:
- Use different techniques of contact so you can be real and relevant in each approach.
- Be memorable in a positive way. That will mean some relevance and importance to the client.
- Have different comments to use in each approach. Practice dialogues for seasonal sales and shifts in market trends.
- Do not show desperation in any approach or client contact. Prospects and clients can sense it and will close the door on your approach. Clients like to deal with ‘winners’.
- Ask the client or prospect if you can remain in regular contact into the future.
- Keep your database accurate and up to date in all respects.
- Get to know the Key Clients of the competition so you can disrupt and disturb their market or dominance.
Do you know what your ideal client looks like? Do you know what your client wants by way of product or service? Do you know when they want to buy or sell? Key questions like this will help you tap into the right people at the right time.
When you first approach a prospective client you never really know where the conversation will head, or if they have a need or an interest in your offering. This is particularly the case when it comes to cold calling and basic drop in canvassing.
For this very reason you need to be very flexible and conversational in getting the connection going. If you sell a service as opposed to a product, it is better to be biased towards building trust before you get to the real point of the approach. In a few words I can summarise this as ‘reducing the pressure’.
In business today, most clients and prospects do not like to be ‘sold or closed’. The days of manipulative selling are well gone. Information and trust are the keys to moving the conversation forward. Today, it could be called ‘relationship’ selling. As to how long the relationship should be, really depends on the product and the service that you offer; the relationship required can be from a few minutes to months or even years.
Get to the Facts
To qualify a client or prospect you need to know the right things relative to their business or personal situation. Here are a few tips to do that:
- Check to see if you are talking with the decision maker. There is no point talking with a person that has no relevance to your product or service. Asking questions will help you here.
- Find out what the prospect has now or if they have used similar products or services over the years. Do they actually understand what you are about to talk about? This is really important in a complex product or service offering.
- If the prospect has used that product or service before, was it helpful in their business or personal life? Working from a base of previous experience will help you connect with the situation for them today. Be aware that the situation may have changed for them; there is no point selling a concept, product or service if they have a changed business situation or circumstances.
- Could the prospect see the same solution occurring again or will it be helpful for them today or in the future? Previous experiences that the client may have had with your product or service help you relating to the situation today.
These questions will lead you to information that can help you proceed with moving the conversation forward. From all of these concepts, take the time to really listen to the facts and responses from the other person.
When it comes to building your market share and your business, it is very easy to get tied up in the unimportant things that happen every day. If you work in sales, this can be a disaster that will destroy your market and eventually your commission or income.
In an ideal world you want your good reputation to spread around your industry and client base. You need to be seen and known as the expert that people go to when they want help. This ‘guru’ status does not come easily and can only be built by what you do and who you know. You earn the ‘expert’ mantle of a top expert in your industry.
The key to this process is in being different in an acceptable and relevant way. Business is not all that complicated if you follow the rules.
- Build your brand with clients and prospects after every meeting or contact. Send them your business card in the mail. Write something on the business card that is personal and connecting. Thank the person for giving you some of their time.
- Speak at business conferences or community groups on your speciality. In doing this you can give relevant information and tips that help people. Do not sell from the front of the room. It just puts people off.
- Set aside 90 minutes of your day to make calls to new people that you have not spoken to before. In this way your market share will stay positive and potentially grow.
- Leave messages when you cannot reach someone. You are a brand and your name means something. Some of the most successful salespeople have very unusual names that are hard to forget. This then says that leaving your name will in some minor way form part of the bigger marketing picture for you.
- Send short messages by SMS after a meeting to thank the person that you just spent some time with. Adopt a similar process when you are to meet with a person. Send an SMS message first thing in the morning or the night before so they know that you are coming to see them as expected.
- Go beyond email and lift the telephone as often as you can. Voice contact helps you build your credibility. Most emails get lost in the world of the email trash can.
- Follow-up the prospect or client after every sale to ensure that they are happy with what they purchased from you or your business. It also gives you the opportunity to answer any questions that they may have on product use or application.
- Spend 50% of your day out of the office visiting clients. It is harder to win business from your desk, so make it a part of your diary each day to get out and talk to people.
Is business all that hard? Is there something that some salespeople do that is special? No, the answers are quite simple; the top salespeople in any industry know that personal contact and branding will help them more than anything else. You are in charge of your branding, so build your contact system and start moving it forward every day.
When you work as a salesperson one of the best ways to rise to the top of your industry or to get a hold on your market is to target the bigger clients. Here are a few facts for you:
- The larger clients buy more products and services
- These bigger clients buy more frequently and seasonally
- The large customers give you credibility as a top salesperson in your market
- You can value add your services and spread your offering more easily in a top clients account
- These bigger clients want productive and problem solving solutions.
- These clients want to streamline their activities so they can improve the bottom line.
It is notable that many top prospective clients are already serviced by your competitors, so they are easy to find. That being said, it may take some time to convert these prospects to clients so a systemised contact process is required. Set up a good database in your business to help the sales team coordinate their efforts in contacting the right prospective customers.
In today’s business environment where productivity and the bottom line means just so much, it is a very wise strategy to look at your client base and refine it to higher quality clients in this way. Your smaller clients may stay with you but they should not get the same focus as a Key Account or big client.
These large prospective clients can be defined in a number of ways, depending on your business type and location. Here are some ideas to help with that:
- The locational factors will drive better business for you. To some degree, the convenience of the client to your business location will allow better supply and demand of product and services. For this reason you should define your territory for both primary and secondary business.
- A top client or top prospective client can also be defined by the type of product or service that they buy from you. That may be by volume or by sales total.
- A good client is one that can take you into other locations as part of their business model, or take alternative products, and add on services from you.
Look around the current market and see who your competitors are servicing. Those relationships are ready to be tested. You can open the door through any of the following:
- Alternative supply solutions
- Better customer service
- Discounted prices and bulk discounts
- Value add products and services
Building your business with better quality clients is a wise strategy for an established business that is looking for market dominance.
So many salespeople struggle with growing market share. The single reason for this is that they have little or no personal system to build their business. Every day is a new day, and nothing consistently happens to build on the success of yesterday.
Perhaps I have upset some salespeople in saying that, however it is a proven fact that the performance of most sales teams is low for this very reason.
In any business and market there are also some other excuses that hold teams back. Some of them are here:
- No support from the management team
- No leadership to correct faults or lacking processes
- No standards that can focus the prospecting and customer service processes.
- Little action to a system that works in their market
- Forgetting the clients and keeping in contact with them over time
So, all of this is a personal process; that’s the reality of it all. Any salesperson can improve their ‘lot’ by taking action. Given that most do not do the right things every day, there is huge potential out there for those that do.
If a salesperson takes on the personal challenges of their industry and takes action every day to a good plan, there is a very good chance that they will rise to the top of their market quickly and effectively.
Here are some tips for getting control of your market and market share.
- Define your territory geographically and physically so you know where you will find the business.
- See how many potential clients could be in your areas that are serviced by your competitors. Can you open the door with these clients?
- Be prepared to talk to many people to find the one opportunity. As long as your market is large enough that will not be a problem. The issue is in getting the right resources and research around you.
- Use a database that is comprehensive and easy to access. Over time you can build your database by 4 or 5 new people a day. Keep in regular contact so you can open up the relationship when the prospect requires help.
Are you the best service provider in your local area? Can you say that your product or service is as good if not better than the competition? If you cannot answer ‘yes’ to these questions yet, you have some work to do. Devise your business system and work to it every day.
When you work in sales of any type you will see prime examples of clients that are not serviced well. It could be that they do not purchase often enough, or not in sufficient volume to rank as a priority. That being said, they are likely to be an opportunity in waiting.
Many of those poorly serviced clients not purchasing much today can be key clients of the future. Everything changes in business and you should not accept the status quo when it comes to clients and their business situations. Keep in touch so you know when their business or personal situation requires your product or service.
It is interesting to note that many salespeople do not maintain regular and consistent contact with their entire database. In most situations they will contact less than 25 clients on a regular basis. All other clients will be relegated to the ‘call me when you need me’ process.
It has been proven that a regular 90 day contact system with all clients in your database will build greater business opportunity than just waiting for the ‘client to call’ when they want something. After the third contact of 90 days, the client or prospect starts to see that you are really interested in them and their needs. It is likely that they will get closer to your business and could potentially over time convert to a key customer.
So often I have seen sales and customer service situations where many clients and prospects move to another supplier simply because they felt overlooked or neglected. That’s something to be avoided.
Here is a contact model to help your business growth:
- Understand who your key clients are by definition and location. Yes they will need special attention; however that attention should be in balance with all other clients.
- Create a contact model for Key clients and then all others. Key clients should be contacted at least every 30 days. Other clients should be contacted inside 90 days regardless of their status.
- Use a multi faceted contact process to give your clients information about your product or service and any changes of product that they may be interested in. The contact tools that you can use should include email newsletter, direct calls, and drop in meetings, product updates, and industry briefings. In balance they create a good source of market and product information.
- Look at the competitors in your industry and identify their client base. It is likely that you can open the contact process with some of their clients.
- Devote the first part of your day to contacting at least 10 new people that you have not made contact with previously. When this is done in balance with your existing database you have a pipeline of growth.
Those clients that are underserviced will be great allies, if and when you convert them to greater levels of business. It may take months or years to move them closer to your business, however the journey is worth it with some clients.