1. Study the customer before your call.
How do you get an appointment with a customer that is extremely busy and believes they have no need for your product? The answer is you need to make yourself relevant to them and grab their attention by speaking the language of business.
Nothing will get you closer to your goal of a successful sales career more than study and preparation. Do you waste your time and resources on accounts that you stand little chance of getting? Are you a “quote and hope” sales person? Many salespeople were taught to chase any potential lead because sales is a numbers game. The more calls you make the more successful you’ll be. Well, sales is no longer a numbers game – that game is over. The cost of doing business is simply too high to pursue any and every opportunity, what to do!
Become an Industry Expert
To become an expert in your industry, start by determining which industry markets you’d like to focus on. I recommend choosing only one or two industries at first and creating a list of all the companies located in your geographical region.
Where to Find the Information
Now that you have prepared your list of target companies and have determined that this industry will provide you with a positive return on time, you are ready to obtain the information necessary to position and differentiate yourself within this industry as an executive with insight and one who can make a positive impact on your prospect’s business.
A great way to obtain information on a specific industry is to search for blogs from industry experts and set them up on an RSS feed, like Google reader. Many companies provide newsletters to their customers and investors. Newsletters are a great resource that provides valuable insight into the current status of a company and its industry. A visit to each company’s website is imperative. Not only will you learn general information about their company, but you can also gather information about their accomplishments, problems and objectives.
LinkedIn is a prospecting tool that can fill your pipeline quickly while giving you access to buyers, executives, and decision makers within moments. These contacts are even more accessible when you subscribe to LinkedIn’s monthly paid subscription, which provides you with Inmail (LinkedIn e-mail) and other ways to engage and connect with prospects who are not currently in your network.
You may want to source industry reports by third-party firms. These reports are an excellent information resource which lists all of the players in the industry. It also includes sales figures, industry challenges, and the future outlook for the industry over the next three to five years. A simple Google search or advanced search can increase your odds of finding this information. And www.marketresearch.com is another good resource.
Practice on Smaller Accounts
A great resource for information on the bigger companies can be found in smaller companies within the industry. You can get excellent field practice calling on smaller accounts that won’t negatively impact your business if you do not secure them. Small accounts experience the same challenges as large accounts, but a lesser financial penalty is associated with them. If the smaller accounts are having a challenge finding good employees, then the odds are good that the industry in general is also experiencing this challenge. Regardless of the information you’re looking for, performing market research on the smaller accounts is a great way to cultivate knowledge to assist you in understanding the market and the standard operating procedures within that sector.
Before you make contact with the buyer, begin by writing a hypothesis of the issues, problems, or challenges you think your prospect experiences. Based on your experience and the preliminary research you've gathered, ask yourself what problems your product or service solves. What do you need to learn from your prospect before you can be certain that you can make a positive impact on their business? You may have to peel away some layers before you identify their core issues and challenges. But the time you spend will be worth it.
Remember, you're in front of the buyer to create a desire in them for change. You're also hoping to convince them that you are capable of leading them down that path of change. Carefully crafted, thought-provoking questions lead the buyer on a journey to discover that change is necessary.
As an example, beginning your meeting by stating that you reviewed their income statement and noticed that they were behind the industry average by 1% should gain their attention. Connecting metrics and the financial position of their business to that of the industry average will start a conversation that any C-level executive will want to engage in passionately.
Understand that internal and external pressures provide both positive and negative consequences, and executives are looking at these variables each and every day. The primary concern of the executive is to improve the financial position of his organization. Your ability to think beyond the current sales opportunity and look at the executive's business from a 40,000 foot view – while determining how you can assist them with their long-term financial position over the next one, three, or five years – is not something the average competitor is currently providing in the marketplace.
You do not want to ask questions or discuss ideas to which you cannot provide solutions. Therefore begin with your starting hypothesis, see how your client responds, and determine what direction the conversation should take.
Good call planning means creating questions that lead the customer to consider you to be the best.
3. Create a Value Proposition
A value proposition is the benefit your customers receive by doing business with you; it addresses a specific issue or problem they have that your product or service solves.
Many sellers are unable to articulate a value proposition that differentiates their company, so they're placed into commoditization in the mind of the buyer. There are a few important questions that a value proposition must address.
In what ways is your product or service innovative and unique?
How is your product or service a benefit to your target buyer?
Does your offering create excitement or address the concerns of your target market?
How are you are different from your competitors?
It's important to tweak your value proposition to fit your target market. A “one size fits all” proposition will not articulate the attributes that matter most to your individual customers.
Having researched your target market, their industry, and their company during the study process, you should have enough information to develop a value proposition that's relevant to your target market.
4. Prospecting with your Value Proposition
A value proposition is an excellent tool for prospecting. Buyers are always looking for ideas, people, and methods that will improve their profitability or operational processes. The language of business is financial, and your ability to position yourself as someone who can impact the bottom line through a powerful value proposition can get you in the door. The first step is to develop a phone script that focuses on the internal and external pressures that your product or service solves. Second, figure out how to articulate the value that you can provide the customer. Then, dive in. Do not be threatened or fearful of making contact with them. You are not selling a product, but helping them improve their business.
Once you’re prepared with an understanding of their industry and their particular organization and you have prepared a strong value proposition, any call reluctance should be minimized.
You’re not a salesperson, but an executive with insight.
5. Make the call
Remember customers need to improve their companies bottom-line and when you demonstrate that you have insight that can help them in achieving their goals you immediately become relevant and are not looked at as an expense but as an asset.