Since 9/11 and the stock market difficulties, you and/or your sales staff may be experiencing difficulties building new business or selling new accounts. Hang in there…and use the good direct marketing skills that, when applied consistently, have work so well.
1) Be more proactive…make more dials to targeted prospects and to individuals met at networking opportunities. A “rule of thumb” in these tough times…you must TRIPLE your business development activities, TRIPLE the number of people you or your staff contact each week and TRIPLE the number of proposals you send out.
2) Go to every networking opportunity out there where there might be someone who can use your services…every Chamber breakfast or luncheon around town…you’ll certainly meet at least 8 people that day at your table. Every professional organization in your industry…networking with your peers can get you business. Find out where they have GAPS in their service offering or products and then offer to PARTNER with them to fill those gaps.
3) Have professional marketing materials and promotional items ready to give out or send out! Don’t be cheap…send it out if they want it…without those materials in their hands they don’t know what you can do. They might not need you today…but if they hang on to those materials they will be more likely to remember you and call you when they DO need your services. Work with a promotional vendor who can create unique items that people will hang on to!
4) Use direct mail letters or postcards to introduce yourself to a targeted list. But don’t drop more than you can follow up on in a week. If it’s a “cold” mailing, its shelf life is very short. Make sure you or your sales staff can physically attempt at least one follow-up dial to every piece dropped within a week.
5) Maintain proactive follow-up to every prospect. Don’t leave a proposal out there for more than 5 business days without following up to see where it stands. Unless they have told you “not for a few months”, make sure they know you are interested and want the business. One of the best accolades I ever received from a client was “I gave the project to you because you called me so much…I felt you wanted the assignment AND you kept me on track to make a decision!”
Don’t let a business card age too long. Write a good note on the back when you meet the person and then either call, or send a letter, within a week. Start the conversation or letter by referring to some idea that’s come to your mind as you looked at their card or thought about your conversation with them. They like it when you remember “stuff” they said…don’t tell them you wrote it on the back of their card as they walked away! Let them think our memories are still sharp!
6) ASK for referrals from your current clients…don’t forget they are a valuable source of contacts PLUS, they like you and want to talk about you!
7) Have a plan. Don’t start your prospecting without some form of script or call guide.
8) If you don’t like doing this, or your sales people don’t like doing this…then DON’T make them do it! They will hate it, sound like they hate it, and be less than successful. Hire people who are skilled at business development so that you are free to sell and close the deal. If you are not sure you or your current sales folks have the skills…use assessments to help identify strengths and weaknesses…and to determine the value of training them…or of hiring new people.
It’s partly a numbers game…put more volume into your pipeline. But it’s also a skills game…so make sure you increase the volume and have people who thrive on the challenge…and won’t get discouraged! There IS business out there…it just may be a little harder this year to search it out and BOOK IT!
Sam Black has been a Direct Marketing Association of St. Louis member for 7 years and a Board Member for 4 years. Her company specializes in creating customized field sales, customer service, telemarketing, and business development training to help companies achieve their sales and service goals!