Much to the dismay of many sales managers, a lot of salespeople have a tendency to sit in limbo waiting for their prospects to put out an RFP, RFQ, or some other form of bid. Often when sales professionals are told that there is a contract in place or that the time is not right to review their product or service, the sales professional will pass the opportunity by. The net result: some prospects that may have the greatest potential are taken out of the sales pipeline and relegated to a calendar entry to be called sometime in the distant future.
1. Change your Approach - Respectfully
Although we need to be mindful and respectful of our prospect’s buying cycles, there are things that we can do, strategically, to gain a foot in the door with some of our dream clients – even if, at first, that door seems to be locked. I do not advocate a hardheaded approach; rather, I suggest a persistent and methodical approach to selling new business. Here are some sales techniques you can use to open a window of opportunity when the door has been locked.
2. Make an Appointment – Proactively
Within your dream prospect, try to find someone in a position of influence and understanding with whom you can begin to forge a lasting bond. Make the appointment like this, “Hello Ms. Smith, I realize that you’re under contract with our competitor for the next two years. When your contract is up for bid, in order to ensure that my company is prepared to make an offering that truly meets your needs, I would like to begin to understand your business now. I have long realized that in order to add value to an organization, I need to become a student of the organization. I would like to learn about what you do and what challenges you face”.
After you make the initial phone call to set your appointment, I suggest leveraging online presentations for your sales follow-up. Online presentation software enables you to email your prospects engaging, personalized and trackable information via email. You can add quick-capture personalized video using your prospect’s name and their company’s name. This way, they know that your communications were tailored specifically for them and not part of a generic mass marketing campaign. After they’ve had a chance to view the online presentation, call them and ask if they have any questions. If you weren’t able to set the appointment with your initial call, use this sales follow up to book the appointment. You have now started to differentiate yourself from the sameness in sales.
From experience, I can tell you that you will get many appointments this way. By focusing on customer need, the threat level is low. I recommend on this first appointment, do not attempt to sell anything other than your desire to learn and understand. Simply ask questions and do just what you said: learn. Learn about this individual, their department, the company mission and the challenges that they’re facing. Take copious notes and before you leave, make sure you schedule another appointment. Most importantly, establish the fact that you respect and are intrigued with their company, and while you are not asking for them to use your product, ask if it’s okay if you share specific industry trends and information that might help them to be more successful.
3. Stay Connected – Virtually
After meeting with this potential client, send a follow-up in the form of an online sales presentation. In it, sum up what you’ve learned in your meeting and stress the importance of having another meeting to dig a little deeper. You may also use online presentations to keep this prospect informed of industry trends and news that might interest them in regard to the things that you’ve learned about them. This enables you to include more dynamic multimedia content and gives you the necessary tracking to assess their level of engagement. You may also have an opportunity to educate them with powerful information that, most likely, your incumbent competitor is not sharing with them.
When you cannot be in front of this client, leverage video to keep your face in front of their face. This will help in developing the sales relationship – staying top of mind and keeping the sales momentum.
4. Ask for an Opportunity – Naturally
Over time (and it may be sooner than you think), you’ll have the selling opportunity to ask for some piece of business that you may use to prove yourself and your company. As time goes by, the scope of the contract may be altered as an organization’s business needs evolve. New needs for products and services within your industry may develop outside the scope of their current contract. This may give you an opportunity to present one of your solutions. You will have already established that you:
- Care about this customer enough to learn about them
- Have meticulous follow-up and listening skills
- Put your prospect needs ahead of your own
- Were a friend and business partner before you asked for one dime
Once they transition from prospect to customer, make sure that you keep up the same level of attention that earned you their business.
I called this post an ‘advanced selling technique’ because I’ve seen very few other sales professionals employ this approach. Does anyone have any selling techniques they’ve found to be very effective yet rarely utilized? Please share.