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July 24, 2013

If your summer is slow, focus on marketing & sales for a competitive advantage; part 6 – target new sales prospects

girlfriends-getaway-beach-drink 2There you are, sitting at the beach, cool drink in your hands, warm waters lapping at your toes… and you’re complaining to yourself that business needs to improve.   OK, so what are you doing to make that happen?  Remember… “If you keep doin’ what you’re doin’… you’ll keep gettin’ what you’re gettin’!”

Our summer blog series has, for the most part, been marketing-related – prepping for conferences, getting active on LinkedIn, enhancing your online presence, even cleaning up your database.

But now it’s time to put on your ‘sales’ hat.  It’s time to start reaching out to actual human beings, starting a dialogue and helping them to make good purchasing decisions.

Summer tip #6: Target new sales prospects

Like everything else in business, being successful with marketing & sales means having processes for them.  Here’s a process to consider for reaching out to new sales prospects.

Step 1: (with apologies to GhostBusters) Who ya gonna call?

One option for deciding who to call is to simply scroll through your CRM system and pick out some contacts you haven’t connected with in a while, who maybe did business with you a long time ago and give them a call.  And there’s nothing working with that.

Let me suggest an alternative… maybe a little more of a “risk-reward” proposition…

Think about targeting some of the “big boys!”  Just 10 of them.  Those large companies that you’d really like to add to your client list.  Why go this route?  Two reasons:

  • The summer’s a little slower for them, too… and they might have more of an opportunity to engage in a conversation with you.
  • Why not go this route?  What have you got to lose?  Yes, it’ll be tougher to connect with them (the “risk”)… but if you are persistent and can make it happen, the resulting business (the “reward”) could be substantial.

We refer to these kinds of prospects as “strategic prospects.”   These are the kind of potential clients you dream about… real “game changers!”

What defines these strategic prospects?  They could fall into this category for one of several reasons:

  • By their sheer size… they’re just big firms!  Fortune 1000 and up.
  • By their importance in the industry.  They might not be the biggest, but when they speak, everyone stops to listen.
  • By virtue of the fact they’re doing business with a particular competitor… and stealing them away would put a smile on your face that won’t go away.

Step 2: Identify the proper contacts

OK, you’ve selected your Top 10 strategic prospects… but who do you need to talk with inside of those companies?  This will require a little research…

  • Look through your CRM… it’s possible you’ve done business with this company in the past and there might be a name in your database where you could start.
  • Go to the companies’ websites and see what you can find… and not just the ‘Contact Us’ or ‘About Us’ pages.  It could be the person you need to talk with has written and article or blog post – so do a little digging.
  • LinkedIn research.  Do a search on the company name and see who turns up.
  • Network!  Who do you know that might know somebody at these companies?  Remember… if they help you out – you owe them one!
  • Finally, if all else fails… pick up the phone, call the main number and ask.  It’s amazing what a little kindness – and asking questions – can tell you.

Step 3: Connecting with the key contacts

You’ve identified the ‘big kahuna’… now it’s time to connect.  It’s time to be a sales rep.  Some options include:

  • Ask them to connect with you through LinkedIn… then follow-up.
  • Ask someone from your LinkedIn network for a personal introduction through LinkedIn.
  • Send a letter… something no one does anymore – it will help you stand out.
  • Leverage other connections at the company (e.g. maybe you have a contact in another department, in another city or on a different level)… and ask for an introduction.
  • As above, pick up the phone.  These kind of cold calls make most people uncomfortable, but sometimes this is the only option.  When you do this… be prepared.  Have your ‘script’ ready and get right to the point.  Focus on the benefits of doing business with your firm and your unique value proposition.

Targeting strategic prospects can be a powerful business builder and shouldn’t just be a summertime-only activity.  But this summer is a good time to start.  So, jump in with both feet… going after these kinds of firms while others are simply enjoying their summer break will give you a competitive advantage they won’t be able to catch up with.

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