To gain that first appointment with a client, you must jump many hurdles—some of them higher than ever before.
The first is the busy-ness of your contacts. They won’t meet with anyone who can’t help them produce better results now. To your contacts, all salespeople sound the same, making it next to impossible for them to determine who is worth seeing. So they refuse meetings with everyone, betting that none are worth a spot on their already-overflowing calendars.
Adding to their stress: Even relatively low-level employees often are measured on financial performance. Your contacts feel pressured to work with people who can help them improve their financial metrics. They won’t give up even a half-hour on their schedules for a meeting with a salesperson who says, “I’d like to stop in and introduce myself and my services.” Potential clients see that as frittering away time better spent on making or saving money.
They’ve also heard, “I’d like to spend time learning about your business.” To your target contact, this statement implies that you don’t know enough to be helpful. This overture also sounds like wasted time and will earn an automatic “no, thank you.”
To merit a spot on your prospects’ calendars, you need a pitch that holds the promise of monetary returns for them.
Do your homework.
If you are going to book first visits, you need to sound like someone who has the business acumen, experience and ideas that can make a difference in your prospective client’s business—in other words, a compelling value proposition for your sales call.
This means doing your due diligence before you make that phone call or write that email. You need to know what the three or four major issues your prospective customer is likely to be dealing with—or will be soon.
Instead of introducing yourself and your services, your prospecting pitch needs to be built on your ideas about the root causes of your prospects’ challenges and how they can think about them, hopefully leading them toward a groundbreaking solution. It sounds like this: “Hi, Mary, this is Anthony with XYZ Inc. My company helps people deal with the challenges of low productivity, high consumable costs and employee dissatisfaction. I am calling to ask you for 20 minutes to share the three biggest trends impacting your business and give you some ideas that help our clients produce better results at lower costs. Could we meet for 20 minutes on Thursday? I’ll share these ideas with you, and even if you never buy from me, they will help you and your team.”
This pitch doesn’t suggest that I will talk about my company or myself. It doesn’t indicate that I am going to try to make a personal connection; instead, it says I am going to help the prospect think about her business and its problems. You have to focus on helping your prospects with their biggest challenges, those same challenges you discovered when doing your research.
Pitch to the correct contact.
For decades salespeople were told to start as high up in the organization as possible and then let the C-level executive introduce them to his or her team. This used to be wise advice, but now folks in the C suites want consensus about solutions before they weigh in, and if the salesperson hasn’t been vetted by their teams, the executives aren’t likely to push their solution onto lower-level workers.
Today there’s a new contact to target with your prospecting: the CEO of the Problem. The CEO of the Problem is the person who must achieve results in dealing with the issues that you can resolve. The contacts who fit this role will also be the people who are the most susceptible to your message because they’re the ones struggling to produce results. You can help them, and they will meet with you, provided you’ve convincingly conveyed your ability to help when you reach out with your prospecting call, voice mail or email.
(Note that the CEO of the Problem may have a C-level title. But the larger your prospective client company, the less likely that your vital contacts rank this highly.)
Nurture your prospects.
The Internet gives customers access to vast information that salespeople were once relied upon to deliver, which is another reason you’re unlikely to land a meeting if you offer only to introduce yourself and your company. But the upside for you is that the Internet also provides salespeople with easy access to crucial contacts as well as the means with which to communicate with them.
It takes time to gain an appointment with your prospective clients. It isn’t easy to earn respect for the value you create. To do that, your prospecting effort needs to include newer modes of communication, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media, to connect directly with your prospective clients.
These new tools allow you to demonstrate that you can create value by proving that your ideas can make a difference for your prospects. Build a campaign in which you reach out 12 times, “touches” that you can use to stay connected with your prospective clients by providing valuable insights and ideas. Send them white papers and links to TED Talks or keynote speeches by industry experts; mail them a trade magazine article or a link to an article containing industry news. Map out a strategy in which, for instance, you connect on LinkedIn, send an email with a link to content your prospect will find valuable, and follow that up with a phone call.
Such a campaign will massively increase the odds that you receive a yes to your request for a meeting. Who wouldn’t want to meet with someone who can help improve their business.
This article was published in October 2015 and has been updated. Photo by @wilsvanzyl/Twenty20