Generating leads and new business is never an easy thing to do. But in today's tough economy, it can be harder than ever. Fearful about the future, prospects are clutching to their time just as much as they are their budgets. Nobody wants to make a bad decision, and so the cold calls aren't connecting. Rather than turn to you for help, clients are logging onto the Internet in search of lower prices – even after you've already done a fabulous job for them.
Even with this backdrop of uncertainty, however, there are ways you can keep bringing in new customers and orders. All it requires is that you tailor your approach. Follow these simple steps to make this one of your best years ever:
Casual dress in the workplace is disappearing, slowly but surely. For me, this change can't come soon enough. In fact, eight years ago I predicted we would head back to something I call "dressed relax" – a step between formal business and casual dress clothing. Why? Because casual dress sprung up from the technology sector, and at a time when people with those skills were new and in hot demand. Corporations quivered like Jell-O as they scrambled to hire young people to help them with their growing technology needs. Many of these new employees weren't keen on suits and ties, and they brought a casual workplace culture with them. Besides, if all those new Internet billionaires could do it in jeans, why shouldn't the rest of us?
These days, technology is taking some hard hits. Firms that were cutting edge 10 years ago are cutting employees now, and dot coms are becoming mere dots on the horizon. A side effect of this shift, however, is that control is moving back to where it belongs – the people. Companies are starting to see that their value comes from what their directors, managers, employees have to offer; technology is just an enhancement to that.
And with that shift in thinking, we're starting to reconsider what we wear to the office. Dressing up, which seemed to be going out of style just a decade ago, is back in vogue. This is especially true for salespeople, who can use sharp clothes to show their professionalism and make a client feel special. Putting on a good suit, or at least skipping the khakis for something sharp and pressed, is a fantastic way to suggest to clients that you're successful, and at the same time raise their trust in you.
Do you have to come to work every day in an Italian three-piece? Probably not. But if you want to stand out above your competitors, and keep finding new business when things are tight, then dress for success.
MANAGE YOUR CLIENT BY LETTING YOUR CLIENT HAVE THE CONTROL
In all my years of working with salespeople in various fields, I have yet to find a single one who consistently asks what I consider to be the all-important question. This one question can make your client feel that you truly care about them. What's more, it can stop them from thinking of you as an intrusion in their life, and open them up to follow-up calls and cross-selling opportunities.
Here is that all important question: "Because I want to respect your time and make sure that I'm giving you the best possible service, how would you like me to contact you? Do you prefer e-mail, letter, or telephone?" Once you have the answer, follow that up with, "is there a time that is best to reach you?"
Your prospects are just as busy as you are. They hate being interrupted when they're in the middle of a staff meeting, or at home trying to spend time with their families. Chances are, they would gladly welcome the occasional call or e-mail from you to talk about how their needs have changed, if only you'd reach them at a time and method that's convenient for them.
This is more important than you might think. Once you establish a time and method that's convenient for your clients, they won't just be open to hearing from you – they'll expect it. At the same time, by showing them that she won't be intrusive with your commute stations, you don't just open the door for more business with them, but with their contacts as well.
Don't miss out on the power of this point. Getting referrals is the cornerstone of any successful sales effort in any economy. But a client's biggest fear is that you're going to harass their family, friends, or colleagues, and that it’s going to reflect poorly on them. By getting into the habit of working with your customers on their own terms, you make it much more comfortable for them to pass your name on to others, or vice versa.
BE A RESOURCE FOR YOUR CLIENTS
Of course, the best situation you can be in, as a salesperson, is one where you don’t have to track down clients at all, because they’re coming to you. Instead of cold calling, or forcing yourself through dozens of follow up attempts, you get your phone to ring off the hook. The easiest way to make that happen is to become a resource for the men and women you do business with.
No matter what it is you sell, there are other products and services that naturally go along with it, including a few that you can’t provide. Recognizing that – and finding unexpected answers for your clients – is the key to making it work. For instance, if you sold furniture, it might be wise to get to know some other professionals who deal in carpet or appliances. Or, if your company deals in software, it makes sense to be able to refer your clients to someone who can help them with their computer hardware needs.
The point isn’t in any specific product or recommendation, it’s in seeing the bigger picture. By becoming a resource, being able to refer your customers to other reliable professionals who can help them solve their problems, you give them a reason to call you. And the more frequently they call you, the more business you’re going to see. At the same time, following this strategy is likely to bring you referrals from other professionals, too. If you were consistently getting new work from one of your contacts, wouldn’t you want to send some of your clients their way?
TURN OBJECTIONS INTO BENEFITS OF DOING BUSINESS WITH YOU
You should never leave someone wondering why they should decide to do business with you – especially when times are tough, and buyers are just as likely to save their money as they are to buy. For that reason, it’s a good idea to give your prospects five or ten benefits they get from working with you, in terms that are relevant to them.
Because this is so critical to your success, I suggest you put them in writing. What you want to create, in one print or fax-ready page, is a snapshot of the most compelling reasons people have to buy from you. In my book, Outcome Thinking: Getting Results Without the Boxing Gloves, I devoted an entire section to creating benefit sheets, which allow firms and salespeople to tackle this challenge. For the moment, though, let me just say that they should be brief and concrete. In other words, they should be written in language that a client could use when telling others why they choose to do business with you and your company.
Examples of items on your benefit sheet could be service and responsiveness, or your experience and reputation. Quality and innovation are also good candidates. What you’re looking for, however, isn’t any single buzzword; it’s the things your customers count on when they place an order for you.
For Example, if you were an insurance agent, your benefit sheet might contain some of the following:
Quick claim response time: The worst thing that can happen to you is when you run in to barriers trying to get a claim taken care of. We realize that and have gone out of our way to make it easy on you. Our agents are qualified to immediately respond to all claims under $2000. Our response time for claims over $2000 is 2 days. You will never have to sit around and wait with us.
Experience and knowledge: As your situation changes, you need someone with the knowledge and experience to keep you abreast of what to do next. As an agent I have over 10 years experience in this business. I have worked hard to establish relationships with the claims departments and the home office so I can make sure I can meet all your needs.
Finding business in a tough economy is a matter of standing out in the crowd. The simplest way to do that is by impressing your prospects and clients with your service and attention. To distinguish yourself from the competition, keep these guidelines in mind:
a. Dress up, not down to impress your customers b. Communicate with your clients in a way and time that is convenient for them c. Become a resource for the people you do business with d. Create a benefit sheet that turns objections into reasons to work with you
Once you do, you’ll be head and shoulders above the rest, no matter what the economy is doing.
As the leading Outcome Strategist, Anne Warfield shows people how to say the right thing at the right time every time. The revolutionary Outcome Focus® Approach shows how to build a candid corporate culture of communication that allows you to lead, present and negotiate transformationally rather than transactionally. When applying Outcome Thinking® our client’s results include sales cycles reducing by 75%, turnover reducing by 30%, silos evaporating, and a 25% savings of time by executives. Find out how you can maximize your corporate culture for greater productivity and results! Contact us at 888-imp-9421, visit www.impressionmanagement.com, or email