Good match for your products or services
Size of the opportunity (could be either large or small depending on your strengths)
Likelihood of success
Geographical proximity (everyone like doing business locally if possible)
Existing business (it is easier to get more business than displace a competitor)
Your chemistry with buying influences
It used to be that the contacts had to be done in person, face to face. But now it is so expensive to make contacts face to face that I recommend a combination of contact techniques as shown in fig 3.
Contacts Come In A Variety Of Forms And Costs
We cannot afford to, always, contact our prospects on a face-to-face basis. McGraw-Hill reported, in a study, that it costs $300 to make one face-to-face visit. We need to reduce the cost and increase the frequency of our connections with customers.
Telephone calling to prospects is my recommended first step. A free local phone call may tell you the prospect is out of business, thereby saving you a wasted face-to-face visit attempt. A few minutes on the phone can result in getting a person’s name and verifying address information.
Computer faxing information to a client that requests information will eliminate paperwork and save time. A few mouse clicks and the prospect gets important information about your products or services. WinFaxPro is the software that we use and it can merge to a Microsoft Access database very nicely. Fax documents can be created in Microsoft Word and converted to an attachment eliminating any paper. These fax documents can be sent out over the night at a rate of 300 to 400 per evening. We like sending them out at night when most recipient fax machines are idle. It is important to get the prospects permission to send a fax but even with that, occasionally, a recipient will, angrily, request that he be taken off the list.
Pre-constructed email messages can be sent to prospects almost for free. With bulk emailing the entire database can be contacted at very little cost. Email allows us to put in links to our web site. However, getting email addresses for business-to-business contacts is not easy. Also, emailing results in many returns as “undeliverable” or with requests to “be removed” and each return requires some kind of action. Undeliverable returns should be telephoned to check out the email address and requests to be removed have to be looked up and noted for “do not email”.
Once you have contacted a prospect and sent him more information then you must follow up to verify that he received the information and to decide what the next action should be. The time to follow up is no later than four weeks after a mailing and preferably within 10 days of sending the information. Often you will find the contact person is in a meeting or out of the office and you will be forced to leave a message. In fact, you may have to contact the prospect up to 10 times just to verify that he got the information. This should not be a problem for a seasoned sales person who does not get frustrated easily. You should know that it is going to take a significant amount of contacts over a significant period of time to make this customer a believer.
Post cards are a low cost contact method and they do not require envelope insertion. Post card postage is $0.20 US to send out first class, which will be returned by the Post Office, if the address is bad. This form of contacting customers is pretty reasonable and with Post Office returns it is very good. Heavy weight paper (60 lbs) can be printed on 8 ½ x 11 sheets and then cut to produce four post cards. Mail labels can be added or the address info can be printed right on the sheets prior to cutting them.
Another form of low cost contact is a quarterly newsletter that is emailed to your prospects. This can be written in a simple word processing program like Microsoft Word and pasted into an email message. During the quarter everyone in the organization keeps track of things to put in the newsletter and then someone compiles the newsletter from all the segments. This kind of contact should be a “help” to your prospects and customers and increase their awareness of your company’s products and services.
If you have copies of published articles they can be mailed to prospects and customers to increase their awareness of your products and services. Or you can hire a PR company to interview your customers and write articles as though they were written by your customer.
Joint Visit To Other Customers
One of the best forms of contact is to take your prospect to another customer and demonstrate your product. Additionally, the user will often provide a testimonial to the benefits.
How Many Prospects Can A Sales Person Handle?
To successfully move a prospect through the Purchase Cycle we must select a relatively small number of target accounts and work on them repeatedly as shown in Fig 2. Even with this tremendous activity and information stream some potential clients will go to competitors. However, without it, most will go to competitors. This is why it is so important to focus on a relatively few number of prospects.
The number of prospects cannot be more than we can handle. We have found an outside sales person can focus on 20 to 32 accounts and an inside sales person can focus on 50 to 1000.
Each account must be assigned to an employee and specific instructions given to that employee about frequency and method of contact. The outside and inside sales persons can be assigned more than these but they cannot focus on more than these.
By focusing, I mean develop specific action plans to sell to them and make regular contacts and continually follow-up with them…. and make something happen!!!
Many inexperienced sales people will tell their boss that they have 600 prospects that they are working on, or some larger number. It is easier for sales people to go after hundreds of prospects instead of focusing on 20 to 30 prospects because with 600 prospects the sales person is just spinning his wheels and not really making something “substantive” happen. The new sales person will tell his boss he made a zillion contacts with a zillion customers but he will never make a relationship sale. It is much harder to get really “involved” with a few customers and continue to work “with” them.
Tell a new sales person that you want him to visit a prospect every week and he will ask you: “What am I going to do there?” And that is the tough part of selling, figuring out what you are going to do there. For the prospect to allow a sales person to visit him once a week, or contact him once a week, the sales person will have to be providing value. Selling involves helping customers and getting to know their needs. This can only be achieved with many repeat contacts.
The kinds of things a sales person can do include to provide value:
Run training programs to teach them about your products – could be lunch box meetings
Develop new designs working with the customer
Propose and implement unique ways your products or services can help the customer
Develop programs that reduce the customer’s costs or satisfy other needs
The real value you can provide becomes more obvious when you know the customer well and usually the customer is involved in helping you figure this out.
The Global Universe
We have a fair amount of experience working with a variety of our clients and have found that, as shown in Fig 4, most of the accounts (80%) in the “global universe” cannot purchase from you. Reasons for this include: out of business; only a sales office; locked in to parent or division supplier; account is a student or professor; account is a competitor or other industry sales person.
This is why we recommend screening and qualifying the global universe with lower cost “tele-marketers” who can filter out all the ones that cannot buy from you. In the process they will uncover interested accounts that must be assigned to your sales persons and put into the purchase cycle. Imagine the costs of having an expensive outside sales person visit all the accounts only to find that 80% cannot purchase.
We Need A System
A company must have a comprehensive system to find clients, qualify them and move them out or into the target market. A small company can only have a couple of hundred accounts in the target account box and they must be assigned to the top guns once they are identified.
I believe that nearly every employee should have a bunch of prospects that are assigned to them and they should contact the prospects regularly. An employee that can make 3 outbound calls per day can contact 50 customers every month. Imagine the impact of contacting the same 50 customers every month.
A Microsoft ACCESS database can handle this very nicely. The prospects are all entered into the database and then tele-prospected so they can be screened and qualified as shown in Fig 4. The ones that show an interest should be assigned a higher value and assigned to a top gun immediately. Then the top gun should begin the “Purchase Cycle” process shown earlier in Fig 3.
The system we recommend has the following steps:
Get a good Microsoft Access database program to put your records in and keep track of contacts.
Use low cost telemarketers to screen and qualify them
Establish auto-fax and auto-email capability which can be set up in Access
Create the scripts for the callers to use
Create the materials to be auto-faxed and auto-emailed and regular mail pieces
Assign accounts to outside and inside sales persons
Use a variety of contact methods to repeatedly make a connection with your prospects
Purchase Cycle Compression
There are some things we can do to reduce the purchase cycle (please see the list in Fig 5.), but we should not plan on making purchase cycle reductions a required activity, since more will go the full cycle than will not.