If your business relies on the sales call to grow, you’ve probably got several war stories to tell about prospects who refuse to see you or who never return your calls. It’s a difficult reality of the sales aspect of business. In larger companies, the sales department simply deals with it and leverages the size of the company as a way to meet prospects. (“You’re with THEM? Sure, I’ll meet with you.”).
But if you’re the owner of a small or medium sized business there’s a strong likelihood that you’re not only the President but also a key sales person. So how do you reach those hard to nail down clients? Here are some ideas.
First, know what you can about them They are regular people just like you with interests and hobbies outside of work; they probably have a family and kids in Little League. Some people recommend meeting them outside of work at some of these venues but that may seem inappropriate, like you’re cornering them. Instead, know what they like and use that as a way to break the ice when you do see them.
Begin by building a non-business relationship, but do it at work. If their child’s Little League team won, send a congratulatory note. If they love golf, find a unique reason to send a set of golf balls (for example, it might be humorous to find the birthday of an obscure golfer and send golf balls to your prospect in celebration). Don’t focus on the sales call just yet. Instead focus on building a relationship. Offer to take them to lunch (if necessary, through their secretary) and promise not to talk business. In fact, ask questions as a business person picking the brains of another successful business person.
Another way that people have used to get in to see difficult to schedule prospects is the time-or-money approach in which you offer a 20 second sales pitch and if you go over, you’ll donate money to the charity of their choice. This sometimes works but it’s not as novel as it was and you’ll have to nail down a great sales pitch before you try it.
A third way that has met with some success but isn’t used much is to ignore the person you’re trying to meet and instead sell to their boss or their boss’s boss. If you go up the corporate ladder and drop periodic hints about how their business will improve as a result of dealing with you, there’s a good chance that the “word will come down from above” that your target prospect has to meet with you. And what’s great about this process is that they’ll be more likely to buy from you because you were referred by their superior.
Lastly, use your ownership of the company to your advantage. A sales person at a large corporation does not have the flexibility you have to grow your business. They may be able to offer discounts on pricing but they can’t say things like “I’d like to develop a partnership with your company” or “We have some similar markets, let’s co-brand a product.” You have greater freedom as the owner to do these things. Use that position to your advantage.