50% Off Everything
There’s a garden center near us that has a “50% off everything” sale each year on the Fourth of July to help it clear out its remaining flats of bedding plants. It sends a clear message: If you haven’t planted your annuals by July 4th, you’d better forget about it.
By the second week of July in northern New Jersey, there are already tiny, just-formed acorns coming off the oak trees, and if you aren’t dead-heading your petunias and marigolds, it’s hello seeds, goodbye new flowers. We’re only two weeks into the official summer season, but the “real summer” started in May and stores are already putting out notebooks and backpacks for “back-to-school” sales—September here we come!
The seasons have their own rhythm, and time and tides really do not wait for anyone. If you want to gain the greatest benefit from any season you have to plan for it so that you can take action at the earliest and/or most propitious time. And that applies to selling seasons, too.
A good plan helps you focus on your best targets, rather than scatter-shooting in all directions and hoping for the best. And it enables you to target your message to these prospects as well, so that your approach has a greater potential for catching their attention amidst the clutter of print and electronic marketing messages everyone now receives.
Finding suitable targets starts with research. If your marketing department has been able to provide you with leads, begin there, of course. But don’t just pick up the phone and start calling. Understand why each company qualifies as a lead—what promotion did it respond to, what piece of content did it request? Any conversation you seek to have with prospects should begin there, because responding to a particular interest is the most likely way to keep them on the line.
But it shouldn’t end there. Before you call, do some research on their company. Look into its marketing positioning—how does it advertise and promote itself on its website, in local print ads? With today’s social media outlets, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Face Book, it may also be possible to research something about the person you are calling. Is he or she in the marketing department or head of an operational unit? Does the job title suggest authority to approve a large service contract or seem to indicate that the person is an assistant just trying to gather some information about possible suppliers?
Any information you can garner on the contact or the company will enable you to make a call that is most likely to gain a positive—or at least an interested—response.
If you don’t have a list of leads and are setting out to make cold calls, warm them up a little by doing similar research, understand what the company is about, look for ways in which your company’s capabilities could be put to use to help it promote its offerings, search for the names of the most likely people to call, whether it’s someone in Sales, or Marketing, Purchasing or a C-Suite executive.
And before you make any call, script out—at least in bullet points—what you will say if you can get the person on the line. Keep your initial efforts businesslike, to the point, and respectful of the contact’s time. Your goal in that first call is to establish some kind of connection, at least get permission to forward more information, at best get an appointment to explain more about your services. (Well, really at best, to get an order, but that may be a bit too much to hope for on a cold call—although the right pitch to the right person at the right moment could be highly successful.)
Part of your plan should be to outline a reasonable schedule for calling—how many calls to make in a day, when to make them, when to follow up, when to follow up again, and again, and again. A schedule will help you stay on track and stop you from giving up after the first two or three calls can’t get you past voice messaging. Oh, and about those voice messages…speak clearly, identify yourself and your company, explain as briefly as possible why you are calling and why it will benefit the person you are calling, and don’t rush through your phone number. Say it slowly and distinctly, and then repeat it so the person has time to pick up a pen and write it down.
If you have an email address for the prospect, follow up that phone call immediately with an email message. Once again, keep it short, informative, and to the point. And be sure to indicate that you will reach out to the person again in a few days. Then do so.
The combination of a good plan, good research, and polite persistence will help you win your sales goals—and you won’t have to offer 50% off everything.