If you’re in business-to-business sales, you know where you and your product generally rank on the list of priorities of most prospects. It’s usually way down there near the bottom of the list simply because a business operator or manager has so many situations clamoring for their attention every day.
Start with personnel (the biggest headache of all) and all the issues that go with it: hiring, firing, motivating, compensating, absenteeism, benefits, training, and on and on. Then there is the cost of goods if the business is a retail establishment or the cost of materials if it’s a manufacturer. These contribute directly to the profit margins, which are thin and getting thinner in most businesses today. There’s the “infrastructure” of the business—overhead items like rent, utilities, computer systems, debt service, and insurance. There are partners and shareholders to deal with, not to mention the most important of all, the customers. And then there’s that old bugaboo: taxes in all their myriad forms.
With all these matters weighing on the prospect’s mind, is it any wonder that it’s tough to get an appointment—especially one to ask a bunch of questions?
It’s even tougher when you factor in the competition—other salespeople. And I’m not just talking about your direct competitors. I’m referring to the army of salespeople peddling items and services that deal with all the above issues. Vendors, manufacturer’s reps, insurance agents; the list is endless. They all want a few minutes of the prospect’s time every day. If the prospect saw them all, they’d never get anything else done. If you want an appointment, you have to break through the clutter. You should pay the prospect for his time, not expect him to pay you.
These days most prospects expect the seller to have done their homework before they come in the door. They barely have time to do their own jobs, much less educate every salesperson who wants to sell them something. So, do the research first, then come up with a product or service that will meet the needs you think the prospect might have. Now, instead of calling the prospect and asking for some of their valuable time to educate you, you can offer to give them something of value—an idea to help their business in some way. Approached that way, the prospect is much more likely to give you a few minutes to make your pitch.
Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.