Sunday, May 30, 2010

Growth in a Challenging Economy -- You CAN do It!


We all know how tough it's been in the last two years. Many small businesses just couldn't make it and lots of large, established companies had to shut down as well. That said, there ARE ways for you and your company to grow right now in this economic climate. This will be first in a series of actual "how to" articles for both new and established businesses.

Let's talk about cold calling. No one really likes it but it's a reality. For many, it's downright uncomfortable. But if you are prepared you can find those new clients who want whatever it is you are selling.

Here's how to prepare: First, research the kind of companies you would like to work with. Research them thoroughly so you can speak knowledgably once you get them on the phone. Next, write down bullet points of what you'll say: your name, your company, why you are calling. Always ask for the department you think would include the final decision maker. That can be your biggest challenge as many of the "gatekeepers" will try and hang up quickly because you are a "sales call". Do NOT let that deter you.

When making calls, sound upbeat, happy and downright enthusiastic. It's much more likely that the person on the other end of the phone will be helpful by either providing a name, phone number or email address of the right person. When you get that info, act on it immediately! Either leave a voicemail stating you will call back or write an email introducing yourself. Now that's where many people stop. If you want to truly be successful and grow, get back on the phone the next day and use the art of persuasion to get yourself into your future client's office! Be brief but sound like the expert you are. No one knows what you are selling better than you, so give that elevator pitch and ask when you can come in for an appointment.

OK, (and some of this may be quite obvious to you), dress like a pro: No open toe shoes, micro-mini skirts or "casual Friday" clothes. I always tell my team to be better dressed than the client even if he or she is in jeans and a t-shirt. Have samples of whatever you are selling and if possible is very helpful since concepts are obtuse to potential buyers. If at all possible, bring a custom item just for that client. Plan to take not more than 30 minutes for your first meeting. When you are done, leave behind some material that reiterates the points of your meeting and a professional looking business card (nothing neon or printed off your computer). Be sure to get your potential client's card as well.

Before the end of that business day, write a thank you note to the person you met with. The subject line should read: "Thank You,
Follow Up -- then write the name of your company". A short, well-written note will suffice. It should include an action item that states you will be in touch the following week or in whatever timeframe you may have discussed. This is a MUST. One of the compliments I get often is "your follow up is great". What you do AFTER your meeting is as important as how you prepped. If you do not stay on top of new contacts -- even those you meet at networking mixers or online -- by picking up the phone, your chances of success are limited. Email and voicemail are great but nothing takes the place of one-on-one interaction. Build a good relationship and you will gain a loyal customer.

Regardless of how many "no" answers you get, keep a positive attitude and you WILL get new customers to buy from you.

Mary Ann McQueen Butcher