People call and email me every day to sell me their stuff. Most of them have no idea who I am or what I need for my business. I rarely respond and never buy from them. This seems like a terrible waste of their effort. Businesses of all types can tip the buying scales by being well-prepared for every prospect they contact. Here are a few tips to start.
This method entails doing a lot of preparation before making the first connection. First, find out what the business actually does and who the leaders are. Search engines and social media sites often offer up most of this information. If the company has a website, click on the "about us" section, and pay close attention to what it says about its mission.
From this information, look for the “pain” that your business can solve for them. What great need do they have and what evidence exists that they actually have the money to solve it? On their website or through an Internet search, review new product or service areas, new business partnerships, announcements of new customers or job postings. These can describe the challenges they are facing.
Check out listings on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter for both the company and it’s key decision-makers. These posts can say a lot about what is most important to them. Try to draw connections to who you know that actually knows them. Are you and the target company a member of the same organization? Getting a referral from one of these trusted agents can often get you past the gatekeeper and ensure that your phone message or email doesn't end up in the trash. An email subject line like “Referred by Patti” often works better than “How I can help you.”
Take a look at competitors. How is the company you're targeting positioned in the market? Is it the industry leader or the underdog? Does it sell based on value, or is it a discounter? This information can be researched through Hoovers, InsideView, Factiva and Zoominfo.
Value of Customization
After this research is completed, customize the solution to fit what the prospect needs. Consider how your company can match what you have to what the prospect needs. The key here is to offer value, but not create a single solution for each customer every time, since this won't be profitable.
For example, if a company sells consulting services, how can its specific industry experience help this customer? For small-business marketing software maker Infusionsoft, it provides special starter packs based on the customer’s industry. At Marriott hotels, guests can customize stays by requesting certain pillows or a high floor. If a company sells a product, which accessories can be added to make it more usable for that customer? At Trek Bikes, riders can customize their bikes to fit the kind of riding they do.
Once contact is made, keep track of this in a customer relationship management system (CRM), and follow-up in the promised timeframe.
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This article was originally published on December 16, 2015.