Q: I recently started a service business and find it difficult to connect with the customer. What is the best way to get my foot in the door?
A: There have been many articles written on "cold calling," some in favor and others not so favorable. I can only relate to my 40 odd years experiences as an insurance salesman and say, without reservation, there is no substitute for the face-to-face cold call.
Ads in trade publications, newsletters, mass emails, tweets and blogs will help to establish your credibility as a provider of whatever you are selling. However, if you expect these methods to motivate customers to come to you, it may be a long wait.
One reason so many sales people try alternative methods of outreach is there is no immediate rejection factor. Whereas, you may have the door slammed in your face with a cold call.
Advance preparation is the key to a successful cold call. Know when is the best time to catch the decision maker in their office and what your opening remarks will be.
As an example, I found that I could usually find the boss in the office after the rest of the staff had left for the day. I know that every prospective customer already has a relationship with another provider so I ask him: "If there is one thing that would make your relationship with your current provider more satisfactory, what would it be?"
The goal is to find the "chink" in the armor and suggest a way to satisfy the customer's need. If he says "my premiums come due at a time when my business is slow," I would offer to write a short-term policy that renews when he is flush with cash.
Cold calling starts with developing a database of prospects. A free and extremely useful resource is the website www.ReferenceUSA.com. The only requirement is that you join your local library. The site enables you to identify 14 million prospects by industry, location, employee size, sales volume and more. It has recently launched a mobile app for the iPad on the App Store.
Reference USA will help you quantify your prospect list and consolidate your calls in a concise geographic region, thus maximizing the number of calls you can make in a given day.
Remember, sales are a numbers game. The more calls you make the more sales you will close. And those who turn you down this year should be the first you call on next year. Preparation and persistence are the keys to a winning sales strategy.
Gray Poehler is a volunteer with SCORE Naples. Counselors can assist and offer advice concerning management issues facing your small business. Counseling is provided free to all U.S. citizens and legal aliens. To register, call 239-430-0081 or visit http://tinyurl.com/43aqelw.
If you would like an answer to your question, fill out the form at http://naples.score.org/mentors. A counselor will contact you in 48 hours. Include your name, email address and a contact phone number.