Q. Dave, I’ve tried for months to see a prospect account, but can’t get them to return my calls. When is it best to just give up?
A. There is a question we have all asked at one time or another. As usual, there is no simple answer. Let’s explore this.
First, let’s decide whether or not the potential of the account is worth some extraordinary measures and additional investment of your time. Is the potential dollar volume substantial? Is it just an ordinary account? Is it smaller than most?
If it is a small account, I’d say give up and move on right now. It probably is not worth your effort. If, however, the potential is substantial, then that impacts your strategy. So, determine that first. Now, let’s assume that you have researched the account and decided that the potential is definitely worth some extraordinary efforts from you. Before you give up, try some of these proven tactics. Here are a series of possibilities.
Make the appointment. On your next voice mail, say something like this: “I’ll be in your area next Thursday and would like to see you for about 15 minutes around 4 PM. Unless I hear otherwise, I’ll see you then.” I know that’s a little gutsy, but I have known sales people who claim it consistently works for them.
Examine your voice mail message and revise it to make it more appealing. I just had a sales person tell me he says, “I’d like to talk to you about my company and my product.” That’s probably the worst voice mail message I have ever heard. To be effective, your voice mail should contain these elements:
a. a reference to other companies very similar to his (and maybe known by him) with which you have worked.
b. a couple points of pain (problems) that his company may have that you can help resolve.
c. a request for a specific period of time (15 minutes) to discuss it.
Think about using a “pre-call touch” to condition him to accept your call. This is a delivery that you make to the prospect that gets through to him, makes a positive impression and increases the likelihood that he will return your call. I just received a good example. The Fed Ex guy came directly into my office a couple of weeks ago, put a box on my desk and asked me to sign for it. I did. Then, I did what everyone else would do with a Fed Ex package – I opened it. Inside was a hand-written invitation to attend a Webinar, with a bottle of Coke, and a package of micro-wave popcorn. The invitation indicated that my company met their profile for the kind of business they could help the most, and that they would like me to relax, enjoy the Coke and popcorn, and watch the Webinar. Pretty well done. Got through to me, showed me that they had researched my business, invested in me and got my attention. As it turned out, I had a prior commitment, otherwise, I would have taken them up on their offer. That’s a good example of a “pre-call touch.” You can do something similar. Spend some time thinking about it. Ask yourself, “What can I have delivered that will get through to the individual, make a positive impression and condition him to be more receptive to my call?”
Try to have someone introduce you. Scan your customer base. Is there anyone who knows this person? Ask your good customers. If you find one, then plead your case to that customer and humbly ask for his/her help. Would he call the prospect/write a note/send an e-mail recommending you to the prospect? If so, follow up with an immediate phone call or two, and see if that doesn’t break the ice.
Try to meet them outside of the office. If there is a trade show, or local meeting of an affiliation group of some kind (chamber of commerce, trade association), show up there, and see if the person you want to meet is in attendance. If so, introduce yourself.
Now, if all of these things still don’t work, then back off for a while, give it a few months and start all over again. You can be sure of this: Somewhere, sometime, something will change. Your job is to be there when it does. Good luck.
Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of distributor and B2B salespeople and sales managers to be more effective in the 21st century economy. He’s authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and eight countries. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine or visit his blog at www.davekahle.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to contact Dave.