Wednesday, May 11, 2011

 

Six ways to get more business without directly asking for it

Nobody likes to ask for business. As sellers, we want prospects to come to us, to already understand the need, and to just sign the paperwork and get started.

Not gonna happen, not most of the time anyway. If we want to grow sales, we need to be proactive. But being proactive doesn't always mean directly asking for business. Here are six ways you can be proactive, add value, and earn the business more naturally.

Show them what their competitors are doing
Think your prospect needs a new Web site? Point out what their competitors just launched. Think they need to overhaul their customer service organization? Point out the overwhelming positive comments about competitors and their service on Yelp and elsewhere in social media channels.

Do this as a heads-up, not a pointed "see what you're not doing" way. Your prospects will make the translation. When you give that heads-up, be sure to point out what you like and don't like about the competitive strategy. Point out which things would be priorities to emulate, especially if that can be done with minimal resource requirements.

Show them what other businesses with their same problems/objectives are doing
Doesn't have to be direct competitors or even businesses in the same industry. If your prospect is struggling with driving performance from an inside sales team, point out examples and best practices at other sales organizations - no matter what they're selling. If you want to sell a crisis communication plan, demonstrate how effectively (or ineffectively) other companies are handling their crises. You can probably find a good example to use in the news right now!

One of the best ways to learn new ideas is to look at businesses and industries far different from your own. Your role, your company and your industry both bias and blind you to other opportunities that would successfully translate.

Quantify the value and/or the pain
Teach, don't sell. Educate & enlighten. Your prospect may not even be aware that they have a problem. They may not have quantified how big of a problem they have, which would increase the prioritization of seeking a solution.

They may not have calculated the potential ROI or value of doing something new, something different, something that causes short-term work but creates significant, long-term value.

You can do this in the process of active selling, but you can also do this as a service. Help quantify the need, and they'll likely ask you the next question about how to address it.

Brainstorm with them
Offer some of your time and expertise, directly. You can limit the time you spend, but take the time with good prospects to not only understand their business and needs, but actively brainstorm solutions.

Few sellers do this. They don't take the time, or don't see the value. But this is a highly differentiated way to create immediate value, soften sales barriers, and build tighter relationships with prospects who can either give you direct business or refer you (and your expertise, and brainstorming skills) to others.

Show up (in person)
No question more successful selling happens remotely now. Phone skills are improving, and Web conferencing tools are increasingly relevant and impactful. But nothing will ever replace the value of showing up. Seeing someone in person. Exchanging a handshake, some small talk, direct engagement. It doesn't scale, but you don't have to do it for everybody. Prioritize and get out there.

Group settings offer less intimacy and personalization, but are an opportunity to meet and engage with lots of people at once. Join others or create your own.

Just start doing the work
This is a slippery slope, for sure. And it works best for service organizations. But what if you just got started? What if you started building the crisis communication plan, or designing the VOIP phone system, or sharing PR opportunities? What if part of your sales strategy & bandwidth was devoted to producing work for prospective clients?

Some of that work might be transferable to other opportunities - other prospects, blog post ideas, speech content, etc. At minimum, digging in and doing actual work will make you smarter about that business, and likely smarter about offering similar advice to the next prospect.

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