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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Asking works

This book, Breaking the No Barrier, by the late Walt Hailey, is one of the cornerstones of our selling and marketing strategies. Hailey advocated integrating selling and marketing within the business-to-business supply chain.

In this blog entry, Networking Up, Part 2: How Rainmakers Move Up in the Client Organization, Ford Harding addresses the question of how you can connect with the key person/people in the organization when you aren't at the 'right' level. His recommendation: Ask -- and it makes a lot of sense.

Really, when it comes to selling, if you have a valid proposition and service that is of real value to the client business, you can gain access. The challenge is the words "real value". I can't see how you can possibly know if you have anything of value just by calling cold, running down a list, or barging into the office door with a canvassing call. (I suppose in the residential sector, and you are selling vinyl siding, and the house on the street's exterior is a mess, you can tell they might need new vinyl siding.)

So, then, the question is how do you find if the business has real need for your service when your manager gives you a raw list and says "go get em!"

Clues can be found by reading and learning about the business; by talking to lower level personnel in an informal setting, or if you are lucky (or plan it right) having informal discussions with more senior people in neutral settings.

Another approach is to look at your existing network of clients and see if you an work with them upstream -- that is, obtain referrals to THEIR suppliers. This is the cornerstone of our own marketing approach -- we assess the supply chain and then follow the money. If your clients are really happy with your services, they'll probably be happy to refer you to their suppliers, and their suppliers will likely be happy to take your call, because, after all, you are referred by these suppliers' customers.

I'm a firm advocate of spending more time on research and analysis, and putting more effort into the prospecting phase, rather than 'closing' the sale. The 'close' almost should come naturally without force or effort, because by the time that arrives, the client will be naturally ready to do business with you.

Yes, you might say, spending all this time on research and not getting face time with clients invites analysis freeze. This is why I really like this four point program that creates excellent self-discipline and management, and reminds you that all the research in the world doesn't substitute for face-time with real prospects and clients.

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