Networking and prospects: the do’s and don’ts
Inside the Chamber
Part three of a four-part series.
Do you absolutely detest cold calling prospective businesses in your target market? I know I do, so it’s time to stop. Cold calling is one of the biggest turnoffs when it comes to sales. I recently read that the ratio of conversion on a cold call to a sale can be as low as 2 percent depending on how good you are at your sales pitch and script. It most likely will be somewhat higher if your sales are focused and value is created during the call, assuming the prospect doesn’t hang up on you first. I still prefer not to cold call. I would much rather meet a prospective client face-to-face.
I recently stopped by a business that seemed to be a great prospect. When I entered the building the receptionist was hidden behind a high desk and computer. I approached her, even though she did not welcome me as I entered the business, and asked for the owner so I could introduce myself and see if he had time to show me around. The owner was out of town, but I supplied the employee with a member packet so she could share it with the owner when he arrived back. When I called a week later to follow up, the owner said he never received the packet, but at least it was a conversation starter so I could “get my foot in the door.” And the best thing was, even though I was calling I did not feel as though it was a “cold call” since I had previously stopped in to welcome the business to the community.
Where can you find prospects? Check your local media, including social media. Read the paper first thing in the morning and see if there are new advertisers. When you are on your way to work listen to the local radio — there may be a new ad that you haven’t heard — or watch your local TV station for new commercials. If you happen to be within walking or driving distance of a new business remember to stop by to introduce yourself too the owners and tell them where you heard about them. Maybe you read an article that you think would be of interest to them; if so clip it and send it in the mail with a short note. You could also invite them to go for a cup of coffee or lunch when they have time. Chances are if they are new to your town or just opening their business they would appreciate it. If your business is a chamber member you could invite them as your guest to the next networking event.
When out selling don’t be pushy, but remember you have to be proactive. Just getting a business card from someone and introducing yourself is not networking. Create a plan that includes following up with the business after you get its business card. Focus on your conversation, and when making your presentation personalize it to the specific business with which you are meeting. Also, make sure that conversation is consistent with your brand and message. When creating your sales pitch you should focus on your mission. But most importantly, remember to listen to your prospective client. Turn your cell phone off when you are in a meeting or speaking to someone. Find out what their needs are and be sure you can meet them. Build a lasting relationship. Even if you are unable to do business at this time they may keep your product in mind for the future.
Just like everything else in life this, too, goes full circle. What I mean is get back to the basics. Get out from behind your desk, stop the cold calling, and meet prospective clients in person. Even if someone is busy when you stop by leave your business card and remember to follow up with an email when you get back to your office and a week later a phone call to possibly set an appointment. Another great way to get more prospects is to join a leads/referral group. This is a great way to meet other business owners, build relationships, and give and receive leads. When another business person refers you to a prospective client this gives you more clout, and they are more likely to agree to the meeting.
If you are looking for new prospects and would like to begin networking with a group of chamber member professionals contact Joni Bates, vice president of membership development, at 945-1514 for information on Business Before Breakfast, the chamber’s newest networking/leads group. Or join us at chamber orientation from 7:30-9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library.
Joni Bates is the VP of Membership Development and can be contacted via phone at 970-945-1514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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