from the insights of Vernon’s Industry Relations & Communications Manager, Andrea Smith
…It’s About Doing Business with People
It can be tough to get a foot in the door at many companies. Sometimes you can’t even get past the gatekeeper to find out who is responsible for purchasing promo products within an organization. Depending on the size of the organization, you could be reaching out to the HR Department, Marketing, Sales, Purchasing or all of the above. Ultimately, it’s good to remember that you’re trying to connect with an individual. When you think about it on that level, it makes the task of proactive marketing much more manageable. In the end, people want to do business with people they like and can relate to.
Finding the right person
There are a number of tools at your disposal that can help you find the person within an organization responsible for buying promo items. The best example is LinkedIn. Many of you have LinkedIn but may not be using it to its fullest potential. Did you know that you can search for a specific job title within a company page, that you can send “InMail” messages to people – even if you’re not “linked” to them? You can utilize the “People Also Viewed” section in a profile to see the listings of people that others searched for. You can also use LinkedIn to ask for professional recommendations to help sell yourself to others. All of these tools can quickly grow your contact network. Sound intriguing but maybe a little overwhelming? If so, LinkedIn offers a variety of webinars to learn how to maximize your account. You can connect to LinkedIn’s Sales education library of webinars here.
Connect & Make an Impression
If this is your first point-of-contact and you haven’t been referred to the prospect by someone you already do business with, what’s the best way to connect? There are a number of different schools of thought. Many believe that sending an introductory email can be a good icebreaker, particularly when followed up with a phone call. Others believe that picking up the phone and introducing yourself is the way to go. There are also a few salespeople who still make in-person drop-in cold calls – although this is quickly dying out as a viable strategy since people are busier than ever and often find unsolicited visits unwelcomed. Of course, in our industry, sending a thoughtful promotional product in the mail can open doors for you.
The key in any proactive marketing outreach is to connect in the way that the prospective client wants to be reached and bring something that might be of value to them. In other words, don’t try to connect with the person via LinkedIn if they aren’t an active LinkedIn user. It only reduces the likelihood of the person seeing your message or feeling like it is relevant. You should always offer something of value to the prospect – again, it could be a promotional product that they can use in their business or it could be a $5 gift card to your local Starbucks that you send along with an invitation to join you for coffee. In order to ensure that there’s value, you need to do some homework on the company and even on the individual. What does their company website say is important to them? What type of culture do they work in? What types of events do they participate in and what charities do they support? All of this information will help fill in some background for you in advance of the meeting and will ultimately help you in making a positive impression on the prospect.
When trying to win new business, it’s important that the client likes you. Although you may not think you’re in a popularity contest, one of the main reasons that people choose to business with a new vendor is because they either don’t like their current salesperson or maybe they just like you better than their old vendor. If they like you, it’s a lot easier for them to trust you, believe in you and come to rely on you when they’re in a crunch.
Say Thank You
Finally, it’s imperative to always thank your prospect. Whether it’s calling them and leaving a brief message, sending off a short (but thoughtful) email or by sending them a thank you promo item in the mail, prospective clients – much like the rest of the world – like to feel appreciated. Believe it or not, even when you don’t land the business, telling the prospect thank you can leave an even greater impression. You will stand out to the client if you call to say, “Thank you for the opportunity. Please keep us in mind for future projects.” It shows that you value their time and attention and underscores your integrity as a salesperson.
In sales, it pays to remember that you’re not just pitching clients or companies, but you’re trying to build rapport and ultimately a great working relationship with individuals.