Since recently joining the ranks of the “Self Employed” as a consultant, I have used various means
of keeping my prospect pipeline full. In the years since I was on the sales front lines I had forgotten what a challenge this can be! You see the higher up the corporate food chain the less time spent on tactical functions, the more on strategic and planning issues.
When I began my sales career 20+ years ago I was encouraged to set aside time each week to “cold call” and set up appointments. Like most, I was never completely comfortable doing it but I was personable and knowledgeable enough to have reasonable success gaining appointments.
In todays busy business environment with easy access to online information and caller ID to help managers screen out those pesky sales types … interrupting, unsolicited calls, have fallen far out of favour.
I recently read somewhere that statistically anywhere from 3 – 10% of companies that you contact have immediate need for your service. Out of that percentage only 5 – 10% will actually pick up the phone! Even if I am a rock star when I get in front of those individuals, it has taken hundreds of calls and a huge expenditure of time to find one, maybe, mildly interested possibility! Having taught microeconomics in a previous life, the magnitude of the opportunity cost associated with this activity is not lost on me! I for one believe that my scarce time is far more profitably spent on alternative approaches!
So what can we do to improve our odds of getting in front of “qualified” leads?
Networking – This can be a two tiered approach..
– Working with and sharing ideas with other similar businesses in your industry … if they know and trust your capabilities and you don’t directly compete they may be willing to recommend you.
– Joining various networking groups such as BNI (particularly their corporate chapters) can offer good results. It should be noted that there are a wide array of these networking groups but the most effective ones are very structured and aggressively push their members to exchange viable leads with each other.
Web presence – Have a strong web presence. If you are a franchise business make sure that either a portion of the corporate web site is focused on you or have your own site. Effective web sites are dynamic and are content laden. Make sure to use SEO effectively as most purchasing activities today begin with an on line search!
Social media – The number one benefit of using social media to my mind is to stand out in this increasingly noisy digital world!
Effective use of social media is a super way to educate. In fact, most social media consultants will tell you, that the effective use of tools such as face book, you tube or twitter requires that you don’t just broadcast your message but that you provide fans with relevant content and engage them on a continual basis. Gaining trust through relevant content will help to position you and/or your firm as a “go to” source.
Speak at events – Never miss an opportunity to speak in front of your target audience. Professional groups often meet in
local chapters i.e. Accountants, HR professionals, Lawyers, etc. Seek out these chapters and ask if they are looking for a speaker at one of their sessions. Of course your topic has to be relevant but it can be
a terrific opportunity for you to become “the” expert in their eyes.
Host your own event – Setting up a seminar or series of seminars either featuring yourself (if you possess enough expertise on a topic) or selected experts is another way to position yourself as a go to source for answers. Again any opportunity to interact personally with prospects will foster emerging associations.
These are just a few of the ways to enhance your presence in your market. In the end, people buy from people they like and trust. Good sales people understand this and engage their clients and prospects with honesty and an effort to share who they are and what they know.
Principal Consultant, MoreSALES.ca Burlington/Oakville