When I first joined my father in our advertising and media organization, I was tasked with targeting new prospects. Using our memory typewriter with a whopping twelve pages of memory, I mailed thousands of letters, espousing the virtues of our company – yet I did not receive a single response.
I learned at an early age that sales was one of the most difficult and oftentimes frustrating professions. Most new business does not come to you. To build a successful organization, sales must be one of the top focuses, and everyone from the receptionist to the CEO must sell. But you can’t sell like the other guy. You have to be unique and innovative in your approach.
Babe Ruth said that “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” He couldn’t be more on point in respect to the mentality of a salesperson. Peppered with regular rejection, a salesperson cannot lose focus and allow rejection of the sale to define his existence. He has to keep to his game plan and not be afraid to strike out. Like Babe Ruth, who knew that it only took one swing to quickly change the momentum of a game, business momentum can change with one innovative idea that leads to a successful sale.
Common Denominators in Sales No matter what you are selling, the first step is really knowing and thoroughly understanding these key aspects:
- Your product
- Your competition
- Your customers
- What makes your product unique
Most salespeople have a good understanding of their own product. However, it is just as important to know everything about your competition. How does your competitor position its product; what are the product’s strengths, weaknesses, distinctions, appeal, etc.
Another important factor is discerning everything about the person to whom you are selling. With the Internet, it is much easier to find out information through LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, Fast Pitch, Focus, other business social networks, industry news sites and company websites, as well as just generally through search engines. The key is absorbing as much as you can about the company’s executive who is making the decisions, thus giving you the proper insight and information that will help you make the sale to his or her organization.
Innovation in Selling: I get hundreds of unsolicited items in the mail each year, most of which have been given very little thought and are very generic in nature – and, like most executives, I pay little attention to them.
To start the sales relationship stage, you must be creative and clever in your approach. Many companies have great products and/or services, but the ones that break through the clutter provide something unique. So consider mailing or delivering a creative item that embodies your product’s benefit. Or perhaps create a video that is totally customized to the executive you are pitching with a message that conveys your product or service’s unique selling proposition. Your goal should always be to get a meeting secured for the near future. Be different. Be distinctive. Be memorable! It’s how you package what your selling that at least gets you in the door.
Rather than trying to sell to a wide array of different companies, do your research and narrow down the set to
a manageable number of companies – the ones that really merit you putting in the effort to solicit them in a manner that will get their attention.
The Innovative Selling Process: Once you have found your new business target, the first step is building a relationship. Especially in a service business, most companies will not make an immediate change, so you need to position your company to be there when the opportunity presents itself. By building a relationship initially, this is the first step in positioning you and your company to stand out.
Second, what is your initial objective? In the service business industry, there are usually a series of steps in the vendor relationship process, ranging from an RFI (“Request for Information”) to an RFP (“Request for Proposal”). Depending upon the circumstances, your initial goal could be getting into the vetting process or tackling a single smaller component of the business so you can initially get in the door.
Ultimately, your goal is to bring new value to your new business prospects, so you will be able to add them as a client for many years.
Finally, like all disciplines, the key is to stick with a well-thought out game plan. This concept is best stated by E. M. Gray from The Common Denominator of Success: “The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do… They don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.”