Landing the next BIG client: Just a Flip of the Coin?

Today I was thinking about some of my large sales successes. The high of landing a large account can really begin an unstoppable momentum in your sales journey.

I have always been in sales and marketing and have had many great highs. A large amount of my super highs have come from landing large accounts. One I often think about is Bi-Lo, a 220 store grocery chain based in South Carolina.

I remember like it was yesterday… I had been working with the buyer for over 5 months, flying back and forth from San Diego to Greenville, South Carolina too many times to count. At the time we were a relatively small entertainment distributor at about $10 million in sales and I was competing against 5 other vendors ranging in size from $100 million to just shy of $1 billion. Just who did I think I was competing against these goliath companies? Blind to anything that may have been in my way! I had lost count on how many times I had followed up via email, phone calls, letters, and notes trying to close the sale.

One of the last times I followed up I finally had the buyer on the phone. He stated it was between me and two of my largest competitors. I asked him where he was leaning and his exact response was “I don’t know Alan, it’s really a flip of a coin!”… A FLIP OF A COIN?!?! I was so taken back by that comment at first but then quickly started thinking about what I could do… OK, a flip of a coin… I can take care of that!

The following day I sent a coin Next Day Air with our company logo engraved on each side with a note that said “Here is the coin to use when you are ready !” The next week I received the call letting me know our company was awarded the contract! My consistent followup was a major factor in landing the account and I also know the coin pushed my buyer over the edge in my direction. For more creative follow up ideas check out Scott Ginsberg’s article 7 (more) Unforgettable Follow-Up Strategies.

How many times have you been presented with a challenge at some point in the sale? Are you listening for the opportunities to take that one extra step? I find a lot of times in the sales process it comes down to a few companies and the customer goes with the company that feels right… Look for those opportunities to insure you stand out amongst your competitors and realize sometimes it just comes down to a flip of a coin.

“THE MEETING” What to say and is it worth it?

So you have set a meeting for an upcoming future date! Now what? I have these types of meetings almost every day. I have found the best agenda for this meeting is similar to an interview process. Here is my basic agenda for these meetings:

Review your notes on the new contact and their website before calling. When you call the contact remind them of the reason and goal for the meeting. Make sure you are really listening and take notes! If possible you want to engage the other person first by probing them about their business.

Start by asking them to talk a little about their business. (3 minutes)

When the contact has finished or the 3 minutes has passed ask the following question:

Can you give me an example of your ideal client or customer?

I find most small business owners or solopreneurs have a hard time answering this question. Sometimes you may have to help them out by sharing your ideal client. For example: My ideal client is a small business owner, solopreneur, or sales professional that wants to attract more clients and generate more referrals. They typically know the value of following up but often say they never get around to it, don’t have the time, or don’t have any kind of system to make it easy.

Explain to me your biggest challenge in your business.

This could present an opportunity for you to help with this challenge or possibly you have someone in your network that can help or shed a different light on this challenge.

Who is your best referral partners?

Possible referral partners for an Estate Planning Attorney could be a Financial Planner, Real Estate Agent, Lender, or CPA . Sometimes you may have referrals for a new contacts best referral partner before having a customer referral for them.

What makes you or your company different from your competitors?

Some companies will have a highly competitive edge in a marketplace and they know it. A lot of times an insurance agent knows they are the most cost effective for certain industries and if you know this information it makes it very easy to refer them.

Are you on facebook or Linkedin?

I will talk more about facebook and Linkedin in future posts. If you are not on facebook or Linkedin you can visit my profile to learn more.

Is there anything more you would like to tell me about you or your company that might help me give you referrals?

This is an ending question which will allow you to start your part of the meeting.

At this point you want to basically go over these same questions with your new contact so they learn more about you and how they might be able to help grow your business. This process can last 30 minutes to one hour depending on the answers. Make sure to find out at the start of the meeting how much time you have to insure you both get the most value. Speaking of value, do you see how this second meeting can be a huge part of your follow up? Let me know if you have a question to add or if this post was helpful by adding a comment!

I have to talk to the person again!

I know some of you are thinking to yourself “I already met the person at the networking event, followed up with an email, and sent a greeting card!” So why should I meet with the person again? I will admit, I have had some success meeting someone at a networking event and then actually doing business with them shortly after without this step.

It seems to me professionals attending a networking event are mostly looking to meet new contacts. The hope is this new contact will either give them or lead them to new business. Is it really reasonable to think you will gain new business or a new contact that will lead you to your next big customer from a casual five minute conversation? I look at this first interaction as the first stepping stone on the path of the business relationship. The next stone on the path is meeting again in person or on the phone.

So how do you get the second meeting? Simply call your new contact and let them know you want to add them to your referral network. Learning more about their business and talking to them more about your business will lead you both to referrals. Let the new contact know the goal of this meeting is to add them to your network and in order to do that you want to know more about them.

From this meeting you will find out more about their business, who their ideal client is, their existing referral partners, and most importantly how you can refer them.

Follow Up with a Greeting Card!

This should seem obvious but to be quite honest I am shocked at how few follow up greeting cards or hand written notes I receive. Many of our great leaders, top businesses owners, and world renowned sales trainers talk about the hand written note or greeting card. Keith Ferrazzi talks about the power of following up with a hand written note in his national bestselling book Never Eat Alone. Take a moment and think about the last 30 days… How many networking events have you attended? Is the number one, five, or possibly twenty? How many greeting cards, hand written notes, or even postcards have you received from these new contacts?

Think about this… Almost every day I am in a meeting, conference call, or just talking to another business owner and one of the following statements comes up. “Can you believe this economy? No one is buying anything!”, “My business is down, people are just not buying anymore”, “I don’t understand, my customers are not calling me.”

In a business environment where a lot of sales professionals and businesses are struggling (real or imagined) why are some having record sales? If two remodeling builders are in the same major city like New York, Los Angeles, or Dallas why is one having explosive growth while the other is closing down? Could it be the growing business is really lucky and the other is not? Could one have a stronger pool of customers or possibly amazing sales people?

Or maybe it is just a slight edge and a different mindset? Maybe they do something just a little different.. Maybe the business with explosive growth are just following up! Imagine where you or your business would be today if you consistently followed up using a simple greeting card or note…

Why follow up with an email first?

The question you should ask is WHY NOT? Sending an email is by far the easiest, fastest, and most cost effective first follow up step you can do. Emailing your new contact within 24 hours makes you stand out from anyone else they may have met at the event. The email also shows you are committed to exploring the business relationship further. You want the email ready in advance to insure it’s sent right away. I would suggest having multiple versions ready to go depending on the types of networking you are doing. You might have one for a Chamber of Commerce Mixer, another for various seminars you may attend, and possibly a version for professionals who visit your weekly networking group such as BNI or LeTip.

The following is a few elements you may want to include in your email:

-Mention the event name in the subject, “Great Meeting You at the San Diego North Chamber of Commerce Mixer”.

-Talk about the event and how great it was meeting them in your opening line, “I really enjoyed meeting you this morning at 5 Minute Networking!

-Mention your desire to learn more about the person and their company. Your goal is to meet with the person to explore how you might help each other. Let them know you will be calling them to setup a meeting shortly.

-In closing ask them to connect with you on LinkedIn or Facebook. I personally welcome new invites as this expands my networking and referral potential.

Remember your email signature! Scott Hanselman has a great post talking about email signature etiquette in his blog. I appreciate a signature that includes the name, phone number, website, and picture. Including your picture is a valuable step in the relationship building process.

7 Steps to Follow Up Success

I do more networking than the average business or professional. I typically attend three or more different networking events every week. I meet all types of business professionals, owners, and sales people. And guess what makes me stand out from all the other people networking… I follow up with every single person. Here is my follow up process:

1) When you get back to your office, or within 24 hours send an email to each person you met. Keep it simple and not a sales pitch.

2) Mail each person a “nice to meet you” greeting card within 24 hours.

3) Within one week call each new contact to set up a meeting to learn more about their business and how you might help each other.

(The meeting can be in person or on the phone. The idea is for each of you to learn more about each other. 15 to 30 minutes for each person to talk is more than enough time.  Make sure to add this contact into your social media platforms you use like LinkedIn or Facebook )

4) On the second week, contact the person again with a call and email if you have still not connected.

5) Mail a thank you card after the meeting within 24 hours.

6) I make it a point, after meeting with a new contact, to give them a referral within 30 days. Ideally this happens but not always.

7) Make contact again 30 days after your meeting. Remember you are building a relationship with this person that can last for years.

The key is to have a set follow up system in place for each networking event prepared in advance. In the near future I will be discussing these steps in more detail. Keep in mind whether you attend one networking event a day, or one every two months, follow these simple steps and your networking results will improve dramatically. A great place to learn more about all of the different types of networking is the National Networker blog. You will find a never ending amount of resources and information.