As an entrepreneur, you must routinely make time in your schedules to engage with potential customers. Once you have identified a potential customer, the following are some key pointers for the sales call.
When calling a potential customer, be pleasant and courteous. Give your contact a good reason to make time to speak with you. You need to sell them on the idea that spending time to learn about your offering is worthwhile.
The more senior the person, the longer it will take to reach them and the more difficult it will be for them to find time for you. Be patient, understanding and persistent.
The general rule of thumb is that you will need to place an average of five calls before being able to get hold of a senior executive. You can expect that an appointment will take at least six weeks from first contact.
Some executives only meet with a small number of suppliers. In this case you should expect to have to work your way up the organization. You must prove the value of your technology and win over others at the company who will then recommend you to the key decision-maker.
One tactic used successfully by many entrepreneurs is to develop a relationship with a company insider who can act as a coach. A coach will help you navigate through the organization and find the right people.
When you reach someone with whom you would like to book an appointment, make sure that communication is crystal clear. For the first couple of calls, many entrepreneurs find it helpful to have a script, or a note nearby highlighting the key points they’d like to get across.
A best practice is to provide a clear and concise introduction to your company and your role, the purpose of your call, and a compelling reason why the person on the other end of the line should make time to meet with you or talk to you about your product.
If the potential customer agrees to meet with you but has difficulty finding time in his or her schedule, be creative and flexible.
You will increase your chance of success by being polite, pleasant and accommodating.
Immediately after it is booked, confirm the details of the appointment by email, and then again the day before the meeting is to take place. If you receive no response to the email confirmation the day before the meeting, follow up by phone.
If you require specific facilities or equipment for the meeting (for example, a projector), make sure that you mention this in every confirmation email or phone call.
At all costs, you must avoid a situation in which you are unable to proceed with the meeting because some practical detail wasn’t properly arranged.
After booking and confirming a meeting, prepare for the sales call. Preparation takes time, so familiarize yourself well in advance with the process and tools we recommend in the following articles:
Heiman, S. & Sanchez, D. (1998). The New Strategic Selling. New York: Warner Books, Inc.