Turning that prospect into a customer By Ken Ninomiya

closing-the-deal“Prospecting is the work of the weak. My business comes to me”. Who dares to proclaim this type of arrogance and confidence.  I don’t recall any one knocking on my door to give me their business. It is true that, once in a while, a product or service comes around that people do stand in line for hours to get – like World Series tickets. This is probably not true in your business.

As a sales manager, it is necessary to develop a strong routine of developing sales leads and finding prospects.  Business cycles change and new customers replace the old, regenerate the new and refresh the sales process.  Hopefully, you have a prospect list to start from. This list usually can come from listing companies, the phone book, current customers, the Internet, networks or associations or from your old dead files (past customer that have not bought in years).  I normally use all of these methods to find prospects and then I go through a qualifying process to help narrow down strong possibilities for my products or service.  To qualify these prospects I ask the who, what, how much and when questions to who ever I can get a hold of at the prospects office. Once each account is qualified I try to take the next few steps to get me in the door.

eknClickI will call the prospect and try to set up an appointment. This sounds easier then it really is. I don’t believe in masking my true intentions to get me in the door so I try to pitch the value of my visit. I prepare an argument of why the prospect should see me and how I will help his business. I try to push some type of added value for them – actual savings to their bottom line, added value to their consumers, or I try to illustrate how my service is needed in their business. This call will basically setup an appointment or a disappointment. In case of the disappointment remember that sales is a numbers game. Some of the best batters in baseball are .300+ hitters (that’s 3 out of 10) and a great sales manager could do the same. The goal of the first call is to sell the customer on getting an appointment or creating some type of need for you and your product.

If success grants you the appointment then go to prospect prepared. If you sell a product make sure you have the proper samples, appropriate deals and order sheets.  Do your homework on the competition. How does your product measure up and compare? Show the dollars and sense of a deal in black and white. It is suggested by some that visualization the sales call helps you succeed. I use this technique and run through the pro and con scenarios. Go through all of the FAQ’s in your head – anticipate the questions and have the right answers. I want to stress at this point that I never recommend making things up as you go along. The sales profession has come a long way to battle those stereotypes and I can assure you that your competitor is keeping it factual. If you don’t know the answer the typical response would be “ I will get back to you on that”. Make sure you do. I actually plan this step out and keep my Daytimer handy (yes-I still write it down). When a “..get back to you…” question comes up – I stop the presentation, take out my Daytimer and write it down. This is done to help me remember and for effect. Of course, I do get back to prospects whether the deal closes or not.

Have yourself organized. This includes the sales presentation, the samples, the process, the close and the follow-up. Organization can go a long way to combat any negative feelings that may develop during a prospecting call.  It is always difficult to build repoire with new prospects but organization, professionalism and courtesy are the building blocks.  After all is said and done and you have come to the conclusion –ask for the business. If you don’t try to close it may not happen.  If you get the objections, the brush off or the follow-up call always be grateful to the prospect. A thank you also goes a long way to help build new business relationships.  Since I still like to pen things out, I do send a thank you card or follow-up note just so that don’t forget me so soon.

Ken Ninomiya has marketed and sold products internationally for nearly 20 years. He holds an Executive MBA from the Chapman School of Business, FIU and currently is VP of Sales and Marketing for EKN Links. EKN Links is a solutions company for domestic and international businesses providing sales, marketing, Public relations and business strategies. Ken can be reached at kenninomiya@eknlinks.com or www.eknlinks.com

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