Outside Sales Tips for Prospecting: Cold Visits Work; Cold Phone Calls Don’t
Over the past year, my cold visits (that is, visiting a prospect’s retail/business locations without an appointment) have resulted in getting new clients. I have found making cold call phone calls or sending emails to prospects a time-consuming and unproductive time investment. It is way too easy for a prospect to say no or ignore you.
Determining If There Is a Fit
Before I make an in-person visit to a prospect, I always try to review their company website first, and then search online in that specific area (5-25 miles away from my first stop) where other prospects are located. I’ll then do a drive by and see what their location looks like. If it is run down, I keep going and cross them off my list. If the location looks well-maintained, has easy-to-read graphics, etc., I’ll drive into their parking lot. When I walk through their door, I’m looking to determine if their product lines/retail location are a fit for our company’s products/services, that is, can we offer new products/services to their current offerings, or solve a problem they may have. Where is their pain? How can we help?
Their location provides clues to possibly doing business with them, including:
- How organized and clean is their facility?
- Which competitors, if any, are they using?
- How busy is the location?
- How are you greeted?
- What kind of customer experience do they offer?
Engaging the Owner/Decision-Maker
Once I’ve identified who the owner/decision maker contact is, I always ask if they are available to say hello. Always be courteous to staff members. One day, they may be decision-makers.
If the owner/decision-maker is available, I always start off by smiling, shaking their hand, introducing myself and my company and handing them my business card. I don’t bring in any other sales-related material with me. I am ALWAYS friendly, respectful, upbeat and courteous. Remember, visiting a business is the same as visiting someone’s house. It requires decorum and respect. If a decision-maker is busy with customers, I will come back at another time. Remember, you’re asking them for their time and hopefully, a commitment going forward. You don’t want to start the relationship by interrupting their sales opportunities.
Next, I tell them the purpose of my visit. For example, “My company is a supplier of x products, and after reviewing your location and website, I see that you currently don’t carry these products. If you had a few moments, I was hoping to learn a little bit about your company today and see if there is an opportunity for our companies to partner together.” You have gotten to the point quickly and maybe intrigued them with your statement.
The first step in forging a relationship with this company is to take an active interest in their business; that is, learn as much as you can about them as possible in a few minutes; what’s important to them, their current needs and direction they may be headed in the future. This information will be invaluable in tailoring your sales presentation to their needs. You need to be a focused listener here. This is one of a salesperson’s most important traits to be successful-talk less and listen more. You will have plenty of time to talk about your products during your sales presentation.
As I’m writing down the information, I’m validating if they will be a good fit for our company. If a good opportunity doesn’t exist, you will know quickly during this conversation.
If you have a productive conversation with the decision-maker and you feel this company is a good prospect, you need to ask for an appointment. If they agree to meet, then I’ll pull out my cell phone and try to arrange the meeting date/time right then. Then, when I leave the facility, I immediately confirm the appointment by email. If they don’t want to commit to a meeting date/time right then, I’ll leave the facility and in their parking lot, immediately send them an email with a couple of dates/times for them to consider.
I’ve also had prospects ask me to do a sales presentation right then and there. If I have the time, and I feel this is a good opportunity, I’ll do so.
There is no magic to this approach. Sales prospecting requires a time investment and you have to do the research, be patient and consistent in your approach to see tangible results, that is, converting prospects into new customers.