Another approach is if your company runs events, invite target executives from the companies to attend. As a sales manager I always liked to run periodic (monthly) low cost events on our own premises that are educational in nature (presentations on why you might need the product; demonstrations of the product). Today these have largely been replaced by Webinars. The marketing process that you are trying to initiate is that companies become aware, become interested, and take action. A low cost event can educate the market and raise awareness. Another type of event that companies spend money on are Trade Shows where many customers from a particular vertical market meet at a Trade Show or Convention and some vendors part fund the event by sponsoring. You usually get a booth and a presentation opportunity. You may be thinking “why am I reading about these events when I am not in management and cannot pay for all this?” My point is that your company will probably have several of these marketing events arranged during the year and very often experienced sales reps avoid them if they can. You should step forward and volunteer to attend. Early in your career you should seize every opportunity to talk to customers, and practice your skills. You may or may not get business but you will get the opportunity to pitch 20 times in one day and you will learn very rapidly what works or does not work. Further if experienced sales guys often try to avoid the work, the booth or stand will often have good engineers or marketing guys who you can listen to and network with.
Everything I have written above has been true for salespersons for more than 30 years. There are other tips that are more related to selling to consumers such as forming a club of sales professionals who sell non-competitive products in the same community. A car salesman may be able to tell you about a family that has just bought a car because they came into some money, they might be interested in a holiday, or a Summer House or whatever you are selling. Again browsing your bookshop will give you useful books on this topic.
What has changed dramatically over the last 20 years is the rise of e-marketing. Some forms of e-Marketing merely replace traditional Marketing Campaign collateral (flyers or letters) with an email. Others are completely new ways to communicate with customers.
We need to step back and review this situation from the customer’s perspective. Thirty years ago the customer who needed to make a large capital investment had relatively few sources of information. Trade Shows, Trade Magazines and sales people were the primary information sources. The sales professional could not only keep him informed on the state of the art in terms of features but he might be one of the few sources of information about what other companies in his industry were doing – the state of the market adoption. Today the first thing an executive does when he wants any information is go to Google. Searching on topics will lead to Case Studies, Vendor websites, User Communities, and analysts. Analysts like Gartner in the IT industry have become very influential. Gurus both independent and from analysts blog, twitter and generally dispense wisdom for free. None of this directly helps the salesperson at all. In fact it usually means that customers have had their requirements shaped before you meet them and that may be helpful, or you may have to try to influence the customer away from his online guru.
So what is a salesperson to do? First and foremost he should expect his company to be proactive in these fields. You should also participate. You can put your profile on LinkedIn and join any Groups that appear to be appropriate to your product / solution. Start following industry gurus on Twitter, you may learn something; you may see comments from executives in target accounts. Set up “Google Alerts” on key search terms to your product solution. Google searches every news source on the planet, you can set up an alert to forward you any mention of key words, so when I was selling software and services to banks where the requirement was triggered by replacing a Core Banking system I set up a Google alert for Core Banking. 90%+ of what is sent to you is irrelevant, but it occasionally it told me about a bank that was just at the point when I should approach it.