Here practice varies greatly from company to company. In some companies the salesman receives pre-qualified leads from marketing campaigns that have been contacted by telesales and “qualified”. In other companies the salesperson gets given a couple of brochures and a telephone and is told to go find customers.
In general it is better to understand the skills involved in starting from nothing, even if you have “all leads supplied”. Much of what I talk about here is really the domain of marketing, but I look at it from a salespersons perspective.
As usual I suggest starting by thinking about your situation. Unless you are working for a complete start up the company you work for already has existing customers using the product you are selling. Unless you would severely upset someone I strongly recommend that you approach a customer that is friendly towards your company (maybe one of your reference customers who recommend your product to new customers) and take him out to lunch. Most people are responsive to requests for help and over lunch you can ask some key questions like “Why did you buy this product from us?”. Usually between this customer conversation and talking to your more experienced colleagues (not always as friendly and helpful as customers); talking to your manager and reading the training and marketing materials you will begin to understand the basic value propositions of your product.
What I am always looking for is a conceptual requirement / solution map that defines the target market. What do I mean by conceptual requirement / solution map? Well sometimes it is very easy, if you are selling X ray machines then your target market is probably hospitals. However the salesperson who realized that at some point when they became smaller and cheaper that dentists and doctors clinics could now afford them probably made a lot of money. The salesperson who realized that certain engineering processes might be improved by X Ray examination probably made even more. Always try to understand the conceptual requirement / solution map.
So ideally you can narrow down your target from the Yellow Pages to a specific set of companies that share a specific set of requirements that you might have a solution to. Now you can begin to gather data on those accounts.
This can be the most difficult phase, it is immensely time consuming to phone up switchboards and ask for names and contacts, and switchboard operators do not usually cooperate in this process. However there are a number of ways of overcoming this problem.
The first issue (that Marketing nearly always forgets) is that there is a 80:20 rule in this problem. I am fairly sure that in all corporate markets 80% of the spend on any product / solution is derived from 20% of the corporate target market, usually the 20% who are the largest in revenue terms. In Asia there is a publication “MIS Magazine” that annually publishes a list of the top 100 accounts in terms of IT investment in the previous year. They estimate that approximately 50% of all IT investment in Asia is spent by those 100 accounts.
So focus on the major accounts. Next decide on your approach plan. Again assuming you have no help, no existing contacts, one tactic I use is to write to the Chairman of the Board and ask for a referral “to the appropriate executive”. You had better be able to write a good letter with a good value proposition but it has several advantages as a tactic.
- the chairman’s name and address is always known, he is in the annual accounts, and probably on the website and he is based at the Head Office
- he will have a very organized personal administration executive who will probably intercept your letter and either bin it or forward it to the appropriate executive. So when you follow up on the phone, he or she will be able to help you, again if you sound professional (and friendly – do not try to bully this person on the phone, you will lose).
- If you do get referred to the appropriate executive you will get an appointment as you have been referred by the Chairman.
Sound far fetched? I know a salesman who worked for me in the UK who wrote to the Chairman of National Westminster Bank and the Chairman of the Prudential Insurance Company, the largest bank, and the largest insurance company in the UK at the time and within 12 months he had sold several millions of dollars of software to both accounts. He was a legend to his colleagues. Nobody ever suggested giving his accounts to telesales.