Sales and Sales Management Blog

November 10, 2006

Reader Wants to Know How to Start Prospecting

Filed under: prospecting — Paul McCord @ 6:10 pm

Conrad, a reader from Davenport, emailed me because he is new to his firm and wants to know where to begin. He isn’t in sales, per se, but is the new director of maketing for a company that specializes in refurbishing 19th and early 20th century furniture. His situation is that the company has a steller reputation, but not much in terms of marketing dollars. The firm is looking to move into more lucrative markets in the bigger cities.

Conrad, your best source of new business is your old business. Your company has been in business for a number of years and has a fairy large number of past clients. As you state in your email, most of your client base uses your company repeatedly. This certainly indicates that your client base is loyal. Since some of these people are probably more than just the occasional antique buyer, there is an excellent chance that many of your past clients will know others around the area and around the country who have and purchase antique furniture.

If I were you I’d start a very aggressive referral campaign. Personally contact each and every current and past client in your company database. Begin by simply inquiring whether there is anything you can do for them–not just in terms of new business from them, but is there anything you can do? Do they need an appraisal? You’ll be happy to arrange it for them. Are they looking for anything in particular? You’ll be on the lookout for it. Offer any reasonable service you can for free. Begin to build a relationship with them. Some will have immediate business for you. Others will know people who may need your immediate help. These are icing. What you’re looking for is to build a long-term relationship that turns into dozens and then hundreds of referrals–and then turns into being one of the best known companies in your industry.

If your company doesn’t have a monthly or quarterly newsletter, start one. Establish a 14 time a year “touch” campaign for each current and past client. Begin putting together your own network of experts–appraisers, dealers, etc. that you can call on when one of your clients needs anything.

You want to become the “go to” guy whenever any of your clients even remotely thinks “antique.”

This isn’t an overnight process, but it needn’t take an exceptional length of time, either. If you diligently pursue this plan, you’ll be the expert within the year. Expedite the process by becoming comfortable giving talks about any and every aspect of antique furniture to organizations. Start with local organizations and work out.

If you are new to the refinishing business–you didn’t indicate your personal knowledge level–adopt a professional attitude in all of your dealings and don’t act like a novice. This doesn’t mean that you assume expertise you don’t have, but rather that you let your clients know that you are a professional backed up by some of the best people in the industry. If you are confronted with a situation you can’t solve, bring in one of your company’s experts. Just because you may be new to an industry doesn’t mean you have to telegraph it to the world. You want to give your clients the confidence that they are dealing with the best–and you, backed up by your company–are the best.

In addition to your referral campaign, you might take selected individuals you are aware of and target them with a combination of a ground mail campaign and then actively seeking referrals to them from your clients.

While doing these things, you’ll be constructing your expect network. Certainly, as you are building your network of appraisers, dealers, auction companies, etc. that you will be sending business to, let them know that you are looking for partners, not just someone to send business to when you run across it. You fully expect referrals and business from them, just as they will get them from you. Be very selective in who you choose to align yourself with. Make sure they have the reputation you want to be associated with and that they have the level of business that can help you grow your company’s business.

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