We all know that companies must grow or they will die. The same thing applies to rep firms. You must keep growing your business, adding new customers, and increasing your sales, or you too will die. Too many times reps will find three or four major customers and then rely on them for their income going forward. Not only is this a very bad move, but it also drives their principals crazy. I can’t count the number of times my clients have told me that they can’t get their reps to find new business any more. They say something like, “sure they have brought us a couple of good accounts and we are all making money on those, but now I can’t get them to find me some new accounts. They have not brought in a new account in two years!” This is an extremely bad scenario but unfortunately one that is often true. If you are a rep and you find yourself in this example you’d better do something about it because this is the number one reason that rep firms are terminated from long-time contracts. The principals, growing increasingly impatient with the lack of activity on the part of their reps end up cutting them lose. Don’t let this happen to you.
Being a sales representative means that you are always out there selling. You’re a sales rep after all
To help you out a little, here are seven ways to prospect for new accounts;
- Who are you looking for: You have to know what you are looking for in a customer. This should not be that hard, examine who your principals are what they sell and that will tell you the kind of companies and technologies to target.
- Create an ideal customer profile: Once you have determined what type of companies you service and what their technology requirements are, develop an ideal customer profile. This profile will include be made up of customer characteristics such as: Technology, service, market, value for your services, ease of doing business with, and a number of others. (I can send you a complete ideal customer profile development form if you would like on, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
- If you are a smart rep you’ll have a portfolio of a number of non-competing lines selling different technologies of the same basic product, this is a good thing because it allows you to get more bang for your prospecting buck. One potential customer could need more products from more than just one of your lines. A company that buys PCBs for example could have a need to everything from Military rigid PCBs to Flex and Rigid Flex boards to Heavy copper boards. Which means that you can sell them a complete PCB solution using two or three of your lines.
- The approach: One you have decided which type of customers you are going to target the next step is match those types with real companies. By going online, with surprisingly little effort you can find the companies you want to target by matching their needs with the ideal customer profile template you have developed. By doing this you will develop your list of target accounts
- Warming up a cold call: the next step is to approach these targets. You could call them directly but I recommend doing a little more prep work before you do that. Develop an e-mail newsletter specifically focused on those companies you have targeted. Send two or three of these over a month-long period. After a while you’ll pick up a trend of who is opening these e-mails and reading them and from that list you can send a very specific e-mail newsletter outlining how you can help them fill their specific PCB needs, this is what we call warming up the cold call.
- The cold call: or in your case the nicely warmed up call. By now they know your name, they know who your and have a good idea what you have to offer. This is the time to call and set up your live meeting. You will be pleasantly surprised how much easier this will be now that you did all your prep work.
- The big meeting: yes that first appointment. Once again preparation is key. Research the company and find out everything you can about them so that you are fully prepared when you make that first sales call. Make a call plan and write down what you want to get out of this sales call. In many cases all you’re going to do is establish rapport with the person you are meeting; and your goals should be to learn about his company and their needs. Try to ask more questions than you answer in other words shut up and listen. For that first meeting to be successful you have to get two things: first what are that target company’s PCB needs and second what do you have to do to win their business and oh yes there is one more, get a commitment for the next step. Once you leave the meeting make a summary of all that you covered including any commitments that the buyer made to you and send this to her in an email.
And in the spirit of under promising and over delivering there is one more step and that is to follow up in a way that goes beyond the normal follow up that the buyer is expecting. Send her a book or an article about something the she talked about and that pertains to her job or her company. That way you are completing that circle of engagement on two fronts, the first business as usual on a vendor/customer basis, while the second front establishes the engagement on a more equal partnership basis which is the way you want to go and grow all great customer relationships. It’s only common sense.