By Gavin Meikle, Head of Learning and Founder of inter-activ
Many of my clients say that the hardest part of their job is getting in front of their prospective clients. In this article I’d like to share three tips with you that have worked for me and my clients.
The number one complaint I get is about the so called gatekeepers. The Secretaries and PA’s who seemed to be oblivious to the salesman’s charms and who refuse to pass on messages, reply to emails or to “put you through”.
Tip number One:
Change your mental paradigm of these people. Don’t think of them as gatekeepers who’s job is to slam the door in your face. Imagine them as gate openers who’s job is to give you access to your clients when you have something of value for their boss. Just changing this perception of them can make a big difference.
Tip Number Two:
You need a VBR! VBR is the abbreviation coined by a good friend of mine David Festeinstein and it stands for a Valid Business Reason. Your VBR is the key that can unlock access to your prospective client. Let's look at what the phrase actually means.
Your reason for wanting to see them must be valid and business related. Where most salespeople go wrong is that the see the reason as their reason, i.e. to sell the client something. What you need to do is come up with a client reason i.e why the client would want to see you.
Few if any clients ever want to see a salesperson to be sold to. They are however looking for solutions to the business problems they or their team are facing. So ask yourself, “If I was the client? Why would they want to see me?” What problems are they facing now that I could help them with?
If you keep your eyes and ears open and do your homework first, you can probably find a reason. If for instance there has been an article in the press recently saying that your prospect is about to start hiring new staff, and you sell training or HR services they may have a real need for help getting the new staff members up to speed as quickly as possible.
When you have a clear valid business reason, then you can sell that to the PA or secretary.
“I understand that the company is about to start a major expansion plan will be training up a whole new batch of staff.” I’d like to arrange a 10 minute telephone meeting with Mr Smith to discuss how we can help him save money by getting those new staff up to speed as quickly as possible.”
If you really can’t get past the “gatekeeper” you can always try bypassing him or her altogether.
Many executives I know, get into the office early (before their PA!) and often stay late (after their PA has gone home). Calling outside “normal” hours can often be a successful tactic.
One salesperson I worked with was always complaining that he could never get hold of one of his key clients. As he described the problem he said “I phone him every Tuesday afternoon and he is never in!” When I asked him to think about what he had just said, they penny dropped. When he phoned at a different time, he had no trouble getting hold of the client but it turned out that the client was always in a meeting on a Tuesday afternoon – Doh!
Gavin Meikle is the owner of inter-activ learning and development, a Southampton based consultancy specialising in effective face to face interpersonal communication and presentations. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 07810 645309.