June 17, 2024

Everyone has been seeking the silver bullet in prospecting. People feel a new idea will surface, driving business to you in droves. Getting new business has always been tough. Generally speaking, the only way to get people beating a path to your door is to be cheaper than everyone else. That’s a race to the bottom. How should you get new customers?
Let us look at some older ideas deserving of a refresh.
1. Travel back in time. I heard sales trainers talk about this years ago. It’s relevant today. Make a list of your best client relationships. How did you get each one? There should be some common factors. When was the last time you used that strategy? The answer is often: “I haven’t done that for years.” Enough said.
Strategy: Identified what worked before. Do it again.
2. Give company employees a reason to connect. This had been used by financial advisors years ago. A major listed company is headquartered in the center of town. Get in touch with employees. Ask if they would like to receive your firm’s research reports on their firm from time to time. Years ago, this was even done by walking the halls or the building lobby. There are other ways today.
Strategy: You build a list of employees and a reason to be in touch regularly. Company executives are often interested in what Wall Street analysts are saying about their company.
3. Incentivize current clients to refer friends. Credit card companies have been doing this for years. This might even work for nonprofits. Hold a holiday reception or live seminar. Admission is “free” for current clients, but there is a catch. The price of admission is to bring a friend, “Someone you think we should meet” or “A person it would be good to know.” There are ways to tactfully handle the client who wants to come and enjoy but cannot think of anyone to bring.
Strategy: If the venue is attractive enough, the event can sell itself. You gather contact information to reconnect with the new people.
4. Cold walking. This is not the vacuum cleaner or encyclopedia salesperson going door to door. This is visiting a targeted set of businesses in an area where it’s permitted. The best example I’ve heard is the financial advisor prospecting doctors in family practices. They would drive up, make friends with the receptionist, hand over a set of addressed envelopes and ask them for a favor: “Would they deliver them personally when the doctor was seated at their desk?” This increased the likelihood the letter was put into the person’s hands, not a mail slot.
Strategy: Hand delivering your message by walking into a business increases the chances it gets through. Being on site in person means you might get lucky and see the business owner face to face.
5. Newspaper ads. People might think news is only online today. That’s not true. There are successful weekly local newspapers in different parts of the country. These might be targeting the county or a small city. If you advertise, it’s not “one and done.” You need to have a campaign lasting several weeks with your ad appearing on the same page, in the same location.
Strategy: If you ad is interesting, the reader acts immediately or tears it out, saves it and acts later.
6. Public seminars. These have been around forever. OK, they went through a three-year dry spell during the pandemic. Now they are starting to come back. It’s an activity people do not need to pay to attend. You need to pick a topic that is less sales oriented and more like a public service, educational program.
Strategy: The ideal topic has three characteristics: It’s timely, people want to learn about it and under other circumstances, they would need to pay someone to get the information.
7. Give them something they will keep. A local real estate agent remarked he is often asked to recommend trades, like electricians, plumbers and painters. He published a list of recommended contractors, two or three in each category. He gave it away.
Strategy: People save the list. We did. When you need a plumber, out comes the list. When the crisis is over, you are thankful the agent provided the list. When you need an agent, they come to mind, especially if the list is visible at home.
Classic prospecting ideas deserve a second look.
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