I remember one of the first sales training sessions I went to at Dale Carnegie in 1973. Most of the people in this sales training class were not retailers, so the leader of the class was concentrating on them. He brought out a Yellow Pages phone book (for you younger people ask your parents what the Yellow Pages were, and for that matter what a Phone Book was) and told us that this was a suspect list and that professional sales people were able to take a suspect list and turn it into a prospect list. That visualization stuck with me for more than 25 years until I got into the B2B sales business. I remember sitting down in front of a database that I had with the name, address, and phone number of every significant retailer in the US. There were thousands of them in the database but this was my suspect list. Just like the phone book that the Dale Carnegie teacher had shown me 25 years earlier…and just as useful.
I had to develop a plan to take this list and make it manageable, otherwise I would be overwhelmed. And an overwhelmed sales person faces the prospect of inertia. So over the next several years I developed several key steps I took whenever we looked at a group of suspects.
Finally, sit down with your sales manager and get buy in of your plan. Listen and be open to suggestions you may be given. But, don’t be afraid to defend the plan you have developed. If you have been thoughtful about your plan, share it with the person hired to listen to you. When you both agree to the plan, get to work. Along the way you should analyze your results and correct your course if necessary.
If you are having a difficult time getting into a prospect you think is a must see, look for different methods to break the door down. An interesting new company in that field is Axcelora (www.axcelora.com). They use individual personal relationships to make personal appointments. There are also companies that use professional telemarketers like Sales Roads (www.salesroads.com ) and I even found one that used actors. Leverage your LinkedIn network. Take the time to learn the best practices of LinkedIn, it will be well worth your while.
But most importantly, create the plan, write the plan down on paper, and post the results of the plan to yourself and your leadership team. Oh yeah, enjoy the success.
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Rich Hollander is a retail expert with over 40 years in the industry.