For more than 10 years I led the sales force of the now, leading retail customer analytics company in the country. But when I started there, things were not the same as they are today. In my first attempt at B2B sales I thought it would be simple. I thought I would determine who I wanted to speak with, call them up, and have a conversation about our products and services. I thought I would then determine exactly what their need was, which product would solve that need and close the sale. I was so wrong on so many levels it is hard to know where to start.
The first problem that I encountered was that there were no territories for the sales people at our company. That’s right; there were no geographic territories, no vertical territories, no size territories, and no specifically defined customers. If an article came out in the newspapers, we had two or three different sales people start chasing the same customer. Someone would start chasing real estate, someone else would be working the CFO’s office, and someone else would work the office of the CEO. And, on top of that, none of the sales people would share within our own organization that they were chasing because they did not trust each other. It was the old Wild West come to life. While it made some of the sales people very aggressive, it also made us look unprofessional in front of a few clients.
As I began to see some of the faults of what we were doing, (even though we were growing at a 20% + pace), I knew that I would be able to successfully drive more business if I worked within a territory. So I defined a vertical territory for myself and started to concentrate on that vertical. I got buy-in from senior management and went to work.
By defining which companies I wanted to talk with I was able to learn much more about the industry. Some of the things I researched were:
• Who knew who and where did they come from
• Who were the natural competitors
• Who did the company wake up worry about every morning
• What were the key factors for the success of the industry
• What made this vertical different from all other verticals
• How could our company help this vertical avoid pain
• What were the key points of pain
• How important was growth in the industry
• What was the Return on Incremental Revenue
• What was the cost of build out for a typical unit
• What was the impact of additional competitors in the market place? Was it positive or negative?
I then went back in the archives of our business. I looked to see in this particular vertical if we did a better job in landing the biggest clients, mid-size clients, or small clients? I wanted to know what our sweet spot was. I thought that we might as well fish where the fish had been biting before. The search began to narrow.
So I knew the size and type of company that I would chase. My next step was to put together a list of every company that had the first two characteristics. I was looking to see if there were any geographic clusters that would make sense. If we could set appointments with more than one company in a market, we could significantly lower our cost of appointments. And, surprisingly, companies of the same industry tend to cluster together. Central Florida has more casual dining restaurants headquartered there than any other part of the country. Portland, Oregon has more athletic shoe companies than anywhere else in the US. With all this new found knowledge, I was able to cold call with confidence. I had a plan. I found that it was much easier to make the second appointment in a city once I had the first appointment. People were willing to meet with us if they did not feel the obligation of the financial cost we incurred to visit with them.
Here is something else that I learned along the way; a lesson pushed on me by one of my colleagues. If I worked the phones with my business friends and followed the string I could sometimes find an introduction. Believe me, this was a painful path, because not only did I have to find the right friend, I had to convince them it was in their best interest to introduce me to their friend. But, when I could make that happen the way my colleague did, I would have a great appointment.
The idea of a personal introduction being the best way to get to a prospect is nothing new. My colleague that taught me the beauty of this works at it every day. He is constantly grooming his contact list. He is sending interesting articles to his business friends as well as notes for their birthdays etc. In short, he is probably working harder at his craft than the poor souls that are chained to the desk cold calling…and he is being rewarded with huge sales.
In the competitive world of B2B selling there is now an alternative way of getting that personal introduction. Axcelora is a one of a kind company. A company that has put together a group of professionals with strong Rolodexes that are willing to share them with the right company. These Partners with Axcelora have spent careers in the retail and restaurant worlds. They have access to decision makers and are willing to share that access with professional organizations that will help their friends succeed at their jobs.
This is the new world of selling into the retail and restaurant space. Access to the right people with the ability to present your product or idea with just one phone call. What could be better?
Contact Axcelora today. www.axcelora.com
Rich Hollander is a retail expert with over 40 years in the industry.