The Ten Step System
The preliminary steps of defining your territory and identifying the prospects that inhabit it are really part of a larger ten-step prospecting system. And following The
System inevitably leads to success. So, let’s hit the basic elements of The System. The steps in order of implementation are:
- Specify 2. Quantify 3. Identify 4. Qualify 5. Present 6. Satisfy 7. Collect 8. Measure 9. Expand 10. Repeat
Step #1: Specify
This step involves defining your territory. Remember ice hockey has a playing surface. When you are on the ice you are playing the game. Once you remove yourself from the ice, you no longer can score.
As mentioned in the previous chapter, we can’t be in all places and be all things. The smaller you make your territory, the faster you will understand what it is you need to do. The secret is to have enough people in your territory to allow the system to work effectively. This leads us directly to . . .
Step #2: Quantify
Start by finding all potential “suspects” within one mile of your main facility. Then, branch out slowly and methodically from this starting point, block by block, half-mile by half-mile, and you will become very knowledgeable about your territory.
As you quantify you should maintain a file to keep organized. You can build files several ways. Some are more antiquated than others but the key is to do what works for you whether that’s three-by-five cards or your computer. (I use a software package from Symantec called ACT.) Your file, once completed, is the most important information in your possession. It will help you focus on the task at hand, help you differentiate dead end contacts from suspects from prospects, and save you countless hours when it is time to “touch bases” with your prospects. This is the way that you will position yourself miles ahead of your competition.
You also need to update your file systematically. Like just about everything else in life, this is easier said than done. If you can update your prospect file once a year, you are doing okay. Twice a year is time well spent. Treat it as a scheduled inventory day. The information can and does change. (The fastest way to let your prospects know that you’re not up to speed or sincere about doing business with them is by addressing your letters to somebody who left the company two years ago.)
Step #3: Identify
Identify which companies/people in your territory are actual “suspects.” You do this by developing a profile of your target customer. It is a real stress-buster once you figure out who you want to do business with. You don’t have the luxury of trying to do business with everybody. You have to devote your energies on targets who have a high probability of providing you with a return on your investment. You start this process by developing a profile.
To develop a target profile, focus on who you currently enjoy doing business with and who is producing revenue for your company. Make a list and jot down all those companies that you enjoy doing business with on the left side and companies you do not like working with on the right. You will probably find a pattern. The companies you like to do business with may be close to your company, travel internationally, pay on a credit card program, have a similar size, come from referrals, etc. If you look hard enough, you will see some trend.
Once you identify the type of organizations you like to do business with, and compare them with the companies that turn you off, you can begin to concentrate your efforts on suspects who are “good-guys.” I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that you are spending a great deal of time trying to land a new client that, prior to developing a target profile, will fall on the wrong side of the page. Doesn’t it make more sense to spend your time developing more of the good guys? I think you can take this to the bank:
The companies you enjoy doing business with will prove to be the most profitable relationships.
Step # 4: Qualify
Determine which of the identified suspects in your territory have an interest in what you are doing . . . these are your prospects. This involves a little telephone work and a little market research (as we mentioned in the previous chapter). But don’t get intimidated. You only need to ask a few questions to a handful of people.
It is now time to rate your prospects. Although it may not sound like a righteous thing to do, you can’t treat all prospects the same. Some need more time. Some are more profitable. You must rate your prospects to allocate the proper resources to each one.
Here is a fast and easy way to do it. Think in 3’s. A, B or C. One, two or three. Red, yellow or green. Let’s use A, B and C. Under the A category list companies that you consider to be “home runs.” You would do anything short of breaking the law to service these accounts. They’re big spenders. They’re local. They are financially strong and pay promptly. Whatever your reasoning is, you want these accounts. There shouldn’t be more than a few prospects on the A list. (I’ll tell you why in a minute.) These are the real beauties.
The C list is comprised of companies that would be nice to have but do not warrant any effort on your part now. In other words, if a C prospect walked by your front door, you wouldn’t necessarily stop what you are doing to bring him in. (With an A prospect, you’d be shooting out of your chair to offer him a cup of coffee). There will only be a handful of C prospects on your list.
Most of your list will include B prospects — those are the ones that you’re going to work on from eight-thirty to five, Monday through Friday.
Why categorize prospects? Time. Consider this true experience which happened to me. I called on a company on my A-list several years ago and said,
MM: “Mr. Jones? Mike Marchev. Can I come by and introduce our program to you?”
Mr. Jones: “Mike, I hate to waste your time. We’re very happy with the company we are currently dealing with. Let me save us both a lot of time and effort.”
MM: “Okay.” About four months later I made a routine follow-up call on Mr. Jones.
MM: “Mr. Jones, Mike Marchev here. I’m following up on our last phone conversation. I want to make sure everything’s under control.”
Mr. Jones: “Thanks, Mike, but nothing has changed. We are still happy, and I see no reason for a change. I appreciate your interest.”
I called Mr. Jones a third time a few months later and he responded the exact same way.
Mr. Jones: “Mike, everything is under control. Thanks for calling.” After the third call I began to feel like a nuisance. I thought that I’d better lay low for a while. Jones seemed like a nice man, and I didn’t want to bug the guy
About a year later as I was sorting through some old files, I remembered that I hadn’t spoken to Mr. Jones for a while. I called him. He was very nice and asked how things were going. He then said, Mr. Jones: “Mike, I wanted to call you but I lost your card. I thought of you when we wanted to change vendors last week but I didn’t know how to get in touch with you.”
Was Jones responsible for contacting me, or was it my job to stay visible throughout the year? I blew it. I wasn’t around when the ball was fumbled. I decided right then and there that I would never lose another account for lack of visibility. So, I created the A- List
This Wednesday I want you to ask yourself this question, “Is there anything I can do for my A prospect this week?” Many if not most times the answer will be “No.” You’ve done everything you can do to this point in the relationship, and you are up-to-date with this prospect. Ask this same question for every single prospect on your A-List. When next Wednesday comes you ask the very same question. “Is there anything I can do for any of my A prospects this week?”
Why Wednesday? Wednesday is the perfect day because you have plenty of time left in the week to respond appropriately to your question. If you waited until Friday to ask, you would put off any needed action until Monday, and all your good intentions would probably get washed away over the weekend. Remember,
Professional salespeople have to keep their hands on the buyer’s pulse. You do this most effectively utilizing an A, B and C prospect category list.
Step #5: Present
Next, you need to convince your prospect that you have the solution to his or her problems. This will take some time. (Stay tuned for the concept of Seven Customer Contacts . . . what I call the Seven See’s Strategy.) You need to develop a relationship to convince the prospect that you are worthy and qualified to perform the task at hand.
As a salesperson, you are your presentation. You’re selling your presentation. Your number one job is to develop and master your presentation. Fine tune it to a three (phone), or five to eight minute (live) presentation. Tighten it up and make it flow seamlessly.
Have you ever talked into a cassette recorder and developed your presentation by listening to yourself? The first time you do this is going to make you cry. You’re going to realize that you don’t have your act together. Have you ever video taped your presentation? You may wish for a quick death (or, in my case, plastic surgery). The point is: Take your presentation seriously. Have someone listen to and critique your presentation. Use today’s tech tools to see yourself as others see you.
If you were in my motel room prior to my giving a speech: (a) I’d have some explaining to do to my wife, and (b) you’d think I was a lunatic. I bounce around the room “warming up” — what all professionals do before they perform. I look in the mirror and practice.
If you want to put more distance between you and your competitors, add enthusiasm to your presentation. If you do not believe in your company, or the owner, or the employees, or the industry, this will come across to your prospects. When you believe, this too will become apparent and will draw prospects and opportunities to you like a moth to a flame. What’s more, when you believe you can easily work through rejection.
Enthusiasm. Develop it. Believe in what you’re doing — or change jobs.
Step #6: Satisfy
Once you have been given the opportunity to service the account, you have to perform the service with the same professionalism as when you sold the service. You’ve talked the talk, now you have to walk the walk. (I’ll give you some specific suggestions in a later chapter.)
Step #7: Collect
Once you’ve rendered the service and the customer is pleased with your efforts, quickly collect the monies that are owed you. If this sounds obvious to you, join the club. But, you’d be surprised how many people provide a service and never get paid for one of a zillion reasons. The most frequent reason is that they don’t have a system in place to automatically collect invoices. (There it is again, the need for a system.)
Step # 8: Measure
At regular intervals after you have converted a prospect to an active account, you need to measure the value of your account quantitatively and qualitatively. This is very important. Ask yourself how you feel about the relationship. Do you feel good about the account, the possibilities and the future? Or do you resent having to deal with those “low lifes”?
I can make more money for you, improve your bottom line, and put a smile on your face without selling one thing. How? With this advice: Identify your deadbeat accounts — the handful of people whose attitudes are dragging you down . . . people who want the moon for the price of a Big Mac.
Once you identify these “repeat offenders,” I wouldn’t be rude, cruel or impolite. Simply suggest that your relationship needs some fixing and provide them with one or two options. They can change their attitude (or fix whatever the repeat offense is) or you would be happy to help them select another source who will respond better to their style of doing business (like, say, Attila the Hun).
Measure your relationships with current clients because they may not be doing you any good, and in fact, some may be doing you harm. Trust your gut feelings. Do this every six months.
Step #9: Expand
Expand the services you provide to your client base. Brainstorm how else you can help your clients. Can you help with vacations? Ground transportation, like limousines? Can you help them organize business meetings? Provide accounting assistance with incentive programs? Help them buy theater tickets? Challenge and press the envelope on your (or your firm’s) concept of the services you provide.
For example, if you are a corporate travel agent, take the position that you provide executive services. Your clients don’t need you just for tickets. They don’t need you to simply book a hotel or a rental car. Their secretaries are intelligent people and can call the car rental agency directly or any airline on a toll-free number. You are a provider of executive services. And your services are not found so easily by dialing 1-800.
Step # 10: Repeat
Now that you have The System running smoothly and you know the steps by heart, you simply do it again. Repeat the entire process. That’s how The System works. You are, in all probability, in a business where the realistic expectation is that you can aspire to hit singles and not home runs, just like the rest of us. That’s not a negative statement. You can score a lot of runs with a long succession of singles. Once you get The System set up, you just repeat it and repeat it and repeat it. Or, as they say in my home state of New Jersey — bada bing, bada bam, bada boom!
Let’s look at more ways to feed new prospects into the “Repeat the Process” step.