Finding new ways to connect what you sell with those who are ready to buy is a constant challenge in sales. Even if you’re already hitting your sales targets, a good salesperson is always looking for ways to close more business in less time.
Connecting, getting a conversation started with your market and then sustaining that conversation requires that you apply a range of skills at your disposal as a sales professional. This involves engaging field-tested activities (and I’ll be talk about those in an upcoming article), but it also requires that you give some thought to creating and reinforcing what can be called a “sense of place.”
Are you where you need to be to connect with your customers?
Place matters—not just in a physical sense but also in where we’re perceived to be by our customers. Where we choose to be can have a significant bearing on our success in sales. That’s a view reinforced by Richard Florida, author of a series of books that look at the nature of work and urban development, including “The Rise of the Creative Class” and “Who’s Your City?” While much of what he has to say is in the context of how entire cities and regions can thrive, his insights matter just as much on an individual level, including those of us who are in sales and who run a business.
There are important choices that each of us can make in our professional lives both in terms of where we live and where we go to do business. In “Who’s Your City?” Florida shares a great anecdote to illustrate this point, recounting how the Rolling Stones decided to add Shanghai, China as a first-ever stop on their 2006 world tour. They saw it as an important market and therefore felt it was important to be there. After all, how better than to connect with a 1.3 billion population than to bring the show to them, right?
As sales people, we face a similar challenge—granted, not at the same scale as the Rolling Stones…but hear me out! Being mindful of that sense of place in your market means taking the time to find ways you can connect with people one-on-one.
To ensure you remain top-of-mind with your customers, here are five spots where you really need to be.
1. Be where you customer is
Just like Mick and the rest of his merry band of Rolling Stones, there is no better way to connect with people than to have some face time with them. Now I’m not saying you should show up at your client’s office and perform a two-hour show of your greatest hits. A short, scheduled visit or a meeting over coffee or lunch, however, can make a lasting positive impression. Bring your portfolio and some recent testimonials and take a few minutes to share them with your customer.
One of my clients at Engage shared his own approach to creating face time with customers. In cases where he needs to send something in writing to a client, he often delivers it by-hand rather than putting it in the mail. It gives him a reason to be in front of his customers. The outcome is that it earns him more business.
2. Attend networking events
Networking is valuable for the contacts that it can generate, but there’s another important benefit as well. Your presence at a networking event puts you where your business lives. It means you have the opportunity to meet directly with your existing customers and it also shows to prospects that you are dedicated to your work and to the people with whom you do business.
Not all networking is local. The ideal event for you could be out of town. So be on the lookout for those events that meet your prospecting objectives. If you live in New York City and you’re travelling to Chicago on business, maybe there’s a networking event there that’s perfect for you (i.e., in which some of your customers and prospects are bound to be there). Spend the extra hour or two out of your trip to attend. It’s a small investment of time that could pay handsome rewards.
Last year, one Toronto-based Engage client used this principle and scheduled a networking event in Chicago while he was attending our Sales Mastery event. He was able to connect with the Chicago-based office for his existing client in Toronto and with follow up, closed a new sale with the Chicago office worth more than his original contract in Toronto!
3. Become part of the social conversation
As I mentioned earlier, being mindful of your sense of place goes beyond a physical location. It involves owning a mindset so you remain on your customer’s radar. Social media tools and online networking serve an important role in this regard, because they help reinforce your presence in the minds of clients and prospects. By embracing social media, you’re meeting clients where they live, and communicating with them using the tools they want to use.
Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are the big three leaders today in the domain of social networking and the best way to build presence there can be summed up in two words: be useful. Join a group on LinkedIn on a topic you feel passionate about. Tweet about your own top-10 tips for your market and retweet others’ posts that your followers may find useful. Share links and best practices on your Facebook page. The key is to show what you know by being a resource to others. That’s how you can engage in the social conversation online in a way that’s authentic, meaningful and sincere.
4. Make yourself available right now, anywhere
Instant messaging is another great way to maintain a presence with customers. Skype and MSN are popular standbys, but Facebook chat and Twitter direct messaging are also effective. We make good use of these tools here at Engage. In fact, we have clients with whom we connect more often via Skype than through other means, simply because it’s the most reliable way of connecting instantly. This is particularly true for those of us who travel extensively in our work.
A number of my clients (and readers!) reach out to me via Skype to quickly drop me a line, whether it’s a question about where to find something on our website or a sales-related question. Not only does this approach skip the email queue (which in my case can be pretty significant), it reinforces that sense of direct person-to-person communication in real time.
Yes, instant messaging and text messaging are important sales tools. Not passing fads. And not just for the younger generations. Some of our biggest clients at Engage use it to stay in touch, ask questions, start negotiations and give verbal agreement to start projects.
5. Be on the radar after five o’clock
Improve your success rate on follow-up calls by calling after 5:00PM. This is popular among a lot of my clients, especially those responsible for selling to high-level decision-makers (i.e., VP-level or above). These are people who are still at their desks after the administrative staff have gone home. It’s quieter then, and you’re less likely to have to tangle with a gatekeeper before getting direct access to the person you wish to speak to.
Remember: go where your business congregates. Make it as easy as possible for people to reach you and have conversations with you using the tools and venues that best suit them. You’ll be better positioned to be remembered and talked about by customers and prospects, and your sales records will serve as proof of the results.