How to get your foot in the door

published in Connect Magazine

Whether you are selling a product, marketing a service or promoting yourself, there is no time to hold back. Even when it feels intimidating, take the initiative, run with your idea and don’t easily take no for an answer. Most important of all, don’t allow yourself to get discouraged. Winners don’t give up.

Demonstrating confidence in front of others helps show that you are on the path to success. That’s easy when you’re a natural extrovert, but there are plenty of subtle ways to shine as an introvert as well. Also, keep your mind open to new and innovative ways to accomplish your goals; the toughest sells require the freshest ideas and the fortitude to keep going in spite of obstacles. 

Let’s say you have a plan to sell your product or yourself and targeted a few companies that are your best prospects. Here are a few key tips:

  • Research first. Learn all you can about your target customers. Study available materials on the internet and elsewhere. Call the prospect and ask for sales and company information. Read everything you can and be prepared to ask solid questions when you get the meeting.
  • Learn the key players. The better you know the folks you want to meet the easier initial conversations will be. For example, study not only on what your target customer does in his or her job, but also what activities are of interest outside of work. It’s an easy way to make a deeper connection. 
  • Drop in. It’s acceptable to visit your prospect in person. Swing by and see how many questions you can get answered on the spot. Many companies are proud to discuss their brand or show off their operations. You might even talk your way into touring the facility or meeting some key players.
  • Cold call your targets. Start by prepping yourself ahead of time. Be clear about what you plan to say and set an expectation for time. For example, when you talk to the gatekeeper, you could start with, “I only need about 20 minutes of Ms. Jones’ time to discuss how we can cut costs by 15%.” Keep it simple—detail is a turnoff.
  • Send sales materials. Keep initial materials simple so that your prospect gets interested and wants to know more. The first information you share is like the headline in a newspaper, not the meat of the article.
  • Reign in your resume. Keep it to two pages max, and state your experience and intentions in clear terms. Bullet points work well. Again, your goal is to draw just enough interest that a prospect wants to learn more. Too much detail may disqualify you before you get a face-to-face.
  • Be persistent. If you haven’t heard anything after a reasonable time period (about two weeks), call or write again. Be polite and refer to how your product/service might help the organization. Follow up several times with your top prospects, but also realize when it’s time to move on.
  • Handwrite a note. In today’s digital age, personal handwritten notes can be exceptionally powerful and a memorable means of communication. Use them sparingly in follow-up communications. 

I realize that selling yourself or a product is difficult. It’s easy to get discouraged, but don’t let it happen to you. Some of the best sales people in the world get turned down every day and may only succeed in one out of a 100 calls. With a plan, a positive attitude and persistence you will be successful.

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