Selling when you are not a sales person

By on July 3, 2013

Sharing the key steps to get right. By Belinda Davies

Step One – Identify Who to Approach

In sales-speak, this is called prospecting – you are identifying prospective customers. Your best prospects are like your best current customers in some way, and your best prospective projects will have something in common with your best current and past projects.

So look at your current best customers and projects:

  • What stands out about them?
  • What is it that you particularly like about them?
  • What are their common characteristics?

Step Two – Make Some Appointments

Pick up the phone and call the person you wish to meet. Just do it. Tell them who you are, who you work for, and that you would like to come and see them. Perhaps mention what you would like to come and see them about – but do not attempt to sell on the phone! It is fatal. Just get the appointment. And ask for it in a way that makes it really difficult to say “No”. For example,

“Hi Robert. This is Fred Smith. I’m the Technical Director from Rainbow Engineering. I’d like to come and see you to talk about your business and see what common ground we might have. I was thinking of Thursday the 8th or Friday the 9th. How are you placed on either of those days?”

Once you have the appointment, get off the phone. The longer you stay on this call the more likely it is that you may talk yourself out of the appointment.

Step Three – The Needs Analysis Meeting

The biggest mistake non-salespeople (and many salespeople) make is to assume that they must “sell” in their first meeting with a potential client. You should not initially be there to sell. You are there to learn and establish a relationship. In your first meeting, your purpose is to establish what opportunities there may be to work together. Looking for opportunities to work together feels and is vastly different from “selling”. In order to establish what opportunities there may be, you should be asking a lot of questions – albeit as they relate to your own business.

What follows is a simple agenda (with some sample questions) that you could experiment with:

  • Briefly introduce yourself: Who are you? What do you do? What are your particular professional interests? What is your purpose in coming to see this person?
  • Current scenario:
  • Tell me about your business.
  • What are your current challenges? How do you see these challenges being met?
  • What is going really well?
  • Tell me about your current supplier [of what your own business does].

2. Desired scenario

  • Where do you hope to see your business going in the future?
  • What are some of the problems/challenges you wish you could solve?
  • How would you prefer things to be?

3. Diagnosis

  • What do you think is stopping you from getting to where you’d like to be?
  • What are some of the causes of your current challenges?

4. Opportunity

  • May I tell you about how we might help you with some of your challenges? Now is your chance to tell the prospect more about what you do and how you might assist him.

5. Request for Proposal

  • May I prepare a proposal for how we might help you? Describe what you might include in the proposal and by when the prospect can expect to receive it.

6. The Next Step

  • Even if this first meeting did not result in a request for a proposal, agree on what your follow-up will be. Will you agree to meet again in a few weeks or months? Is there any other action that you want to take?

Step Four – The Proposal

It goes without saying that you will deliver your proposal on time and with the required information – and that it will look fabulous! Make sure you include visual material that draws the eye. A great format for your proposal is based on the agenda for the needs analysis meeting:

  • Current scenario (Background)
  • Desired scenario (Objectives)
  • Analysis (Diagnosis of the challenge)
  • Proposal (How you propose addressing the challenge)
  • Costs
  • Concerns (Identify any concerns or objections the prospect might have and address them directly)
  • Next steps (What will you do? What should the prospect do?

It is always best to present your proposal in person. Emailed proposals get lost and have less punch than your glowing presence talking up your own proposal. A word to the wise – be prepared. Have an agenda for your presentation. Anticipate questions and objections – put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and wonder what you might ask or be concerned about if you were him.

Step Five – Follow-up Meetings and Staying in Touch

Whether or not your needs analysis meeting resulted in a request for a proposal, if this prospect is still the kind of organisation you would like to have as a client, it is important that you keep in contact in some meaningful way. The accepted wisdom is that you should have meaningful contact with your prospects at least once every three months.

“Meaningful contact” means:

  • A meeting
  • A phone call
  • An email with an article or some other useful thing (you need to be seen as being on your prospect’s side or having his/her interests at heart). I’m not a big fan of email, however. I think it’s too easy to ignore – whereas you can’t ignore a phone call or a visit – and you really don’t build relationships via email.

Make sure that you have a system that helps you to stay in touch. Use reminders in your Microsoft Outlook. Update your prospect list regularly – and have a routine around how often you do it.

So now you have a place to start. Obviously you need to modify these contents to suit your specifics – but you’re clever people. You must be or you wouldn’t be where you are today! So in the words of a much loved shoe manufacturer – Just Do It!



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