Calvin Coolidge, Perseverance, And You

Here’s something you might not think about, but you really should: research and the follow up.

My best example of this comes from 15 years of real-life experience. Specifically, I run a mid-sized, full-service contract machine shop with 30 employees (i.e. – my day job), where follow up contacts yield new customers each and every year. Here’s how we make this work and, hopefully, there’s information here that you may tailor to how they can work for you as well!

First, we pay attention: Abject tons of it. We find out what our customers do. We research their web sites from top to bottom, and Google anything we don’t understand or comprehend so we can put it together in our own minds. Then we do comprehensive searches on other businesses who are in the same industry, often in other states. We begin what we call a lead sheet, and submit it to sales with as much data as we can possibly glean and offer. Sometimes we find these leads by accident, coincidence, or even referral. It doesn’t matter, really. What DOES matter is that we find them. And then, proceed to arm ourselves with every piece of knowledge we possibly can before a single sales call is made.

Then: the cold call. Probably one of the most dehumanizing thing I’ve ever had to do, and something I abhorr and am really, really not skilled at. Yet, our Sales staff of one (who is also the owner of the company) perseveres. He asks all the questions that he can, without being intrusive, gains as much insight as he may, and then – often – the call is ended. But this is only the beginning of the process. Often, this first call yields a contact name, and can sometimes even yield crucial information. Sometimes, one of my assistants will also make a second call to ask different questions, if we didn’t get everything we needed. Why? Different voice, different call = perception of non-linearity (i.e. – they have no idea it’s the same organization calling them to gain more information.)

We wait a day, or two, or three, and make a second call, this time asking for the individual who’s name we gleaned from the first (or second) call. Now we sound like we might be a plausible caller and – often get through. More often than not, it’s to voice mail. This is not a bad thing: We’re ready for this. And, in my experience, it’s often BETTER than reaching the person you’re calling. We offer a short, succinct, message about how we can SPECIFICALLY help their needs (because we know what they do, and we’ve done our homework), we cite our relevant and unique experience and, occasionally, name drop other companies’ whom we’re currently serving. And you had better believe that we’ve got positive, heart-felt, testimonials to back those name drops up.

Then, we let the phone call do what it will, while changing tactics. We have a packet of succinct data that we send to potential clients. the exception being the short cover letter. Each of these is tailored to the client in question, so as to maximize the effect. Because, the reality is, there are a TON of folks out there who do what we do. The DIFFERENCE is in how we do what we do, and what we offer in-house that most folks don’t. And we showcase those key differences in the hopes of garnering their attention.

What we find is this: we keep following up with a ‘courtesy call’ every so often, depending on the read we get from the potential client. If nothing comes of it, we ASK if we may continue to contact them periodically. Sometimes, we do so for YEARS without a thing. But then the day comes when they have what we call a ‘dead woodchuck’ project (Thanks, Dilbert for that one!). It’s on their desk, they haven’t sourced it, it’s a pain in their ass, and they want it gone. We happen to call, they look at it, having now forgotten the literature that we sent them and ask – specifically – if we can do anything with this annoyance staring them in the face. THIS is where we pounce. We usually not only can, but we ask if we might be able to come and get it – and discuss it – in person (if they’re in a reasonable range – but our range is far larger than most in our industry).

In EVERY circumstance where this has happened, we go in and we wow them with our expertise. EVERY SINGLE ONE. We send our company’s Owner who, though he hasn’t been tested formally, I am CERTAIN is a genius. His experience is astounding, and his insight even more so. And when the potential client sees what an asset he has in this person, and his company, they suddenly welcome us with open arms.

It usually starts out slow, once the first project has been delivered – on time and on budget. A trickle of work. In some cases that trickle has led to six-figure accounts annually. All because we did our homework, and persevered.

Another method I have seen employed is the periodic letter. I had an insurance agency who was courting our business. What set them apart was that I would receive a short letter with a small piece of interesting or relevant information/facts/advice about once a month. This did two things: It disallowed me forgetting who they were, and showed me they really did want my business. They were crafting letters tailored to me, and even spending money on stamps: That impressed me. The result? They made our normally closed short list for quoting insurance. They didn’t win the bid, but – unlike most – they at least had the opportunity.

I leave you, now, with one of my all-time favorite quotations from one of our lesser-known Presidents, Mr. Calvin Coolidge:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved – and always will – solve the problems of the human race.”
Mr. Coolidge: I never knew you, but I respect and admire the heck out of you, Sir. I wish that I had had the pleasure, and my admiration for you will never diminish.

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~ by digitalninjasmedia on November 29, 2011.

 
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