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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Prospecting 101, Part 13 | THE COLD, HARD TRUTH

Gabriel SiegelThe Cold, Hard Truth with Gabriel Siegel

THE BOTTOM LINE: Every successful entrepreneur I’ve met mastered the art of making his business appear to be “unique”. The ability to distinguish your business from your competitors offers significant advantages:
  • Your business is not perceived as a commodity.
  • You have a distinctive selling point.
  • You aren’t relegated to competing on price.
  • Your service or product is “branded” as special and worth the difference in cost.
  • You are perceived a being an innovator.

Many E mails I received of late, asked me about my ideas for “re branding” or finding ways to develop new markets for existing products or services. In a previous article I discussed the carpet/upholstery cleaner who expanded his clientele by offering to create an "Asthma Free Zone” in households with children suffering from asthma. I mentioned the manufacturer’s rep group where the owners have taken over the prospecting and sales functions to develop a new level of more sophisticated and demanding customer.

A PROSPECTING ROUNDTABLE participant who, with his wife, owns a bookkeeping and accounting service recently sent me this E mail:

Dear Gabe:

“As you know, we’re firmly committed to the idea that prospecting/cold calling is critical for survival. About a year ago, I sat down with one of my clients and asked him what could I do to help him so I could get more business from him. My client owns a medium size HVAC company. He told me that his greatest need was for someone, part time, on the premises to help him organize his work orders, invoices, receipts and to do general filing. I offered to provide him with a part time employee, at my expense, for a 6 month trial. The employee would not only increase his efficiency but would make my job easier, and less costly for him because I could get his information in a more timely and efficient manner. A year later, the employee is still on my payroll, but my client is paying for her services. I offered the same arrangement to several other clients, and I’m pleased to report that I have added a new source of cash flow to my business. We have incorporated this idea into our presentations to new clients, and I’m thrilled with the results. You were right when you said that too many entrepreneurs fail to see the opportunities that existing clients can offer”.

In a previous article, I discussed the landscaper who has a thriving “high end” business built almost entirely on cold calling. Sensing that he would be entering a difficult environment for his services, he “partnered” with a local nursery, offering classes for the “do it yourself” gardener. They charge $75.00 per attendee and give them a set of tools, a soil testing kit and a selection of starter seed packs. In each 4 hour session they cover such basics as soil preparation, plant and flower selection, arrangements and aesthetics. From one class a week, they now offer two classes a week, each fully attended.

When we met for coffee recently he told me that when his wife proposed the ideas he was resistant at first and said no one would go for it. Echoing my words, she asked him “How do you know? You’re not a mind reader”.

I was in the market for a new guitar. There is no shortage of music stores/studios in my area and most of them sell the same or similar products at the same price. One music store/studio stands out in my mind. When I finished playing the guitars, I wandered over to the music book section. In addition to the standard fare of music books, one large rack was devoted to music instructional books with the studio’s name on the cover. They were the best selling books in the store. In addition to the large group of students using the books, I noticed several musicians perusing the selection and one older player bought several of the more advanced books for his personal use. When I asked the owner about the books he told me that by putting his name on the books he created an “aura” of being special and standing out from his competitors. Most interesting to me, however, was the fact that the books were standard instructional manuals; not terribly different from the plethora of music instructional books commercially available.

A client, who was the subject of an earlier article, is a successful web designer. He’s an active prospector and cold-caller. He felt, however, that his business was becoming too “commoditized”. He needed a “hook”.

He rented a restaurant to which he invited his existing clients and prospects, promising an interesting and business-enhancing experience. At the dinner were 5 students from a local college. He introduced himself and explained to his audience that this is his team of “experts”. In what? SOCIAL MEDIA.

He told his audience, composed primarily of local “Mom and Pop” businesses, that no body really knows why or how social media (think Facebook) works, but it does. It is becoming the accepted mechanism for staying in touch. He emphasized that “social media probably won’t get you new clients but it is a tool for maintaining communication with existing clients and customers. And those 5 students? They’re the experts. They’re the generation that defines this new communication. They’ll work with you assuring your business benefits from the greatest possible exposure”.

At the end of the evening, two clients signed up for an “expanded package” and one prospect bought the entire package of web design and social media incorporation.

Both entrepreneurs recognized and accepted the fact that the business environment was changing. People were becoming more guarded about spending money, and both realized that existing customers can be a great source of additional income. What is the key to their success? Both owners told me that they simply “followed their gut” and took the plunge.

The Manufacturer’s rep group, because of a changing environment, was forced to redesign their business model. Their new mantra is “PARTNERS IN CHANGE”. Their redesigned company logo and all forms of written communication emphasize their new focus.

The carpet/upholstery cleaner mentioned in an earlier article, developed an entirely new market for his company by offering an “ALLERGEN FREE ENVIRONMENT” to an entirely new group of prospects.

Each of these entrepreneurs recognized the need to differentiate his company from the competition.

In our PROSPECTING ROUNDTABLES, virtually all attendees come to the same conclusions:
  • Cold calling is still the best way to get new customers.
  • Most of the best customers, and their referrals, come from cold calling and prospecting efforts.
  • Social media is not a viable substitute for cold calling.
  • Cold calling must be consistent and persistent.
  • It is your customer/prospect who dictates the need for your service and/or product. Listen to them. Carefully! Ask them what else can you do for them.
  • You need to be continually evaluating your product/service to accommodate a changing market dynamic.
  • Forget “one size fits all”, or “business as usual”. It can’t work!
  • Existing customers are your best prospects for new and expanded services.

Einstein said it best: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

For anyone wishing to share thoughts or comments, the writer can be reached at I respond to E mails quicker and more thoughtfully than I do when contacted on social networking sites.

For more information, please visit Gabriel's TNNWC Bio.

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