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Hot Sellers

Try these tips to warm up cold prospects.

Have you ever visited a Chinese restaurant with your family or a large group and ordered from the family-style menu? That's the one where you can choose two dishes from column A, two from column B and two from column C. Growing up in my family, every Sunday night meant dinner at the local Chinese restaurant. We always went home way too full--yet thoroughly satisfied.

Here's an approach to setting up a year-round sales and marketing strategy for your new business that follows a similarly satisfying principle--you choose tactics from the lists below: two from column A, two from column B and two from column C.

The prospects for your new business will fall into three categories: cold, warm and hot. Your coldest prospects are those you believe are qualified but have little or no information about you. Warm prospects are those who have had some exposure to your company and its sales message, either by ongoing contact or by noticing your advertising or public relations efforts, for example. The hottest prospects are those closest to closing. They have either moved through your sales cycle from cold to warm to hot, or have come to you as referrals.

In order to set up a well-rounded sales and marketing program, it's essential to use tactics that reach out to all three categories of prospects at once, while keeping your sales prospects moving steadily through the cycle. Some new business owners make the mistake of using only one or two tactics, so their programs operate in fits and starts; as a result, prospective customers and clients often fall through the cracks. Other entrepreneurs make the mistake of relying exclusively on marketing tactics or sales, when a combination of both is necessary. If you were to rely exclusively on direct mail and never talk to your prospects, for example, you'd lose the opportunity to build lasting relationships with your customers.

What follows is a breakdown of some sales and marketing tactics you can use to reach prospects from each of the three categories. Choose one sales tactic and one marketing tactic per category. The key is to engage in each of the tactics on an ongoing basis. For instance, you'll reach some prospects with marketing tactics from column A and, during the same period of time, close others with sales tactics from column C.

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Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.

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This article was originally published in the December 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hot Sellers.

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