More people go on fad diets, start exercise programs and renew their goals at this time of year than any other. Many people also see the new year as a great time to get in touch with old acquaintances. Well, I have a theory about this, and it comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Today is a king in disguise." Why do we wait for next month, after a holiday or after the first day of a new year to start afresh? Why not use every day? It's the most effective way to find new business.
The more you're in front of prospects, the better chance you have of creating good timing. Many executives agree that most sales happen after the fifth call. Yet most salespeople give up after the first. Sometimes, after constant follow-up, the timing becomes better for the prospect to act than when you first called. You create better timing by sticking with it.
So how can you set up an effective prospecting strategy that will work year-round? Here are four ways.
1. Establish a clear reason for following up. When calling prospects, make sure you have some type of news or update that's valuable to them. Don't just call and ask, "Are you ready yet?" Providing something valuable each time you call allows you to be seen as someone who continually brings value to the relationship, rather than as an annoyance.
2. Stay in front of prospects and customers on a monthly basis. Create a monthly newsletter or send a letter containing specific information that would benefit your prospect base. Each month, look for something relevant, and include a note saying, "Thought you would enjoy the enclosed." Years ago, I worked with an office products company that was constantly in touch with clients. This might sound corny, but they even had birthday celebrations for photocopiers! That's right: The sales or service rep would visit the customer each year with balloons and cake to celebrate that year of business. It helped reps stay in touch with customers and be there when they were ready for new products or upgrades.
3. Hand out free samples. Free samples of new products are great ways to keep prospects and customers updated about your company. If your product samples are valuable and you can only send out a small number, be selective with the mailing list and target the contacts that would benefit most.
4. Collect testimonials from satisfied customers. Testimonials come in handy when prospects are on the fence about making a decision, and by collecting them throughout the year, you'll gain insight into your current performance. Testimonials from people who promote and enthusiastically support your products or services are extremely valuable because they show prospects a nonbiased viewpoint. Also, you never know when one of those positive comments will strike a nerve with a prospect. To make this work for your business, take a cue from an advertising firm in Atlanta that sends out CDs of customers talking about their positive experiences, then gives away a prize at the end of the recording. It's an easy way to keep your name in front of prospects in a positive way.
The time to follow up with clients and prospects is now--and every day that follows. Keeping in constant touch will increase your ability to be in the right place at the right time. Timing doesn't just happen because of fate or luck--you have to make it happen with creative ideas and lots of activity.