Q: I'm the owner of a new studio that specializes in creating and designing structural packaging for toys, novelties and gift items. Do you have any advice on how to better communicate the studio's capabilities as well as where to search for good prospects? I've had no luck searching for trade associations or trade shows to attend. Currently, I spend my time primarily calling toy manufacturers obtained from a trade association Web site. It's been very difficult to get the correct decision-makers on the phone.
A: To expand your prospect list through participation in trade shows, visit sites such the Trade Show News Network , where you'll find a searchable database of shows in more than 100 industries. But whether you work from a prospect list or from leads generated at shows, like anyone involved in B2B sales, your first big challenge will be to reach the right individuals, as you've already found. It's not uncommon to speak with several people in one company before discovering the name of the ultimate decision-maker. Then it will usually take several more tries before you connect.
When you encounter voice mail, think of it as a 30-second opportunity to leave a message relating the ways your studio will benefit your prospect's company. Callbacks from prospects are rare, so you should expect to continue calling until you get through (though you probably shouldn't leave more than one message). Receptionists and executive assistants can be great allies in your effort to speak with key executives. They can help out by letting you know good times to call or by setting up phone appointments for you.
The second half of the battle is knowing what to say when you finally get a prospect on the other end of the line. A good opener always includes an introduction of yourself and your company ("This is David Jones, president of Jones Design"), followed by an opening benefit. The biggest mistake B2B salespeople make at this point is to launch into a litany of features instead of summarizing how their offerings will benefit the prospect. Make a list of your studio's top four or five benefits, and weave them into a sentence you can easily say. Then be prepared to adapt it depending on the needs of each prospect. He or she will be listening to you with one question in mind: "What's in it for me?" And when your opener provides a reasonable answer, the stage will be set for a successful call.