Q: I've started an insurance business. I need my prospects to know that the value I offer is different from my competitors, and I want to get the most business from my advertising and prospecting efforts. What do you suggest?

A: Your question tugs at the essence of what's important for thriving, and even surviving, in business today. Let me suggest three power steps you can take to the street and the bank:

Step 1: The power of familiarity.
Help your prospect become extremely familiar with you and your organization prior to meeting you. The key operative word here is "prior."

Marketing research tells us that if a person sees and/or experiences a product or idea seven times, they are then familiar with that item or concept. When answering prior questions, I've shared the power of sending correspondence such as letters, faxes, e-presentations and the like. What I'd like to suggest here is that you create a wave of familiarity around you and your products, services and solutions before your first prospecting call.

Truth be told, your organization would have to spend many millions of dollars to establish that kind of brand awareness for every prospect in your sales territory. But you and I can pull it off at a mere fraction of that cost. I've always felt that it should be a key priority to do this kind of local brand awareness campaign. The following sequence of events can help you establish the prospect's familiarity with you and your company and the value you can deliver.

Create a "wave" of no less than seven pieces of correspondence sent to your prospect as the relationship unfolds. These can include, but need not be limited to, the following:

  1. A letter that either introduces your ideas and value or announces an accomplishment in your prospect's niche or industry. (Then you make a phone call.)
  2. An e-mail with a suggested "agenda" and the date and time of the first appointment. (Then you make a phone call)
  3. A confirmation of the first appointment date, time and location. Now you actually have your first appointment with the prospect. Follow with:
  4. A thank-you note after the first appointment.
  5. A note confirming the action items from the first appointment. (You may want to follow this with a phone call to make sure all is agreed upon.)
  6. An e-mail with a suggested "agenda" for the second appointment. (Then you make a phone call to confirm these points.)
  7. A confirmation of the second appointment date, time and location. (Did you hear that? I think it was the sound of a cash register.)

Now that's what I call familiarity. Let's take a look at the next power step to win the sale quickly.

Step 2: The power of urgency.
For your prospects, the element of time is deeply interwoven with every reward and every fear. Time is the critical factor. You must clearly articulate how time intensifies the feeling of a specific reward or a specific fear.

Before you show up for your first appointment, I urge you to calculate your estimate of the total potential value of your products, services and solutions to your prospect. Once you have completed this task, you need only to find out what this prospect is motivated by--reward or fear--and when they must take action to achieve a specific reward or avoid a specific fear. You can accomplish this by asking a question along these lines:

"Mr. Smith, what's personally important to you about moving your operations to southern Florida between now and the end of this fiscal year?" Notice the use of the word "personally," which tells you the "what," and the incorporation of time, which will give you an idea of the "when."

If you hear something like this--"If I don't, the cost of union labor here in New Jersey will drive me out of business"--then Mr. Smith is making an attempt to avoid fear. Position your solution as the antidote to that fear, and what you propose will be perceived as urgently important.

If you hear this--"Being located in southern Florida will put me closer to my Central American marketplace and keep me a step ahead of my competition"--then Mr. Smith is making an attempt to obtain a reward. Position your solution as the means to this reward, and what you propose will be perceived as urgently important. Once you set the urgency factor, you can move quickly to peak the prospect's curiosity about you and your products, services and solutions.

Step 3: The power of curiosity.
Do everything you can (ethically, of course) to raise the level of your prospect's curiosity in your business, whether it's in your correspondence, over the phone or during in-person meetings. In your correspondence, use phrases like: "There's much more to discuss that I would prefer to go over in person," or "We were able to deliver an X percent increase in sales for ABC Co., while reducing their marketing expenses."

During a phone conversation, mention upfront that before the end of the call, you'll want to disclose an important benefit to this prospect for the over accomplishment of a certain goal, plan or objective. Say, "Please remind me to cover..." or "Before we reach the end of our call, we'll talk about...".

In person, during your first appointment with your prospect, say something very similar to the phrases below (and use them in place of the typical ice-breaker we've all been taught to use): "In just a moment, we can explore what 65 of the Fortune 100..." or "Before too long, let's make sure we talk about...".

There you have it: three simple ways for substantially increasing sales revenues with little increase in your cost of sales.

Tony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer. For additional information on his speeches and his newest book, Secrets of VITO, call (800) 777-VITO or visit www.sellingtovito.com.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.