The toughest accounts to land are usually the largest and most profitable accounts, too. Everyone wants to get in the door, and there's much more competition at that level. But don't let that discourage you. While breaking through certainly won't be easy, the following three steps will increase your chances of landing that tough account:
1. Prepare before you call. Get as much information about the account as you can from the company's website and annual reports. Check out newspaper clippings that highlight the company's goals, product line or future endeavors. Find out the name of the company's CEO, and Google it to learn some business and personal information that can be useful later.
It's also important to try out the product or service before you call so you can experience it from a customer's point of view. And speak to some of the organization's longtime customers to find out what they like or if they can recommend any improvements. Connecting with customers before the call not only gives you valuable information to share with the prospect, but also educates you on the industry, pinpoints customers' challenges and builds your confidence.
2. When you make the call, follow these important tips:
- Call to the top, and sell your way down.
- Treat the gatekeeper like gold--he or she has more power than you think.
- Call before 8:30 a.m. and after 5:30 p.m.--plenty of decision-makers pick up their phones before and after regular hours.
- Have three major benefits at your fingertips about why your company is unique and what value you bring that others can't.
- Be relentless without being obnoxious. There is a fine line between the two. Calling every day and asking for a meeting isn't the best idea; after a while, it will be taken the wrong way. But taking the time to uncover the decision-maker's specific goals and interests and getting creative with relevant follow-up materials can make all the difference.
3. Make sure to follow up. When trying to close a tough account, it's vital that you always follow up. Never, ever forget the power of a simple, handwritten thank-you note. It's become a lost art in our fast-moving, high-tech society. Also, don't feel uncomfortable asking the prospect, "What's our next step, and how would you like us to follow up on this meeting to move things forward?" When I've asked this question, I've had many customers close the deal themselves because everything done before that--questioning, qualifying, listening, note-taking--served to build the customer's trust so he or she felt comfortable saying yes.
Following a phone call or face-to-face meeting, list the customer's key objectives and needs. Let the customer know you were listening and taking note of his or her hot buttons and important concerns.
My business is all about breaking into both large and tough accounts, whether for my clients, my products or myself. The one important skill that will always be essential to effective selling is the ability to focus. Focus on what you can do to help others achieve their goals, and yours will be taken care of in the process.
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