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Prospecting From Afar

When you don't have the budget to meet sales prospects in person, how can you still wow them?

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: We've had our travel budget cut to zero for visiting new prospects. My funnel is getting lean. What ideas do you have to reach new prospects besides the typical cold-call?

A: You're not alone on the budget issue. Lots of organizations have made severe cuts when it comes to travel, marketing, advertising and other pre-sales support activities. Welcome to what I call the "New World Economy"-it's a more intense, more competitive, more challenging selling environment that asks you to do more with less. To succeed in this environment requires an arsenal of "New World Selling" tactics.

Let's step back for a minute and look at some key definitions. "Prospecting," as I see it, is the act of placing highly qualified individuals and/or organizations into your sales process. That sounds easy enough. But how do you do it without a travel budget? Let's face it: Sometimes it's tough.

Before we look at a few "travel-free" prospecting approaches, let's make certain that we agree on what a "qualified" prospect is. Here's what my best prospects look like (and what I bet yours look like, too):

  1. Individuals/organizations that are almost identical to those whom I've successfully sold to before. (In other words, they fit my "template of ideal prospects.")
  2. Individuals/organizations who have the money and the authority to spend it on my solution before the end of this month, quarter or year. (You pick the time frame that's most relevant to your sale.)
  3. Individuals/organizations who can provide additional marketing mobility to my organization and me in the form of referrals, leads and/or testimonials. (In the past five years I've made this qualifier a way of business-and it's been the most effective lead generation program I've ever had.)

Let's assume for a moment that 50 prospects in my territory fit into one or more of these three criteria. My best "virtual" approach is going to be one that's highly visible and as automatic as possible, while providing a personal-touch point that comes darn close to me physically being there with all or most of those 50 contacts.

Electronic Presentations to the Rescue!

The exciting medium of electronic presentations merges the advantages of audio (your voice) with text and graphics (your presentation slides). After it's all bundled together, everything gets sent to your qualified prospect via the Internet.

When you combine reading (text), listening (audio) and watching (graphics), you get an unbelievable 50 percent retention rate! (That dwarfs the retention rate of reading, listening or watching as separate elements-and yes, it beats meeting with you in person!)

Common reactions from salespeople to the idea of electronic presentations include: "But no one will open up attachments in this day and age!" and "I can't spam my territory!" If either or both of these thoughts are crossing your mind, relax. The medium I'm talking about features no attachments, and every piece of e-mail you send is opened by invitation only.

Here's how it works. You create no more than three PowerPoint slides with no more than 10 words on each one. You can use graphics (for instance, your prospect's logo, or even a picture of you). You create an audio script that is conversational and has a talk-time of 10 seconds or less for each slide. (I know that these are some tight time requirements, but the reality is this: If you were making an in-person call, you'd face exactly the same restraints.)

You "author" all of this online and send it to your qualified prospects. Once the e-mail is sent, you'll be able to find out whether and when it was opened-and even how many slides your qualified prospect looked at!

Use the Telephone

Imagine leaving a voice-mail message for your prospect that informs him or her of your imminent electronic presentation now. Imagine setting up and sending this e-presentation to a "C" level contact! Keep on imagining: What about putting your voice on the audio? Suddenly, you've got the best initial "C"-to-"C" outreach strategy anyone ever launched. Who's not going to listen to a presentation from a fellow C-level that takes just a few minutes out of the day?

New World Selling is waiting for you! Take a moment, and view this column using "e-presentation" technology. While you're at it, download a complementary worksheet "template of ideal prospects" that will help you determine who your best-qualified prospects are. You can also check out the power of an e-presentation from Brainshark (866-276-7427). I guarantee you'll be amazed at what you learn-the folks at Brainshark are ready, willing and able to help you turn no-budget selling into high-impact, New World Selling.

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

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of 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.

Written By

Tony Parinello has become the nation's foremost expert on executive-level selling. He's also the author of the bestselling book bearing the name of his sales training program,Getting to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer, 10 Steps to VITO's Office,as well as the host of Club VITO, a weekly live internet broadcast.