15 Unorthodox Ways to Get Your Foot In the Door From dimensional direct-mail to video selfies, it's time to get creative about when, where and how you make your initial pitch.
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Sales is hard work, and the marketplace is competitive. You must differentiate yourself and your company from all the competition. Your initial meeting with the prospect focuses on one key question: How can you convince your coveted prospect to become a valued customer?
You've been trained to sell the "benefits versus features," write thank-you notes, show up 10 minutes early, give a firm handshake and look your prospect in the eye. Then what? How do you move the conversation forward to build trust, close the deal and make the sale?
Here are 15 creative ways to do just that.
Send a few valued customers each a logoed Frisbee with your name and primary contact info. In the accompanying letter, ask your contact to "throw me some business with referrals." You'll be amazed by the results. Based on my research through the years, each contact who appreciates your product or service will refer you to between five and seven prospects. Assume just 50 clients at this rate, and you could gain around 300 new prospects. Not bad for a simple dimensional mailing.
2. Pizza or cereal box.
This was one of the most successful dimensional-mail strategies I used to meet "difficult" prospects. Send the box via U.S. Postal Service or delivery company (worth it for the few extra dollars) with a well-crafted, handwritten letter inside. "I'd love to spend just a few minutes with you over lunch" or "Could I stop by next week for coffee and cereal over breakfast?"
3. Time clock.
Instead of sending a pizza box, try a timer set to 15 minutes. "I need just 15 minutes of your time," your letter might begin. I've used this technique many times and set a timer of my own. When the clock hits 00:00, I say, "Time's up, as promised. If you want to get together again, let's set another time." I've even left an initial meeting, saying I couldn't be late for another appointment. If your prospect is at all interested in learning more about your company, I promise this tactic will get you a follow-up meeting within the next few days.
4. Prospect's hobbies.
The internet and social media make quick (and easy work) of researching your prospect's interests. Look for some common ground. Dale Carnegie -- who developed a series of courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking and interpersonal skills -- advised us to "learn about others" because it creates an immediate connection.
Related: 3 Conversation Starters to Convert Prospects Into Customers
5. Bathroom trick.
Please don't think me strange, but this one has worked wonders for me over the years. Imagine you're at a trade show, conference or other business function, and you spot the one person you must meet at the neighboring table. You've got it: Follow him or her to the bathroom corridor (if you're not the same gender) or into the restroom itself. Just be respectful and wait until the handwashing to say hello. Laugh all you want -- it really does work.
Let's go back to creative dimensional mailings for a moment. Look for ways to make your products do double-duty as leave-behinds. If you're in the office-supply business, you could drop off a logoed pair of scissors with a note that commits to cut the prospect's expenses in half.
7. $50 bill via FedEx.
This one can be a bit sensitive, so you'll have to make the call whether you feel comfortable with this approach. It's worked approximately 75 percent of the time for me. Here's the rationale: Everyone's time is precious, and you're asking for 15 minutes of it for $____. That amount might be $50, $100 or whatever amount you think is a fit. One of two things is likely to happen. The recipient will return the money outright or send it back with a note that he or she is happy to set up a meeting. Of course, this could backfire and offend the prospect with your unusual way of "buying a meeting" (or with your bad over/under guess on the value of that quarter-hour).
Related: 3 Lessons From Backstage at ABC's 'Funderdome,' a Pitch Competition Where the Audience Chooses the Winner
Not much more to write about this one. The worse that can happen is a "no" from your prospect.
9. Photo postcard.
Everyone's favorite topic is him- or herself. Create a personalized card that features a photo of the prospect. Consciously or subconsciously, your prospect will realize that if you took the care and attention to customize a card, you'll bring the same level to detail to fulfilling an order.
Should you charge $0.00 or the highest price for your product or service? A commodity is the lowest-priced item, but you'll be racing to zero. Products with high perceived value can be priced at whatever level the market will bear. Consider charging a higher price, and you'll learn companies and customers are willing to pay for the best around. Your product is worth whatever your customers will pay for it.
Related: 3 Reasons Why You Can't Afford to Feel Bad Charging What You're Worth
11. Free samples.
The creativity here is how you structure the sample, especially if it's been awhile since you offered a free trial of your product or service. If you're in the auto business, you can't offer a free car. But you could package a free test-drive event. Get your prospects to touch your products and experience a small sample of the service they'll receive.
It's crucial to understand your market and your target customers, and there's a reason that terms such as "big data," "small data," "metrics" and "analysis" are taking over the business world. Why not share some of this information? It's always better to give than to receive, and giving others a sneak peek at what you've learned could be the inroad you need to begin developing a new relationship with a customer.
13. Prepaid mobile phone.
Prepaid mobile phones are affordable and compact. Send a few to key prospects along with a note that you'll call on a specific time or day and you hope they'll pick up.
14. Handwritten thank-you note.
Texting, email, in-app private messaging and other electronic communications have brought the handwritten thank-you note to the brink of extinction. Next time your friendly conversation ends with a sales rejection, send an old-school message and use a real first-class stamp (no company metered mail). You might just stand out from the crowd and earn yourself another chance to make a "first" impression.
15. Smartphone video selfie.
Pick up your handy smartphone and shoot a short video. Briefly introduce yourself, describe what you're about, and wrap with a 15-second speech that quickly explains your business. Use technology to grow your business, but remember you are selling you. Getting your prospect to see and hear you when you make that initial pitch will put you on the path to getting the meeting you need.
Related: Classic Tales to Mirror When Telling Your Brand Story