By Duncan Maxwell Anderson
From Success Magazine
DAN KENNEDY says he’s found a way to multiply your closing ratio in face-to-face selling: Instead of carpet-bombing the universe of possible prospects with telephone calls trying to get an appointment, use the techniques of direct-response advertising. Generate a response from those who already need your product. Then home in like a cruise missile for the close. Kennedy, president of Empire Communications Corp. in Phoenix, uses direct response to grow his own business and consults to other companies.
“One of my client companies sells seals for industrial pumps,” says Kennedy. “The ordinary seal has to be replaced every 30,000 pumps, taking four hours of downtime. But this company’s seal lasts 300,000 pumps and takes only two hours to replace. How would you sell it? The conventional approach is to send out a rep to each factory with a bag of seals under one arm and a box of doughnuts under the other. He’ll wait around for an hour waiting to see someone. That uses up time, and it’s also bad positioning.”
GET IN POSITION TO CLOSE
Kennedy says that you’re in better position to close a sale if you manage to get the customers who might need your product to come to you. This is where the direct-response methods come in. “Suppose you send every prospect a brochure that offers him a free video showing how to cut his downtime in half when he’s servicing his pump. It’s closely related to your business, but it’s not about your company or product.
“Once the guy responds and says, ‘I want to see the video,’ he doesn’t view you as a pump-parts salesman anymore. His defenses come down, because he feels as if he’s in charge when he says, ‘I think you’re the guy who can help me. Tell me how this works.’ Now you’re in a good position to tell him about your longer-lasting seal. If you cold-marketed the same prospect, your results would not be as good.”
With its free video offer, the client company more than doubled its closing ratio per 100 prospects — from 3 to 7. That opens the possibility of hiring more reps, who sell more and make more money. As Kennedy says, “There’s no reason for a sales rep to spend his time on the phone to narrow his prospect search when a letter can do it for him.”
THE SECRET OF BABY STEPS
Kennedy says the strategy works in any market: Every potential customer would be grateful for free information on some area of need, free from a sales pitch. “Take baby steps with your customer to build rapport,” Kennedy says, “until you’re ready for a giant step like a big-ticket sale. Your free report — or video, or manual — should have an exciting title,” says Kennedy. “It should be as good as something you might buy at a bookstore, but you’re giving it to him free.
“Say a computer store wants to sell software, hardware, and Internet hookups,” says Kennedy. “Why not target people with kids, offering a free report entitled ‘How to get your kid into the college of his and your choice’? Let’s say 18 of the 101 tips involve the use of the computer. At the end of the report, put in another offer: ‘Come in to our education fair from March 22 to 24. All of tips 50 to 68 will be on display, with free Internet access and instructors available.’ Have a discount offer that day for software or hardware, and give away a demo of ‘The 5 Greatest Educational Tools for Your Computer.’ These are measures that offer value, cost little, and generate goodwill and sales.”
The principle of the smart bomb can work even with a presentation or sales letter, if you are very confident. It’s a benefit that grows out of what Kennedy calls “the positive power of negative preparation.” In presentations, we are accustomed to mentioning only our strengths, hoping the prospect will forget about the possibility of weaknesses. Of course he doesn’t. All the while, he’s trying to figure out what problems he between the lines. That tension is bad, Kennedy says.
“Why not painfully acknowledge all the weaknesses in your case — every one of your flaws?” he suggests. “Then, answer these problems with the best possible responses. You preempt most objections and show your honesty. Sales managers don’t tend to do this,” he adds, with considerable understatement.
“But winning sports coaches do. They go through all their plays and ask themselves, ‘What do we do if this goes wrong? Or how about this?’ ”
If you can handle the obstacles without breaking a sweat, it’s easier to get in position to score.