Ten power steps for creating your next good customer in 28 days or less
By John Wren MBA.
From Wren’s DARING MIGHTY THINGS — HOW TO START YOUR FIRST BUSINESS.
These ten steps are the fastest, cheapest, most effective way I’ve found to create the first new customer for a new business. It works even better for existing businesses that just want one or more GOOD customers to add to their existing customer base. Since 1980 I have designed and implemented proactive selling systems based on this basic approach with hundreds of my consulting clients, creating thousands of new customers for them.
If you are just starting a new business, you need to be ready to do business with your first new customer before you use this process. If you are using the system described my book (DARING MIGHTY THINGS–HOW TO START YOUR FIRST NEW BUSINESS,) then you’re at Phase III, “Sell Your First Customer as Quickly as Possible.” (Note: If you haven’t read the book yet, you can order it from the IDEA Association at the below address, just send $7.95 plus $2 postage and handling and also add your local sales tax in Colorado.)
This ten step system is very simple. The repetition built into the system is very persuasive. Good salespeople know that given enough time they can sell just about anything to just about anyone. The ten steps are not as glamorous as creating an advertising campaign. These steps are the infantry of selling. They will create customers for you the old-fashioned way, one at a time. The process will also result in loads of valuable marketing information you can use to fine-tune your objective and goals and perhaps eventually use to create advertising for your business.
Here is a summary chart of the ten steps, followed by a more detailed explanation.
Step/ Action Purpose (Day)
1. Telephone – Find a prospect and get their attention. (1)
2. Mail – Generate interest. (1)
3. Telephone – Set an appointment with the prospect. (14)
4. Mailing – Establish credibility with the prospect. (14)
5. Telephone – Further qualify the prospect. (20)
6. Telephone – Confirm appointment, avoid wasted time. (21)
7. Appointment -Gather information for proposal. (21)
8. Mail – Build credibility. (21)
9. Phone – Pre-sell solution, confirm appointment. (27)
10. Appointment – Gain agreement on solution. (28)
Step 1 – Make a telephone contact with potential prospects
Running advertisements is expensive. Direct mail to cold prospects is not as effective as it once was. Networking is just a waste of time without follow-up. But a telephone call to a potential prospect is powerful and cheap, if you do it the right way. Be selective about who you are calling, make ten calls, and its reasonable to expect at least one good prospect.
In the past, you could often set an appointment for a face to face meeting on this first phone call. Today, that is usually not possible no matter how good your product or service. So settle for creating a good impression with this first phone call, sending more information, and then making a second phone call to set the appointment.
Who do you call?
Make a list of 20 or 30 potential prospects. The best list comes from your personal address book, people you already know. Pick out those you suspect are most likely to need your product or service. When calling your friends, ask for referrals. If you don’t have plenty of prospects from your personal address book and the people that are referred to you by your friends, you are probably in the wrong business.
If you do need more names, talk with the reference librarian at your local public library. Tell the librarian about your product or service and who you are trying to reach. It is very likely that there is a directory with just such people. Eventually, you may want to buy a copy of the directory or a mailing list, but for now just copy the listings for this first step phone call for your next new customer.
What do you say?
For this and every marketing phone call, I suggest you use a script. The script is a powerful tool if it is well written and used correctly. It needs to be written to be heard, just as a radio commercial is written. You need to be a bit of an actor when using the script. It is critical that you never sound like you are using a script to the person you are calling. Practice with a friend or use a tape recorder until you sound natural.
Developing well written scripts and the skill to use them is the best investment of time and money a new business owner can make. I have written hundreds of scripts. If you get stuck call me at 303-796-8479 or send email to 74664,firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a free copy of my special report “How to write and use and an effective script for use on the telephone or radio.”
What is the purpose of this first phone call?
When you find someone who seems interested, be helpful. Offer them more information. Confirm their address. Send more information, or set a time to meet with them right away if they would prefer. Good prospects will usually want to get something in the mail first. And sending the mail first is usually the best for you; you get an advertising exposure directly with the prospect before you meet with him or her.
How many calls do you need to make?
When you get on a roll, keep calling! After you have found your first prospect and sent your first mailing, keep calling. The more prospects the better. Try for at least three appointments on your calendar before you go to your first face-to-face appointment. If you can’t find anyone who is interested, or if you can never seem to get around to making this first phone call, get some help from a sales coach. If you still can’t find anyone who is interested, pick up your marbles. Take what you have learned and quickly go into another business.
Step 2 – Send a sales letter to the prospect
In the past, you could start at this point and skip the first phone call. But today there is too much competition in the mail box; cold direct mail has lost its impact. Send this mailing the same day you talk with the prospect on the telephone. The telephone call will be fresh in their mind with they get the letter. Also, getting the letter out quickly demonstrates your competency to the prospect and builds their confidence in your abilities.
Your mailing does not have to be expensive, just a letter with a piece of sales literature. The letter sells, the sales literature tells what you do. With today’s word processors and quick printers it is easy to look good. The only limit is your imagination. If finding the right words is a problem, you may want to get professional help.
What is the best piece of sales literature? A photocopy of an article about your business from a newspaper or magazine. The story is much more effective than a brochure with the same information. Your story is sanctified in most peoples mind when it goes through the press. But don’t let trying for a news article and getting a brochure written and printed delay your phone calls. A simple typewritten flier will work for your first sale.
At the end of the sales letter, call for action. Ask the prospect to call you and set a time to meet. Realize that most won’t call. The few who do are your best prospects. You can send this by fax or email, but some of the sales punch will be lost because the fax or email message will not have the same graphic appeal. But in some cases this loss of quality is more than made up for by the speed of your follow-up.
Step 3 – Make a second phone call to set an appointment
Most prospects will not call you, so after 14 days (if you mailed rather than using the fax or email) its time to start dialing. If you call sooner, many will not have had a chance to read your mailing. Calling sooner can scare off good prospects. You want to seem eager, not desperate. When you call, don’t ask if they received your mailing. If they did, great, it will help you on this call. If they didn’t, or if they can’t remember, asking about the mailing just creates a delay. On this second phone call the only goal is to get an appointment. If you send a fax or email, call much sooner. Usually the next day is best.
Step 4 – Send a second sales letter to confirm the appointment
Keep this letter short. Confirm the time of the appointment. Explain that the purpose of the appointment is for you to gather enough information to be able to determine if you can help. Include a second piece of sales literature. Perhaps you now have a news article about your new business to send.
Steps 5 and 6 – Make two phone calls to confirm the appointment, one the day before, and again just before you leave for the appointment
Gather more information if you can. Reinforce the message from your sales literature. These phone calls demonstrate to the prospect that you are organized and eager to be of service. And they give you two more advertising impressions before your face-to-face meeting.
Step 7 – Fact-finding appointment
It’s best to meet with the prospect in their home or office for this first meeting. You get lots of information just by seeing them in their natural habitat. Have a short show and tell about your product or service. I like to have an 8 to 10 page presentation in a 3-ring binder. Use lots of pictures and graphics, people remember what they see much better than what they hear. Then gather the information you need to be able to make a proposal.
Before this meeting, develop a list of questions for the prospect that will enable you to write an effective proposal. You may want to have a standard questionnaire; believe it or not, prospects never object to this and it makes you look more professional to most people.
After gathering enough information, your sales message is “it sounds like I can really help you!” Suggest a second meeting, this time at your location. Even if you have a home-based business it may be best to meet the prospect on your turf for the Solutions/Presentation Appointment. If your office is not suitable for this, borrow or rent a conference room. Depending on your product or service, you may be able to combine this fact-finding appointment with the solutions appointment for a one-call close. If so, go immediately to Step 10 below at this point.
Step 8 – Send a sales letter confirming the Solutions/Presentation Appointment
Include a third piece of sales literature.
Step 9 – Confirm the Solutions/Presentation Appointment with a phone call the day before the appointment
Make sure the prospect has directions and that the time will work. Presell them on your solution. If you need them to bring something (like their checkbook) be sure to remind them.
Step 10 – Solutions/Presentation Appointment
Develop a standard written solutions presentation and agreement for your product or service. Customize it for each prospect. Make it clear to the prospect that this solutions meeting is a working session by heading the proposal “DRAFT.” Sit down with the prospect and read through the document line by line, correcting any errors and making changes and additions the prospect wants as you go.
Wait for the green light. The pressure for going forward should come from the prospect. It is best to leave prices blank until the agreement is finalized and the prospect has decided to go ahead if the price is right. If you sense the prospect is not ready to go forward, suggest that you make the corrections to the proposal and then meet at another time to review the changes.
Repeat this process until the prospect and you reach an agreement about how best to work together. After you’ve decided together what work you are to do, negotiate a price. Given enough time eventually any prospect will buy from you. The question becomes, how much time are you willing to invest with the prospect before they write you your first check? At some point (usually sooner than later) it is more profitable for you to decide to move on. Don’t waste your time with people who are greedy and not willing to pay you what you are worth and what you need.
After reaching agreement, immediately send the new customer a love letter thanking him or her for their business and confirming what you have promised to do. Then deliver more than you’ve promised. Delight your new customer so he or she will give you repeat sales and referrals.
After you’ve sold your first customer using this system, you may want to leverage your time through other people who help you with your selling. A good first step may be a part-time person to help you with the first phone call. I have worked with hundreds of my clients to help them do this, and it can quickly take your business to warp speed. Contact me if you’d like more information about how I work and how I might be able to help you.
John Wren, MBA National Coordinator, The IDEA Association.
4400 S. Quebec St. #T204, Denver CO 80237, Phone (303) 796-8479