Chief Investment Officer
one to one selling
I’ve been in sales and marketing all my life. Even as a CEO, your job is to sell your constituents – associates, investors, the communities we serve, and, most importantly, customers – the best features of our bank and its value proposition. In time, I learned some valuable lessons about prospecting and sales. My son Arik has just started a job as a sales person for an IT company, and his boss recommended he read “How To Get A Meeting With Anyone”, by Stu Heinecke. This book validated many of my personal experiences and added countless perspectives, tips and life lessons that can help us all. I’d like to share some of these with you, supported by my own experiences. I’d recommend the book heartily. This is but a “teaser” of its contents, aimed at the sales person: A commercial Banker, Wealth management Advisor, Treasury Management Officer, Branch Manager, etc.
The two key questions in selling are: Who do you want to sell to? And then, how do you get through the barriers to that target? This involves two steps: identifying the best targets for 1:1 marketing (vs. mass marketing, which is the Marketing Department’s domain), and then executing on a contact strategy to penetrate the protective shields of the targets and bringing them crisp and easily understood value propositions.
The marketing campaign for 1:1 marketing must be limited to a relatively short, well-vetted list of prospects, and the metrics (number of hits, responses, closes etc.) all have to do with the caller/sales person. Your mission is to reach a small number of key people, prospective buyers and influencers, who can make a huge difference in the overall profile of your business. Such marketing campaigns are:
- Micro-focused (top 100 prospect list) – the focus is only on the most important prospects. These targets, when converted into sales, can become your raving fans and help you reach others like them.
- Leading to a direct contact between the marketer and the target
- The seller/caller IS the response device. Your goal is to achieve direct contact with the prospects, nothing less.
- Flexibility and micro-adjustments are key – a customized approach to specific prospects.
- “Audacity, fascination and intrigue” are important ingredients in 1:1 campaigns.
- Make it highly personal and attentive.
- In order to build successful 1:1 campaigns, you must research your targets thoroughly. Know what they like and dislike, what motivates them, what they do in their free time and who they admire.
- You then need to have a succinct statement about your value proposition, something you could express in seconds. See if you can express it in 7 words or less, a statement that will lead your target to say, “How would you do that?” This is even shorter than the elevator speech!
- Include the executive assistants in your campaign. They can be your ally, not your enemy. Start your 1:1 campaign by seeking them out, then, after establishing rapport, write your story in an email that can be easily readable and has an element of audacity, fascination or intrigue in it. Keep in touch with the assistant and thank them for their help; maybe even send them a token of your appreciation, something that shows you know who they are, that your approach is personal and not mass-produced.
- Build your credentials in the business world. I didn’t know the impact of this, but I started writing early-on in my career. My writings helped me establish and build credibility. I got published in the American banker, gave hundreds of speeches, and wrote a few books. All these, unexpectedly, made a huge difference in my career.
You don’t have to take this approach, but writing, blogging, speaking, are ways to reach broader audiences and establish credentials that will give you access to C-Suite people.
You can also join non-for-profit and other boards, become a guest blogger and find other ways to establish yourself. This is not about networking – it is about you becoming a trusted source of insight.
- Prospecting CEOs. CEOs don’t live in the same world as you and I. The pressures they face – time, people, competitors – are formidable. Plus, the successful ones face the pressure of beating their own goals, which are often lofty. In a word, they are committed to winning, and their entire energy in the business world is devoted to that objective.
As a result, their timeline is paradoxically much longer than ours (strategies measures in years) as well as much shorter (appointments measured in minutes). Finding time for a non-value-added call is difficult for the C Suite inhabitants, as all sales people, including their peers, know. The lesson: make your calls value-add, and show how a subsequent conversation will help the executive reach their goals.
NOTE: The CEO you’re after isn’t necessarily the CEO of the company, but the decision maker regarding the problem you want to solve.
- The top 100 lists. There should be more than one list, and none of them needs to be 100 in number. You should build three types of list:
- Your top prospects (those who can give you the most business)
- Your top strategic prospects (allies, supporters, influencers, who can get you to the top 100 prospects)
- Your top 100 raving fans, those highly-engaged customers who know you, love your value proposition and are already touting it in their social and business circles.
The names on each list call for a different approach.
- Don’t quit after the third call. Many years ago I was told by an uber-salesman that the most success he’s had was by tenaciously calling people. He said that the majority of the sales took over 7 calls, and that those who received as many calls achieved 90%+ close ratios. I thought it a bit of a stretch but tried it. He was right. The Contact marketing book reaffirmed this approach. “…She says 60% respond after the 6th touch…She says most salespeople give up before the 6th touch, which is a big mistake.” Others send personal notes quarterly, leave personal messages quarterly, and send small but memorable items. For example, I knew someone who loved Babar. I made it a point to send them a Babar book, a doll etc. periodically, reminding them that I know exactly who they are. They became lifelong friends.
There is much more in the book, and I’m not going to steal its thunder. The overall message is simple: focus on a few prospects who can make the most difference in your book of business, and invest meaningful time to study them to ensure that, when you do get time with them, it is time well spent for both you and them. Your approach to each one should be customized to their needs and personality, offer originality, relevance and brevity, and include their assistants. Tenacity counts here as it does in many other places – don’t give up.
As to the nitty-gritty of contact marketing, buy the book :)