For most of us who are offering business to business services, our face to face activity is like the action of a play. All of the written and online marketing activity we’ve been talking about is no more than the scenery. The play goes better in a good theatre with a good backdrop but you can still do it in the street. However if people check you out online – as they will- and there’s a good story to be found and some real evidence of substance – then your job will be so much easier.
Face to face is where most of the action happens. But there are two very different modes that we need to be fluent in. Networking and Sales – and they’re not the same thing at all.
Networking is where you find a “home team” who will support you, where you can learn from each other and who will refer and advocate your services to others. Those who see networking events as sales fodder to hand out business cards to and broadcast what they do miss the point. It’s about getting known, getting liked and getting trusted. It’s a 2-3 year process and can’t be hurried.
The evidence shows that most people prefer a group of 20-40 for their home team and that trust is built by
- absolute clarity about what you do
- getting back to people quickly
- contributing and listening rather than talking and selling
- having a positive can-do attitude
Networking is about reputation and lead generation – so it’s really part of marketing. It’s true that some people want to network on a very much larger scale.
Selling and Qualifying
Sales is where you stand or fall. People who’ve not worked in a professional sales structure often have odd ideas about it. The truth is you don’t need to bust a gut selling somebody something they don’t want.
The key to selling is qualification. You’re actually scanning for people who you can sell to – using criteria like
- Can we convince them we’re stable enough to trust us
- Have they got the money
- Am I talking to the right people – can they say yes – if he can who does he listen to
- Is the Pain they are suffering great enough to warrant the disruption of putting our solution in
- Can they see us as part of their future
- Can I give them permission to say yes?
It’s important to be confident, and to speak in their language. But if you have fully established that you can help them and they have the money then try the following approach
- Tell them up front that you’re here to sell to them if you can find agreement. And get them to agree to that.
- Keep the conversation focused on how what you will do will solve their problem in a lasting way
- Offer them 2 good choices, one of which is obviously better
- Ask for permission to get on with making the arrangements.
Then shut up.
Sales Systems are key
The difference between the amateur and the professional is system. You need to know what your conversion rate is for people who you get into the final negotiation stage. This tells you how many enco
unters you need per month (or year!). Then you need to know how many of the people that you are engaged with through newsletters and other marketing activity like workshops, exhibitions, or telemarketing will have a problem go critical on them so that they contact you each month. If they don’t appear you have to contact them
You need a system that engages enough interest so that when people meet you they’re already warm and you can have a sensible conversation. I’ve used the word “engaged” for someone who has enough interest in what you offer to agree to receive stuff from you. How the stages happen on the way to the “endgame” and whether you can respond to demand will tell you whether the business is scalable – or not.
You may be interested to know what your fellow small businesses do. Here’s the results from a survey we carried out last year which tells you what tools our predominantly business service respondents actually use. (They were recruited via BNI – a networking organisation and Ecademy and Linked-in)
|Technique||Use regularly||Depend on it||Total|
|One to One selling||43.4||30.8||74.2|
So you can see that face to face activities are very important to them. Workshops are important as are PR, online advertising and Email. However the early adopter we interviewed use the online media to good effect – they boost their lead generation by an estimated 40% by using social medial. We also found that those who get 80% of their business within a 50 mile radius are much less likely to use online media. In the group who operate on a more widespread basis, a full 40% reported depending on or using Linked-In regularly.