08 Apr

Developing Sales Prospects in Social Settings

Back in November 2005 we conducted an online survey at my Small Business Trends website, about selling to small businesses.  One of the findings highlights a challenge so many businesses in the business-to-small-business space have:  finding someone to sell to is sometimes the hardest part.

Thirty-three percent (33%) of sellers in that survey said that their #1 challenge was not being able to find enough qualified small business prospects.  Here is the survey chart outlining those findings:

salesprospects.jpg

Think about that for a moment — they felt their #1 challenge was not their lack of market intelligence.  It wasn’t even pricing.  Rather, it was finding someone or some company to sell to. 

When you are selling to small businesses, part of the challenge has to do with the fact that some small businesses are just hard to find.  They may operate virtually.  How do you even know the company exists or where the headquarters is? 

Small business owners you are trying to reach just don’t have the time to sort through and figure out exactly what your business is selling and whether it is right for them, especially during business hours.  They’ve gotten good at tuning out sales and marketing pitches during regular business hours.

Consequently, one of the techniques that some sellers use to reach small business owners – with good success I might add — is to focus on social settings, outside of the traditional business setting. 

Some sellers will try to develop a personal relationship with a business owner in a non-threatening setting such as a sports activity, or while working together on a charitable board, or while planning a community event together.  Once they have a contact, they will nurture that contact and build a relationship. 

If that all sounds like too much of a one-to-one effort, a similar concept can be used in an advertising context.  Sellers may advertise in a church bulletin.  Or they will advertise in a small community publication targeting consumers, in those communities where business owners tend to live. 

Those with somewhat bigger budgets advertise locally on cable TV in the evenings, or on local radio stations during drive time or even on weekends. 

The idea is to reach out to the business owner at a time when he or she is not pressured in the office.  (You’ve seen large companies such as Accenture do something similar when they sponsor golf tournaments, for instance, to reach corporate executives during their leisure time.)

Outside of the pressured work setting the business owner (a) is more receptive and not automatically shutting you out as they are conditioned to do while in the office or during work hours, and (b) has more mindshare — more time — to actually “take in” what your business is all about and what makes it special.  Or, at least they may remember your company name and think of it when they need such a service or product.

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  1. [...] Check out Developing Sales Prospects in Social Settings by Anita Campbell. As the name suggests, social settings may be your best bet in developing quality [...]

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