September '17

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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16 || P R I N T W E A R S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 7 much information as possi- ble about the prospect with- out appearing to be stalking them. The individual who graciously provided the sales lead in the first place is the most obvious and accessible source for this information. At a minimum, pose the fol- lowing questions and write down the answers: • Who is the ultimate deci- sion maker? How are his buying decisions made— on impulse, by analysis, emotionally? What are his hot buttons? • Who else may have a strong influence in the decision? What are his needs, wants, and desires? What's in it for each person to see that the best decision is made? • What are the critical factors in the decision—on-spec quality, guaranteed on-time delivery, affordable price, expert advice and service, convenience in placing and receiving the order? (Hint: That last factor will be the overriding determinant more often than you might think.) • What are the non-negotiable expectations for the order? What problem is solved by the purchase of these goods and services? What is the value of satisfying the client's needs compared to the price of the job? • What has been budgeted for this job? Is there latitude to go up on quality or quantity to get a better per unit value? • In the past, what competitive companies, if any, were used? What was the customer's experience with the other guy? Is he be- ing considered again? What problems, if any, were encountered? What did it "cost" the customer to have to endure the problems? • What is the customer's knowledge of the features and options available to her? Will she be interested in learning more about her choices and provide input when placing the order, or will she prefer an all-inclusive, turnkey transaction? • How can you leverage your unique value proposition—the thing your company excels at and is best known for—to give you a competitive advantage in this opportunity? Regardless of securing all of the answers to these questions, you should prepare a list of questions that will be asked during the cold call to confirm or correct your customer "intelligence," and fill in the blanks where answers were not readily available. Your probing strategy is the most important step in preparing for a cold call. WHEN IN DOUBT, PROBE You should now be ready to plan the first impression you'll make on the prospect. Remember, if you blow it you will likely not be given a second chance; anything that critical must be planned. To overcome any fear or hesitation of making cold calls, you should script out and rehearse the perfect introduction—as Jeffrey Gitomer calls it, "your own personal 30-second commercial." You may choose to break the ice by making casual small talk at the start of the call but, sooner or later, you'll need to get down to business. The opening of a cold call should be comprised of three parts: • Propose an agenda for your meeting emphasizing its value to the customer • Make a general-benefit statement highlighting your company's unique value proposition • Check with the customer for acceptance of the agenda and length of the meeting Your agenda will usually include uncovering the needs of the cus- tomer—that is, what each person with whom you meet hopes to ac- complish or improve as a result of doing business with you. Within the accomplishment and improvement desires of the customer lay the value. And it is here where you use some of the information you've collected to your advantage. One precaution of note: Ensure your conversation does not as- sume the information you've been given is 100 percent accurate. As- sume nothing, but nonchalantly table topics that you suspect will be of interest to the prospect. A good opening for a cold call may go something like this: "Thank you for seeing me today, Alex. Since we've not met before, I thought we could take some time to talk about what you were YOUR PERSONAL BUSINESS TRAINER continued on page 79

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