Thursday, 31 May 2012

Prospecting for new clients - Part I

I was coaching two people in the IT Recruitment field, recently — Wong and Iskandar. We were talking about self improvement in business which led to discussing ways for making contact with prospects and potential clients. Essentially, Wong and Iskandar sell a service, in a crowded market place, often fighting big competitors with large marketing budgets. It's very competitive. As smaller operators, with lower expenses, they can offer a better service at lower prices. Is that like your business? Many small businesses face the same difficulties Bill and Jane were facing. My coaching niche covers small service companies so it is likely this conversation will help you.

   Wong and Iskandar each work solo in their own small businesses. They recruit IT staff for companies. Now, IT – information technology – is a big area. Wong has narrowed his niche to involve Network Engineers and Technical Support people. Jane provides temporary and permanent staffing for IT Projects.

The Challenge:

    Their challenge is getting in touch with new prospects who need to hire staff.

    In addition to cold-calling, both have tried e-mail, sending an e-mail sales letter each month, telling prospects, "I can find you excellent staff at up to 50% cost savings over competitors which will save you a fortune." That wasn't working, either!

Another Challenge:

    Another challenge they were facing is, on cold calling these days they find it difficult to actually get a live person on the phone. So many companies are using auto-answering and voice mail, they are lucky to make contact 10% of the time. Even then, most of the people they reach are not ready to buy. So, Wong is developing the belief that cold calling is becoming a waste of time, and that if he can get a response from e-mail, it is a warm lead to call. Jane was beginning to feel that way, too.

    Wong also sends a fax blast to targets on his dream list of prospects - a personalized fax - "Dear Tony, I have been trying to call you ...USP, benefits, blah-blah-blah... please e-mail or call if this is of interest."

    He was also thinking of getting some plain note paper and envelopes, and writing a simple hand written note, stating benefits of using him, and asking for a chance to do some business. Iskandar thought that nobody reads letters any more, and felt that would also be a waste of time.

Let's Look at this Differently

    My reaction was this: You are both looking at this as experienced salespeople, deeply entrenched in the business - which is only natural. But what if someone like Robert Kuok decided, as a diversified interests, to get into your business? Or Azman Hashim? Or Rashid Hussein ? How would they approach it, do you think? Would they do it the way you do it, not knowing what you know?

    Wong replied, "None of them would last a week on the job...these people are big corporate fish, with support teams, the best talent and billions behind them. We're in a very different world and business model." Iskandar agreed, "I think the truth of it is this; if you're in business for yourself you have to stick with the basics of small business - e-mail, letters and cold calling - consistently and continually. This is still the best way forward to guarantee business."

    This was why I was finding this conversation so interesting, because I am convinced that cold-calling, unsolicited e-mail and fax blasts are all variations of Spam. And spam annoys people. These methods worked in the past, but not today. I had a great deal of success cold-calling people when I started in sales. That was in the 1960s! You could do that then. People were happy to talk with you. Nowadays, people don't have time to do the work they are supposed to do, and certainly don't have time to chat with uninvited salespeople.

    Iskandar said that, for the small company, there are opportunities to be exploited in sectors outside where the big boys go. He said along with her recruitment services, she also offers project management, support and logistics. One often comes from the other so there are opportunities in tying up with other service providers or offering them your recruitment services as a 'bolt on' revenue stream for little effort on their part. In other words, joint venture. This is a very valid approach for small, single-operator businesses.

    After a pause, Iskandar said, "You know, the more I think about this, the more I realize that the very small, independent business owner has a massive advantage over the big recruiters. Themselves! I can give a very personalized service. This is a big angle to exploit." 

[To be continued ..... Part II]

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