In the early years of our business, my husband did the sales. He was pretty good at selling but he absolutely hated it. He was tremendously relieved when I came on-board at Raven Machine & Tool and took over the sales and marketing.
I had a degree in marketing but no actual training in sales. I made lots of mistakes, like not following up quickly on leads, missing the due date on a very nice quote and not asking for the sale. Who knew those things were so important?? When you’re deep in the forest, it’s sometimes hard to see the trees.
I did a couple things right though; first I figured out what our company did best – our unique differentiator – our niche. Next I made a “Hit List” of 20 companies in the Upper Midwest that would be a perfect fit for the type of machining we did. Then I learned everything I could about those companies from their products to their people. I spent so much time at the James J. Hill Business Library in St. Paul, the librarians knew me by first name.
When I made my first sales call on one of those perfect companies they were impressed by what I knew about their business. One of the most effective things I did was tell the buyers, “I own Raven Machine & Tool; it would be an honor to do work for your company. In fact, it’s my personal goal to be machining parts for your company by the end of the year.”
Most of the buyers looked at me like I was crazy. They had a stable full of good suppliers; they didn’t need one more. But I believed they did.
I started a marketing campaign for each company. I sent personal notes, birthday cards, cartoons, articles on their competitors and articles about their company. When they launched a new product, I sent a congratulations card. Every three months I personally visited each buyer.
By the end of the year we had three perfect new customers.
Did I pester them? Probably, but always professionally. Every “touch” was designed to either benefit them or make them laugh.
The next time you decide you want a specific company on your customer list, create a marketing plan and work it.
It’s easier than you think.