Last week we discussed some of the most common obstacles we all face when it comes to engaging new prospects, especially in a business-to-business setting. Indeed, the most common challenge we often face is when we would like to get our foot in the door of an organization, and yet, we just don’t have that connection. How can you reach the decision maker in an organization when you CANNOT contact them on a favorable basis?
Our answer for the B2B sales professional: To get your foot in the door, use a Wedge.
The Wedge is NOT a mass marketing strategy. Rather, a “wedge” is a metaphor for creating influence through value. It is an eight-step strategy that I guarantee works—but there is a catch: you have to deploy this strategy correctly. There may be trial and error. Further, if you do not create the results you want at first, odds are the weakness will be in either the first step, or the last. So keep that in mind as we go through this, and let’s go.
Step 1: Identify Your Market and Value Proposition.
For many, this can be the most challenging step. For others, it’s the easiest. But the first task here is to honestly and inwardly evaluate the true value you provide for others.
This is not just a challenge—it’s an opportunity to talk and listen to previous clients or employers. The truth is this: you don’t determine your value–they do! Quite simply, your value proposition is the reason someone else should want to have a 20 minute conversation with you.
Remember: where most people fail to produce desired results is on this first step, or the last. If you want to meet with a decision maker for twenty minutes, they have to want to meet with you! And it is up to you to give them a reason.
Step 2: Research Companies in your Market and Prioritize.
In other words, build your list. Let’s say you want to reach out to wholesale distributors of durable goods with twenty to 250 employees, headquartered in your county and those surrounding. How would you find them? Perhaps your company subscribes to one of the many list services out there, such as InfoGroup or Hoovers. If not, there are other resources available (consider your public library) that will yield a gold mine of information for you—downloadable—and at NO CHARGE. The overall size of the list is secondary, as you will be reaching out to a small, manageable number of prospective companies at a time.
Step 3: Identify the “Influence Circle” at the top.
Rather than singling out one person to contact, you will identify three to five individuals, depending on the size of the company. It is important that you identify not one, but several people who may have an interest in what you offer, and may have the actual authority to make a decision.
Step 4: Verify!
This is easy if you do it right. In most cases, it means contacting the company by phone and verifying names and positions with a support person. But do your research first–have a preliminary list people and their positions on hand before you dial that phone.
Step 5: Write Your Pre-Approach Letter.
Craft a single letter to each member of that company’s influence circle. However, there will be no “carbon copies.” Each letter will be addressed individually, and will open in a specific way that indicates to the recipient that their colleagues are also receiving it.
The purpose of the letter is simple: to warm your call to schedule a visit. Nothing more. However, the body must be driven by your value proposition: remember that you must give that recipient a reason to want to visit with you. The value must be so clear that if the recipient is not at least interested in having a conversation, that they are not doing their job.
Step 6: Create Your Value Package.
Here is where a little imagination can pay huge dividends. If you are not yet familiar with Content Marketing, consider this your introduction. Ask yourself: What resources do you have at your disposal that will serve your prospect, before they become a customer? What insight, knowledge or information to you possess that can be packaged and shared in a compelling manner?
Do you have information that can be re-packaged into a small book, report or white paper? Can you take stories of previous clients who faced problems similar to those of your prospect’s and retell those stories so there is a lesson learned? That’s what building relationships through value is all about.
Step 7: Hand-Deliver the Packages.
No need to go into too much detail here, but one of those guidelines I just referred to is that for each recipient, each package is hand addressed and clearly marked “hand delivered.” A courier is fine—and the three to five packages all go to the receptionist, who takes charge of individual distribution.
One question that comes up: what if the target company is out of town? I say it doesn’t matter—you can still hand deliver it.
Step 8: Follow Up.
Isn’t this where so many of us drop the ball? Oh sure, you will make that first and second call. But what about the third…or the fourth… or the tenth!?
Did you know that in some industries or professions it takes an AVERAGE of 13 touches just to schedule an appointment? Did you know that MOST OF YOUR COMPETITION gives up after three?
Another question I often hear is, when do you quit calling? When do you give up? My answer: “Do the words restraining order mean anything?”
The reality is that the ball will forever remain in your court. You persist until you get an answer. Fortunately, the Wedge provides a very specific structure for planning and executing your follow up activity so no one falls through the cracks.
Now you are probably beginning to figure out why I told you that throughout your execution of this eight step strategy, the greatest vulnerability lies in either the first or last steps. Imagine how many people give up when it comes to the follow up call…we all have, including me!
So, What Makes the Wedge Work?
First, it is a better return and exposure for your time and effort. Think about it: with all this effort, doesn’t it make sense to increase your odds by the number of people there who may want to talk with you?
Second, the process forces you to ask yourself: Why should my prospect want to give up twenty minutes of their time to meet with me? This digs deep into the core of what we do, and how well we do it. It encourages us to listen more closely to our existing clients or previous employers, which itself can open up many more opportunities.
Third, if your package and message is compelling enough and offers real value, it WILL get them talking among each other. Perhaps it will be in a discussion at a weekly meeting; or as simple as the president emailing a VP to give you a call and set something up.
Fourth, you are far less likely to be ignored. Suppose you just sent a letter and/or value package to only one person? But that person really doesn’t want to be bothered. How does that affect your odds of getting in? Now, how simply can you be ignored if this person knows you are also contacting their colleagues?
So there you have it.
I’ve given you the sizzle with quite a bit of steak as well. Quite simply, the Wedge is a strategy that challenges you to put your best suit on, and to question your own quality of service with a spirit that reaches for improvement and greater customer value. But more than that, it is a value-based, content marketing approach strategy that leverages internal politics in your favor. How many of us have lost out due to politics? The Wedge turns the tables around, for everyone’s benefit.
Now comes my shameless plug. If you would like to get more detail on how to execute this strategy, such as how to determine your value proposition, how to craft the intro letter, where to research your list for free, and much more, you can find it in the fourth edition of my book Prospect & Flourish. It is now available on Amazon.com. The Kindle version has just been released, and hard copies will be available by the end of January.
The Wedge, when executed with prudence and care, WILL multiply your success of opening doors of prospective clients many times over. I not only say this with confidence; I GUARANTEE IT. Internalize this information. Consider it for yourself and you will see that it makes perfect sense, both in logic and simplicity.
Further, if you do have any further questions, then I invite you to contact me directly.
Good luck in making 2014 your best year ever!