The Australian Small Business Blog

Thursday, March 16, 2006

What makes a Great Salesperson?

The best salespeople think in the long term, act in the short term and develop customer needs. They are also recognised as a consultant or trusted advisor by their clients.

Becoming a trusted advisor to a NEW prospect as all salespeople know can be a very difficult thing to do. Trust is something that you cannot buy and have to earn. On average it takes a minimum of six contacts with a prospect in a complex sales environment before you can become a trusted advisor.

These contacts can consist of a mix of any of the following activities:

• Cold call
• Email
• Fax
• e-Presentation
• Postcard
• Introduction letter
• Face-to-Face meeting
• Demonstration
• Pilot program / Trial
• Follow-Up call

Ice Breaker

Of the above activities, introduction letters are the most affective tool in your arsenal to start the process with. Email has unfortunately become an ineffective medium, whereas snail mail is widely under utilized.

Typically a mass unsolicited business introduction letter will only have a response rate of between 1 & 2%. A well crafted and targeted letter however is the perfect ice breaker to send to a NEW prospect. The better the letter matches their needs, the greater the result will be. It is not uncommon to achieve response rates as high as 10, 20 or even 30%.

Finding the Target

There are a number of tried & tested techniques that will significantly improve the chances of your introduction letter getting past the secretary or p.a. to your intended contact and to gain their interest.

If you think about how you treat unsolicited letters & advertising material that you receive at home, a few seconds is all it takes to decide whether to read a letter or discard it. A secretary or p.a. will open your introduction letter and quickly decide whether to pass it to your intended recipient.

The aim of your letter should be to get your prospect to agree to speak with you on the telephone when you follow it up and nothing more. As a salesperson you are most affective when you are in front of a prospect and this is just another step in the process of earning trust.

Powerful Writing Tips

For your introduction letter to make it past the round filing cabinet under the desk in your prospect’s office (i.e. rubbish bin), it is essential that you include a number of key elements in your targeted correspondence.

Some of these elements include references to you or your organization’s Expertise, Professional Integrity and Credibility. There also needs to be an Impact Statement which grabs the attention of the reader. Another key inclusion is Greed; by nature we are all greedy and want someone for free.

Most importantly, every aspect of the letter needs to be Quantifiable and truthful to provide Assurance to the recipient.

Introduction Letter Structure

It is important never to mix your words and only to write for one of the four possible target recipients who are the Approver, Decision Maker, Influencer or Recommender.

The letter must be easily scanned and quick to read, relevant to the prospects current or future needs, written so the reader can easily understand the message / take action and easily forwarded to someone other than the recipient.

Use the eight second rule when preparing an Impact Statement; you must grab the attention of the reader in this timeframe to have any chance of them continuing to read your letter.

As a minimum your introduction letter needs to introduce your product, service or solution, gain the interest of the recipient, establish yourself as an authority figure or trusted advisor and create a sense of urgency. To get through the maze of obstacles (gate keepers) your introduction letter also needs to be professional, different and relevant.

Tim Williams is the Managing Director & founder of Deakon Pty Ltd.

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