Good salespeople are looking for a new job every day. They need to be “hired” by their clients and prospects on a regular basis. When I was a sales manager, how someone applied for an open position was my indication of how they would approach a prospect. Even now, as I’m going through applications for designers, I think of how my actions parallel that of a busy prospect.
Lesson One: Look for the signs that they have a need.
First, I have a need. In fact, I’ve advertised that I have a need. You may not think that your prospects are advertising their need, but if you go through the day with your eyes wide open, you will see that they are. Look for outward signs that the business is in need of what you sell. That could range from what they post on LinkedIn to clues at their physical or virtual location. If you don’t already have a list of the signs that a prospect needs your service, put one together now.
Lesson Two: Get to the benefit you offer quickly and personably.
Second, I’m busy. Now that’s not unique; we’re all busy, but let’s look at how that affects your approach with a prospect. Some days the applications trickle in, and I can take a minute and review each one. Other days they pile up fast and that makes them even harder to get to. When I do read them, it’s often a quick scan looking for the keywords that they can help me. If it’s not there in the first few sentences, or even first few words, I may not ever see what else they had to say. Another thing is that the words that keep me reading are speaking right to me, like a person.
Lesson Three: Follow up can put you closer to the top of the list, or earn you a second look.
Third, is about follow up. It can set a candidate apart from the crowd. A short, professional voicemail often prompted me to put someone on the top of my stack of resumes as a sales manager, and now a request to connect on LinkedIn makes their name familiar, and sometimes gets their email read before the others. This can be taken too far and border on stalking, but that’s rare, and very few reach out more than once. What I also found interesting is that even a professional reply to my rejection letter has prompted me to give them a second look.
In summary, the candidate that addresses my real need gets my time and attention. As you approach your prospects, find the need, address the need quickly and clearly, and then follow up in a professional manner. And keep doing that until you are able to connect or they tell you the need is already being taken care of by someone who did these things first.