Best Way to Approach Local Businesses? How to Open the Sale?

Profile picture of the author bhuff85 by
I recently started a new venture offline (not your typical website/seo consulting stuff, but an advertising service).

Anyway, I don't have any problems talking to people and meeting face-to-face and I'm not looking to do things all online or over the phone. The only thing I want to seek advice on is how to "open" the sale process when you walk into a business?

For example, should you walk into the business, introduce yourself and leave your card and some information about what it is you do? Should you ask for the owner to help bypass the gatekeeper? I'm just trying to get an idea of how to best go about this.

I'd almost rather generate leads first before just jumping into a business, but at the same time, I need to get my face out there and get people in my city familiar with me and what I'm doing. So, if any of you have any expertise on jumping into a business cold and just winging it, I'd be interested to hear what tips or advice you have!
#offline marketing #approach #businesses #local #open #sale

  • Profile picture of the author myob
    Advertising is relatively easy to sell. It helps to specialize in a niche and learn the business "lingo" for example in medical, dental, automotive, real estate, insurance etc.

    My sales reps generally will target a business complex or medical center and just walk in asking for the person who orders [your product or service]. If it's a small business ask for the owner or manager, don't just leave your business card. You need to actually speak to the buyer, or get his/her name. As with advertising, our product has very wide appeal (hands free voice texting for any phone), so it's quick and easy to demonstrate.

    As you start getting revenue, ramp it up to larger businesses. You will need to have some kind of followup system in place (such as Act) to keep track of your customers and prospects. Ideally call back or visit at least once a month just to check on results, and obtain referrals!
  • Profile picture of the author bhuff85
    Thanks for the advice. That's sort of what I was planning on doing. Just looking for a good "ice breaker" more or less so I don't come off as just "another annoying guy trying to sell some stuff".

    I'm also working on developing a sales letter and coupling that with more information about my company and mailing that out to a targeted list that I've researched myself. For the cost of a stamp, some envelopes and a few pieces of paper, I think it's worth a shot and could serve as a great lead generator.
  • Profile picture of the author AZ
    Great Ideas - I have often used a dialing for dollars specialist to sell 15 minute appointments, while you tell them your in the neighbourhood. You will be surprized at just how many people will give you 15 minutes to pitch to them.

    Thanks
  • Profile picture of the author myob
    Exactly. But for starters, just go in and start talking to businesses. Find out what kind of advertising they're doing and results they're getting. Most business owners will be happy to provide that if you present a professional decorum and understand the type of business needs. I found it best to arrive "empty-handed"; dump the briefcase and anything else that shouts - "I'm here to sell you something."

    Your first approach should be to sell yourself first and get the appointment for a time to allow a 15-30 minute max presentation or demo. Most importantly, show respect for their time as they are usually quite busy. I would just go ahead and start now, so you can get an idea of what would be a good ice-breaker.

    Others may have more ideas, but what I have found to be the quickest way of getting sales is the direct approach (knocking on doors or calling) rather than mailing out letters. Letters will more likely get tossed unopened, but it's more difficult to ignore a salesman in the office or even a phone call.
  • Profile picture of the author LovesIM
    Usually having some kind of "hook" or intriguing question works. I have no idea what you are selling, but if it's some kind of internet thing, you might ask "How is your website working for you? Are you getting any sales from it?"

    Whatever works without appearing too salesman - like.

    Sometimes just being sincere about wanting to help them will do the trick. Often times, if you can't help them, they may be willing to give you some referrals.
  • Profile picture of the author Nathon Hay
    Business owners trust other business owners. You're not a salesman. You're another business owner.
  • Profile picture of the author bhuff85
    Originally Posted by Nathon Hay View Post

    Business owners trust other business owners. You're not a salesman. You're another business owner.
    Right on - That's probably the best thing I've heard this week!

    myob - Thank you for your insight and detailed posts. I appreciate the encouragement and you offer some solid points. Guess the plan is to hit the pavement and grind it out. I think I'll get an idea of what works and doesn't work once I get my feet wet and jump into it. Have to fail a few times before I get it right, right?

    I'll still go with the letters as well though. It doesn't hurt and if I get a client or two out of it, it's well worth it. Just another way of "maximizing my time" so to speak. Just figure it's worth a shot to test it out and see if it's worth doing again. I even did some e-mails this week to try to generate some leads and make initial contact (not the best solution and won't be using it much from here on out), but I did manage to solidify 2 companies interested in meeting with me to go over more of what I do, so at least I got something out of that.
  • Profile picture of the author Amir Luis
    May be worth your time to do a little cyber stalking first.

    What I mean by that is not quite going in 100% cold.

    Having some information on your product vs. whatever medium they are using for advertising now. Plot your course of business that you want to target, wether they be by niche or geotargeted by street corner so you don't spend all day driving across town and burning gas.

    Do a wee bit of research so that when you walk in... you know how you can benefit them compared to what they are already doing. Then find out who owns the location by going on to Manta. If they don't have a claimed listing there you can always go to your county records website... Secretary of States website... whatever... and find out who owns the company.

    That way when you walk into the door.... you are somewhat prepared. You aren't necessarily cold calling. You are... but you aren't.

    You can walk in and say..."Where's Bob?" Saying it like you have known Bob since the second grade. More often than not... acting like the age old friend will get you right past the gatekeeper. Unless they have Jedi like skills of detecting sales people.

    I try to dress nice... but not too nice. No $3k suits. Business casual. Maybe even Jeans and a shirt... pending on the type of business. Always keeping in mind.... I am one of them....

    Sometimes being overly dressed screams "sales rep" and you just became the opposition vs. a friend who shares common interests and thoughts. Whose common interest just happens to be how to grow my business.

    When making initial contact. You may have a free gift/offer you might want to propose. The theory of reciprocity is HUGE, and works quite well.

    What are you selling? What's your medium? If I knew more I may be able to help you put together a pitch or at least an opener.

    Don't want to share in public?

    Shoot me a PM.

    Whatever happens... just keep in mind this is sales... and a numbers game.

    The more no's you come across. The closer you are to a yes.


    Don't give up five minutes before the miracle happens.
  • Profile picture of the author kvnfrnk
    Depending on the type of organization, you should probably be aimed at related companies. I think that putting larger companies is the best idea of local companies, because small firms usually contribute very little, and asked 10 or 20 companies are very small and can be a mess. I suggest you write a package of care, and simply saying what you do, how much you need, and why you need this money, where is this money goes and how you can benefit the community.
  • Profile picture of the author vndnbrgj
    Hey!

    I don't know exactly what kind of advertising you are doing, but what I do whenever I need some quick cash is Pizza Advertising. I take a pizza box into the business and it grabs people's attention. Then they approach me. Wondering who ordered a pizza.
    Gina Gray sells a great program here.
    Don Alm also offers a program about several kinds of advertising here.

    Hope this helps!
  • Profile picture of the author SamyE
    Cold Calling, either in person or via the phone totally messes up your posture and sets you up as just a desperate peddler peddling his wares! Totally Sucks Posture Wise....

    No to mention gate keepers and every one in the organization blocking you.

    I did this for 7 years in the automotive industry.

    Biggest change was when I got a Dan Kennedy Marketing Kit and used and implemented it. Bought a list, made a flyer with bold offer, mailed it out twice a month to 250 or so prospects. Always got 2 phone calls back, then two more over the next 30-60 days.

    When they called there was no up hill selling battel.

    POSTURE

    They were NOW calling me, and all I had to do was listen, qualify them before running over, and close them on a personal meeting. They did most of the work, and they almost always had an underlying pressing problem that triggered the call.

    This process took 2 hours to complete, start to finish, hand addressed envalopes with real stamps...Offered a free repair with a 10 day deadline.


    Old cold calling took aprx 20 hours, scope the car lot, walk in, get past the gate keeper, try to get the managers attention and get him to listen, drag him out to the lot, sell him on a free demo, then hope and pray he would call me back the next time he needed a repair.

    Turns out that the cold call clients were the most likely to be dead beat dealers who would never honer their purchase order, while the ones who responded to the mailer almost always had an immediate need, were easier and nicer to work with, wanted top notch service, and most of all PAID the bills on time and stayed on three times longer than the cold call clients.

    So figure out a problem and or market gap, then create an irisitable offer, and create the situation where they are tracking and hunting you down.....Not the other way around.....Posture.....Strong....vs.....weak
  • Profile picture of the author myob
    There are many tools available for marketing. And the more tools you learn how to use effectively, the more successful you will be in your market. Cold calling is only one of hundreds of marketing tools. Even now, however, cold calling still happens to be among the most powerful tools for building a solid business quickly.
    But like a hammer, you can either hit the nail squarely on the head, or keep smashing your thumb.
  • Profile picture of the author Amir Luis
    I can't imagine cold calling in the automotive industry.

    For some reason I just can't wrap my mind around it.

    My cousin owns a Chevrolet Dealership... All of his sales comes from a retail environment. The people come on the lot. His reps try and close. No prospecting whatsoever for the sales reps.
    I thought that was the industry standard. So I can REALLY see not wanting to cold call for selling a car. That is a lose / lose out the gate.

    Either way... it doesn't matter.

    What does matter is that you can still remain to use "positioning" even though you used cold calling techniques to prospect a client. The key is... You have to care.... Just not that much. I love cold calling because an appointment setter can set me 5 appointments a day. So when I walk in.... I know that it's O.K. if they don't take me up on my offer.
    I know that I won't have to discount my services because I am scared that I have to make a sale!

    Holy CRAP! I HAVE TO SELL THIS... never goes through my mind.

    Why? Because I have several other people lined up today.... tommorrow.... and the day after.... so if they don't want what I have... it is there loss. Not mine.

    250 fliers isn't even a good start for a test campaign.

    At the typical 1% print media conversion rate... that is 2.5 phone calls.... that is if I have a decent flier. If my marketing Kung Fu is no good.... I can expect 1 phone call.

    At the typical closing ratio of 30%... actually 20% if you are fairly new.... 250 fliers will get you absolutely no where.

    Now if you have a track record in sales.... the warm lead from a presold marketing piece should convert at 70% - 80%. So 250 fliers = 1 sale... if your lucky.

    So as the previous poster said... if I mail out 250 fliers... at around $.50 which is really cheap if I am going to include my hourly rate, I mean.... time is money. Then factor in the gas for the trip to the post office. etc. etc. etc.

    I can spend $125 and get one sale! WOOOOO!!!!!

    No thanks....

    When I was brand spanking new.... I had no money to gamble with and my back was against the wall. So what did I do. I sold my Black Berry on craigslist. Used that money to get some leads and set up an autodialer.

    Then.... already having a solid script... I started making phone calls. $1600 in 72 hours. Actually.... it was more like $2100. Why?

    Because I was so nervous on my first appointment. It was my first... what do you expect?

    I sold a fairly large site for $1000 yet a week later he called and said... hey... we will gladly pay you $1500. Which is what I originally asked for. But I was nervous and needed the money.... remember... I sold my cell phone to get to this point.

    Anyway..... That sale was a result of my 3rd phone call. I say 72 hours because I didn't want to SEEM desperate... for all of you out there real big on positioning. 72 hours out is when I set the appointment. Walked in with nothing but a smile and walked out with a check.

    Whew.... bills paid.

    SO..... I can spend a couple of hours every day getting new clients by prospecting over the phone. OR... I can lick stamps for a coulple of hours every day and spend over $100 per day in marketing costs.

    Either way.... I will get a new client. But for $100 per day of licking stamps. I can pay some college kid $10 per hour to set me at least 5 appointments per day.

    You do what's best for you. I know what works for me.

    That being said.... don't think. Just do.

    Cold calling is not the only avenue of marketing that I employ. I have at LEAST 5 streams of marketing going at one time. The most effective, and the one that pays for the others.... cold calling.

    There is more than one way to get to Denny's.

    As long as you get there. I don't care how you do it. You can take the Freeway, or the back alleys. Whatever works for you.
  • Profile picture of the author OnlineMarketingSys
    Originally Posted by bhuff85 View Post

    myob - Thank you for your insight and detailed posts. I appreciate the encouragement and you offer some solid points. Guess the plan is to hit the pavement and grind it out. I think I'll get an idea of what works and doesn't work once I get my feet wet and jump into it. Have to fail a few times before I get it right, right?

    I'll still go with the letters as well though. It doesn't hurt and if I get a client or two out of it, it's well worth it. Just another way of "maximizing my time" so to speak. Just figure it's worth a shot to test it out and see if it's worth doing again. I even did some e-mails this week to try to generate some leads and make initial contact (not the best solution and won't be using it much from here on out), but I did manage to solidify 2 companies interested in meeting with me to go over more of what I do, so at least I got something out of that.
    As with anything in marketing and sales, it's a numbers game, the more businesses and people you talk to, sooner or later you are going to find someone interested in what you have to bring to their business.

    Just be prepared upfront for a lot of rejection, especially as many companies are struggling to stay afloat in this economy. Since your selling advertising services, it's a little different, since you have a way for them to increase their business. That said, try to keep your costs down, especially when your just starting out if you don't have a lot of capital.

    Direct mail is one of the lowest converting types of advertising. I generally get between 10-30 pieces of junkmail at my companies a day. And guess where it goes? Straight into the trash, if your lucky I might open it, and glance at it for 5 seconds, before tossing it.
  • Profile picture of the author ExploringInfinity
    I'm also seeking advice on how to walk into a business and offer services.

    I just recently started my own home business and it's largely based online, but not completely.

    I'm looking forward to studying all of the advice given in this thread.
  • Profile picture of the author Bruce NewMedia
    Originally Posted by Amir Luis View Post

    I can't imagine cold calling in the automotive industry.

    For some reason I just can't wrap my mind around it.
    It's interesting how different cultures and countries address the 'selling issues' in business.

    I've read that almost 50% of cars sold in Japan are sold door-to-door. Seems odd, but if it's true, then it only goes to show what's possible.
    _____
    Bruce
  • Profile picture of the author sandalwood
    I would think advertising requires cold calling. Don't know that for sure but from experience I can tell you most of our high commissioned clients came from cold calling. I own an insurance agency and we plucked them from a list. I don't know of any list of people who are looking for advertising solicitations or I'd tell you.

    Regardless, the local coupon guy comes around about once a quarter even though we don't use him. Nobody buys insurance off a coupon is the reason we don't use him. But he is persistent. We have however referred some of our biz clients to him.

    Does that mean that'll happen for you? I hope so. Don't pooh pooh cold calling. It works.

    I'll give you another example. We just partnered with a national tax service to do our client's taxes. We will only be gathering the tax information. Their CPAs, EAs, etc will be doing the return via the Internet. I have cold called over 100 local businesses. All accepted my flyer and hung it in their break room for their employees.

    How about that for a silent recommendation? I don't know the exact nature of your proposed biz, but maybe your biz model can copy ours in that respect.

    Just my 2ยข.

    sandalwood
  • Profile picture of the author Anthony Gardner
    Are small business owners willing to give you their time if some kind of appointment is not scheduled?
  • Profile picture of the author Amir Luis
    That depends on you... Anthony.

    If your Kung Fu is good. They will. If not... they will use that as an excuse to not deal with you. But....

    MAKE AN APPOINTMENT. You talked with them... however... you got them on the phone. You walked in and were at the right place at the right time....

    Now don't lose that opportunity. Make an appointment for when they are not busy.

    "I understand Jim, You have a lot going on right now, but.... when would be a good time I could get your undivided attention for about 10 minutes?"

    "What are you doing for lunch? I'll buy!"

    Whatever it takes to get you infront of him or her for just a few minutes to establish interest and value. Once you have done that. They will push off whatever else they have going.

    They have to see the need and the value first though.

    Just my experience.

    I am not my usual self... I am not feelling so hot today. I just might be allergic to christmas.
  • Profile picture of the author rtrube
    Cold Calling is tough. But it still works. It really depends on what type of advertising you are selling, (that's been said how many times in this post?...)

    Here is what I tell my reps to do (I manage 30 sales reps in 5 states).

    1) Write down what it is you want to sell or present.

    2) Write down as many reasons as you can think of as to why people would be interested in what you are selling. (treat this like a brainstorm - there is no right or wrong here, just create a list...)

    3) Go through your list, and identify the top 5-7 that are really good, and then write a 3 sentence opening about it. (It is going to sound canned at first - get over it)

    4) identify out of that list the ones that will be the easiest for you to talk about, and really internalize, memorize you 3 lines about it (rehearse?).

    5) Put your self in a position as a business owner, and think how you would want to be approached, and that's how you open the conversation.

    Remember, as a business owner or senior exec, you only have 3 driving concerns - 1) Increase revenues/profits 2) decrease costs / expenses and 3) minimize risk. If you can tie your opening and your solution into one or more of those, you will have their undivided attention.

    Good luck!

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