1. Put other activities on hold.
If you're serious about this, you can't afford to be distracted by anything else. Clear your calendar of everything except scheduled meetings with existing customers.
Everything else--training, conferences, new technology, hiring, mentoring, vacation, etc.--must go. Forget that "sharpen the saw" stuff. You can do all that after you've successfully closed these sales.
2. Locate the hottest prospects.
Well, yeah. Duh.
However, even though this is an obvious point, many people--including experienced salespeople--have only the vaguest idea of what makes a hot prospect, well, hot.
You might think the hottest prospects are those who have a pressing need for your offering. You'd think wrongly, though. Or you might think that the hottest prospects are those who have plenty of money. Wrong again.
Those characteristics (need and budget) are necessary but not sufficient. What truly makes a prospect hot or not is ... (wait for it) whether or not the person trusts you.
Look, even if a prospect is really hurting and in dire need of your product and also has cash that he wants to spend, he's not going to give you the business if he thinks you might be a sales weasel.
Unfortunately, trying to close a lot of business quickly with people you don't know can make you seem pretty weasel-like, because it's pretty clear you're working your agenda, and devil take the hindmost.
Therefore, the prospects most likely to buy are those who already trust you, which consist of 1) your current clients and 2) your former clients. Running a distant second are prospects who trust your clients and former clients.
Sales leads that come from any other source--including inbound marketing, networking events, trade shows, etc.--are inherently more difficult to close quickly, because building trust takes time, which is what you don't have.
Therefore, if you really want to close a year's worth of sales in 90 days, you'll need to focus on current and former customers, and on people who know and trust your current and former customers.
What if you don't have a large Rolodex (remember those things?) of existing and former customers? Well, sorry, you're out of luck. If you haven't paid your dues, trying to sell that quickly is like a couch potato trying to run a marathon. Not gonna happen.
3. Create a conversation.
So now you know where to find hot prospects. What you do next is email your latest sales pitch to your current and former customers, right? Wrong! Dead wrong! The worst thing you can do at this point is to send one of these:
Hi, Joe. Hope you're having a great summer. My company has a brand-new product that will knock your socks off, etc. etc. etc.
All that email says is that you want to make a sale. While the recipient may be tolerant (depending on the nature of the relationship), it's still a bit insulting and can damage the relationship.
Rather than making the email about you and what you want, make the email about the other person. Yes, it's a bit of a paradox, but if you want to sell, you must first stop selling and start listening. Here's how.
First, do some quick research. Check out the other person's LinkedIn profile and Facebook page. Google her. Find out what's new in her business or (public) personal life.
Now send an email based on what you've learned. Keep it short and sweet: "Gee, I saw you've changed jobs. How's the new job going?" No sales pitch. Nothing about yourself. Nothing about your product.
The idea is to get into a conversation, and the easiest way to do this is to be honestly curious about the other person and ask questions that will help you learn more about her.
Keep the conversation going until the other person emails back something like: "Hey, how about you?"
That's your cue. However, you must resist the urge to launch into that sales pitch. Instead, reveal a single benefit of whatever you are offering, a benefit that might appeal to that particular person.
For example, suppose I were looking to do some ghostwriting. (I don't do that kind of work, but let's suppose.) Following the recipe above, I would contact, one after another, the CEOs and top execs I've worked with over the years.
I would keep the conversation about the contact until the contact asks about me. At that point, the conversation (still conducted via email, probably, although it might segue to a phone call) would probably go like this:
- CEO: So, Geoff, what have you been up to?
- Me: I'm helping CEOs establish themselves as thought leaders.
- CEO: Really? How are you doing that?
- Me: By turning their ideas into white papers for content marketing.
- CEO: Gee, I might be interested in that.
Obviously, your product or service would be different, but the principle is the same. You let your offering emerge naturally from the conversation. This is very similar to the "killer elevator pitch" approach I've written about previously.
4. Get a recommendation.
Suppose, though, that this particular customer or former customer isn't interested. In that case, you ask for a recommendation. (Note: A recommendation is NOT a referral! Referrals are lame.)
For my imaginary ghostwriting business, the conversation might continue as follows:
- CEO: Gee, I wish I had the time to work on a book.
- Me: Me, too. It would be a blast to work together. Say, just out of curiosity, do you know any other CEOs who might be interested in working with me on this?
- CEO: Well, there's Joe over at MyCoolCompany.com. Do you want his contact info?
- Me: Hey, would you mind emailing him, with a few words about how you and I have worked together, and ask him if he'll take a meeting with me?
- CEO: Sure, why not?
- Me: Great. Just copy me on the email and I'll take it from there.
Did you see what I did there? My CEO contact (let's call him "CEO Bill") was going to give me a referral, i.e., some contact information. If I'd accepted that, my only move would be to send an email to "CEO Joe" that started with something like:
"Bill suggested I contact you."
While that seems like a good sales ploy, it's actually a dead-end because CEO Joe doesn't know whether CEO Bill actually gave me CEO Joe's contact info. Maybe I just got the email address off the Web.
For all CEO Joe knows, CEO Bill might have given me CEO Joe's contact information for another reason entirely. Or even just to get rid of me. ("Here, call this guy and leave me alone.")
What's more, my email address might get caught in CEO Joe's spam filter or deleted by his admin, or just be ignored because CEO Joe doesn't recognize my name. As I said, referrals are usually dead-ends.
Rather than accept the referral, I turned it into a recommendation. When CEO Joe receives an email from CEO Bill, he will open it (because he recognizes the name), and then read it. Then, if I follow up with a second email, CEO Joe will recognize my name.
More important, CEO Bill is telling CEO Joe that "I trust Geoff enough to put your and my relationship at risk." And that's powerful stuff. Oh, BTW, even if CEO Bill is interested, I can still ask him for a recommendation.
5. Start closing the opportunities.
As you go through your list of current and former clients, you'll smoke out various sales opportunities. Ideally, you'll also get some recommendations that turn into sales opportunities.
Your challenge is to close as many of those opportunities as you can, as quickly as possible. There are three classic tactics for this:
- Simply state your desire. Tell the prospect that you'd like a decision by the end of the quarter because you're trying to make your sales goals.
- Offer a time-limited discount. Explain that you're trying to close business by the end of the quarter, so you're offering a discount to make the decision easier.
- Announce a future price increase. Explain that you're planning to raise prices next quarter so it will be cost-saving (for the prospect) to buy now.
In normal sales situations (i.e., where trust has not yet been established), these tactics can seem manipulative to a prospect and easily backfire. However, because there is pre-existing trust, these tactics come off as helpful rather than manipulative.
Does the above technique work? Oh, mais oui. About 10 years ago, I let myself get into a situation where 90 percent of my work came from one big client. When that client suddenly went belly up, I had to scare up some new business pronto.
Within a month, I had closed so much business and built up such a huge backlog that I didn't have to do any additional selling for at least 18 months. So, yeah, it worked for me, and it will work for you, too.