It’s not hard to follow up with your best customers. Really. It’s not begging.
Pitching is not begging.
You try to refer customers to other customers when it’s appropriate. You show what competitors are doing. You help.
This stuff you read below might bore you.
But, this stuff is a big the part of reason Simplifilm is four months old and booked out into 2012. (Much of the reason is Jason’s talent, I can never forget that).
This stuff is superior to the Copyblogger-type Content Marketing Methods. And it takes less energy for me.
I’m going to share, more or less, what I do. I use BatchBlue as a CRM, and I’ve used others in the past – Heap, Highrise, etc. I can’t recommends Highrise for this method – they have a kludgey sales-funnel process that is not carefully wrought and doesn’t really do a good job with moving a deal through a pipeline.
This is the basic way I do things:
- Find & Sort Targets
- Research and Pitch Targets (show our product to them)
- Follow Up Systematically
- Build Meaningful Relationships
I’m tightening this up right now, so I’ll show exactly what we do. I’m not going to spend the time it takes to make a “good story” out of this, this is more or less notes as to how I do things. Your milage may vary
Step One In Getting Customers: Find and Sort Targets
Our “target companies” are tech companies doing anywhere from 2mm-100mm in business. Obviously we’ll be working with billion dollar companies very soon. Obviously, we’ll be working with the fortune 1000. But, we want to make sure that we can work with people that can swing the hammer quickly. I have leads that I’ll be incubating for 2012 when we’re a much bigger group, but in the mean time, this is what we are doing.
This is a GTD style method – it relies on ubiquitous capture. I use Google reader’s staring function, Evernote and BatchBook for this.
I’m looking for people that either have a bad demo movie, or that have a need for a good one. I’m looking for startup-type companies, preferably with revenue, funding or both. Our sales cycle for us is 4-10 weeks for people we contact, and it’s much shorter when people contact us.
I use the following lead sources for raw targets. This isn’t in order, and I don’t yet know the “best” way to prioritize this:
- Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts) - I have a few dozen alerts that I look at each day, and try to clear. New websites in specific fields are the way that this works. I use Reader to sort these fast.
- Competitor research: This is fun. When someone has a new video up, their competitors know. Likewise, if you know of someone that just bought something, call 100% of their competitors.
- Bigger Tech Companies: This is process oriented.
- YouTube Searches: I look for well done (using AE/Premiere/Final Cut) demo films, and I rustle down the owner of the account or service and pitch him. I look for demo films that have technical expertise but don’t sell very well.
- Twitter -(search.twitter.com) phrases like “recommend after effects” produce 3-5% of my leads or so. I had success early and that might be confusing me. I haven’t “won” on twitter in a while.
- 2nd Tier Tech Blogs: Everyone reads Tech Crunch, and appearing there will cause the people that show up to be besieged with salesmen. So, I go through my reader and star about 60 blogs. Most of ‘em are 2nd tier tech blogs, but I’m intuitively learning what companies are right for us. I am following up with the ones that we want. About once a week, I go through and sort for follow up or I “unstar” them in Reader.
- Existing Customers: Part of the systematic follow ups is the sharing of what we’re doing with existing customers.
We also look for VC Firms and Agencies to reach out to them. This is also working as well – getting darn near anyone with the means to deal with our work is important. The Agencies are a little tricky to work with, but I think that 2012 will make them the #2 category of business for us.
This has to happen fast. This has to be something you just “do” automatically. Working through your list is what’s important here.
Note: none of them depend on PPC or massive amounts of content creation. Advertising isn’t necessary. A blog supports and confirms that we know something, but it’s not where we generate leads.
The whole process is sorting. I put people in various tags – and I’m developing that more specifically, but the first thing is “unprocessed” then I go into BatchBook and pull that tag and add new tags.
The tags I use (and this will change, and grow. I keep growing and culling tags.)
- direct response (we deal with direct response marketers.)”
- inbound (people that liked and called us first – either on the contact form or whatever)
- poor fit (people we don’t want to do business with)
- Now, let’s also know something else. We sort More leads doesn’t mean more security. If we grow like I want, we’ll do as many as 100 productions next year. We’ll probably have about 60 customers. That’s all we need. We need better quantity. To achieve that,
I additionally sort people into one of four groups:
- Inner Circle: 24 people, that’s it. People are in and out occasionally, but these are our favorite customers and clients.
- Core (Strictly limited to 150 people): These are the people I try to stay in touch with, personally, monthly. I want to know everything they are doing.
- Friends: A more casual follow up cycle. This is people that are customers and referral sources.
- Pursuit: People that I’m really after to get business with. These are the Amazon.Coms or whoever else that we’d love and will do what it takes to get this work done.
The rest matter, but not as much.
Step Two: Research and Pitch:
Listen, pitching is more “sorting” than begging. Pitching is all about homework and presentation. You do your homework, present to the best people you can, and then see if they are – or aren’t a fit.
You can’t care at all if any client says yes or no. When you do, they own you. You just share what you do and see if they are a fit or not. It’s just that. You’re organizing people. You’re not emotionally involved and no client can ever be allowed to believe that they are your meal ticket.
I look up all the todos, messages and the rest and I create contacts and then I tag them for follow up. I try hard to do this all at once. I often get horrifically distracted, and get excited add call someone. We research them, put the notes in and schedule for follow up. An assistant could do this.
- Forward Leads into Batchbook.
- Batch book tags ‘em
- Research and schedule the Next Actions (broadly speaking, complete contact info, find right person, etc)
When we pitch, or present every day, we don’t have to tolerate imbeciles or assholes. We just move on, or (if you’re me) say something arrogant or curt and make them think they don’t want us. We also take perverse immature pleasure in pitching people then saying no.
When someone doesn’t buy, I just note why, determine if that’s something I should address at the outset, and then you move on.
Pitching is sharing our work with them. Showing the quality of the video and the benefit (higher conversions). We want to get them familiar with us.
A side note – anyone that says “we’ll keep you in mind” is really unlikely to buy. I simply delete the people who say it and examine what I did when the pitch fell flat.
Step 3: Follow Up Systematically
Tricky. We want to sort people into 4 categories:
- Planning a video
- Not planning a video
- Interested in Scheduling
- Indifferent/Follow up later
In the absence of a yes, it’s assumed that the answer is no. It’s assumed that our best and most respectful pitch is needed.
I am to develop a follow up sequence:
- Research – get all information in the system about them (name number etc)
- Cold Email #1: (personal)
- Send a notecard via mail.
- Cold email #2: (bulk – carefully wrought about why the videos work)
- Call: 30 days after.
- Email (personal, short) every 90 days.
- Email (newsletter) monthly.
- Call each 180 days.
- Mail 2x yearly.
There are other things we can look to do – when occasion arises.
- Reference them in our blog.
- Mention them in comments to others.
- Forward customers to them
- Send them an article
The people that are “in my inner circle” I follow up with every 2 weeks, at the longest. This could wear them out – and the “inner circle” isn’t the people I intend to sell to, it’s the people I want to be like, network with and be of service to.
There’s a finite amount, then of contacts you can have. The above work is say, 15 minutes per quarter, per person. Let’s say we dedicate 10 hours per week to lead follow up. With vacations and holidays, there are 120 hours for this in a quarter (12 weeks). 480 contacts then, is as many as you can have and nurture in this way. We want to be nurturing the people that are clients, or are likely to become clients.
480 high quality clients that were responsive would be enough for nearly any B-to-B business. (Think: the 480 CTOs in the Fortune 500).
There are a few things that we can drop back into a more casual format.
Now, we don’t pitch, we inform. We do it with aplomb and we pay attention to what works, but that’s what we do.
A final caveat: yes, you should try to do a newsletter about every other month. Yes, you should do this when possible because it simply helps people know you and allows you to have the odd chance to connect.
Step 4: Build Meaningful Relationships
Showing yourself as a consistent and solid provider of whatever builds relationships. Being predictable. Executing a follow up plan. Find ways to help people out.
Call quarterly. Focus on the other person. Be kind. Offer to be of service, ask who good connections are. Ask if there are events to support, tweet or promote.
Show that you’re there, do it all authentically, take as long as you have to to make this work. Executing step 3 should do it, but pay careful attention to who is important and who isn’t on your list. Let people move from one thing to another.
The Whole Point:
The point of what I do is amassing options. I pile up options all over the place. I can pursue the ones that I like and ignore the ones I don’t like. That’s why I make the calls, I make, that’s why I do what I do. I don’t need to call someone up to reject them. I just let them think I suck at follow up.
Or I like to close too hard at some ridiculous set of terms to chase ‘em away.
A new contact is just that- ginning up options. You’re not obligated to see it through with someone that’s a jerk, and you’re fairly unlikely to if you have amassed options. The point is being able to decide your business.
At no point do I deal with overcoming objections – instead, like Gitomer, we note and prevent objections
. You can’t overcome an individual objection but when you hear it a third time, you can hit in in the beginning and build value. You lose dignity when you overcome B.S. objections with hackneyed sales tactics.
I’ll break this down into several pieces soon. This is more or less how I am doing things. Your milage may vary.