Up-close & personal

March 21, 2012

The current economy has forced many labs to add new clients to fill the void of work no longer coming in. To do so, some have curbed advertising and marketing, while others have stepped it up. One thing is certain: You have to get in front of your existing and prospective customers for some face time. But what can you do to make your sales calls more effective? Be Prepared

The current economy has forced many labs to add new clients to fill the void of work no longer coming in. To do so, some have curbed advertising and marketing, while others have stepped it up. One thing is certain: You have to get in front of your existing and prospective customers for some face time. But what can you do to make your sales calls more effective?

Be Prepared

A common mistake is to just go out and make calls without any preparation. You need to do some homework and develop questions to ask that will give you some answers on what your customer or prospect might need in his or her practice.

Look at your customers first. The goal is to gather the proper information to help you be more effective during your visit.

Who are your customers? What type of work do they send? By analyzing which department they fall into, you can determine which area has the greatest opportunity for growth based on experience.

Account Analysis

Performing an account analysis will provide you with a wealth of information. An account analysis is a ranking by each account and the type of work they send to your laboratory based on dollar volume. It should guide your sales efforts to the areas that will give you the greatest return. You might discover there are customers not giving you work in certain areas, and that is an opportunity. You’ll also discover who your most important customers are. These are the accounts you need to make sure are taken care of properly. But you already knew that, right?

An account analysis also should give a profile of customers who give you the bulk of your business. You’ll probably find the 80/20 rule applies (80% of your volume comes from 20% of your customers). Similar attributes such as age, dental school, location of practice, study group interest, and how you obtained the account are useful pieces of information to know as you plan your call on new prospects.

Not one method

There are different applications to use with existing clients versus prospective customers, so just be aware that you need to rely on your existing client account analysis for help in developing your questions. This also applies to calling on new prospects.

There are three rules to consider when growing any business:

  • Keep your existing customers. If the 80/20 rule applies, then it is critical you know who they are and take care of them. How many new customers would you need if you ever lost one? By concentrating on keeping the business you have, you can reduce account attrition.

  • Sell them more products and services. Your laboratory already has a relationship with the practice, so why not leverage this relationship to increase business and not simply maintain it. A good program of up-selling and cross-selling to your existing customers also keeps you in constant communication.

  • Add new customers. Once you have a system in place to handle existing customers, work on adding new ones.

Sales is a difficult profession and calls for someone who can take rejection, has patience, and is determined to get the job done correctly. But gathering information and developing a sound sales-call process will make getting up-close and personal more enjoyable and financially rewarding. Developing a strategy that appeals to your existing customers’ needs and wants also will appeal to potential customers. 

Face-to-face

When making in-person sales calls on current or potential customers…
Do…

  • Be prepared

  • Ask how much time you might spend with him or her during the visit

  • Maintain good eye contact

  • Ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no

  • Ask about what they are experiencing and how you might help them

  • Listen for areas of specific need or shortcomings with existing labs

  • Ask what they like about their current laboratory partner

  • Ask about personal likes, hobbies, etc.

  • Get back with answers to questions you could not answer

  • Get names and duties of office staff

  • Listen, take notes, and show a true interest in their practice

Don’t…

  • Start out by trying to sell

  • Assume you know what the client or prospect wants

  • Overpromise what you cannot deliver

  • Answer questions with a “guess”

  • Interrupt