An Important Step When Searching for Clients

Cindy Cyr here with an important step that’s often overlooked when searching for new clients …

During my sales career prior to becoming a copywriter, several times a year, the company I worked for would bring in major sales trainers—spending thousands of dollars on training.

About 90% of the time, the new process focused on prospecting—how do we get new clients?

We would go through multiple-day training where the hired guru would take us step by step through his prospecting formula and have us do exercises to practice. We also were given books and articles to read and tapes and CDs to listen to on the subject.

It made sense to study new methods since we were always trying to improve and sell more.

Nevertheless, there was a problem.

You see, every time there was a new prospecting method, the company would require everyone to change the methods they were already using.

And while the newest system helped some of the newer sales staff who didn’t have a system in place, making everyone change their prospecting technique completely caused sales numbers to lower for many of the more successful salespeople because they were forced to abandon a system that already worked really well for them.

Management couldn’t understand why sales would fall off for some people and not others.

They thought they needed to hire yet another guru, thinking his process would be better, but while his process would work better for some, other salespersons' numbers would still suffer.

It wasn’t until I started studying direct-response copywriting that I truly understood where my previous company’s thinking was flawed.

You see, the real secret to effective prospecting is finding out what works best for you.

One of the big things we always talk about in copywriting is testing.

Testing which headline works better, which lift letter pulls better, which subject line … and on and on.

Prospecting is no different.

To be successful at prospecting, you need to know what works best for you.

My company’s problem was that they required their salespeople to change their method completely every time something new came along.

A better solution would have been to require their salespeople to test the new method against their current method to see which one delivered higher results.

As you set up your prospecting for your own copywriting business, here are some things to keep in mind to get the best results …

  • Pick at least two different prospecting techniques to test. When starting out, or if you aren’t getting the amount of business you would like, pick at least two different techniques to test out.

    Pick techniques that others have had success with which also feel comfortable to you.

    For example, if you are completely uncomfortable with cold calling, you might want to send out a marketing letter first to “break the ice” and then follow up with a phone call. The goal here is to see which method is most successful for you, so if you pick something you’re uneasy with, you are lowering your chances of success right out of the gate.

  • Give each method enough trials to give you accurate results. Trying something once or twice or even ten times is not enough to determine if that method works or not. It’s important to use the same amount for each method. For example, if you are testing using a bulky mail item versus making an offer for a bait piece and you send 100 letters with a bulky item, you should also send 100 letters with the offer for a bait piece to see which gets better results for you.
  • Track your results. Set up a simple way to track your results. I use an Excel sheet to track mine. Give each method a name, such as bulky mail piece, autoresponder template, etc. Track the category of companies, like self-help industry or B2B, when you send them, and what response you get without follow-up and with follow-up. When tracking results, remember to track whether or not you get an appointment to discuss your services versus just making contact with the prospect. This is important because you may have one method which helps you get more people to respond, but overall it gets fewer appointments for you to speak about your services. In the end, the one that gets you more appointments should be the winner.

    Tip: I like to space out my prospecting contacts so that I can manage follow-up effectively. If your goal is to send 100 each, but you think you can only manage to follow-up on 20 in a week, then send 10 of each method in a single week. Then track results and repeat until you’ve sent 100 of each.

  • Fine-tune your technique. Test variations of your approach to see if you can get it to work even better. For example, you could test two different offers or two different subject lines to see which one works better. Alternatively, if you are having luck with direct mail, you could test personalizing the envelope. Also, check with other copywriters who use the same method to find out what works best for them.
  • Don’t abandon what works. When you read about a new technique, don’t abandon what is currently working for you. Instead, set up a new test with your current method as the control. This way, you’ll continue to attract business at an expected rate based on the proven results of your current technique. If after sufficient testing your new method proves to work better, you can feel confident replacing your old prospecting approach with the new one without having to worry about your copywriting business falling off.
  • Standardize your approach. Once you have the results, standardize your approach. Make a plan for how you will initially contact prospects and then stick to it.

By testing prospecting techniques to find the one that works best for you, you’ll issue yourself an insurance policy of sorts. Because when you find yourself needing more business, you’ll have a sure-fire plan to get new clients—one that you can count on to deliver based on your proven results.

Plus, testing and fine-tuning prospecting is comparatively easier than trying to test and fine-tune the close of your sales cycle because it takes place at the beginning of the sales process where there are more people funneling in. This means it’s quicker and easier for you to improve your results for getting clients.

If you have some prospecting tips that work for you, or if you have any questions for me, please share them by posting them in the comments below.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: June 29, 2011

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