All forms of prospecting should include a follow-up process as part of the strategy. Mailings, trade shows, and networking are wonderful tactics to uncover prospects, but they will perform better when follow up is added to the process.

The average executive encounters 128 unscheduled interruptions a day. Even the most organized person is going to have trouble incorporating these things into an already hectic agenda. As a professional salesperson trying to reach one of these individuals, you must demonstrate what is in it for the recipient so he/she continues to talk to you.

What does a top executive care about? Not digital printing, variable data, Purls, aqueous coating, smart inserting, or any of the other value adds we love to talk about. VITOs, as Anthony Parinello calls them in his book, “Selling to VITO (Very Important Top Officers),” care about strategic objectives, like increasing profits, opening new markets, capturing market share, improving productivity, and reducing costs. Talk to them about those things, not about your equipment or what it does.

A VITO is a bottom line kind of person. He/she did not get to be a senior officer by wasting time. If you get a VITO on the phone, you have a very short period of time to get your point across. It should be a simple message: You and your company understand business challenges and have had success helping others solve them. A salesperson who guarantees help without a full understanding of the situation will not ring true to a VITO.

The Art of Voice Mail

I get a lot of voice mails. Most of them sound something like this: “My name is Bob Smith from XYZ Co. My number is… Please call me back to talk about using the Web more effectively.”

Suppose I think we use the Web pretty effectively already. Suppose I received 128 unscheduled interruptions that day. Suppose I have all of the activities associated with running two companies piling up on my desk. Suppose I have 16 messages in my mailbox ahead of that one. Does that voice mail tell me what is in it for me if I return the call? Stop talking about your company and speak to VITOs about what is important to them. Here is how:

“Mr. VITO, I was reading some industry press recently and noted that furniture retailers are expecting only a 0.6-percent increase in revenues in 2007. My company has been working with several other large retailers in our area and we helped them increase sales to their existing customers by 40 percent so far in 2007. Are you interested in exploring opportunities for your firm to achieve similar results in the fourth quarter? My name is… and I can be reached at… usually each morning until 9:30.”

Here are a few other tips:

  • Say the VITO’s name once, not 10 times in the voice mail. Once is enough and it should come at the beginning of the call.
  • Speak clearly and slowly, especially when you get to the phone number. Your recipient should not have to listen to the message over and over. Make it easy for them to call you back.
  • Use the number where your voice mail is located to make your calls. I often listen to voice mails on the way home from work. If I need to call someone back, the easiest thing to do is hit redial. If it goes back to your voice mail, a VITO can call back even at 10:30 p.m. and say, “I’m intrigued, call me back on my cell phone.”
  • Do not use the name of your company. If you do, the VITO is going to assume it is something he does not care about.
  • Write your talk track down, and practice it until you are comfortable with the message you plan to leave. It should not sound rehearsed, just conversational and genuine.

Kate Dunn is president and founder of Digital Innovations Group (DIG) in Richmond, Va. DIG is an award-winning marketing firm that specializes in targeted, personalized sales campaigns and collateral.

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