Selling For Dummies
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You can contact your sales prospects in four major ways: by phone, mail, email, or face to face — either in person or via the web.

Most professional salespeople integrate all four methods into an effective prospecting strategy. For some, one method works better than others. Different situations call for different strategies, so be well versed in how to handle each. As you gain experience in prospecting, you’ll figure out which methods work best for you and at which times.

Keep in mind that when you use any of these four methods, you’re asking busy professionals or consumers to give up time that they may think can be spent more productively. So before you have a chance to convince your ­prospects otherwise, they may try to shut you out — and shutting you out is easy for them to do. They can just make a paper airplane out of your letter, delete your email with a simple click of the mouse, leave you on terminal hold, ignore your incoming phone call, or cancel your meeting.


If you choose to use mail as your primary method of prospecting, choose your mailing list carefully. Mailing is a great way to prospect, but mail sent to the wrong list of people is a tremendous waste of your time, money, and effort. Nothing is easier to get rid of than a piece of paper that arrives amidst a stack of other papers. And this is especially true if your prospecting piece of paper winds up in the mailbox of someone who wouldn’t care about your product or service in a hundred years.

Instead of sending a piece of mail that talks about your product or service, consider mailing a single‐page introductory letter to the people you know who are most likely to want to get involved with what you’re doing, indicating that you’ll be calling on a certain date and time. Include your photograph on the letterhead or on a magnet or other enclosed novelty item.

Magnets are great because people tend to use them on their refrigerators, and every time your prospect goes to the fridge, she sees your smiling face. People buy faces. They aren’t as likely, however, to buy from some anonymous voice on the phone.

Prospecting is all about establishing rapport. Whatever you send in the mail, be absolutely certain that it includes your website address and your email address. As much as most people love talking on phones, they’re still more likely to check you out first by visiting your website to see if there’s anything interesting that may make it worth their while to talk with you in person.

Or, if the purpose of the mailing is to generate sales, let the recipients know if they can order online. They don’t have to wait until they can catch a live sales representative on the phone — especially if they read their mail at 2:00 a.m.


You can handle email prospecting in two ways:

  • Purchase an opt‐in email list from a list broker. Optin email lists are lists of people who have agreed to have information about certain things they’re interested in sent to them via email. Messages to potential customers on an opt‐in email list have an open rate ranging from 5 to 15 percent — a huge increase over traditional direct‐mail response rates.

    And using opt‐in email lists can help you avoid emailing unwanted information to people and making a negative impression (making no impression at all is better than leaving a negative one).

  • Search out the email address of a consumer or purchasing agent (through an online directory or corporate website) and mail a very specific, customized email.

In either case, you want to use your email like the introductory letter mentioned in the preceding section. Introduce yourself, your company, and the benefits your product would provide to the recipient. Then finish in one of the following ways:

  • For the opt‐in list, you may wrap up your letter with a call to action: “Reply to this email within 24 hours, and we’ll have a specific proposal to you by Friday of this week.”

  • In a custom email you may tell the recipient that you’ll be calling within 48 hours to ask her two quick questions.

Sending an email that looks like an advertisement is not as effective as sending something that looks more like a letter or typical email message. Your goal with email is to make a personal connection, pique the recipient’s interest with valuable tips or information, and tell her how to learn more.

Face‐to‐face interactions

Face‐to‐face prospecting is almost always the best method, but it’s also the most time intensive. Walking from office to office or home to home trying to find decision makers is physically exhausting, which can be tough. But even worse is the sad fact that you may not get many leads out of all your legwork.

What you will get, though, is a load of information from neighbors and receptionists. They can be powerhouses who help you either eliminate a family or company as prospects or advance your chances of obtaining an appointment for making your presentation with the decision‐maker by providing great prequalifying information.

Receptionists, secretaries, and assistants hold the keys to opening the doors you want to get through. Hence their title in sales jargon is gatekeeper. Too many salespeople think this term is negative in that their job is to keep you out. In reality it’s to let in the right people. You just need to figure out how to demonstrate that you are the right person.

Treat receptionists or secretaries with the respect they deserve. Their time is valuable, too. If you try to rush past a receptionist or quickly ask to see her boss without first showing concern or interest in her, you may as well not have gone in at all. Introduce yourself, ask the receptionist’s name, and then try to have a friendly dialogue with her before asking to see the boss. She will be more inclined to introduce a friend to her boss than she will a pushy salesperson, so try to get her to see you as the former rather than the latter.

When you engage in face‐to‐face prospecting, remember how lucky you are to be able to get some of the precious time out of the busy schedules of important people. Your prospects are offering something to you, too: an opportunity to show them how they can benefit from your product or service.

In today’s society, suspicion and distrust are rampant. When you professionally prospect (with the right attitude about your prospects), your contacts will come to trust you and welcome you into their homes and offices.

About This Article

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Tom Hopkins is the epitome of sales success. A millionaire by the time he reached the age of 27, he is now chairman of Tom Hopkins International Inc., one of the most prestigious sales-training organizations in the world.

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