At some point, every company and every salesperson is breaking into a cold market. If you’re new in town, have a new product or changing your client focus, you’re suddenly the new kid on the block and need people to talk to you. And they may or may not be interested. If you’re working to generate leads and find business in a new market, here are some tips to help you break the ice.
Find people like you.
People who are already knowledgeable about your industry or product type are great connections. It’ll save on the pitch time, cultivate a network of like individuals, and provide you immediate evangelists. For most products there are so many facets or avenues for sale; it’s easy to help each other because you aren’t directly competing. You may both be selling software, but your products could be apples and oranges - both fruits -- but wildly different, but together the makings of a great fruit salad. An often ignored bonus of talking to people in the same field is that they understand your quality and your competitive edge. This removes a major hurdle as convincing someone of your quality is often the hardest part of the pitch. Finding someone who can look at what you do and immediately see the quality means that you’ll have a reputable third party to vouch for you and help you connect, warming the market considerably.
Find people NOT like you.
These are the people you get to educate. They may not be looking for you and your product because they don’t even know there is a better way. You have a product, and it may be for them and they don’t yet realize it. Many people ignore software for their business beyond the basic needs like email and bookkeeping. “I run a housekeeping service, why do I need more software? I just add appointments to my calendar.” This is a great opening for education: “What if instead of clients calling you directly and interrupting your work, forcing your to spend time flipping through a planner, your website will allow people to sign up, provide their information and schedule themselves.”
But people need convincing, show the immediate benefits: your phone won’t be ringing constantly, you’ll be able to keep track of your customers more easily, you can increase your marketing reach, and it will allow you to have your schedule self-maintain. and it will allow you to schedule. Next, show the long term benefits: you’ll be able to add more employees as the business expands, expand your schedule, and your territory all without having to manage the increased complexity manually. It all boils down to: why what you do is a benefit for them. Once they understand how you can help they’ll think of others who “totally need what you do.” You’ll come up in conversation more than you realize and that could lead to new business.
Offer advice when asked, build some goodwill
Offering advice and being regarded as an expert is a great way to stay relevant and top-of-mind. Imagine you’ve been contacted by a representative of a small city who wanted advice and general scoping of how you can help. Based on the discussion it would have been interesting work, but it would have been an expensive product with a long project timeline. BUT, what he needed was already out there at an affordable subscription price. Rather than selling him on your services, you recommended the alternate solution. Now you’ve positioned yourself as an honest, trustworthy, knowledgeable expert, and you don’t have a grumpy client who feels mislead. Next time they or someone they know has a problem or idea you’ll probably be their first email! While you shouldn’t give away all of your services, offering advice and being an ambassador to the community is never the wrong way to go.
Be yourself, but somewhere new
Reputation and personality go at least as far in the business world as their do in your personal life. Lots of companies offer the exact same services. This means people buy you, not the product you’re selling. Go somewhere new, be yourself and let work come up organically. If you’re grabbing a beer with a new group and they’re venting about a frustrating process, you may unexpectedly find yourself the opportunity to present a solution. Not everyone is in charge of purchasing at their company, but they’ll know who is. If you’re friendly and helpful your next referral might be right around the corner.
Support others in your community
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it’s just as true when developing a business. “I may not be able to help you, but I might know someone who can.” Building out a positive support network is just as crucial as anything else. Rarely does anyone build or buy something without looking for a trusted review or reaching out to a trusted expert. Be that review or reviewer for others and they’ll do the same for you. Everyone wants to help, just give them the opportunity and reciprocate in kind. As they say: a rising tide lifts all boats.
Find the resources already out there
Last, but not least - see what’s out there to help you along. These days sites like Meetup offer dedicated audience, cities put on mixers to enhance their economies and non-profits exist to help you along. One thing people often skip over is that the government wants you and your business to succeed. Government agencies like the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) want businesses to thrive: more businesses means more employment means more taxes means more spending means better better better. They help connect you to advisors, resources and leads as long as you’re willing to put in the effort
In the end, it all comes down to sweat labor. There is no magic way to break into a cold market, but it’s not an insurmountable task. One client, however small, will crack the ice all around you and soon you’ll have gone from frozen pond to hot jacuzzi