selling

How to Sell Without Spending Money

For those of you who sell in an industry where expense accounts and war chests are the norm, and you’ve been led to believe the only way to gain access and/or actually have a sales conversation with your customer/prospect, this will be a breath of fresh air for you.

The reality of the situation is you don’t need money to gain access or have a meaningful sales conversation with your prospects/customer, at least not as much as you and your competitors are currently accustomed to spending.

I can already hear folks in the industrial sales, oilfield service and pharmaceutical sales profession screaming “bullshit” at me for even suggesting such blasphemy.

Just hang in here with me and consider the following . . .

When I started in the pharmaceutical industry, I did so at a time when doctors and pharmaceutical reps were both accustomed to lavish gifts, trips, dinners, lunches, etc. However, I entered the industry the exact month that all came to a screeching halt.

That month, something called "PhRMA code" was past and it eliminated the gift giving, golf games, fishing trips, the infamous "dine-n-dash" and lavish dinners for physicians and their spouses. The only perk left was office lunches and dinner programs lead by a peer speaker. However, I still faced a significant challenge.

The company I just signed on to sell for was a small “entrepreneurial” company. Translation: There would be absolutely no budget for said office lunches and/or dinner programs. That’s right, I was going to be required to actually sell. Sell my way in, sell the doctor on giving me some time, sell the doctor on the fact that I had no budget, and sell the doctor to prescribe a medication he’d never heard of, that was not even on the pharmacy shelf, and that I had no scientific proof that my drug was legit, much less safe.

To put the icing on the cake, I was selling repackaged Benadryl (for the most part) and all I had to work with was my smiling face, a sketchy looking sample, and a two sided marketing piece that was barely up to professional standards.

The result? Well, thanks to the very best sales training and leadership support I’ve ever received (before and sense), and a relentless work ethic fueled by the fear of failure, I took a territory that had never performed well, and transformed it into a top 6 territory that earned the respect of the CEO, upper management, and my colleagues.

I don’t share this to impress you, but to impress upon you that if I can sell repackaged Benadryl to a bunch of highly education, science-minded physicians, without any substantial evidence to support my claims, and without a penny to throw at my efforts, you can do extraordinary things with little to no budget, and the incredible products/services you represent. Here’s how I did it, and how you can too . . .

[By the way, that product I sold and the company I worked for were both first class all the way.  Like I said, they were entrepreneurial, and they chose to approach the market in a very strategic and intentional way. I owe a great deal of my professional and entrepreneurial success to the training and development I received from them. For that I am eternally grateful.]

1.     Invest wisely. If you have any money to spend, spend it on food. It took a while for one of my managers convince me of this, but since she did, I've seen it time and again first hand: faster and stronger bonds are formed when people break bread together.  If you don’t have a budget for meals, spend any time you get with your customer focused on building the relationship. When people feel like they know you as a human being and they connect with you on an emotional level subconsciously, all of a sudden the standard access and time rules don’t apply to you.

2.     Set expectations up front. Once you have broken bread together, or you have invested the initial time together building the relationship, let them know what you can and can not do with regards to your budget. Some will respectfully point you in another direction, but the ones you’ll ultimately be able to move the needle with will respect your limitations.

Be up front, be honest, and don’t be afraid to set those expectations. After all, it is sales professionals who have conditioned the customers to expect what they currently expect. There’s no reason you cannot recondition your customer.

3.     Prioritize your territory. Once you’ve had the conversation and set the expectations with all of your prospects and customers, you’ll then have a pretty good idea who you can influence, who you can’t, and who may take the greatest investment of time. Make a list of all your customers/prospects, and label them A, B and C. Discard any whom you have learned that will be no access due to your lack of funds.

4.     Increase your activity. Decide where you can invest more of your time now that you’ve reprioritized and eliminated. Who do you need to see once a week, bi-weekly, once a month, etc. Invest your time in the following manner: 70% on A targets, 20% on B targets and 10% on your C targets.

5.     Ask for the business. Every single time you’re in front of your customer, above all things, add value. But once you have added value, always ask for the business. The business might not be the sale, per se, but there’s always a next step. Ask for that. Every single time!

Consistently apply these five things to your current sales process and you'll be amazed at the growth in your business in the next 3-6 months.