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Cultivating 'warm' contacts can heat up sales

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A genuine -- and genuinely effective -- way to win more customers and make more sales is cultivating your "warm" contact list.

A warm contact is simply any person with whom you have a personal relationship at any level. It can be a friend, associate, client, networking contact, family member, etc.

Although the numbers vary, it's estimated that each business person knows 200 to 300 other business people. This number should stagger -- and then fire up -- the engine of every salesperson.

Want an effective, lasting pipeline of new business?

Nurture your warm contacts.

If you haven't done so recently, make your warm contact list. Take out a pen and blank sheet of paper and, for 15 minutes, simply write every name that comes to mind. After doing so, go back through the list and highlight those names of people who are involved in business in any way. Then contact these people as a counselor and help each to become more successful. Doors of new opportunity will soon open.

The law of reciprocity dictates your actions

It's important to note that with your warm contacts themselves, you're not trying to sell them anything. You're truly trying to help each improve their personal situation. The following warm contact strategy outlined will work only if you come from a position of helping, not selling.

When you come from the position of helping, the impact on your business can be massive and rapid.

Why?

Because by helping and giving first, you're honoring the law of reciprocity, which dictates giving before receiving.

How should you go about executing your warm contact plan? The following is a simple, seven-step process for helping your warm contacts.

    1. Make your list.

    2. Firmly embrace the principle of "giving before receiving" before making any contact.

    3. Make contact. Let your contacts know what you're doing. Place a call, send a hand-written letter, or take them to lunch. Just be excited about their businesses and let them know you're wanting to help.

    4. Truly help and educate your contacts to become more successful. One of the easiest and most valuable things you can do for your contacts is to share your knowledge, skills and expertise in your specific field and apply it to their business.

    Most people are truly experts in only a handful of topics. Chances are, you know exponentially more about your products and services, and your industry as a whole, than most of your warm contacts. Share this knowledge with them and help them to help themselves.

    For example, if you sell commercial printing, offer to review all of your warm contacts' printing contracts. Or, alert them to what possible pitfalls to avoid, or what type of printing is generally more cost-effective for their situation. You could even create a free report like, "7 Key Questions to Ask Your Commercial Printer," and send it with your compliments.

    5. Add value to your warm contacts' clients. Just as you did with your warm contacts individually, offer to share the same information with their clients. You could easily educate a large group of people on the same information during a brown bag lunch, and it would help your warm contacts to strengthen their businesses, too.

    6. Endorse your warm contacts. However, rather than doing what most salespeople do in asking for testimonials and endorsements from their customers, offer to endorse your warm contacts to all of your business contacts. These include your current and past clients, associates, networking contacts, and of course, your warm contacts.

    If you have an exceptional estate planner as a customer, for instance, why shouldn't all of your warm contacts know of her services? Many likely need them, and you'll truly be helping both parties.

    7. Sales strategy review/guidance. As a sales professional, you're likely a highly competent negotiator and deal maker. Creating the best value for you and your customers is at your core.

    It's sometimes easy to overlook the value of the specific abilities that one already possesses. Just because you're an excellent negotiator and salesperson, doesn't mean all of your warm contacts are; no matter the success they've achieved in their careers.

    Therefore, help them to negotiate their big deals, or long-term contracts. Offer to prep them before meetings, or even to sit in on some as their consultant. Your skill and abilities as a salesperson can help your warm contacts get the best deal possible when negotiating with other top-notch salespeople.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."

Help every professional you know to become more successful by first giving of yourself, and then taking. Upon doing so, you'll reach a level of success never before imagined.

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Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.

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