Do your homework Featured

9:37am EDT November 19, 2004
Journalists are accustomed to getting pitches from public relations professionals attempting to secure publicity for their clients or employer.

Some reporters regard PR people as one of the lower life forms on the planet. Some rely on them too much. Others among us use them if they can help us do our jobs and turn them down if they can't.

Business owners, like PR people, are often at the leading edge of a company's marketing effort, introducing themselves to other business owners to get the sales process off the starting line.

I think that the common mistakes PR people make are no different than those made by people in other professions, including salespeople and business owners. I'm no expert at sales, but I do have considerable experience fielding pitches from PR folks.

Here are a few things you might consider the next time you approach a potential customer or client.

* Know your prospect. Research the company to educate yourself and demonstrate that you've taken the time to learn something about what it does or sells and how you might be able to help it do it better. In the event that you can't find out much about it before your first contact, spend at least a few minutes upfront trying to understand what his or her business needs are.

* Demonstrate an interest in your prospect's needs. You'll get further if you try to understand the challenges the business faces and what the firm's most critical needs are.

* Strive to form a relationship, not make a one-time sale. If all you have to sell today is apples and your customers want oranges, don't try to force them to buy something they don't really want or need. Ask them what they might be looking for tomorrow or next week, and go to work on it if it's something that you might be in a position to offer.

* After you've made the sale, make contact with your customer periodically, whether by phone, mail or e-mail. Periodically apprise it of what your client or employer is up to, and keep yourself on the radar screen.