The back-pocket Bible of many a marketer today, as well as the theory behind many of today's
marketing campaigns, is "Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends Into
Customers" by industry wunderkind Seth Godin. The theory behind the book, and much of Godin's
success, is that "Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated,
personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them."
As Amazon.com's description of the book so succinctly puts it, "By reaching out only to those individuals who have signaled an interest in learning more about a product, Permission Marketing enables companies to develop long-term relationships with customers, create trust, build brand awareness - and greatly improve the chances of making a sale."
The key word here is "relationships." They are built on trust and, in the world of business, a true, mutual interest in shared industry and goals. Building relationships with potential clients, and even current ones, can be as simple as calling just to share information they may find of interest - a news article, blog, event. Not necessarily to sell, sell, sell.
It's these little added touch points along the way that finally gives the seller the right to ask for the sale. As Godin puts it, "Permission is like dating. You don't start by asking for the sale at first impression. You earn the right, over time, bit by bit."
Being knowledgeable and sharing market research and healthcare news, whether by phone, in person or digitally, builds new friends and eventually new customers. It is not an overnight process. Prospects should know when they hear from a sales rep that it won't always be a request for business, otherwise they will quickly learn to stop returning your calls and walk the other way when they see you coming at trade shows.
Keep up with what is going on in the market. Be a trusted advisor not only on what is being marketed, but also on what other companies market. Develop views on new ideas - HIEs, ACOs, ICD. There is no shortage of information out there. It can be as simple as reading HISTalk, Healthcare Informatics, or the Healthcare Intelligence Hub e-newsletter.
Take the time to congratulate a prospect or client on a new job/promotion, send them an article they may find interesting, share thoughts on recent presentations and trade shows with clients that may have not been able to attend. Porter Research's recent presentation on the steps providers' are taking towards Health Information Exchange at the recent Healthcare IT Summit in D.C. is a great example of experience and knowledge that can be shared with prospects and clients.
A marriage proposal doesn't come on the first date. And a sale doesn't usually come after the first handshake. Earn the right to ask for it, and if the relationship's right, the sale will be a done deal.