I tried for months to get my first software contract in 1982. I tried everything from running ads to cold-calling. I failed so badly it was depressing. A few things finally coincided that made it happen.
The first was that my boss at the time really pissed me off, to the point that my motivation level to make the break reached a peak. The second was that, as luck would have it [note: the more you work the luckier you get], a woman that I worked with in Spain happened to take a job with a French airline cooperative (SITA) and recommended I contact the French project director, Claude Avignon, who was arranging contract work.
I flew down and met with him, and that personal visit, coupled with the recommendation from my friend and my genuine curiousity about his background with Air France, sealed the deal. In a matter of two weeks my French connection took me from making a salary of $21k a year to running a business that netted in the six figures.
I've seen this combination of personal visit, back-door reference and genuine interst in the other person work time and time again in sales. Now you'd think after so many such experiences I would insist that my own company make a system out of them.
Well, I do, but intentions and policies aren't everything. It's easy to cut corners. It's tempting to try to close over the phone. Air travel gets less fun every year. Those back-door referrals take work. And gosh, it's irritating to be interested in other people when you have a headache or would otherwise rather be out playing golf or programming.
So I think I'll take my three rules and put them on the wall:
Three Reasons Why We Don't Get The Sale
1. We forget that the only meeting that matters is face-to-face.
2. We forget to sell ourselves.
3. We have a what's-in-it-for-me attitude.