Ramming Speed

I went sailing last week. While the New England cold got colder and more snow fell, I escaped for a few moments to a warmer climate and, for a lark and a single credit card swipe,  went sailing for three hours aboard one of the New Zealand 1992  Americas Cup trial boats, NZL-12, a dark-hulled beauty capable of almost 30 knots top speed.

76′ long, mast 110 feet high, with an impressive 500 square meters of sail surface area, it’s hard to miss, even from the deck of a 2,400 passenger cruise ship…

… toward which we were sailing, aimed dead amidships, our port railing in the water, at a speed of, oh, maybe, twenty knots, in a steady, strong wind.

“Let’s go in a little closer so the passengers can get a good view of the ‘Sail Nassau’ on the hull, maybe encourage a few of  them to come for a ride,” called out our captain. “Ramming speed!” cried out one of the passengers. So closer and closer we went until, with great snapping of sails and feverish grinding of winches, we came about sharply and sailed away on a different tack, whooping and cheering our mightiest. We’d (safely) “buzzed” the cruise ship. Very heady stuff.

I imagine that every passenger looking out from the starboard side of the cruise ship saw us… shook themselves briefly from their thoughts….. wondered “Who ARE those guys?”… and concluded, whatever we were up to,  we were having a really good time. I hope a few of them broke out of their cruise ship rhythm and reverie for just long enough to think about the adrenaline RUSH they could have aboard his boat and booked a ride. It was amazing. (www.sailnassau.com)

Sometimes, our prospects are like those same cruise ship passengers — they seem almost in a trance, focused on their planned activities, everything on a schedule, staring off into the distance from time to time without seeing us or responding to us. To open up their narrowed vision, we need to do something different.

The best ways to reach our prospects are to meet them ourselves through community service or trade organization activities or to be introduced by a trusted party — one of our prospects’ colleagues, friends, or service providers.

Our second choice is a “show them whatcha got with an edge” strategy. This can be accomplished through unexpected demonstrations like Captain Steve’s (very powerful because his demo included already happy customers), articles, trade show presentations, and other visibility platforms that demonstrate expertise and results… and a contrarian or unexpected angle that stands out from the crowd. Captain Steve’s demo “stood out” because of our approach angle — clearly on a collision course if pursued to the end (which we didn’t!).  Had we just sailed gently along side the cruise ship, his demo would have been less interesting and less powerful.

Other “out there” examples:

One sales manager orchestrated a campaign to send a boxed television set to each selected prospect with a note and short, punchy, upbeat video program about his company’s services. The return on this was significantly better than standard telephone or direct mail approaches.

Another manager designed a multiple step “touch” campaign that involved a theme (like “Great Americans”) and a once-per-month delivery (by a sales rep)  of a movie CD and a note connecting a theme in the movie to a characteristic of his company’s services. Again, the return on this was significantly better than standard telephone or direct mail approaches.

For those of us with smaller budgets and less time, client stories/testimonials with an unusual twist and a clear outcome are terrific. A thoughtful series of articles or letters demonstrating insight about prospects companies, industry conditions, and important issues to consider also works well.

There’s no “one size fits all” here. The point is, our prospects are so overwhelmed with their daily grind that they block us out to reduce the noise in the system.

Two questions:

  • What could you do to attract their attention?
  • What could you do to demonstrate, just briefly, the thrill they could have from working with you?

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