Not long ago, I was listening in on some seasoned salespeople discuss strategies for following up with prospects. Some in the group spoke up about voicemail messaging today, and their frustration with it. With caller ID and multiple connection points it becomes more difficult to reach a prospect by phone, they said, which is the medium that gets them the best results.

Alec Baldwin in "Glengarry Glen Ross" “A-B-C. A-Always B-Be C-Closing. Always be closing,” says Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross*. <*Rated R – Language>

Then it struck me as I heard them explain what works: What’s marketing, public relations, media relations or blogger outreach but selling a compelling story?
So, distilled from the conversation, below are a few tips from the experiences of seasoned sales professionals that might help your success rates as you pitch your next story, whether by phone, email or other.

1. Message time makes a difference. There is some research that suggests you shouldn’t leave messages on Friday afternoons or Monday mornings. People are either checking out for the weekend or overwhelmed with sorting through all the weekend communication.

2. Brevity counts. People are busy, so don’t ramble on. Know what you want to say. Say it concisely, intelligently, compellingly, with a positive tonality, plus a bit of passion, and be done with it.

3. Name drop. When you’re reaching out, be sure to use that person’s name even before your own. This makes the conversation a personal transaction rather than a mechanical or artificial process.

4. Repeat your number. This one is a bit different for communications professionals. Sales people want their prospect to have their number, effortlessly. For pitching a story, I think the purpose of having diverse contact information out there is so you can be vetted. You don’t want to lead off with your resume, so only have one or two contact pieces in your first message. But, in follow ups, go ahead and have your blog/Twitter/phone/LinkedIn/or whatever else is appropriate.

5. Leave a P.S. It may sound crazy, but when you say something along the lines of, “Oh, and <name>, coming up we’ve also got <another irrestible thing>,” and fill that in with an attention getting statement, it may just be enough to get them to get back with you sooner rather than never. Leave the conversation with them wanting more.

Happy pitching, and “Put that coffee down. Coffee’s for closers only.”


Brian Russell is a senior marketing strategist at 352. He's on Twitter a lot, but to get all the extra goodies, Google requires him to say he's on Google+, too.