In last week's column, Mark O'Connor of Green Bay talked about his new consulting business. He said his strength is his ability to get results; his weakness is sales. Green Bay SCORE mentor Bob Jahnke was assigned as O'Connor's adviser and he jumped right in with suggestions.

Jahnke, owner of Top Hat Marketing, has been with SCORE for more than 15 years. Although he is doing limited mentoring at this point, he continues to assist hundreds of SCORE clients through a series of seminars offered by the chapter ( His track record includes a number of successful businesses; what he shares is based on those successes.

When coaching entrepreneurs who dislike sales, he says: "Make it a game. When the virus started, I didn't get discouraged. I challenged myself and said, 'How long will it take me to make 100 contacts?' It took between five and six weeks." Jahnke, who recommends books by Brian Tracy, best-selling author and marketing guru, said Tracy's challenge was to set a goal of getting 1,000 no answers.

"Tracy said you should track the noes and yeses, and not quit after you get some yeses. Track and measure your results. For example, see how long it takes to make 10 calls. Put 10 pennies in your pocket and when you talk to someone, take one out and put it on your desk. Tell yourself you can't quit for the day until you have all of the pennies out of your pocket," Jahnke said.

But the day doesn't end there. That's when it's time for a review, and Jahnke recommends keeping a notebook, and after the calls are made, write down one thing you think you did well and one that you could improve upon. By doing that, a person can avoid making the same mistakes over and over.

The goal of the first call, he says, is not to make a sale. It is to get an appointment. And he cautions, it will take more than one call.

"In Tracy's book, 'The Art of the Sale,' Tracy says that statistics show it takes an average of eight to 12 contacts to make a sale," Jahnke said.

But Jahnke doesn't want to keep calling prospects if they don't want him to. He always asks for permission to follow up and will tell them it's OK if they say 'no' because otherwise, he will be in touch.

Once the contacts have been made, and at last, an appointment has been scheduled, he says you shouldn't go in expecting to make a sale. The first step in an appointment is to ask questions and listen.

"Get to know their problems and concerns and find the pain," Jahnke said. "If you don't find the pain, you're not getting a sale. Ask the questions that will find out what the frustrations are. You aren't selling your business, you are selling an appointment. Only 2% of sales are made on the first contact."

With that information, ask for a second appointment and go in prepared to give them solutions. In his business, Jahnke does that by doing a marketing audit and says he can find a client at least $10,000 in less than 45 minutes.

In years and years of offering the audit, he said he has never failed.

He has been generous in sharing his secrets with SCORE clients and other business owners so they can increase their revenue and run more effective marketing campaigns.

But, Jahnke stresses, it all begins with learning how to sell and not shying away from making cold calls because of a fear of failure. If a person prefers doing a mailing, the same rules apply. Follow up after the letter, because a letter in itself only brings a return of about 1%.

A question often asked is how to come up with a prospects list, and he says it starts with focus and by targeting those industries where your business has solutions to offer. He does a "Top 20" list that defines the market he wants to go after. When he is through those names, new names are added. (The Brown County Library has databases online that can help with contact information.) For O'Connor and other entrepreneurs, the process is made easier when they know exactly what their niche is, and that is one of the first recommendations that Jahnke makes.

"Write down all the benefits, features and advantages of your business," Jahnke said. "Write down everything you think of; sometimes the gems come at the end. Develop an elevator pitch and practice it so that you can separate yourself from the competition. Then get busy. To build a business is to make calls."

Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.


Robert Jahnke