How to Get Your Foot in the Door – A Guide to Setting Up a Face-To-Face Meeting

Technology Marketing Insights from Ivan Levison

It’s a simple fact. The best way to sell just about anything is face to face.

When you’re literally in the room with a prospect, you can probe for areas of customer interest, read body-language, sell with emotion and personality, answer objections, and most importantly, close the sale.

In the old days, the Fuller Brush man, the Avon Lady, and other intrepid souls would make the rounds and work their magic in person, right in the prospect’s living room. (As a young man, I sold door-to-door myself. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it taught me a lot!)

Obviously, technology marketers today can’t afford to have a sales force contact every single prospect in person. So we use the Web, direct mail, email, advertising, etc. as proxies for a flesh and blood sales force. We must depend on, as Grey Advertising put it, “salesmanship in print,” at least early in the sales cycle.

This means that lead generation is the name of the game. We use (hopefully) irresistible free offers to get people to raise their hands and only then put precious human assets in touch with them.

But you know, sometimes you don’t want to generate leads. You don’t want a two-year sales cycle. What you want is an appointment. A chance to walk right into the decision-maker’s office, sit down with him or her, and make your case for your technology product in person.

One of the best ways to get a personal appointment with a key prospect is to send them a terrific letter which paves the way for your personal call. The letter can’t be some soporific “Allow me to introduce myself” piece of junk.

You’ve got to really spark their interest, make a great impression, and be sure that when you call, you’ll be able to make that important appointment.

Here are some ideas for creating a door-opener letter that can help make you a winner.

Don’t Use a #10 Envelope. Go FedEx
You’re not writing 600,000 people. You’re contacting just a few key prospects who you want to meet personally. So make a splash by using an overnight service. That way, you’ll look major league and can be 100 percent certain that your letter will get noticed. The guiding principle is, when you’re contacting a small number of people, your cost-per-mailing can and should go up!

Consider a “Dimensional” Mailing
In the jargon of direct mail professionals, a dimensional mailing is a package that actually has something stuffed inside it (i.e. it has three dimensions). Often, by adding an attention-getter, you can be sure your package will get opened.

EXAMPLE: A while ago, I wrote a “get-an-appointment” letter for a graphic designer I used to work with. The letter was sent to tech companies in Sunnyvale where he had his home studio. A small rock was stuffed into the envelope along with the letter. At the top of the letter, I put the headline, “Profit-building art direction and design are just a stone’s throw away.”

The letters got opened and the designer received literally dozens of appointments. If you’d like to see the complete letter, I’ve posted it on my website.

Make Sure You’ve Got Something Really Important to Talk About
You should only try to set up an appointment when it’s appropriate. Want to demo something that’s really hot and will save the prospect a lot of money? Go for a one-on-one meeting. Want to discuss creating a strategic partnership that truly has upside for both of you? Shoot for the meeting. But don’t try set up an appointment for some routine sales presentation. Save the big guns for when you really need them!

Start Your Letter with Punch
Don’t mess around. Get to the point. For example, I recently rolled into a get-an-appointment letter for a client like this:

“Dear Steve:
I want to ask you for something extremely precious. Forty-five minutes of your valuable time.”

The letter went on to explain why such an expenditure of the CIO’s valuable time made excellent sense.

Dramatize What Will Happen at the Meeting
Don’t simply say that you want to make an appointment to stop by and chat. Give it a little excitement:

“Key members of my team would like to fly to Chicago and meet with you at your corporate headquarters in March. They have created a personal briefing that will give you new insight into your competitors’ technology plans.”

Tell Them What They’ll Learn
The letter you write is all about proving that a meeting is worth having, so be very explicit about what information you have waiting for them. Consider using bullet points to break out the benefits.

Prepare Them for Your Phone Call
Explain that you will be calling to set up an appointment. Let them know when you will be contacting them. Make sure that if they don’t answer their own phone, their gatekeeper should know you will be in touch.

The take-away message? Keep up your lead-generation efforts for sure. But if you ever need to meet with a truly important prospect in person, a well-written letter can be a great door opener.

About the Author
Ivan Levison is a freelance copywriter who works for tech companies like Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Citrix, and many others. Ivan writes sales letters, emails, web pages and more. For a free subscription to his monthly enewsletter for technology marketers, visit Ivan can be reached at (415) 461-0672 or at