Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Process Driven Sales- Step Up Or Be Left Behind

Just read an interesting post that talks about Process Driven Sales

It reminds me of just how much the art of sales has turned into the science of sales. Everyday I watch sales people struggling to find new ways to drive new business into the pipeline and forecast more accurately.

Ironically, in many organizations, one thing holding them back is the lousy relationship that still exists between marketing and sales teams. It's something that will soon - I'm convinced - go the way of the Dodo, because companies that can't get past that tired old rivalry will never survive.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cold Calling - Call Display and Connecting

The debate rages endlessly. Does Cold Calling Work?

If you read most the the leading edge marketing writers and Sales 2.0 experts, it seems that the consensus is that Cold Calling is dead because no-one wants to get cold calls. Well, since no one ever wanted to get cold calls, I don't think of that as much of a rationale.

What I did just notice was a post to a group on Linked In with the heading
"Does Cold Calling Work? Stop Does.." written by Jeff Goldberg Thanks for the "Stop Whining" in the header Jeff.

I'm totally with Jeff on this one. Cold calling works. It always has and it always will. I'll also add that most sales people have always hated cold calling and that's not likely going to change either.

The biggest hurdle - besides being willing to simply pick up the phone, is making the connection to the person you want to reach. Of all the aspects of cold calling, nothing has changed as dramatically as the connection rate. Only 5 years ago, you could easily expect to reach at least 10 out of every 100 business contacts on your list. Now that number is averaging between 2-7. Gate keepers are probably less of an obstacle than they used to be, but now one of the culprits is Call Display. they don't know you, they don't know what you want and they aren't going to pick up the phone.

Time to make Call Display work to your advantage. Never fail to leave a voicemail when you don't connect. Identify yourself and the purpose of your call. Be short, clear, respectful and lead with your benefit.

Combine a short message like this with some intelligent persistence and patience and when you eventually the name and number that appear on Call Display when you call will be familiar enough to help you make that connection.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Be More Efficient

So I just noticed a post at about leaving good voicemails and its not the sort of thing that can pass me without a comment. Overall, good points of what to say in the message but I'd like to add two things:

1- Track your voicemails to see what's working the best. To do that you need to be able to tell what message you left and who you left it to. This can be a real challenge when you're leaving one-off messages all day long and it will be further complicated by the simple fact that consistent delivery of both the content and the tone is unlikely.

Voicemail campaigns are about the only way I can think of to be able to track and measure the effectiveness of different message/target combinations. Given the almost obsessive need in marketing and sales to measure just about anything else, I'm wondering how long it will be before the truly leading edge sales and marketing organizations get a handle on measuring the comparative impact of different messages.

2- Somewhere between the pure vanilla one-size-fits-all voicemail that sales reps used to be able to get away with and the Give-me-two-hours-between-calls-so-I-can-leave-the-perfect-message variation is the ideal message that will deliver the maximum value for the time spent. Once you figure it out and match it up to the right contact lists, you can ramp up your outbound volume to guarantee predictable metrics by using a service like Boxpilot to deliver more messages better, faster and cheaper than one-off calls.

By applying a balance of common sense and automation to calling, it too will become something you can accurately measure and manage.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Have You Noticed More Attention to Events?

We've always done a lot of work helping clients support events - from webinars to road shows to annual conferences. One thing that was brutally apparent over the last two years was the reduced use of events as marketing tool, but that appears to be changing.

I'm seeing a lot of our clients and their competitors renewing their use of events in the marketing mix and while I'm delighted to see it, at first it had me wondering. Let's face it, all the buzz is still about automation, content creation and social media, so why the renewed interest in events?

Since I don't think it has anything to do with a desire to spend money that isn't generating a payback, clearly something important happens at events that is missed in other areas and I'm going to suggest to you that what it has to do with is making a live, personal contact with suspects, prospects and customers in a way that the internet, for all it's spectacular virtues simply doesn't offer. (At least not yet)

Events allow your audience to see, hear, touch and genuinely connect with their thought leaders, peers, colleagues, vendors, prospects and customers. That enhanced personal connection is the one thing that is unique about events. It's the one reason that in spite of rising costs and reduced cost efficiency, event marketing is not dead and will never die.

We have to be smarter about how we take advantage of event marketing's unique attributes by planning our "presentation" more thoughtfully and maximizing the impact of those personal contacts.

Here are some ideas from Brian Carroll and a post he wrote last year called 100 Tips for Trade Show Lead Generation

  1. Follow-up quickly after the event. Think about your follow-up process before the event happens not afterwards.
  2. Create event follow-up content pieces, talking points and email templates for your sales team to use to add value and continue the conversation in a relevant way rather than “pitching” everybody.
  3. Develop a nurturing track that for event attendees connects with the theme or the content of the event. Try to do this at least for a few months at minimum.
  4. See the event as a conversation (or conversation starter) not a campaign. Don’t stop the dialog. Brainstorm ways you can keep the dialog going.

Now Brian was mostly talking about Trade Shows in his post, but the same thinking holds true for Road Shows, Seminars, User Conferences and Webinars as well.

Use the face to face connections to nurture an ongoing dialogue and once you've established it, don't sacrifice the personal connection. You'll do a lot of email follow up for sure, but be sure to pick up the phone and remind your contacts that you are a real person with a real voice.

If you don't have the time to make those calls yourself, consider how much further ahead you'll be with a well planned and brilliantly executed voicemail message. Just don't settle for less than brilliantly executed and you'll improve your marketing ROI by increasing the efficiency of your events.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Voicemail Versus the Cold Call

Just noticed a post titled Why Voicemail is Better Than A Cold Call. It talks about how sales people can use voicemail to move the sales process further.

For sales management looking for ways to keep their teams up to date with the latest selling practices, its a pretty interesting read.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Only Proven Way to Increase Sales Revenue and Customer Relations/Retention

In B2B marketing, it seems that everyone is excited about social marketing and using marketing automation to deliver event triggered emails .
No one is convinced of exactly what benefits social marketing is bringing to the table and we need to find good ways to measure it. But we do know that not even its most ardent champions claim that social marketing can either increase sales revenue or improve customer retention/ relations.
Speaking as a rather jaded sales champion, I'm hard pressed to think of any objectives more important than Increasing Sales Revenue or Improving Customer Relations/Retention and now I see from Marketing Sherpa's Chart of the Week that email doesn't do that very effectively either.
No Surprise. They're two of the most difficult marketing/sales objectives. Long term, the only tactic that has ever really driven revenue is direct one-to-one personal contact. This is better known as a sales contact.
But there's a huge problem. Direct personal contact is getting harder to make. People don't answer the phone and rarely return calls. A face-to-face connection is even more challenging, as well as slow and very expensive. In this economy, the people that sales needs to talk to are so totally swamped, they can only respond to a call that will help them deal with the problem sitting at the top of today's pile.
The problem is being exacerbated by the community of marketing gurus. They are actively promoting the passive distribution of information online and just as actively discouraging personal sales contact with prospects and customers. You see, with all the information available online, buyers want to take control and don't want to engage with sales people. (At least, not until they have made up their minds and they're looking for an order taker.)
Here's a secret that I've learned from 30 years of selling - Prospects have NEVER wanted to engage with sales people! Why do you think that sales calling is so hard, because there's a legion of people out there hoping their phone will ring and a helpful sales rep will want to talk with them?
Buyers wanting control is something that sales people have known about for a long time and now it feels like Marketing is out to help them have it, by keeping Sales out of the picture for as long as possible.
I'll bet that sounds unfair.
After all, didn’t the quest for high quality leads start this cycle off? Was it not the Sales Team's complaints about poor quality leads that set this whole mess off in the first place? Personally, I believe that the biggest part of the problem is that the process of qualifying and nurturing leads has traditionally been the responsibility of the sales team and too much of that responsibility has been dumped onto marketing.
We are looking for an easy way out in a market that is only getting more difficult. But the simple truth is that no one has found a tactic as effective at driving revenue and retention as a phone conversation with the sales rep. Rather than replacing sales - how about help with the calls?
I have to go now. I have at least 50 calls to make and 50 voicemails to leave and if one of them gets returned I'll count it a Great Day. Yes, those numbers hurt! But they are nothing more than a reflection of our reality and still those calls are the only proven tactic to increase sales revenue or customer retention (something I very narrowly define as repeat sales).
When you can find a way to help me make those calls, and make more of those calls and leave more of those messages - I'm all ears.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An Old Tool in a New Light

When it comes to B2B communications, voicemail - once the darling of leading edge technology- is almost charmingly old school. Right now it seems that online is where the action is and while there is a lot of new innovation happening right now, it's also swamped with hype and uncertainty and there are many unanswered questions about what will actually be effective in generating B2B leads and sales.

But voicemail will stay around as long as it does its main job which is to communicate a one-to-one-message using one of history's most effective communications tools ever - the human voice.

I've talked to marketers and even sales reps who have lost confidence in voicemail, because most people don't return calls anymore and I understand where they're coming from. But they are missing a key point. Business people are NOT failing to respond to your message because your message is unimportant to them. They are failing to respond - to call, attend, write or even click, because most of them have fallen victim to the Tyranny of Urgency. Remember Stephen Covey's four quadrants- Important-Not Important and Urgent-Not Urgent? The bottom line is that important or not, if it isn't urgent to the person who needs to take action, it won't get done. That's the ONLY reason that voicemail messages don't bring around a call back - it's not an emergency, yet.

So it's time to take that thinking into consideration and start using voicemail in a new way - and measuring it in a new way, too. Think for a minute about the tools available to you - as a marketer or sales rep - to reach out to universe of contacts and even if it's just for a moment - hold their undivided attention. Guided voicemail campaigns are your best option in terms of measurable deliverability, cost and speed to get that connection. And the human voice is still one of the most effective ways to deliver a genuinely persuasive message.

So, stop confining your thinking about how you can use voicemail to a simple transactional request like "Call me back" and start thinking about how you can break down points of resistance, clarify areas of confusion and insert persuasive new ideas into the thinking of all these people who voicemail has given you the opportunity to actually talk to.

So here's what you can do. Instead of expecting one voicemail message to set your phones to ring off the hooks, break down key points of interest that fit with the place on your sales or nurturing stream where your developing leads and current customers are to be found. Instead of relying on email alone to deliver any kind of progressive, persuasive message to your audience, slip in a few "personal" calls and let a name and a voice carve a spot for your company closer to that "top of mind" space where you would like your message to sit.

It's an easy process to automate, which means that both your marketing and your sales teams can consistently and measurably integrate that higher level of personal contact into every one of your ongoing programs.

Think of it as setting up a voicemail autoresponder.