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.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Use a voice to get your emails read

The emails that come out from Marketing Sherpa are always welcome at my desk and the report I looked at today titled New Research: What Motivated Buyers to Receive and Engage with Vendor Email was another example of time well spent.

This report cites that prospects and buyers say the most important factor in determining whether or not a buyer/prospect will open an email is that it's from a "known sender" - set at 45% importance. It's something that Boxpilot has pushed for years in our efforts to encourage clients to use a voicemail before the email so that when a message arrives they already know:

1. Who are you?
2. What do you have?
3. What's in it for me?

I'm hoping to see campaigns segment their audiences a little more finely than we usually see and send messages that are more tailored to their targets. A great starting point would be to at least not send the VP HR and the VP Finance identical messages, particularly those that originate from a vanilla corporate email address. They don't even hint that there might be a real person behind the message.

With even half as much attention paid to the source as is already paid to the subject line - (which according to this article is only set at a 25% level of importance) responses and relationships will only get better.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Get Your Sales Reps in Touch With Your Prospects Sooner, Not Later

Much has been written lately about lengthening sales cycles and the preference of prospects not to engage with sales reps until much later in the buying cycle. It is accepted as an idea whose time has come and heavily supported with a wealth of statistics.

Some of the highest profile minds in marketing are responding to this trend with a renewed call to improve the development of online content, lead scoring and analytics; better understand the buyer persona and to continue to enhance automated marketing programs to provide more product/price/comparative/competitive and benefit/ROI information, for prospects to peruse at their leisure. There is a stampede onto the bandwagon to keep your sales reps away from prospects until they have basically made up their mind about what they want.

There is a misguided perception that the way to win the hearts and minds of your prospects is to leave them in peace to develop their own conclusions based on what they think they know about you.

Years from now, management will look back at this "Slap Yourself On the Top of Your Head", moment in time and ask, "What were we thinking?"

So, What Are You Thinking?

• A prospect who would rather not engage with sales teams is nothing new, just a current example of why response rates for hard and soft offers have always been different.

• There is no difference between a preference for online content and the historical sales brush off, "Send me something in writing". Sales people used to get fired for doing what companies can't seem to do enough of now, which is to give value and get nothing in return. This isn't to say content should be withheld, we have indeed past the point where that tactic is in any ones best interest, but self- serve content is NOT king and can work against you. When every selling opportunity is a little bit different, involvement, interest and trust are equally important.

• While companies are rushing ahead to provide the selective answers to prospects' most frequently asked questions, they are doing nothing to ensure that those prospects ask the right questions. Those are the questions that will lead them to buy from you.

• Finally, there's an assumption that prospects are truly reading and accurately absorbing all the information they're collecting on their own. This defies human nature.

Keeping Your Sales People Away From Your Prospects is a TERRIBLE Idea.

1. Many decision makers are highly intelligent quick thinkers, capable of summing up the gist of an argument swiftly. But they have an unfortunate (for you) tendency to ignore the detail once they believe they have grasped the content. A well documented flaw of many quick thinkers is a failure to review ALL the information available to them. So, you can't be sure what content they have pulled from your materials or the materials of your competitors and you can't predict what conclusions they have come to.

2. Your prospects will gravitate to the information that answers questions they already have an interest in and will respond best to information that fits their preconceived notions and preferences. If you need to challenge a status quo or base any of your sales case on something they don't already agree with or don't already know, your words will go unread.

3. In spite of what many prospect think, engaging with a well trained, professional sales rep will save them time and help them reach better decisions.

4. You don't really want a level playing field and neither do your competitors. When one of them successfully inserts a sales contact into a one-on-one relationship with a prospect, while your company is content to be held at an arms-length, you have sacrificed an irrevocable piece of the high ground and probably the sale.

5. Statistics, trends, campaigns and group behaviors do not buy. Purchase decisions are made by people who will not always behave in a predictable or even logical way. Their decisions will be influenced by factors that your company will never understand unless you can establish the dialogue that ONLY comes with personal contact and that point of contact is your sales rep.

Why Are Sales Teams Not Screaming "Bloody Murder"
While They're Pushed Off to the Side?

Ironically, along with all the leading edge marketing thinking, the role of the sales rep has been pigeon-holed into an outdated and inconsistent clich̩ "The Closer". In a world where the buying cycle is stretching out past the foreseeable horizon, sales reps still live and die by the quarterly revenue goal, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. To meet these goals Рthe story goes - they can't afford the time to engage anyone who isn't ready to buy. That's half the reason that sales reps are happy to wait to engage.

The other half of the reason is that sales people put themselves on the line. It's not a pleasant thing to expose yourself over and over to the responses of people who don't want to talk to you. So, while it's not to the credit of sales people to be willing to sit back and wait for people who WANT to talk to them, it's understandable. It's not acceptable though and unless your sales people are willing to put themselves on the line to make a personal contact with your prospects, your revenue will suffer.

Current stats all point to a failure of many nurturing programs to translate raw leads into sales and the timing and distribution of new content seems to be the leading solution, but the removal of personal sales contact is probably at least partly to blame.

The role of a sales rep shouldn't be diminished, but it needs to evolve. The challenge facing sales teams is to approach your prospects with enough knowledge and skill to serve the needs of both the buyer and seller. The new sales rep is the voice of your marketing program and will subtly take ownership of the sales process by ensuring that your prospects are not cherry picking information, but actually absorbing the right information that will lead them to make the choice to buy from you.