B2B Marketing

Lead Generation is about building Sales and Revenues. Not about fairness!

Companies often look at their sales force as if all reps were equal.  But of course this isn’t so.We appreciate the motivation of clients being fair insofar as the number and type of leads each rep should receive per week/month/year.  Sales and Marketing Managers frequently ask us about this all the time.

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Experience has shown that acquiring new leads in certain geographies may be more difficult than in others.  This results in some reps being rewarded with fuller sales lead pipelines than others who receive less.

Within your salesforce you may also find some reps who are only interested in “ready to buy now” type leads.  They prefer not to be bothered with anything else (one could describe these reps as order takers).  Others may be hungry and are thankful for all the qualified leads they receive even those with lower qualification criteria.

You may also have salespeople who are more effective when selling to larger companies rather than smaller ones.  Some sales persons may be are successful selling into certain verticals.  Some may be better selling certain products/solutions only.

The more important question is what will it take to make your salesforce more productive (i.e. how to sell more in less time?) Treating everyone equally may actually hamstring the desired end result.  Customizing the leads  you deliver to your reps and focusing on their individual strengths will help to maximize their productivity.  They should also become more effective over time.

ETI Sales Support will work with each one of your salespersons to make sure they succeed with the leads they receive based on their individual needs and capabilities.

Customizing a strategy for each salesperson which focuses on his/her strengths increases the odds for each one’s success.  Naturally the more your reps succeed the more your company does to.

A win win for all!

Brand Can Affect Tele Prospecting Results by an Average of 30%

I recently conducted an analysis of work done for ETI clients since 2001 by categorizing them into 2 buckets … “Well Know Brands” (WKB’s) and “Lesser Known Brands” (LKB’s). We then evaluated the number of first calls which resulted in a substantive conversation with each prospect. Results showed that the WKB’s beat the LKB’s by some 30%. Moreover 25% more of these WKB records converted into opportunities than the LKB’s.

You might say it makes good sense that top Brands like American Express, Google or Motorola get more attention than XYZ No Name Brand.

Of course this makes sense. But one must bear in mind that top Brands spend millions if not billions building their brand equity. Smaller lesser known brands simply do not and cannot match these resources.

What actually happens in the real world is that many of the initial calls being made to prospects by LKB’s are actually Brand Building by their very nature. True there’s always some low hanging fruit, but successful Tele-Prospecting efforts relies on an interactive communication process to develop a trusted relationship.

Only when a prospect’s pain (or need or problem) is acknowledged and a level of trust has been attained - that an appointment could be setup for a sales person to become engaged.

So yes there is additional cost to the LKB in terms of the extra time needed to generate a lead. However, that investment is razor focused on the prospect company you want to do business with. It soon becomes evident that the LKB does not need to invest millions in media and brand building activity to achieve that. (In fact I’d hazard a guess that if you factored in the real cost per prospect touch of the WKB’s against the LKB’s you will find that the cost for LKB’s is substantially lower.)

That being said, one can also supplement go to market strategies with these low cost highly focused activities.

  • Be sure that you have relevant content for prospects who may request it.
    • A “send me an email” request may be regarded as a is a fob off, but as long as the prospect has a need and you are persistent, positive and professional in communicating with the prospect you will have an impact.
    • Also leverage Marketing Automation tools track content consumed on your web site or via promotional emails sent
    • Leverage contacts on social media (such as LinkedIn) to get entry to a prospect company through a recommendation?
    • A personal letter drafted by a professional copywriter can often be very effective.
    • Other activities such as PR, Trade Shows, Webinars can help but may also be costly.

Finally, remember that the only people who matter to your company are those you want as customers. Focusing your brand building activities exclusively on prospects can be effective and will lower your overall costs.

Recently I was interviewed on this subject by Jim Obermeyer of the Sales Lead Management Association. Click below to listen.

Building Trust and Being Authentic is Critical in Sales

I recently read a Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business Review that said: “When working in a foreign setting with different norms and rules, you're likely to make cultural mistakes. But you can lessen their impact by engendering people's trust in the first place. Make sure your foreign counterparts believe you care enough to try to learn about their culture, even if you haven't fully mastered the rules. Work hard to show genuine interest, curiosity, and respect.

But, you also need to be authentic. Don't fake an interest in Indian food, for example, if you could care less about culinary arts. Find a pursuit that genuinely appeals to you and explore that. Otherwise, it will be clear to your colleagues that you're trying to ingratiate yourself, not learn about the ins and outs of their culture.”

This advice applies equally to all aspects of client relationships. If you can’t build an honest and trusting relationship with a prospect or a client, you will never be able to take the relationship to where it creates the win-win needed for all to benefit.

Think about the process for prospecting or selling (up-selling or cross-selling too). You may have a better solution for your client or prospect, but they won’t be amenable to hearing about it unless and until they feel the trust and respect from you that warrants their attention.

And trust is based, quite substantially, on honesty. That means you need to tell the truth. If your solution isn’t the best one to meet the prospect’s needs, they need to hear that from you first. Tell them why you think that’s the case and give them the very same advice you’d give your best friend, even if you don’t benefit directly.

You may lose the sale as a result, but you will have gained the ongoing trust that will ultimately earn you far more business, from either that prospect or client or someone they refer you to. That kind of approach takes courage and it’s very different from the “sell at all costs / sell ice to Eskimos” traditional selling story.

But, in the long term, both you and your company will benefit from this approach.

How Good is Your Sales Execution?

We have a valued client company that is expert in what they term “Retail Execution Solutions”. In essence, they enable large retailers to “have the right product in the right place at the right time.” While they do have some very powerful proprietary solutions, very few of the specific services they provide are truly unique. In fact, virtually every retailer is already conducting the standard activities that our client provides as services. They include inventory, space planning, shrinkage and supply chain audits and a program for site design and organization. Retailers may not be doing each of these activities as efficiently or effectively and cohesively as our client would, but these are all essential business practices that every retail operation must conduct to stay alive.

The unique aspect that our client brings is a highly systematic, integrated approach that enables them to link all of those disparate, essential activities, giving them the power to bring the results to bear on the full scope of their operations. Hence, the term “Retail Execution.” As I said before, it gives them the ability to “have the right product in the right place at the right time.”

As I was thinking about all of this, it dawned on me that what our client provides to retailers is analogous to what we provide to our clients. We provide “Sales Execution Solutions.”

Surely every company we work with is already doing the basics: generating leads, perhaps even pre-qualifying them, they have sales forces and, especially nowadays, they may have access to some kind of CRM to track their leads and sales activities.

They might want or need more leads, or better qualified leads. Or they may need help managing their database and tracking their prospects, leads and sales activities. And they may need to better understand their market or ways to develop new markets or bring new products to market. But the basics elements are there in order for them to survive.

So where does Sales Execution come into play? In the very same way our client supports their retailers: our deliverable is in providing clients with a systematic, repeatable, successful closed-loop process for growing revenue, developing and managing new business opportunities and targeting their marketing investment on vehicles that have the best potential for revenue growth and the successful development of their company.

By engaging with a company that focuses on Sales Execution (or enhancing sales productivity), you are focusing your sales resources precisely on those qualified prospects and customers that are ready to make a purchase decision in the near term (“the right contact in the right prospect company at the right time”).

There are many companies that can provide pieces of this kind of solution on an outsourced basis, some at a far lower cost than managing it internally. But the real trick is in creating an environment in which all of the pieces of the business development puzzle can work together, seamlessly, and one in which they augment one another to create true, powerful sales execution.

So, while “Retail Execution” enables a retail company to have the right product in the right place at the right time, “Sales Execution” enables a company to put their sales people in front of the right prospects at the right company at the right time.

I’d love your comments and questions.

Successful Sales and Marketing Strategies for Both Good Times and Bad

Ever notice that, even in the very toughest economic environments, 20 to 25% of companies still manage increase their sales? These winning companies are successful even in the face of the most punishing economic conditions. Their competitors, often with the same or even superior products and services, struggle and all too often fail.

What’s even more telling is that these very same companies thrive to a greater degree during good times. When everyone else is selling successfully they far outsell their competition and steadily increase their share of market.

Clearly, their success is not based on having a better solution. It’s really based upon the application of time-tested, solid sales and marketing strategies that keep them headed in the right direction regardless of the environment.

At ETI we've worked with many of these world class companies over the past 25 years. We have been witness to the strategies they employ that have created the most success. We've also learned from their failures.

We've distilled some of the insights we've gleaned from our clients' successes and many of the best practices employed by these winning organizations in a new eBook entitled Successful Sales and Marketing Strategies for Both Good Times and Bad. As a business leader with an interest in strategic business development, we'd like to share with you those strategies for success.

The eBook is yours to download for FREE by clicking here. There’s no obligation whatsoever, so click here to get your copy.

If you find it interesting, please feel free to share it and discuss it with your colleagues. And if you have any questions or comments when you’re done reading, feel free to give us a call.

Think twice before you grow your sales force!

With the economy picking up, you may be contemplating ramping up sales operations by taking on more sales staff. Some food for thought.

Depending on the additional costs of hiring a new sales person (in real terms probably about double his/her salary), you might instead want to consider investing that money in a professionally run lead generation and qualification campaign to maximize your existing sales force’s productivity.

For example - using only one sales recruit as an example (and you can play with the numbers as they may be applicable to your business): Salary - $60k + commissions.    Assume $75k (low by any standards for most B2B industries.)

Overhead x2 (travel, recruitment, training, social costs, management, etc.).  Real costs are probably in the range of $150k.

If you assume that the cost of identifying a qualified sales opportunity to be in the range of $1,000, then for the same $150k, you could deliver 150 newly minted, highly qualified sales opportunities to your existing sales force. And if the cost were $500 per qualified opportunity, that’ would present 300 new opportunities.

Looking at this conservatively (@$1k per), let’s say your sales team can convert 20% (1 out of 5 of those qualified opportunities) into a new client. That would generate 30 additional sales at your average sales value. If each average sale was worth $50k in revenue, that’s an additional $1.5 million in new revenue. (Not to mention the potential recurring value of that new client relationship).

Let’s take a more optimist tack. If the cost per qualified opportunity was actually as low as $500, and the resulting 300 additional sales opportunities converted at a better rate, such as 25%, this would net you 75 sales (to new clients).  And using the same $50k average per initial sale, this would net $3.75 million in additional revenue.

Not chump change!

So, in lieu of investing in new sales reps who need to be recruited, trained and mentored, and who will take some time and effort to hit the street running, it may well be more lucrative to increase the productivity of the existing sales force.   Also consider your recruitment success metrics.  How many new recruits  succeed out of the block.  What is your cost of failure?  And will an investment of $150k for example net you between 30 and 70 new customers with between $1.5 and $3.75 million in new net incremental revenue?  It’s doubtful.

Of course, your company might be among the very few that has a sales force that is really productive and has no need for additional qualified sales opportunities to work with.  But, in the 25 years we’ve been in business, I’ve never come across one.

Remember that for every minute your high cost field sales people are not out there selling to prospects and customers that have a need for your solutions, you’re losing a selling opportunity!

By the way, ETI has a great Sales Opportunity cost calculator that you may find useful.

For more on how ETI can help you ramp up your sales please call us at 1.800.466.4384 (914.747.3030).

What was the biggest b-2-b marketing success in 2011?

The other day we were asked by an editor at the American Marketing Association for an answer to the question “What was the biggest b-2-b marketing success in 2011?” Because she was on deadline, she wanted a response via email. My first thought was that it was not an easy question to answer, and I told her that.Then I went on to say:

With regard to your request, as I said in the voice message I left for you a short while ago, I don't think it's easy to transmit via email the complexity of a response to your question about the biggest B2B marketing success in 2011.

Certainly the widespread (and growing) use of marketing automation tools has had an impact on the environment. But, this technology is only a tool that has been added to the arsenal of those who are actively marketing in the B2B space. It is far from a panacea.

Like all tools that seem to be game changers, a cult begins to arise around them. These tools and techniques are being promoted as the key to sales success. Not too far behind are those who profess that social media (from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn) are competitors for the mantle of greatest thing since sliced bread.

But the truth is that the principles of selling remain unchanged, most especially in the arena of complex, non-commoditized products and services. The key to success in that arena is the ability to build trust relationships, and all of the technology in the world is inferior to personal connection when building trust. There are no technological shortcuts available.

Social media and technology can assist in the process by streamlining and enabling but, in the final analysis, a sale is consummated only after a good listener can engage the key stakeholders in an organization in a consultative dialogue about what keeps them up at night and how to best find a solution that will help them rest more easily.

Then, this morning, I received an email from Ari Galper entitled “Predictions and the New Currency of Business for 2012” and, lo and behold, he said pretty much the same thing. It’s a worthwhile read. He even posits that direct mail will make a comeback. I’m not sure that I quite agree with that one, buy maybe….

In any case, sales people and marketers are no different from anyone else in the sense that we are always seeking the Holy Grail — the magic bullet. Whether we’re thinking about weight loss, making money, making friends or any other human endeavor, there really are no shortcuts. The universal truth is that all of this requires hard work and concentrated effort to reach a level of success. And in the world of sales, nothing beats developing and cultivating a trusting relationship. Nothing.

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