Relationship Building

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.

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.

Content may be king; relationships are personal

Since time immemorial selling has been about relationships. From the three martini lunch to immeasurable rounds of golf and scads of tickets to sporting events, salespeople have used every method possible to connect with and cultivate prospects (and clients) at a personal level. Now we’re being asked to believe that a new, disruptive technology has somehow altered the landscape. We no longer have to connect with people at a personal level to establish a trusted relationship. Now we can do it with content; a powerful, less expensive alternative – marketing automation! Content is king; no handshakes required, thank you very much.

So, how do we know what content to send them? What are they interested in and how do we know that? Exactly how interested are they? Where in the journey toward obtaining a solution are they? Where’s the pain?

If you follow the marketing automation model, and many do, you send out dozens of emails to people each month, each with a content offer. And then you track what they respond to and act accordingly. You send them whitepapers and round them up into webinars. Each time you gather more and more information about them (although, in practice, it always seems as if they ask the same questions each time I respond, no matter how often I respond, almost as if they really don’t know me at all).

Sounds to me like a lot of investment in creating content (although they tell you that you can “repurpose” the content you already have) and not so much invested in asking me the important, simple questions like: Why did I ask for that whitepaper? Why was that webinar topic of interest? What’s keeping me and my colleagues up at night? Where are my priorities and my company’s priorities at the moment?

They don’t bother asking me any of that, but they do send me lots of free content. The problem is that, when I look at the content, I discover that it’s either relatively shallow or, even if it has merit, it generally doesn’t quite apply to me or my specific challenges.

Eventually, I stop clicking and stop asking because I have actually soured on the relationship. It doesn’t give me what I need. I get no value from my time investment.

Of course, other than having to pay for creating the content (a substantial cost if done right), on the surface it seems as if it hasn’t cost them very much to generate highly qualified leads. I suppose if you are already investing in scads of content creation, then repurposing it will work. But, for most companies, that’s not the case.

No doubt, some people find that strategy hits the spot for them. The content they use is on the mark; it meets the needs of prospects and brings them into the fold through a self identification process. They may even make a purchase and become customers. When you measure the acquisition cost of that sale, it may seem attractively low, especially when compared to the cost of having to engage people personally from day 1 (excluding, of course the substantial investment in content and software/services).

But what about me, my needs and a sale to my company? That’s lost. Who’s measuring lost opportunity cost? Who’s assessing what might have happened if someone had taken the time to engage me directly, asked the salient questions, cultivated me at a personal level and earned my trust and my business? How does that figure into the cost per customer acquisition matrix?

It seems to me that if I’m going to buy into the marketing automation model, I want to do it on the basis of knowing what interests a prospective customer BEFORE I send them content. I always want that content to be relevant to their needs, and I want every single touch to bring value to the relationship – a clear statement that I listened, I heard and I have responded accordingly.

I can’t risk basing my relationship development strategy on inferences – on remote behavior from a distance. I prefer proactive to reactive. I need to speak with them first, understand their needs, concerns and aspirations. I need to establish a detailed profile of who they are, how they go about making decisions, how important to them is finding a solution and, most importantly, what are they trying to accomplish and what have they tried already that has failed. I need to know them – personally.

With knowledge of who they are and what’s important to them in hand, I can build a regimen of delivering exactly the content they need, knowing that it will bring value to them and establish the beginning of a trusted advisor relationship. And to achieve that most effectively, I need to invest in my own resources or hire a company like ETI Sales Support that has the people, skills and experience to engage them personally, consultatively and reliably to build a positive brand image, assess the level and quality of the needs they have for the solution we represent.

Make rejection a thing of the past

When you work in sales, it sometimes feels like rejection is part of the deal. When you call dozens of people every month, you generally can't expect all of them to be on board with the product or service that you're selling. But if you feel like you're striking out more often than you're closing deals, there might be something you can do turn things around. That's right – if you thought getting rejected was just a part of the sales profession, it's time to think again. While you may never be able to sell to everyone you speak to, you can dramatically up your chances of closing a sale by avoiding certain behaviors that turn prospects off of your products and services. There are two ways to approach sales: by focusing on your product and by focusing on the prospect. The former will turn your prospects off, while the latter will keep them intrigued – and here's why.

If you focus too hard on convincing someone to buy from you, you begin to sound disingenuous – no matter how pure your actual motives may be. No one likes to pushed into making a purchase, which is why you need to be careful not to get overeager or forget about the prospect's concerns and questions. Remember: Selling isn't about moving, it's about finding a product that's a suitable match to someone's needs and desires. When you put prospects first, they'll be more apt to trust, respect and just flat-out like you – which will put you in their good graces, whether or not they decide to buy from you.

Of course, not every prospect you talk to is going to need the product you're selling – and that's all right. If you're honest with them, they'll walk away from the interaction knowing that you're a trustworthy resource to whom they can turn at a later date, should they ever develop a use for what you're offering. Both of you leave the conversation with your relationship in tact and the possibility of a future meet-up remains open.

After all, closing sales starts with opening relationships. When you create lasting bonds with prospects, you don't just make a sale today – you create the possibility and opportunity to make more money in the future.

Salespeople who put their prospects ahead of their quotas keep their dignity and integrity intact. Those who focus too hard on pushing a sale, even when it's not the right fit, are the ones who end up experiencing rejection.


Build relationships with prospects to become a better salesperson

Making a sale starts with a building a relationship – and building a relationship takes effort. A lot of it. That's not to say it's hard, of course; building a relationship may not be the easiest thing in the world, but it's certainly simpler than trying to push or bully a potential client into purchasing from you when your product isn't a good fit with their mission, goals or company. If you want to start closing sales and creating a fuller professional life, it starts with making yourself available to your prospects as a valuable source of trustworthy, honest and useful information. If you want to sell something to someone, it's essential to know what he or she is looking for. Think of it this way: You wouldn't try to sell a minivan to a childless bachelor, just like you wouldn't try to sell a Corvette to a mother of four. When you understand your client's needs, you can work with them show them how valuable the service or product you're offering can really be to them. To do this, you need to open up a conversation with them – believe it or not, they might surprise you. Don't try to guess what they'll want. You never know, sometimes that metaphorical mom really is looking for her own sports car.

A salesperson's role is to understand the unique challenges that a client faces in its specific market or environment, then discover a solution that will help the client overcome these issues. Rather than simply asking, many inexperienced salespeople try to guess what a client needs – or, if that doesn't work, start throwing out every possible service or product in hopes that'll something will stick. This, however, is a waste of not just your client's time, but yours as well. Instead of taking this amateur approach to making a sale, start by simply asking questions, listening to their answers and working with your prospect to devise a solution.

If you want to start see your sales close, it's time to stop focusing on yourself and start paying attention to your client. Don't just sell what you offer -sell what your client needs. To learn what that is, ask questions – What are their key interests and challenges? What do they struggle with in their industry? What are they looking to fix?

Even if it doesn't appear that you have much to offer them immediately, a little extra digging might uncover a way that you can aid them in their mission. And if not, at the very least, you've opened up a productive relationship and established yourself as a trustworthy source should they ever need a service or product that you offer.


Shifting focus from selling to relationship building

I received an email the other day from Ari Galper. Ari runs a sales training business called "Unlock the Game" ( which focuses on shifting the perspective from selling to relationship building. At the core of his teaching is an understanding that the key to sales success is in reducing stress, not increasing the pressure.

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