Once upon a time, an enterprising company hired a Marketing Firm to create a dynamic, multi-faceted campaign that included advertising, PR, and targeted email. A few days after the campaign broke, the company received an envelope containing a check and a note saying, “I’ve been waiting forever for a product like this! Send me 1,000 of them right away!” The CEO ran to the bank with that check immediately, ran back, and waited for the next day’s mail. And the next, and the next and the next….and guess what happened? Nothing! That’s because the chances of receiving a large order without a nudge or phone call from your sales staff is roughly the same as receiving a bucket of magic beans. Far better to follow standard protocol – once your marketing campaign breaks, have your sales people step in, follow up on the leads, and close the deals.
“Sales and Marketing” are often lumped together as if they were one function, when in fact they are distinct, separate functions that need to work together. The role of marketing communications (MarCom) is to create your brand image, make your target audience aware of your brand or product through “Air Cover”, and generate leads. I always tell my clients that rarely, if ever, will MarCom alone make the sale for you.
The role of a sales staff is to turn MarCom’s leads into sales. Yet, when sales are down, people tend to blame their marketing efforts. It is always a good idea to re-evaluate how well your marketing is working. If the anticipated number of leads is being generated, however, the marketing is doing its job. Then it’s time to consider the efforts and methods of your sales staff. Here’s how we recommend doing this and some of the strategies that have made RMR successful over the years:
- Understand your sales funnel. Remember this formula:
#leads = #presentations = #proposals = #sales
Every business will have a different sales funnel. This is the formula we use with our sales staff. If you have never analyzed yours, go back through your sales records and tally how many proposals were presented, on average, before a sale was made. How many presentations did your sales people make before they were invited to submit a proposal? And how many leads did they follow up on before they received an appointment for a sales presentation? If this data is sketchy, your sales people haven’t been diligent about recordkeeping, and that means they aren’t aware of how they’re doing in these areas either. You’ll need to put a simple tracking program in place immediately so each sales person – and you — can see and analyze this data. Study your funnel at least monthly so you can see where work needs to be done, and share it with your sales staff. One way that we track our sales funnel is through our monthly sales support meetings that we hold for our clients. These meetings go through the steps on how to gain new business from outreach to close. By doing this in a group setting, it allows these companies an extra support system for their outreach efforts and a chance to learn best practices that have worked for other businesses.
- Scour your client database for leads.
Current, former and potential clients are all candidates for new sales, but you’ll need to keep in touch with them on a regular basis, with a top-of-mind awareness program going out at least monthly. For RMR, we send out e-blasts at least once a month to keep our database informed with our latest news. They may not need our services now, but by keeping our information in front of them, the chances are great that we will be the company they call when they do need marketing services.
- Prioritize your leads.
Does the lead fit the criteria you’ve established to be a viable lead for your organization? If you haven’t set criteria for qualifying leads, analyze the types of leads that have turned into sales in the past. Make a list of their similarities, and pull out the new leads that share these traits. Make these your sales staff’s first priority. This is something we do for the leads that we get at RMR.
- Cultivate your leads over time.
Even a solid lead may not be ready to buy when you present to them. We find that by keeping in touch and asking regularly about their needs, when they are ready to buy, they will most likely buy from us. If we present to them but don’t keep in touch, we’ve helped our competition, because when the prospect is ready to buy, they’ll buy from the competitor instead.
- Set goals for each step.
Sure, every company sets sales goals, our company is no different. But, how do we get to those goals? We give our sales reps goals for the number of leads, presentations and proposals they should have each month. Every month in the aforementioned sales meeting, in addition to going over the results for the past month, we set outreach goals for the next month for RMR and all the other companies attending that meeting. This helps keep us and these other companies stay on track and lets us know what we need to get done in terms of outreach over the next month.
- Have an awesome preheat letter.
Hire a marketing professional to write a dynamite sales letter and be sure your sales reps send it out weekly. It’s an easy way to generate leads. We have tested many different versions of our preheat letter over the years. Once we found a version that works well, it has done wonders for our outreach to potential clients.
- Stop doing what doesn’t work.
It’s human nature to keep doing something that’s become a habit. If you realize something isn’t working, insist that your sales reps stop doing it that way.
- Present proposals in person.
Sure it’s easier to email a proposal, but it definitely sells better in person! With all the time that goes into preparing proposals, give them their best chance by presenting them face-to-face. It is rare that we have been able to close a prospect without having a face to face meeting to go over the proposal first.
- Hold people accountable.
If you’re responsible for the bottom line, you have to be prepared to be the bad guy. Make sure everyone is following the plan, not skipping steps or hanging on to comfortable methods that just don’t work anymore. By going through everyone’s results and setting goals during the sales support meeting, each company attending is accountable for their results. No matter how big or small your sales staff is, they now have a support system built in to help them in their quest for new business.
You don’t need magic beans or a star to wish upon for your sales to pick up – just cold, hard calculations. Make sure your marketing efforts and sales funnel are working smoothly and in tandem, and sales will surely follow.