Did you catch RMR’s recent column in Washington SmartCEO Magazine? If not, the article can be found below. You can also find all of RMR’s articles from the magazine here.
Nine Fresh Ideas for Better Sales and Marketing Integration
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 1000 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 winning the lottery. 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, to make your target audience aware of your brand or product, and to generate leads. Rarely, if ever, will MarCom alone make the sale for you.
The role of your sales staff is to turn MarCom’s leads into sales. Yet, when sales are down, people tend to blame their marketing efforts. It’s always a good idea to reevaluate 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:
1. Understand your sales funnel. Remember this formula:
# of leads = # of presentations = # of proposals = # of sales
Every business will have a different sales funnel. 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. I recommend you study your funnel at least monthly so you can see where work needs to be done, and share it with your sales staff, perhaps in a Monthly Sales Meeting.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Cultivate your leads over time. Even a solid lead may not be ready to buy when you present to them. Cultivate them by keeping in touch, asking regularly about their needs, and when they are ready to buy they will most likely buy from you. If you present to them but don’t keep in touch, you’ve helped your competition, because when the prospect is ready to buy they’ll buy from your competitor instead.
5. Set goals for each step. Sure, every company sets sales goals. But how do they get there? Give your sales reps goals for the number of leads, presentations and proposals they should have each month.
6. Have an awesome preheat letter. Hire a marketing professional to write a dynamite sales letter to “warm up” the prospect for your call, and be sure your sales reps send it out weekly. It’s an easy way to generate leads.
7. 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.
8. 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. If face-to-face isn’t possible, at least set a conference call to walk them through your proposal and answer any questions.
9. 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.
You don’t need to win the lottery or wish upon a star 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.