Selling isn’t a numbers game.

April 24, 2008 at 2:27 pm 2 comments

Marketing is.

Sales people have product to move, quotas to meet. They have less time and larger territories than ever before. And to make matters worse, selling cycles are getting longer as decision makers strain to balance the competing needs for value and quality.

Why then do so many sales reps ignore sales leads generated at great expense by advertising, websites, direct mail, email and other promotional efforts?

Simple. It is more productive, more cost-effective for them to work existing leads, recontact existing customers and develop referral business than it is to call on an unqualified lead.

What do sales reps want?

Sales reps want answers to key qualifying questions. They want to know if the person is an information gatherer or a decision maker. Has the company allocated funds for a purchase, or is this a speculative inquiry? How soon will they be making a decision? Which of your products or services are best suited to meet their needs?

With this information in hand, and answers to a few more questions specific to each organization, the sales rep is likely to consider the inquiry as a qualified lead and pick up the phone to begin the selling process.

How do you get it for them?

Marketing doesn’t end with an inquiry. It’s not enough to greet incoming requests with a canned response.

The qualification process begins with product or service information, online or off. Respond to the customer’s specific inquiry. Focus on the immediate need. Show in-depth capabilities after the initial sale has been made.

Train inquiry handling people to ask the right questions. This is a vitally important marketing position; no place for an order taker.

After product literature is mailed, make a follow-up call to be sure that the product fits the customers needs and get answers to any remaining questions. Don’t ust send an email, give it a more human touch.

If additional information is needed, send it and follow up again until the lead is fully qualified. Then, pass the lead and the supporting information on to the appropriate sales rep.

Whose job is it to keep the sales pipeline full?

According to conventional wisdom, selling is a numbers game. All the sales reps have to do is knock on another door, make another call, set another appointment… eventually they will make another sale.

But there is a problem with this comfortable bit of conventional wisdom. In today’s economy, most companies can’t afford to put enough sales people in the field to be successful playing the numbers game. It’s time for a new reality.

A successful marketing program talks to a lot of people and finds out which ones have the need, the money, the authority and the inclination to make a buying decision.

It isn’t easy to create a successful marketing program. There’s more to it than buying search ads, sending a bunch of emails, printing up a few thousand brochures, or setting up a booth at a trade show. But the rewards are pretty clear.

Successful marketing keeps the sales pipeline filled with real prospects. That way, sales people can concentrate on making presentations, closing sales, and taking care of customers… not playing a numbers game.

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Entry filed under: key executive coach, marketing, sales. Tags: , , , , .

Sorry, this is a trick question. Wisdom of customers… revisited.

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Frank Martin  |  April 29, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Ken, I think another issue is that most websites are not designed to generate sales leads – they are designed to be “electronic brochures”, without any attention at all paid to the sales process. I believe companies need totally to rethink their web design strategies and put together sites that reflect consideration of the sales model – and them sales people might pay more attention to them.

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  • 2. rkenneth  |  April 29, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks, Frank. I agree. Company websites should make it easy to go deep and make it easy to buy, give feedback, ask questions or go away without leaving any footprints.

    Sales pros don’t want or need to know much about the folks who go away. Marketing folks should learn as much as they can, without violating the visitor’s privacy.

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