1. What is working well now with the sales team?
- Where do you see issues with the current sales system or performance?
- How far are you willing to go when it comes to changing people or processes? (Do you have any sacred cows?)
- How are your software systems working? (CRM, CSR System, Reporting) What brands are installed and working now?
- Is the outside sales team using a Customer Resource Management tool to track customer engagement and report activities?
- Do you have a well written, clearly defined customer target market?
- On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate the quality of your existing sales force? (Verbal skills – persuasiveness, product knowledge, human relations, team player, closing abilities, company and industry knowledge, time management, expense control, confidence, appearance, software skills, other)
- Do you have a systematic hiring process in place? (Recruiting, testing, interview template, verification of qualifications)
- Do you have a formal new associate onboarding system in place? (Company culture, expectations, product knowledge, product knowledge, industry knowledge, reporting systems, authority levels, etc.)
- What tools are you using to align the salesperson’s talents and experience with the job responsibilities and account assignments? (Sales experience, experience in your industry, current skill set, potential, buy in to your mission, product knowledge, desire to learn and succeed)
- Do you have a realistic perspective of your company’s strengths and ability to perform matched with the client base that is targeted?
- Do you have a personnel evaluation process in place in conjunction with job descriptions and clearly communicated responsibilities?
- What set of performance metrics exist now for the outside and inside team?
- What is your sales management structure? Who manages the sales force (title)? How many people are under each sales manager?
- On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 low – 10 excellent) how would you rate the sales leadership as it currently exists?
- How is the morale in the sales team? (1= Low to 10 = High, Do they have hope for the future?)
- Are your primary products competitive in the marketplace? (features, benefits, pricing, deliveries, delivery method)
- If applicable, do you offer financing for your product acquisition?
- Do you have a system for gathering competitive information? How accessible is that information? Explain the system.
- What is your presentation to close ratio? Are wins and losses being tracked?
- What is your typical length of time to close an account?
- Have you established a minimum quote value for an outsides sales person or team to approach?
- Is there a Pareto Principle analysis program in place?
- Are there regular team building meetings and exercises for the sales force? Frequency?
- What type of training is available to the sales team? (Mandatory or optional, selling skills, technical skills, business related education) Are they growing in these areas?
- Is there regular product training? Is it necessary? List examples.
- Explain your compensation and quota program. (Tangible & intangible criteria) Is it competitive? Does it retain associates? Is it fair to both employee and the company?
- Do you have a Vision Statement, Mission Statement and clearly communicated set of principles? (Please provide a copy of each statement and the values)
- What opportunities do you see pending in the future to grow product and service sales? (Acquisitions, marketing push, revised products, new products, additional sales effort, geographic expansion, economic trends, technological innovation, etc.)
- What threats to your business do you see currently or pending in the foreseeable future? (Technological, competition, product obsolesce, marketing/sales deficiency, production constraints, financial, HR, etc, etc)
- Provide a three year history of the profit and loss statement
The Right Stuff
Marketing Insights for SBME’s
By: Gary D. Seale – MBA
Trucon Business Development makes literally thousands of cold calls and follow up efforts every month to introduce our customer’s products and services. When introductory calls are made with little or no brand identification, the actual sales results tend to be low. This should be no surprise in a startup situation or with a product launch. Positive responses run from 1% to 3%. That’s why factoring in a time consideration based on repeated contacts with your prospects and a return on investment calculation is very important.
According to author Chet Holmes in the book titled The Ultimate Sales Machine, only 3% of your prospective demographic are in the market to buy “right now.” And only 6-7% of your prospects are open to a purchase in foreseeable future. That means that 90% of your prospects are not in the market for your product.
Additional experience from Trucon reveals that the immediate buying interest for a new, unknown product varies significantly depending on the competition, season of the year, lack of a trust factor, perceived need, budget restrictions, possible lack of a viable return on investment and the time available to institute a change in the client’s business model or culture. They may be higher or lower than Holmes’ stated value of 3%.
To reflect an accurate picture of a proactive sales program, the following factors must be taken into consideration.
One of the primary considerations is the necessity of targeting the right demographic profile for your product. Targeting the wrong industry, company size or even an incorrect staff member can cost you valuable time, expenses and lost revenue. An accurate market perception can take weeks or months to determine depending on the number of contacts attempted, actual decision makers contacted, questions that the sales staff asks and the responses obtained.
One common tool available to every sales organization is a database mining service such as Sales Genie or Dun and Bradstreet. The sales team can set parameters from SIC codes, industry categories, the gross sales, number of employees, geographic proximity and even decision maker titles. These services will break down the broad categories into specific descriptions which allow for more accurate prospecting efforts. These types of tools spare the team significant amounts of prospecting time when launching a new company or product.
The Sculpted Message
Trucon’s experience over the past five years reveals that a call recipient will allow a cold caller to have 60 to 75 seconds on the phone with them before they start closing their already limited level of receptiveness. The template that the company has found most useful is as follows:
- Ask for individual by name if at all possible
- Once connected, identification with full name and company affiliation is stated
- Ask permission to proceed, call back later or send an e-mail (This lowers the push back level)
- Permission granted, inform them of call brevity. Provide two benefit statements and ask permission to send an e-mail with more detail.
- Capture their e-mail, inform them they will receive the information right away and tell them you will be calling back next week (3-5 working days) to get their impression.
- Voice mails can be crafted in much the same manner
- The chase begins!
Actual Call Results – Via Telephone Introduction
A response from an effort of 200 outbound calls with a business to business product in four weeks is reflected in the following chart.
|Week||Calls||Follow Up||Admin Contact||Decision Maker Contact||Voice Mails Left||Interested in Product||Not Interested|
|% 100% 13.5% 36.5% 14.5% 26.5% 3% 6%|
*Results from Trucon Business Development Contract, September 2015
Statistically speaking, a company will need at least 30 qualified responses before they can consider the sampling of calls to be valid. Consequently, it could easily take 500 to 800 calls before the sample could be deemed totally reliable. Even with a minimum quantity of reliable responses, this conclusion must be tempered by a number of factors, including seasonal purchasing factors, budget year considerations, prevailing economic conditions, brand recognition and quality of the individual salesperson.
In addition, it must be noted that it will take multiple calls into the same prospect to re-contact admin people, door keepers and decision makers before a reliable response can be tallied. Six to ten contact efforts per decision maker is not uncommon.
Nurturing and Call Repetition
According to a recent Linkedin report called Full Funnel Marketing, 60 to 70% of the decision making regarding a new purchase has been done before there is any interaction with a sales professional. In a B to B purchasing decision, 90% of the research has already taken place according to Forrester Research. One key element reported in the Linkedin report is the longer close cycles that are now being experienced in business as a whole. Consequently it is necessary for the supplier to be fully engaged with a Soft Nurturing approach to ensure that its target demographic has full access to all the information necessary to educate the individuals responsible for making a buying decision.
The Linkedin Full Funnel Report segregates the marketing effort into two segments:
- Display advertising
- Public relations
- Social media engagement
- Blog content generation
- Gated content offers
- Social media advertising
- Search marketing
- Email marketing
These efforts are meant to drive brand recognition into the respective target market. However vigilant a supplier may be with their marketing effort, all too often budget restrictions and the massive amount of marketing messages and content in the marketplace can mask the desired recognition.
However there are ways to engage with specific prospects that still incorporate aspects of both the Upper and Lower Funnel approach. John Maxwell Team Consultant Danny L. Smith in Austin, TX has devised an eight step plan which includes Linkedin connections, posting, e-mails, sharing content, phone calls and research on the prospect over a four week time period or longer. Smith’s approach may be implemented on a scale with individual sales people to avoid the impression that all the provider wants is a quick close and be done with you philosophy.
Lower Funnel Details
A foundational aspect of the marketing approach must be a website which has a graphics attraction component in conjunction with the educational information that clearly informs the prospect what benefits will be obtained by engaging with the provider. The SEO component cannot be neglected and should be addressed on a regular basis.
The high touch customer engagement aspect of the lower funnel will involve lead follow up with phone calls and e-mails. These follow up activities should be conducted with a well-crafted call script (not to be read to the prospect!) and e-mail messages. Newsletters, following up with opens and click troughs, plus documentation in a customer resource management software tool should be implemented as well. Posting into your social media sites and groups is an inexpensive and important method of staying visible to prospects and referral partners as well.
Day to day lead generation may be done with traditional prospecting methods or a Linkedin process where client profiles lead to connection requests and eventual engagement. Personal calls and networking still have the best rates of return. However they tend to be expensive and are not scalable on a rapid basis, unless you have deep pockets or start-up funding that will support that effort.
This is the point where the spaced repetition contact process constructed by Smith will come into play. Of course the efforts will not be complete without actually closing business. Know your close ratio. Literally count the number of actual presentations to a prospect versus your closed business number and determine that percentage. Once you have made 30 to 50 presentations you can begin to rely on that close rate. This is not to say that you should not seek to improve the target market identification or the quality of the presentation, continuous improvement should always be a goal.
The graphic representation below provides some additional details about the activities that may be considered Lower Funnel necessities.
It is understood that in the consumer products arena that it is possible to position a product according to quality and pricing and still be competitive. In the B to B marketplace, positioning is still possible, but somewhat more difficult. Industrial products can certainly have features that can be added or deleted, but that component is not readily available on many mass produced products.
Consequently the competitiveness of the product or service can break a company over time or relegate it to a very narrow slice or the market without hope of growth.
The process of crafting a competitive message and relaying it to the proper market is a challenging and time consuming task. First time sales people and business owners must temper their expectations and understand that success becomes as a result of a volume of calls into the proper market with an engaging message and the persistence necessary to actually get in touch with a decision maker.
And of course, the proprietors must work with as many aspects of the upper funnel that can be used to make them visible, but yet affordable. All of these characteristics should be considered part of the art and science of sales.
Most Influential Business to Business Marketing Activities
Based on Trucon Business Development experience, Gartner Research reports and articles in The Harvard Business Review these eleven items were ranked on a scale of 1 to 7 (Not Likely to Extremely Likely) as having influence on a purchasing decision.
Number one was having direct interaction with the product / service provider. This does not necessarily mean a sales presentation, although it could certainly be a quality, professional sales engagement. These personal meetings involve a mutual qualification of both the provider and the consumer to insure there is a fit for both parties to benefit from the engagement. Personal face to face meetings are the best because of the additional sensory feedback the provider receives from reading the body language and facial expressions of the prospect. It also gives the provider an opportunity to get a feel for the personal and business culture by observing the office space or personal decorum of the prospect. Be a very intentional listener during these visits. Phone conversions or skype calls can be substituted for face to face meetings when necessary. Score 5.8
Number two on the list is references. A quality reference from an individual in a similar business that has purchased your product or used your service is very significant. Have written references from your customers with cart blanche approval to send those references is the most efficient way to handle this tool. Trucon has closed business based on written references, even when the prospect initially asked for permission to call the individual companies. Think about the common practice of book authors that use numerous references from well-known people to “close the sale” as you examine the book cover. It works! Score 5.6
The third most effective tool is to hold events, both in person and virtually. Even if you as the company or sales person are not the featured presenter, having a subject matter expert speak on your behalf is a viable alternative. A common practice is to host a webinar. This allows ease of access to many more people than you can pull into a meeting at a specific location. It is also a great idea to become a sought-after speaker with subject matter expertise that is in demand. Then you can offer yourself as a speaker to organizations that need experts to present. Be sure to take advantage of your local chamber of commerce to have a ribbon cutting or open house when the opportunity presents itself. Consider trade shows and happy hours as a viable event opportunity as well. Score 4.8
The fourth item on the list is White Papers. Valid reproducible research from a respected source can be used to back up your product’s performance claims. In a previous field, both my company and our competitors employed PhD’s in the static charge and contamination control field to publish journal papers, speak at conferences and do research to establish trust in our products. Personally, I had an electronic library available to send papers to prospects who wanted additional assurance about the science and technology behind our ionization products. This provided substanance in their equipment decisions. Don’t allow this easy tool to be absent from your bag. Score 4.8
The fifth item is actual sales presentations. This is the true professional’s time to shine or fail in the sales world. Be sure to couch every aspect of your time with a “What in this for the prospect?” mentality. The strongest temptation (and the laziest) is to do an information dump on the prospect. Hey, we spent all that time and effort learning our product and industry, now it’s time to use them, right? WRONG! Trues professionals answer questions and present solutions based on their research of the prospect. Don’t forget to ask for the business when the time is appropriate. Score 4.8
The sixth influencer is work related communities. This definition relates to the corresponding professional associations that serve the professions that your clients belong and participate in. For example, during my 18 years in the safety equipment industry I supported the American Society of Safety Engineers, The American Industrial Hygiene Association, The National Safety Association, The Texas Safety Association and Texas A & M Extension Engineering by being a member, teaching, participating in trade shows and regular attendance at local meetings. Almost every industry has some type of work related communities where you can gain exposure. And for the smaller business, don’t forget about local networking and the one to one’s that can be generated from that activity. Score 4.5
The seventh item is provider websites. It goes without saying that you must have a viable website. Make sure that you keep up with your search engine optimization efforts. Your website should strike a balance between artistic attractiveness, ease of use and viable content. Score 4.4
Brochures and marketing literature rank number eight on the influential list. It is important to have individual product literature with performance specifications in these days of short attention spans and prospects who are willing to do research online before they engage with a sales person. As a sales person, you should have your own library of these documents. Be sure to stay in touch with your marketing and graphics staff to have the most recent product information available. Be sure to include as a method of delivery e-newsletters and viable content for your clients and referral base. Automation tools are now available to aid in these efforts. Score 4.3
Press Publications were ranked number nine. As an individual sales contributor this is often an item you have no control over. As a matter of fact, most firms prohibit any type of contact with the press unless you have express permission. However, that does not mean you cannot share the positive press generated about your company. This is specifically helpful if you sell a technical product and your engineering and scientific staff have published germane articles in a journal. As a sole contributor, you might consider having press releases published in local news websites and printed press for “free publicity.” Score 4.1
Advertising was ranked tenth. It is rare that you see a large business to business use the mass media to promote their product line. But when some large industrial suppliers also have retail divisions, it is a possibility. The age of demographic capture ability is upon us all. It is now possible through Facebook, Linkedin and electronic list providers such as Hoovers or Sales Genie to run a low cost campaign and target specific groups of individuals with click through ads to landing pages and special offers. Score 3.8
And surprise, surprise, Social Media tied with advertising to come in as the eleventh ranked influencer. In my opinion social media postings are now a primary path to visibility and some low level of trust created by repetition. This is not to say that you should drop the effort to create visibility. But we all must consider how these sites have evolved over the past several years into a source for prospect mining, publications, event management, job searches and another communication path. Linkedin has become one of the most viable B to B tools in your low cost sales and marketing tool bag. Be sure to monitor your sales team and keep them within the boundaries of good taste as they post and reflect your company’s values and culture. Score 3.8
** This information should help the sales team or individual contributor establish priorities for their time usage. This is certainly not a comprehensive sales document, but it does allow you to have access to some deeply researched data that helps you focus your efforts on the important and avoid the tryanny of the urgent, but not important.
Gary D. Seale – MBA
Trucon Business Development
10 Steps in a Cold Calling Perspective
- Have the right attitude
As the saying goes, 90 percent of everything in life is attitude.
The same goes for sales.
Before you ever pick up the phone, you need to have the right attitude.
Before you make a call or sit down to type an email, the first thing you should do is get your head wrapped around the concept.
You have the skills to sell in any situation. It doesn’t matter if it’s 58 cents or $58 million.
Give yourself a little pep talk each time and remind yourself: “Hey, I can sell this person.”
- Believe in your product
You’ve got to believe in what you’re selling.
You’ve got to believe your product is worth at least 10 times the money and the time your prospect will invest in it.
If you don’t believe in the product you’re selling, each time you pick up the phone, you’ll become increasingly unconvincing and robotic.
Sell yourself before trying to sell anyone else.
- Be persistent
You’ve got to be willing to keep calling people back again and again until you reach them and they are willing to speak with you.
InsideSales.com research has shown that on average, reps give up after only 1.3 contact attempts. That’s not enough. Stats reveal contact attempts of 8-12 times may be necessary. You have to adopt a mentality that you won’t quit and bring that into every sales call you make. When a prospect sees your commitment and dedication, they’ll become much more receptive to your message.
4. Master the pitch
You’ve got to have your pitch down. That’s why scripts are valuable and important.
Whenever you’re making a sales call, whether it’s two minutes or 14 minutes, you need to know your goal.
What are you hoping to get out of that call? Is it to close a deal? Is it to find out who the decision makers are? Is it to get an appointment?
Know your goal and tailor your pitch accordingly, because each of these calls will require a slightly different approach.
- The significant differentiating claim
We do our best to provide call scripts with a strong differentiating message. If they don’t please let Gary Seale know as soon as possible.
Your claim has to be something a prospect cannot regurgitate and a competitor cannot imitate.
In other words, your prospect can’t ignore your claim and your competitors can’t match its value.
Your claim must become a hook that sinks so deep in the client that it literally creates a picture they can’t erase.
Nobody buys anything except for one reason, to solve a problem. With your big claim, make sure to clearly express how you will solve your prospect’s problem.
Remember, sometimes people won’t recognize they have a problem until you point it out. Wow them with what you know and what you can deliver.
- Gains and losses
Before making a cold call, many people complain of nervous jitters.
No one likes rejection, but that’s part of the sales process.
Every sales professional should remember that with each call, they have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Great salespeople know this and it serves as a powerful confidence booster and motivator.
- The best value
Every salesperson must believe they have the best value, regardless of price.
What that means is you have to convince yourself that even if you’re four times the price tag, you’re still the best value.
Understand what makes you better. Why should someone buy your product or service over anyone else’s, even when it’s pricier?
Make sure to convince yourself of this value as well as your prospect.
- Respect your prospects
Treat everyone with respect.
Sales reps who are calling people all day can start treating new prospects like the last eight people they failed to sell. This is a big problem with cold calls.
You need to start fresh with every call and treat each new prospect with respect.
- The Database – Target Market
Trucon works diligently to provide a database that is composed of prospects that
meet the target demographic for each customer. No database is perfect and there will be employees who have left the company, bad numbers or companies that have gone out of business. Please note that in your call log so those numbers are not redialed. It may be necessary to adjust the database if it is discovered that the database is not directed at a viable group of prospects. Please keep Gary Seale appraised of your experience with the database.
- Have the Right tools
Computer and screen
Remember personal ergonomics
Strong Wifi or line connection
Keyboard skills or yellow pad
Give yourself a physical/mental break
Reminder Scrip in front of you
Scrip available for copy paste and re-sending w/Graphics
Small Business Growth Strategies: Sales Hyper Growth
BY: Paul Lemberg and Jerome Knyszewski
Which entrepreneur and small business owner wants to settle for Business growth when you can command HYPER GROWTH!?
Most people think closing ratio is the most important number in sales management, and on the surface it’s hard to argue with that. Certainly for developing an individual sales rep, measuring closing ratio is critical.
I asked my friend Paul Lemberg, long-time growth strategist and owner of Sales Voodü, what metrics he works with when clients demand hypergrowth.
He said that the two key strategic, valuable and actionable metrics most companies overlook are Customer Value and Cost of Customer Acquisition.
Let’s Look Deeper…
The first strategic metric Paul looks at is Customer Value. A lot of marketers include value of “the upsell” but the majority of entrepreneurs never think past the amount of money that comes from making an initial sale.
The actual value of a customer can be 10, 100, or even a 1,000 times what comes from the first purchase.
The size of that multiple depends on whether the average customer buys one from you time or many, and whether the relationship ends in an instant or lasts over a longer period of time.
Consider these two points when thinking about customer value:
- First, it is far more powerful to look at “value” in terms of gross margin rather than gross revenue, because you can spend gross margin.
- Second, it is useful to calculate multiple time frames for value, including value of the first transaction, 1-3 month value, annual value, and lifetime value. More about that in a minute…
Cost of Customer Acquisition
The other strategic metric Paul always looks at is Cost of Customer Acquisition or CCA. This is not the same as Cost of Sales, which is generally treated as a percentage of total company revenue. Cost of Customer Acquisition is the amount of money it costs the company to bring in one new customer. Properly calculated CCA should take into account lead-generation costs (per lead cost / closing percentage) and direct sales compensation costs.
Put these two numbers together and you have a powerful tool to grow your company.
Consider this: assuming roughly equal quality and reputation of a product or service among competitors, the company that can spend more money to acquire a customer will grow faster.
This may seem completely obvious, but only a small minority of entrepreneurs acts as if they understand it. And while the number one problem cited is profitable growth, those same entrepreneurs consistently underspend to get new customers.
Here are a few things Paul wants you to think about:
Cost of Customer Acquisition typically varies in relation to the size of the first transaction, not the total customer value. The more money a company earns from an average customer, the smaller the percentage CCA is of total revenue.
Which means if a company improves it’s monetization strategy (consisting of resells, upsells and cross-sells) or simply it’s margin:
- it can spend more to get a new customer and still remain profitable
- it can grow faster than before, often much faster
- it can outspend and therefore CRUSH competitors
This is where timeframe comes in. Let’s say your initial transaction value is $100, and your annual value is $1,000, and your lifetime value is $10,000. (By the way, these numbers are not even close to crazy.)
When you understand these metrics, you realize you can easily spend $100 breaking even to get that customer, and maybe even $200, rapidly increasing your new customer growth rate (while your competitor probably doesn’t want to spend more than about $25.)
But be careful, tempting as the logic is, you don’t want to spend anywhere near $1,000 because you’ll have to “finance” that customer for an entire year and most of us don’t have the bank account for that.
However when you get more effective at monetization, and bring in that $1,000 over three months instead of twelve, you might be willing to “go negative” for a greater amount and really ramp things up.
Cost of Customer Acquisition is the other half of the hypergrowth duo. The factors that influence this most directly are:
- cost of getting leads,
- closing ratios,
- sales compensation rates.
As your customer value increases you may be willing to spend more on cost-of-customer acquisition. You can:
- REINVESTmore on lead generation to bring in more leads
- REINVESTmore on lead generation and get better quality leads, improving closing ratios
- REINVESTmore on sales training and management improving closing ratios
- REINVEST more on sales compensation to get bettersalespeople, and improve ratios
- Use excess margins from increased customer value to develop additional products that increase average customer value and support higher prices with greater margins…
You can see where this is going, can’t you? HYPER GROWTH MODE is ON!
Whether you need to ramp immediate new customers or build a system to sustain ever-increasing revenues, this is where to look first. Develop a deep understanding of Customer Value and Cost of Customer Acquisition and use them in tandem, creating a virtuous circle of long-term sales and profit growth.
Once you have PREDICTABLE, SCALABLE PROFIT, BOTTOM DOLLAR GROWTH you can, with confidence reinvest funds to ignite the HYPER GROWTH momentum.