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Aside from the technologies used to protect ourselves from solicitations, there are many other challenges we face; Call screeners, rising travel costs, flight delays and cancellations, and of course the need to understand your own customer base and their issues, pains and goals. In today's selling environment it is a necessity to use innovative techniques and technology to beat technology.
Bring the mountain to Mohamed
There is a saying if you can't get Mohamed to the mountain, bring the mountain to Mohamed. We have never heard a salesman say, "everyone calls me back, I never have trouble getting a hold of a decision maker." We have all experienced the frustration of not being able to get a hold of someone. They don't take a call, call back or respond to email. With all of the technology out there limiting our access to decision makers we are forced to get creative. If you can't get to them, make it easy for them to get to you. Here are some common sense ideas to generate leads for your sales force to work on.
One observation we have made in the past few years is the rise in on-line Web Seminars (Webinars). Tim Sullivan from Sales Performance International tells us, "The best return on our marketing dollar for lead generation is the on-line seminars. We are running them twice monthly on various topics." These on-line web-seminars are a cost effective way to generate leads, educate the market and create demand for our products and services. Marketing for an on-line seminar is typically handled through "opt-in" email campaigns. Undoubtedly a low cost way of getting your message out. Finally, the expense for the technology to conduct a web seminar is reasonable however; we encourage you to shop around. We have had good experiences with Webex and Microsoft's Live Meeting. Another option we have used on a much smaller scale is Glance Networks. As for the audio, there are many free conference call sites. Our favorite is www.freeconference.com
Our research indicates one of the fastest growing sales tools in the market is the Blog. A Blog is an on-line web log. In other words, a diary that you (the blogger) allow others to log onto a website to read and comment on your entries. We went to our internet search engine and typed in the word "Blog". The results netted over 23 million responses. We are finding a few corporations using Blogs for employees and customers to go to and learn more about their products, uses, successes and of course failures. According to the September 2005 CRM Magazine article, Blogs can boost sales, "The most common usage is self promotion, an external blog where company insiders talk about products and events in a humanized voice." They further explain, "Developer journals with fresh and frequent updates give the participants a stronger air of integrity and credibility." As a sales person you may think this is impossible, however, it is a very low cost way of presenting and expressing your thoughts and ideas as they relate to your products and services.
Attracting prospects to you is much harder than in the past. They are overwhelmed with emails; pop-up ads, junk mail and cold calls. While talking with my friend Jill Konrath, (Author of Selling to Big Companies) about generating leads, she told us, "We get the majority of our leads from our on-line newsletter." I personally subscribe to over 30 weekly on-line newsletters. Some of the more popular ones we recommend are, Jill's of course (sellingtobigcompanies.com), Bitpipe knowledge (www.bitpipe.com), Selling Power (www.sellingpower.com), Sales and Marketing Magazine (www.salesandmarketing.com) and SalesVantage (www.salesvantage.com). Anyone can create an on-line newsletter. Microsoft Business Solutions has several reasonably priced services to create and manage on-line newsletters. Remember newsletters help educate the buyer and create demand for your goods and services.
A hidden opportunity within your own grasps is your customer base. You have a gold mine of opportunity right under your nose and often don't realize it. Developing a tool to return to your install base and measure value delivered, or simply survey their current situation is a non-intrusive way of up-selling and cross-selling goods and services. Tim Conroy, VP of Sales at Red Prairie told me, "You have to be crazy to lose an existing customer. The cost to replace them is huge. In fact our install base sales professionals have produced more year over year growth than our new sales reps." Many organizations attach a goal or budget to achieving a percentage of their total revenue from the install base. Internal newsletters, Blogs as mentioned earlier and 360 Degree ROI Selling approaches to your customers will ensure you receive your share of revenue from your existing customers. Siebel Systems surveys their customer base annually and tie a percentage of the every employee's bonus to the outcome.
A method for conducting surveys that can also be effective in generating interest is a Fax campaign. Offer a white paper or research results if the person contacts you. Fax numbers are very easy to get. You can simply look on a prospects web site, or call the front desk and ask. Unlike an email that can easily get deleted, a fax is typically placed in an envelope and given to the recipient. There are many on-line fax companies you can use right from your desktop or laptop computer. Here are a few:
Begin your prospecting approach with your own web site. Your web site needs to include information on the value you deliver. We recommend downloads that will draw prospects to your organization. These downloads may include case studies, video clips, brochures, sample products, and templates.
The use of IM or chat technology has expanded into a wonderful customer support and inquiry tool on web sites. Throughout our day we visit many web sites performing research. Each site we visit we are forced to navigate using the tabs and hyperlinks the developer provided. Sometimes we can?t find what we are looking for. A site map is the developer's ways of helping us non-technical types "figure out what we were looking for." There is hope. I recently visited www.oncontact.com, a sales force automation tool company. While browsing around on the site a "chat" window popped up and said, "May I help you?" At first I thought it was a pop up ad, and then I realized it was a person at the other end there to help me with my questions. Many organizations are using this technique for support; On Contact has brilliantly extended it to sales.
The Internet is the number one place in the world for research. Search engines make it easy to find almost anything on any topic you can imagine. These powerful tools can also help you find leads. Use the search engine to research potential prospects. My favorite search engine is www.dogpile.com. Dogpile includes in their results Goggle, Yahoo and MSN only results.
When multiple phone calls, emails and faxes are not proving to be successful, and you need to move a prospect off the dime. Here is a technique that may help. Craft an email or letter that is titled, "Rude." Describe your attempts to contact this person and point out the fact they are being rude. I caution you, for this to be effective, the prospect must have first been rude, second moved through your sales process to a point that you felt they should be ready to close. Pulling this out too early can be disastrous. Be careful. That being said, it is a very effective technique to get someone to call you back.
An interesting technique for lead generation we have stumbled upon is the "book review." Yes, as odd as it seems there are people out there advertising their products and services through a book review. Here is how it works. Sign up at one (or more) of the on-line book retailers. Be sure to include your real name, title and of course your company name. Then, as you read books on sales, write a review. Others that have similar interest will see your review and perhaps visit your web site to better understand what you do. Be sure to include in your review a hint of why and how the book affected you and your sales efforts. Amazon for example polls the reader on whether the review was helpful or not and publishes the results.
"He who has the data has the power." One of the most valuable assets you can have is industry data. Gartner, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Aberdeen and the likes have made millions of dollars on their research. Many of you reading this article have paid millions of dollars for the data they have collected. You also have a customer base and hopefully a database of prospects. You have the ability to conduct research and offer it to your prospects for participating. Many organizations have developed surveys to generate leads for their sales force. A simple email campaign, or web site can be developed to create a series of questions that can help both you and your prospects better understand the current state of affairs in your industry. As part of the consultative sales approach, knowing the data will make you a more valuable asset to the prospect. It drives credibility.
Along with research I highly recommend the use of white papers. If you are capable of writing a paper that can create awareness or help people self assess their current situation, then you have a document that can be used to generate leads. In some cases you may want to use other person's white papers. For example, my white paper "Why Johnny can't sell" is distributed by Microsoft to generate leads for their CRM products and services. If it is something people want, build it or borrow it, and they will come. We for example offer a variety of papers and assessment tools that draw hundreds of leads regularly. We offer them for download in email campaigns, outbound calling blitzes, and during webinars and seminars. Most of my public appearances include some offer for research or a white paper to drive awareness and demand for our products and services.
There are many opportunities available to sales people by simply networking. The book, "How to work a room" by Susan RoAne, suggests you practice your introduction and change it as the event deems. For example, although I am an author, I typically introduce myself as a salesman for a software company, and then add we develop software to... The "author" title will likely get more attention, but the "salesman" title will get you more sales. The point is this, when you are in a peer group meeting, introduce yourself by name, and by what you do or sell. This will generate interest from others and prompt a discussion that can lead to potential prospects and sales.
Remember, if you are having difficulty getting people to call you back, you need to first make sure you are accessible. Secondly, you need to try and contact people in good faith. If you must leave a message, be sure it is tactful, succinct and to the point. Below are a few book suggestions that you might be interested in that may help with breaking through the SPAM filter, email, and voicemail quagmire.
Michael J. Nick is the President and founder of ROI4Sales, Inc. ( www.roi4sales.com ) He has trained thousands of sales people on using ROI in the sales process and has appeared on radio talk shows, the tradeshow circuit and produced several public workshops throughout the world. His latest book ROI Selling (Dearborn Trade Press) is turning out to be the "ROI bible" for most sales, marketing and management people throughout the software industry. Michael can be reached directly at email@example.com or by calling ROI4Sales at 262-338-1851.
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