Integrating Your Sales and Marketing Efforts for the Best Results

October 30, 2010

In a recent post wrote I spoke of how it’s getting to be that time of year when smart salespeople are trying to meet their annual quota, as well as building and strengthening relationships during the holiday season, and clients are working on their budgets. As I wrote that article, I was reminded of a conversation we at Randolph Sterling once had with a client. We mentioned to them that, based on the trial program we were running, if they were to invest $150,000 in our solution, we could pretty much guarantee an additional $2-3 million in sales. It is a great return on investment, however they had to determine if they had the $150,000 to invest, and, if so, would they be willing to invest it on this solution or someplace else.

Many of us right now are struggling with similar questions. For example, this October, we at Randolph Sterling, where we have strong sales culture, were left seriously contemplating how much of our 2011 budget we should allocate towards our marketing efforts and how we should divide our marketing budget amongst the different tools we implement, whether they be our email marketing campaign, our blog (which you’re reading now), our various social media efforts, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, or any number of other more traditional efforts. (Thank you Gini for your excellent video blogs on these topics).

However, we often see that many clients, whether due to their culture, or for some other reasons, believe they have to choose between sales (going out to look for customers) or marketing (drawing customers to them). Both are incredibly valuable, but unfortunately, it seems that too many companies focus on one over the other rather than developing a strong integrated plan. Here’s an example.

The marketing-focused company sends out a very nice post card to targeted prospects and hopes that they decide to call to use their services. The sales-focused company cold calls those same targeted prospects. Both get decent results, but the company who integrates the two by sending out the well thought out postcard and then has their sales team follow up on it by calling those targeted contacts most likely gets a better result than the other two because (in theory anyway) the guy who responds to the marketing effort follows the call to action on the postcard and calls the company that sent it, while the guy who responds to the sales effort doesn’t remember the postcard but returns the voicemail the salesperson left. However, a third group of people emerges who got the postcard and had a level of interest, but not enough to actually call themselves. They receive the follow up call and feel a little more familiar with the company because they remember seeing the logo from the postcard as the salesperson talks to them. Those that implement both sales and marketing efforts (again, in theory anyway) therefore are likely to get responses from all three groups.

With this said, it is important to point out that many people who went into marketing did not go into marketing to be salespeople, many people who went into sales did not go into sales to do marketing, and many people when starting their business had no real desire to do either, even though, oftentimes, both are required for the best results. So, where do you go from here?

The first answer that comes to mind is you can do it on your own. You can do it yourself. Someone else at your company can do it. Or you can bring in an additional person or two to fill these roles in-house. To once more use ourselves as an example, we are a sales solutions company, but we have an in-house Social Media Director, Daniel Nuccio, who handles our email marketing campaigns and manages our blog and social media accounts, while we maintain close relationships with marketing companies with many different specialties to help us and our clients with other tasks (more on this later).

However, you may not feel comfortable filling these roles yourself. Or you may believe that the time of you and your employees would be better spent elsewhere. And you may find that bringing on one or two new people may be too costly.

So, then what? You bring in an outside team or two. At Randolph Sterling, we offer a number of outsourced sales services for both short term and long term sales solutions. And, for your marketing needs, we at Randolph Sterling have partnered with a number of marketing firms with different areas of expertise so that we can better offer a full solution to our clients.

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My Blog Has Moved

October 3, 2010

My blog has moved to the following address: http://www.randolphsterling.com/?page_id=28

Getting the Most Out of a B2B Email Marketing Campaign…Or Any Marketing Campaign

September 26, 2010

Recently in an online discussion group a friend of mine posted a question regarding how you can ensure the best results from a B2B email marketing campaign. They received a number of good recommendations for tools they could use. There was a lot of excellent information about how to craft an effective message and make sure there is a clear call to action. However, one of the things everyone seemed to leave out was that any e-mail marketing campaign, or any marketing campaign at all, for that matter, will produce an even stronger ROI if you follow up rather than just wait for them to call you.

I am familiar with several of these tools (we use Constant Contact, for those who wish to know) and the ones I know all have features that show you who from your mailing list looked at what article from your campaign, indicating they had some level of interest in that given topic. Not only is this good for targeting email correspondence to your prospects and building their familiarity with you, but it is also produces an opportunity for your sales team to call these prospects and offer additional information to them to move the sales process along. In our experience, this has been very effective because here your prospects still have you at the “top of their minds”.

However, many times this step is not taken for several reasons…salespeople are busy keeping their current clients happy, they don’t receive the information as to which of their prospects read which article, etc. This is why our inside sales team offers email marketing follow up campaigns to handle this for you. However, whether we do it for you or your team handles it, follow up and you will see even better feedback from your e-mail marketing campaigns.

If you would like more information on Randolph Sterling, Inc.’s short term inside sales services, please contact us today!

The Importance of 10 Second Mission Statements and Showering Before You Go to the Gym

September 26, 2010

Earlier this year I requested that all of Randolph Sterling’s team members commit our mission statement to memory:

Randolph Sterling, Inc. is a sales solutions company whose main goal is to assist growth oriented clients improve their overall sales and sales process through management services, process development/improvement, inside sales, and sales peer advisory groups.

Ultimately, we would like to change the perception of salespeople by the public by always promoting solution based conversations and continued learning.

Here is why:

I went to Virginia Beach over one weekend during the Spring. On Sunday morning I rolled out of bed, hair all messed up, unshaven and unshowered, and decided to get a quick workout in before getting ready for the day. Usually, when I travel and work out in hotel gyms the place is empty, so I didn’t think anything about it.

This time, of course, was different.  As I walked in, a woman was walking out to get some wipes to clean off a treadmill and just wanted me to know that she was coming right back (I think she didn’t want me to take her Sunday paper). She mentioned that she travels a lot for work so I asked what she does…turned out she is a director of sales for an accounts receivables management firm in the transportation industry. She asked what I do and I gave her a variation of our mission statement. When I told her, she replied that she was so buried in client meetings that she never has time to develop new prospect relationships and that she definitely needed our services. I ran back up to my room to get a card after she requested one.

Twenty minutes later we were having a business meeting while I was on the StairMaster and she was on a treadmill. When she finished up, I asked when I could get a proposal out to her for us to assist her. She gave me not just her card, but also the card of a colleague of hers who is redoing her company’s website. She mentioned that I should reach out to him as there might be some opportunities for the two of us to work together as well.

This is a testimonial to why having a quick 10 second rundown of who you are and what you do can lead to profitable results…also, it shows why you should always shower before working out! 🙂

Using Your Time to Your Advantage

September 20, 2010

This past March I ran into my friend Jim down in Virginia Beach where he and his fiancé Sue were running a half marathon. This was the second time that I met up with Jim at a race (the first being the day he actually met Sue), however, I have always been content with grabbing a beer with him after a run. Sure, I play softball, basketball, and bike ride, but I never considered myself much of a runner.

Jim inspired me to start running, so since about the end of March, I have been running every other day, usually 3-4 miles or so. When the weather got hot, I figured it best to do this run at 6:00 AM when it was still cool, rather than 6:00 PM when it was still very hot. This became somewhat of my morning commute (I also walk for about a half hour on the “non-running” days.) It has become a great time for me to collect my thoughts, plan my day, and think about clients and how we can help them before getting into the regular daily grind of the workday.

Let’s face it, once the day starts, it is run, run, run, and not many of us have the time to really look at the bigger picture. As much as we want to take the time to find the inspiration to do that next great thing, the phone starts ringing, or you check your email to find 100 messages waiting for you. Next thing you know you are in your first meeting of the day and the day becomes more of a list of transactional activities rather than a study of ideas to make the world better. At some point you grab some lunch and say “Darn, it is only Monday,” “TGIF!” or something in between as you flash for a second to a time when you thought you’d be doing something more inspirational at work.

Many sales teams we see are exactly like this. The “what have you done for me lately” attitude leaves them going from transaction to transaction instead of building long term relationships. When was the last time you sat back and thought about something you could do for a client…maybe refer them to someone, research an article you think they would find interesting, or come up with an idea that will make their life easier even if it doesn’t put a dime in your pocket. We all want to do these things. We all see the value of doing them and growing a stronger relationship, but many times we just don’t have the time to think about them.

I urge you all this month to take that “in between’ time, the time in between your front door and your office door, the time in between your desk to the restaurant for lunch, or the time in between the end of the day and coming home to your family to allow yourself to think of the bigger picture both for your clients and for yourself…to find your inspiration.

Should You Adjust Sales Compensation in a Declining Revenue Environment?

September 14, 2010

How one adjusts the compensation of their sales force is something many people have been talking about recently, both on business oriented discussion boards online and in person, privately as well as at well attended events.

On the surface, these are simple questions with several variables. In general, I have always been a supporter of lower salaries with the majority of the upside in total compensation coming from commission, especially when the salesperson controls the sale from start to finish. However, if the product or service being sold has quite a long sales cycle, 9-18+ months perhaps, and is a pretty high ticket item, I would usually say a larger base salary is needed because people do need to eat while they are developing a long term relationship.

The deeper question though is why so many companies are considering changing their compensation. Are they paying their sales people too much up front to begin with? Has the sales cycle just gotten too long? Has their sales team started to buy into the “bad economy” excuse and lost their focus on developing new relationships and growing the ones they have? What exactly is making it a “declining revenue environment?”

In over 20 years of selling and managing salespeople, my response to a change in compensation either by the company or by the salesperson is simply “SELL MORE!” While it isn’t nearly that simple, I would look at all factors of the “declining revenue environment” before making any strong consideration on changes. Plus, we have not even begun to discuss the potential for negative reaction from the salespeople. What would they do if there was a change? Would such a change cause you to risk losing too many of the right people and put you in a steeper declining revenue environment?

Does Being an Athlete Help You in Business?

September 12, 2010

I recently read a forum question on LinkedIn asking this, so I wanted to share my answer with all of our readers. Being an athlete growing up has definitely helped me not just as a professional, but as a grown adult. I played baseball growing up and still play softball and basketball today. As a sales professional, baseball taught me that by playing a sport where “greatness” still means that you will fail 7 out of 10 times, you still have to always go up to the plate (whether that plate is the start of your day, a meeting with your boss, a presentation, etc.) understanding that failure is a possibility, but not something to dwell on. It also taught me to always be ready to learn from success as well as failure. Have I always been successful in baseball? Well, since I’m sure none of you have a baseball card with my name and statistics on it, let’s just say that the things I learned playing baseball have served me for much longer in the boardroom than on the field.

While baseball has some great team elements, a lot of it is one on one, you against the pitcher. Basketball, however, has helped me become even more of a team player and I have added that to my business life. Basketball is not just about scoring, but about playing defense, passing, and doing the little things that make your team win. That same attitude helps our team at work be successful as we each help each other out and help each other to grow.

I never was a great basketball player growing up, so I never played on an organized team. I was always tall, but I think the uneven surface on the basketball court in the park behind my house growing up caused some difficulty picking up good ball handling skills and that hurt my confidence in playing. I never really played until I was in my mid 20’s when I used to go with my brother in law, Bob, and his best friend, Frank, to the Rutgers University gym to play in some pick up games. It was there that I learned that I could be an effective teammate by setting picks, playing good defense, and rebounding. It helped that Frank always had a good jump shot so he would pick up the scoring slack. I soon noticed that the teams I played on won more often than not and usually the guy I guarded (not used to someone playing defense and taking pride in it) didn’t score too much. I had become a good teammate, even if I wasn’t the top scorer.

All of those skills help me today as President of Randolph Sterling, Inc. and I think that team attitude and the desire to constantly learn and grow has permeated the culture at work as well as to our clients. We will always try to do better, to do more and learn more for our clients. Will we be perfect? Probably not. But, we will always work to do our best and to learn as much from those ground balls to second base as we do from the great successes we have for our clients.

Panera Fun

June 10, 2010

Everyone who know me, knows I am a huge fan of Panera. Those who are friends with me on Facebook also know that there has been much discussion recently about how crazy people always seem to find me, especially when I’m at places such as Panera, Corner Bakery, and various airports. Some of my friends suggested I compile my misadventures into a book. However, since work occupies much of my time, and my blogs, a second addition to Closing the Deal, and an idea I have for a book on improving one’s sales force are slightly higher writing-priorities for me right now, I thought I would put together a blog post containing this month’s highlights. (Also, please note I mean no offense to the businesses these events take place at. If it weren’t for them I’d have nowhere to stop while on the road for free Wi-Fi, some good coffee, breakfast, and a show).

May 4

I’m in a Panera Bread checking email—surprise, surprise–when I walk over to refill my iced tea. A guy is standing by the cups where there is a sign that says “Complimentary Water Cups.” He turns to me and says “They haven’t said a damn thing to me. They must be broken” Can’t make this stuff up!

Top of Form

May 6

Yesterday I had lunch at a Mexican place…not realizing it was Cinco de Mayo. The bartender was complaining…”Why do so many people come to Mexican restaurants on Cinco de Mayo. People don’t go to French restaurants on Bastille Day!”

May 10

Panera Bread is the greatest place to go for comedy. In today’s installment, I’m eating lunch and sitting at a table next to three women while I’m checking my email. One of them says to the other something about her brother “you know, the smart one. The one that’s in jail.” Um, the SMART one is in jail? Where, exactly is the dumb one?

May 14

Another “crazy people in coffee shops.” Breakfast at Corner Bakery. A woman was doing surveys on the French Toast I got, so I jokingly asked “so what do I get?” 10 minutes of who knows what she was saying and then she walked away…comes back a minute later and says “they wouldn’t let me give you a &^%$ing cookie. They won’t even give me a damn cup of coffee!” Trust me, you don’t need any more caffeine in your system!

May 23-26 (Airports)

While waiting to board my flight the other day the guy next to me cleared his throat every 45 seconds. Don’t think it’s annoying? Try it for 5 minutes!

Where has customer service gone? Last week the gate agent was mad at me because her machine couldn’t read my ticket. Sorry you had to key in my seat number, must have been a huge challenge.

More crazy people. Lady started in the aisle seat, moved to the window, then the middle—it’s only a two hour flight; you weren’t flying to Guam!

June 1

More Panera fun…lady on the phone while her pager keeps buzzing and she does nothing. An annoyed guy grabs it and says “Hey Galileo, I didn’t realize the universe revolved around YOU, not the sun!” After a good zinger, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was Copernicus who stated that the Earth revolved around the sun.

Success Or Excellence: Which Do You Strive For?

June 7, 2010

I was recently asked an interesting question: which would I prefer, success or excellence?

My opinion is that if you strive for just one or the other, either way you will be left high and dry in the end.

Our company’s tagline is “Your Success is Our Business” however part of our mission is to change the perception of how salespeople are viewed by making them “excellent.”

You can certainly have success without excellence. Look at Microsoft for example. If I put out a product, then realized that it had flaws, I’d generally be expected to fix those flaws for my clients so they could use what I sold them. Not Microsoft. They can put out an inferior product, fix it, then attempt to sell you the fixed version to replace the one you have. If you don’t buy it soon enough, they will stop supporting the older version, in effect forcing you to buy the “fixed” version. A successful strategy? Yes, it has made them tons of money…but excellent? I think not.

On the other hand, have you ever gone out to a festival, or just walked down a street and heard a street performer and said to yourself…”They are amazing. How is it that they are playing at a festival for free when they are so much better than the crap I hear on the radio?”

Many of those musicians have achieved excellence, but not the success, at least financially, to allow them to continue to do what they are great at.

When we work with sales teams, whether it is providing sales management, working with them in our peer advisory groups, or becoming their inside sales team, we strive to help them be both successful and excellent. If I play basketball, I want to try to beat Michael Jordan.

Closing the Deal on the Go: What Do You Do When Your Loyal Buyer Leaves?

June 3, 2010

Maybe there was a merger or acquisition. Perhaps there was some restructuring.  Maybe your loyal buyer took another job for twice the pay. Regardless, he is no longer with the company you do business with. Someone is there in his place. There’s a chance this new person will wish to continue doing business with you. There’s also a chance he will want to leave his mark on everything he touches, and that keeping his predecessor’s supplier is not part of that equation.

What do you do?

Keep your reaction low-key. Don’t act surprised or disconcerted. Congratulate your buyer’s replacement. Wish him luck, and work at establishing to him the worth of your business relationship.

Stick to business history. Focus on your relationship with his company, not your relationship with his predecessor.

Get the new person comfortable and work at establishing a relationship with him.

Keep your lines to the influencers open. The influencers are the users of your product. If they like what you have to offer, they may let the new buyer know.

If you lose the company’s business, try to hold on to some of it, because even as a backup supplier, you can watch for openings back into a major role.

Keep selling quality. Sometimes a competitor will try to undercut you by selling a lower quality product at a lower price. If you lose business to such a competitor, but you maintain some role, you will be nearby if and when the bargain vendor trips up, either with their lower quality product, or while trying to continue to make a profit while selling at the lower price.

This post is based on material originally published in Closing the Deal.

For more information on Closing the Deal, check it out on Amazon.

(Burghgraef, Richard. Closing the Deal: Hot Sales Strategies that Make Money. Encouragement Press. Illinois: Chicago. 2007)