Posts Tagged ‘Business’

If You Build It, They Will Not Always Come

June 5, 2011

Over the years I have encountered many clients who fell prey to the “Field of Dreams Theory” of “If you build it, they will come.” Now the “it” in this sentence can be any number of things: a new website, a new blog, an e-newsletter, new social media profiles, or simply one’s business itself, or any number of other things. The “they,” of course, is new business. However, many forget the importance of personal interaction with all of these “its.” There may be many ways that the person who may need your product or service can find you, but how do those pathways to you or your website help you make a sale?

In my experience, the best programs combine both marketing (attracting) efforts with sales (finding) efforts. Sometimes it is as simple as one follow up call to the targeted prospect who downloaded a white paper, read an e-report, or visited your website to turn a prospect into a client. Other times it will take those 7, 13, 27, or whatever the latest magic numbers of encounters is (notice, however that the number is getting larger, not smaller) for them to build the confidence they need in you before they will do business with you. But, if at least half of those encounters are back and forth conversation between provider and prospect, that gives you 13.5 opportunities to not only tell your prospect how you solve problems, but to also get a better understanding of what THEIR problems are.

Too often, people use their marketing to tell people just how great they are. Yes, everyone wants to work with someone who is competent but also with someone who will solve THEIR problem. Marketing can help with that, but the only true way you will understand a prospect’s need is for you to directly interact with him.

Gatekeepers: Keepers of the Road Map to Success

May 8, 2011

Many sales trainers and managers talk about “getting past the gatekeeper.”

While I completely agree that we need to be talking to decision makers to make the sale (it is one of the 4 cornerstones we use to close the deal–working with the right person), my experience has been that in some instances the gatekeeper is the key not just in talking to the right person, but in making sure your message is heard properly.

We often will spend time befriending gatekeepers, and gatekeepers can often provide vital information for reducing the time of the sales cycles. They will tell us when to reach the decision maker, how best to talk to him, what media he responds best to (i.e. phone calls, emails, office visits, etc.), who else might be involved in the decision, and many other important factors that allow us to determine if this is a good opportunity or not. We look at it this way, if we assume that the gatekeeper is something we have to get past or get around, that person becomes a wall, but if we look at them as a vital source of information, one often not respected by other people who try to talk to them, the implied wall comes down and they literally give us the road map for success.

Should Your Inside Sales Team Be Listening to Music?

May 3, 2011

As the owner of a company that not only has their own inside sales team that is outsourced to clients but also works with companies on sales process and the overall professionalism and productivity of their sales teams, I am often asked the question: “Do you think it is OK for the team to have music on in the background while making sales calls?”

Well, have you ever noticed that when you go to a ballgame, they will play music during the downtime (when the batter is walking to the plate in a baseball game, while the referees are looking at the replay in football, etc.) but when it is time for the game to resume—for the professionals to work—the music stops. In an inside sales environment, we feel that rule should apply to the inside sales team as well.

The inside sales team needs to think about how they are going to help their client when they are off the phone and be able to listen to the prospects (not the sports scores or the new #1 song) when they are on the phone. My feeling is: Treat a professional as a professional and you have a better chance of getting professional results.

I discussed this with a sales manager not too long ago and his response was “Whatever works to increase sales is worth a try.” This reminds me a lot of something an old boss used to say: “When you are deciding if what you are doing is right or wrong, picture it as the front page story in the newspaper that day.” I learned very quickly that different people read different newspapers. Some read the Chicago Tribune and think twice about what they are doing, knowing their friends and family will see it and judge. Some read the Wall Street Journal, and everything they do is all business all the time. Others (hopefully very few) read the National Enquirer and will simply do anything at any time, even if it includes, lying, cheating and stealing.

Not everything that increases sales is what should be done for long term success.

Something about music in an inside sales environment just seems unprofessional. From years of helping clients investigate how they could improve their sales process through our Growth Audit and Autopsy Services, I’ve noticed that having to listen to someone listen to music while trying to have a professional call is a pet peeve for many business people, and does not help convey a professional image. No, instead it leads to unhappy clients, wondering why the inside sales representative they are speaking to is not taking a more professional approach. It made me wonder, if there were more inside sales teams working in professional environments rather than “boiler rooms,” wouldn’t the perception of hiring an inside sales team be better too? And wouldn’t that lead to even more clients for all of us?

Thinking of Buying Some Contacts from a Sales List Service? If So, You Better Have a Trained Professional to Scrub Them!

March 14, 2011

Two of the questions we are most often asked when it comes to our Outsourced Sales Service are questions about list services such as Jigsaw, Sales Genie, etc. and the specificity of the information they provide (e.g. contact information, demographics, currency of data etc.) and whether a company such as ours who “scrubs” these lists and finds opportunities for clients will work “success based.”

I figured that it might be helpful to provide you with my responses to these questions.

While we have not worked with every list service specifically, it has been my experience that all services like that are different levels of bad. I mean no disrespect. It is just that no matter how often they check their data, things change quickly. Most of these places will tell you that they update their information every 6 months, but you will still find the contact who died 5 years ago or the guy who left the company 2 weeks after they confirmed their information.

I find this interesting because at least once a week, we get a call at Randolph Sterling Inc., for Mr. Randolph Sterling. Some of the people who have called apparently have befriended Mr. Sterling to the point where he told them it was OK to call him Randy. This is interesting because while I am sure there is a Mr. Randolph Sterling somewhere in the world, he has never worked for my company. I may one day write a blog post about where the name came from, but I can assure you that because I am the founder and CEO of Randolph Sterling, Inc., that the CEO and founder of Randolph Sterling, Inc. is not Mr. Randolph Sterling.

Regardless, at least one list service has it listed that way.

As for the second part of the question, yes, there are companies out there who will take this information and help you to develop relationships and will work “success based.” However, their definitions of success may vary, as may yours.

Our current clients define success several ways. Here are just a few:

  • Finding opportunities with the right prospect.
  • Continuing to follow up with that right prospect for sometimes up to 2+ years or the 7-13 “touches” it takes for them to trust someone they don’t know enough to just have them quote on an opportunity.
  • Continuing relationships with clients by providing customer satisfaction calls and forwarding to their sales team the information that enables them to step in and save problem accounts or provide a new service.
  • Determining if a company that looks like a good fit on paper is actually a good fit. We have several clients who ask us to rate our impression of how difficult a prospect may be to work with because they have limited resources and want to make sure they are working with people who not only value what they do, but will pay for it.
  • Finding the correct decision maker and starting a relationship with them after it was determined that the contact name on the list that was bought was incorrect.

That said, we at Randolph Sterling, Inc. are not just appointment setters or a telemarketing firm whose main goal is to get you in front of someone. Our goal is to understand your business and what makes you great, then do our best to match you up with the right prospects. If you bring us on, we will be an extension of your sales team, working as your inside sales department.

It would be difficult for us to open our doors and keep them open if I didn’t think our team was the best in the world at what we do, and if we didn’t continue to hire and train the best and continue to grow in providing more services at a higher quality for our clients. We don’t hire entry level people or people who work on contingency. We hire experienced professionals and treat both them and our clients as such.

A Question of Business Ethics

December 19, 2010

I was reading a LinkedIn question about business ethics recently and wanted to share with all of you my thoughts on the subject. While the question of ethics in business is not new, I feel that it is an issue that not only will not go away anytime soon, but will play an even larger role in how businesses are run in the next decade as we continue through economic recovery, and as our society seems to come more and more from a position of “entitlement” vs. “work hard, do the right thing, and you will be rewarded by a job well done.”

I believe the measure of a man is what he does when nobody is watching.

I used to work for a company whose definition of business ethics was “If what you did today was the cover story of your hometown newspaper, would you be proud or embarrassed by it?”

Interesting thought, and one that I took very seriously. Sure we all will do dumb things from time to time, but I would think about what my grandmother (who turned 91 recently) would think if she read what I did. Would she know that I, at the very least, tried my best, or would she be thinking that no daughter of hers raised a kid like that? Another friend of mine, Will Webb from Dupree & Webbin Raleigh, stated it this way “When I come home at night, my wife and my little girl will ask me how my day was. I always want to be proud to tell them about my day…every day.”

Unfortunately, posing a question like that is open to a certain amount of interpretation as I learned quickly that different people read different newspapers in the morning. Some read the Chicago Tribune, others the Wall Street Journal. Sadly, still others read the Enquirer.

What are your thoughts on business ethics, and to what level? I was talking to a client yesterday about an issue they were having with a client of theirs who said that they don’t meet with him enough. What he was really saying was that they didn’t take him out to dinner enough. I learned early on that in sales if someone does business with you because you took them to a $50 lunch, someone else will come along and take them to a $100 dinner and take the business from you. However, for some, the business dinner—or at this time of year the holiday gift—is how they develop relationships with their vendors. Where do you draw the line?

I never seemed to do well with the guy who wanted the fancy dinner or to go out to a bar on a Thursday night. Most of my clients are people who, at the end of the day, wanted to go home to their families, so it was pretty easy to find a line to draw. If you interviewed all of the people I have ever done business with, I don’t think you would find one that did business with me because of a fancy dinner I took them out to, although several would probably tell you that it was getting to know each other over lunch that gave them the comfort level to know that I had their best interest at heart.

 

Death of the Salesman: Are Traditional Salespeople a Thing of the Past?

December 7, 2010

I recently spoke with a woman who worked for a company that “invested heavily in e-marketing and reduced [their] sales force.” She went on to say “It’s been working quite well for the past six months or so. I think that the traditional salesperson is a thing of the past. We still send people to networking events to develop personal relationships, but lead generation is happening for the most part online.”

Now, we at Randolph Sterling have seen a lot of e-marketing with our clients too. However, I don’t think I would agree that the traditional salesperson is a thing of the past.

We have a client that generates 200+ new leads a day for products ranging in price from $5,000-$50,000 through SEO, e-newsletters, etc. They had so many that their salespeople became not much more than order takers, and because there were so many leads, their follow up got bad. The attitude was, “Why call a guy back when I will have 10 more just like him tomorrow?”

But then we came in and added the personal touch by following up on all of the leads that either got skipped over or to which the reps just sent a quote and waited for the prospect to call back. In the first 20 hours of the first week, we had already sold over $300,000 of new business that the company would not have otherwise gotten.

There were two common elements to those sales:

  1. The lead generation system generated a quote to the prospect and showed it was opened. However, when we called, the prospect could not find the quote (often they accidentally deleted it) so we went over the information with them. If we hadn’t, they were going to sign off on another quote they had gotten somewhere else.
  2. The initial quote was usually for a smaller ticket item, often not exactly what the prospect wanted. But, by following up on these “little deals,” we often found that the prospect either needed several of the small pieces over the course of the year, or needed a different piece entirely.

Without the personal attention of a professional salesperson, these deals and many others would have been lost.

Technology is wonderful and certainly has helped the sales industry to change for the better, but based on my experience, my feeling is that the best formula is a strong sales team working with good technology to help attract the right prospects.

First Impressions, You Only Get One!

December 4, 2010

A friend of ours, Gini Dietrich of Arment Dietrich, recently posted on her blog, Spin Sucks, a few tips for making a good first impression when interviewing for a job, going over several of the things she expects out of those who apply for a job at her company.

Given that we at Randolph Sterling are looking for a few new employees ourselves, I thought that perhaps I would give our potential applicants an early Christmas gift (or a belated one, depending on when they read this).

When I interview someone, I expect them to have some understanding of what we do, but I also want them to ask questions so they can better understand what we do. If you’ve done your research and act like you know everything there is to know about us, you will definitely turn me off. Heck, I started the company and like to think I have my hand in most of what we do and I don’t even know everything there is to know!

I look for people who are interviewing me as much as I interview them. My biggest problem is being in sales, my job is to develop relationships for a living. It is tough sometimes to sit back and let someone develop a relationship with me, but I want to see how they build rapport. I also want them asking me questions and really listening to the answers. Too many people ask questions to sound prepared, but then get into the job and really don’t have a feel if it is actually a good fit for them.

Finally, I hate being late and hate when other people are late. If you are 10 minutes late for an interview, you will wait 15 for me to come out to talk to you. Of course, things happen beyond our control. I interviewed a candidate for a sales position in our Raleigh office a few weeks ago. He had a sales meeting that ran a little long so he called me to say his GPS showed that he would be arriving about 5 minutes late so he wanted to apologize for making me wait for him. I told him to take his time and that I appreciated his respect in letting me know he was going to be a bit late. What I didn’t tell him was that by doing that, he started out head and shoulders above the other candidates before we had even met.

 

Should You Downsize Your Sales Force and Implement a More Automated and Online Marketing System Instead?

November 22, 2010

This is a question that came up in an online Vistage discussion group recently, and those who know me, or regularly read my blog or newsletter already know my answer: NO! An online or automated marketing system will never replace a strong sales force!!!

We’ve spent months and months in our Vistage groups talking about attracting more clients through online marketing systems and at the end of the day what was determined was what we already knew…some companies are sales focused while others are marketing focused, but the most successful companies integrated an approach using both.

Sales is about finding customers while marketing is about bringing customers to you. By having them work together, say by reviewing the report on who reads your e-newsletter and then calling the readers to discuss topics of interest in more detail, or offering a downloadable white paper on a topic of interest then following up with those who downloaded it, will increase the ROI of your marketing programs and reduce the sales cycle (for more details on this topic, click here).

Now, some might disagree with me on this and claim that their sales force isn’t working for them. In those cases I would say the problem is not a matter of having a sales force, but not having the right sales force. For example, if all your salespeople are doing is providing you with information that can be found on Google, fire your salespeople and get better ones (OK, maybe I am being a bit harsh with that.) Good salespeople develop relationships and find the right people for you to work with. If people only bought based on the “facts” they find on Google, anyone who wanted four wheels, an engine, good gas mileage, and a way to get to work would be best served buying a Yugo. When the salesperson digs deeper to find the true pain and how his solution can solve it…well just count how many BMWs and Hummers you pass on the way home tonight.

For companies who have a sales force that spends most of their time working with current clients, or don’t have a sales force at all and the people who do the work also sell it, a better idea would be lead generation. It allows the experts to be the expert. At Randolph Sterling, we have an inside sales force that we outsource to help develop new markets and new prospects. With it, we do not simply find AN opportunity for ourselves or our clients, but THE RIGHT opportunities. Good inside sales teams get a better feel for who your ideal prospects are and work to find you more of the people you want to do business with. You never want to incent them to find ANY opportunity because wasting your time on a bad opportunity can be more detrimental than not having an opportunity at all

 

Marketing and Sales…Perfect Together

November 1, 2010

We do a fair amount of partnering with marketing firms who will bring us in to assist them in providing follow ups to some of the projects they are running. For example, they may write white papers for their clients and then set up a system so prospects can download these white papers. They will then have us provide initial follow ups on these leads that were developed and then pass the hotter leads on to their sales team to close the deal.

I was in a conversation recently where a question came up about return on investment when it comes to marketing. I think that the breakdowns will definitely change based on industry and how much attracting clients plays a part in growth compared to a company that is more sales oriented.

We are finding that more clients are looking closer at return on investment for their particular form of marketing, although some are easier to track than others. It is relatively easy to see who downloaded a white paper from your website and then follow up on those leads to turn them into business, but a little harder to track the client you cold called who then Googled the company to find your website, Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, etc. and based their decision to even talk to you partially on what they read there.

Sales and marketing have always had a close relationship, often like brothers and sisters: sometimes they fight, other times they try to ignore that the other exists, but they always work better when respecting what the other brings to the table so they can work together.

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.