Define Prospecting – Then Do It!

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.
Prospecting how-to: Buy a mule, grow a beard, don't wash and wander around the desert...right?

The STORY:

What I really need to do, thought Ray looking out his window, which overlooked the parking lot in which he could see three of his fellow salespeople smoking cigarettes, is more prospecting.  Look at them out there, at least 15 minutes down the drain.  Not me, I’ve got to get involved with some serious prospecting.  No more parking lot trips for me.

“Where’s that article I saw in the business section of the local newspaper?” he muttered to himself, thumbing through at least six separate piles of paper on his desk.  “The one about contacting customers and getting referrals.”

A few minutes later, article in hand, he headed to the photocopy machine.  Make a copy for my files, take one home, and start cranking out the money.

Two weeks later, Ray had sent out over 500 cards to businesses in the area telling them to stop in and see “What’s happening?  This is what’s happening!”

In addition, he was going through the customer lists that had been collecting dust for the past year, finding the unassigned former customers and working on a telephone script.

This is just great, thought Ray.  By two months from now, I’ll have tons of fresh blood coming through the door and calling.  Maybe I’ll even be able to get the sales manager to get me that upgraded computer system for that sales tracking software I bought with my own money.

Three months later all of Ray’s prospecting projects had fizzled out.  Not a single one really produced any results that he could point to.  All they did, it seemed, was take a lot of time, and the postage costs were astronomical.  Not to mention that his closing rate had gone into the toilet because of all the time his prospecting projects took.

By mid-December, the smokers in the parking lot once again included Ray.  He still wanted to get a good prospecting system in place.  Maybe the software he bought, once he got the upgraded computer system, would finally produce results.

The RESULT:

Everyone knows what prospecting is…correct?  Did Ray ever define what was meant by prospecting and then define measurable goals to see if it worked?

DISCUSSION:

You know how to go prospecting, don’t you?

Well, the first thing you do is buy a mule, grow a beard, don’t wash and wander around the desert for a couple of years.  Right?

Oh!  That’s not what you meant.  You mean I should call 10 new people a day and ask them to buy our product.

That’s not it either?  Then you must mean that I create a letter, buy a 500 name mailing list and send the letter.  Then wait for the people to start coming in.

Wrong again?  Okay, this time I have it.  You want me to call up all of our existing customers and offer them 10% off their next purchase if they give me the name of two other companies that might buy what we sell.  I’ve got this prospecting thing down, right?

Not exactly?  Well, just what do you mean?

APPROACH:

When was the last time you heard that someone had to do more prospecting?  This morning?  Yesterday?  Two days ago?  When you heard that more prospecting needed to be done, did anyone list exactly what this “more prospecting” consisted of?  Probably not.  The result of this sloppy use of language is that “more prospecting” could mean anything, everyone was left to figure out for themselves what to do.

Never state that more prospecting needs to be done.  What you need to state is exactly what behavior will be done to accomplish more prospecting.

If more prospecting means that “every customer who bought more than X amount in the past six months will be contacted by phone for a referral within the next 14 days,” then say it.  What are you going to specifically do with those referrals?  Don’t say you are going to “prospect” or “contact” them.  What specifically are you going to do?

“A salesperson will be assigned to each referral, and within 48 hours the referral will be contacted in person by phone.  Should an in-person phone call not happen, an overnight Express Mail letter will be sent.  The following is the exact text of that letter.”

How you define prospecting is up to you, but make sure you define it in specific behaviors to be followed.

THOUGHT:

Everyone knows exactly what prospecting means, right?  Everyone will have the same answer, right?

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.

Commence CRM, Filling the Gap for Small to Midsize Companies

Don't let sales fall through the cracks...Let Commence help!

By Larry Caretsky – Commence Corporation

CRM software is failing to deliver a measurable return on investment for many small to mid-size businesses.  In fact, according to a Gartner report as many as 73% of CRM systems fail to get properly implemented and used. That’s an astounding number, almost unbelievable, but apparently true.  The question is why is this happening? I believe that I have the answer and a remedy as well.

It’s no secret that every business regardless of size wants to streamline the internal business processes that impact how they market, sell and provide service to their customers. A good CRM solution will provide this, but there are two important prerequisites here that are often overlooked. First, you must have the internal processes in place to automate them. Many businesses do not, and management somehow has this false expectation that the CRM software will do this for them.  Well here’s a news flash – it won’t.

Secondly, you need experienced sales, marketing and customer service people on board to maximize the return on investment you can get from the CRM system and here lies the problem.  In many cases small to mid-size firms are resource constrained. They do not have these people on board and may not be in a position to hire them.   So now you have an environment whereby you do not have the proper internal policies in place and you do not have the experienced staff on board to create the policies or support them via the use of the CRM system. If you can identify with this, then you will agree that it’s irrelevant which CRM system you select. You are about to become a member of Gartner’s 73% club.

This is quite a dilemma for small and mid-size businesses, but there is one company that is taking a leadership position in helping small to mid-size businesses address this challenge.  That company is Commence Corporation.  Commence offers a robust CRM solution that rivals many enterprise level solutions costing much more. It’s not the software that has contributed to the company’s growth and notoriety, but instead the value-added services the company is providing to small and mid-size businesses.

Commence has a staff of highly trained sales, marketing and customer service professionals that are engaged with every CRM implementation before, during and after the sale.  This staff averages more than 15 years of service with the company and has been engaged in hundreds of successful CRM implementations.  This has enabled them to help customers create a structured sales methodology for managing every stage of the sales cycle; create and distribute targeted marketing campaigns; efficiently manage leads so that they do not fall through the cracks; and streamline customer service using automated self-service programs built into the software.  This is the differentiator between Commence CRM and other alternatives and why Commence customers continue to use our products and services to manage and grow their business.  To learn more about Commence visit commence.com.

Is it Time to Reengineer Your Sales System?

Don't be left in the wake of those who are streamlining their sales system | Kahle Wisdom
By Dave Kahle

There was a time, just a few years ago, when a smart distributor knew how to organize a sales effort. The conventional wisdom dictated that you hire “outside” salespeople, assign them to geographically-defined territories, set up a straight commission plan, and challenge them to “go forth and sell a lot.” You hired nice guys with some experience in the business, expected them to learn on the job, and set them free. As business grew, you just hired another one and duplicated that approach.

Easy. Simple. This “traditional” approach has worked well for years. Many distribution businesses are built, at least in part, on this system.

But the last few years have brought with them radical change. You know the litany: Growing competition, increasing rate of change, new channels of distribution, increasingly sophisticated customer expectations, mergers and consolidations at every level of the business, new strategies and demands by manufacturers, pressures on margins – too much to do and not enough time to do it. The world surrounding your business is dramatically different than it was when you first created your sales approach.

All that means is that it may be time to question the way in which your sales efforts are organized.

In order to think clearly about this, it’s necessary to understand a concept – “sales systems.” According to the dictionary, a system is “an orderly, interconnected, complex arrangement of parts.” You have a number of systems in your business. For example, you have a system for receiving and processing a purchase order. That system involves certain processes, certain equipment (like computers, printers, etc.) certain people, and a number of policies and procedures. It’s easy to understand that particular combination of people, resources, and processes as a system. In the same way, it’s easy to understand the way in which you receive inventory, pick and ship an order, create and collect an invoice, etc., as various systems. Your business would not exist were it not for effective and efficient systems to handle these important functions of your business.

Now, think of the way in which you create a customer and acquire an order as a system also. That system has been simple in the past. You followed the approach discussed above. You just hired a salesperson and expected him to do it. That’s the equivalent of hiring a customer service person and charging them with the task of receiving and managing orders without providing any other pieces of the system. You wouldn’t think of doing that. You’d made sure you have the best computer system at his disposal, clearly defined expectations and procedures, and a set of effective resources for him to use – all elements of the customer service system. You’ve probably been personally involved in the development and refinement of those and other systems in your business, understanding that your business’s success depends on the effectiveness and efficiency of your systems. Now it’s time to become just as sophisticated in your sales system.

Your sales system consists of these elements: purpose, people, processes, and paraphernalia. The purpose is to acquire orders as well as to expand the relationship with customers of various types. The people are not only the outside salespeople, but everyone involved in helping to acquire orders and grow customers. So your customer service or inside salespeople, as well as your technical service people, sales managers, and yourself are all part of your sales system. The ways in which you identify, approach, understand, present to and service a customer are primarily the processes. The paraphernalia refers to the tools used in this process: the brochures, computers, call reports, telephone scripts, etc., that go into the process. Put all this together, and it becomes a sales “system” – “an orderly, interconnected, complex arrangement of parts.”

The first step in becoming more effective in your sales efforts is to understand that you don’t just have salespeople, you have a sales system.

Now, when you reengineer your sales efforts, you reconfigure elements of your company in order to create a system that more effectively and efficiently acquires orders and creates customers.

Most distributors who have reconfigured their sales systems end up with a system composed of a combination of many of the following elements:

  • a set of highly specific job descriptions and expectations for a number of different kinds of salespeople
  • a well-defined role for customer service
  • a concentrated and targeted direct mail/fax/email marketing campaign
  • a contact management software system
  • a highly specific list of targeted accounts
  • a highly visible sales role for the company’s executives
  • a set of specific expectations and measurements for the system
  • a database of customer information that enables the company to make informed marketing and sales decisions
  • a variety of sales methods tailored to different market segments.

Compare this with the simple, old days of one person/one territory, and you have an idea of what your organization may look like after you have finished your reengineering process.

There are a number of compelling reasons to consider reengineering your sales system. Money is probably the strongest. Carefully examine your P&L statement. You’ll note that sales force compensation is the largest single deduction from gross profit, far outdistancing anything that is a close second. In most distributors, sales force costs approximate 30% of gross margin. The distribution executive in search of costs to cut and productivity to improve would do well to look first at the sales force. It could be that your current sales efforts aren’t as effective or productive as they could be.

If you’re concerned about the future of your business, and worried about reducing costs so that you can operate profitably in light of those steadily shrinking margins, doesn’t it make sense to look closely at that portion of your business that represents your single largest cost category? Of course it does.

Next there’s the issue of productivity. Your are probably on your third generation computer system. You’ve streamlined your inventory and warehouse operations, learned how to pick an order with fewer errors and less cost than ever, figured our how to process a P.O. ever more efficiently, have cleaned up your receivables and invested in relationships with your key manufacturers. But in all of this, you probably have done very little to improve the productivity of your sales force. In all likelihood, your salespeople are doing the same thing today, in the same way, that they did five years ago. For most distributors, the operant rule has been, “Hands off the sales force.” As a result, you probably have not had productivity improvements among the sales force that compare favorably to other areas of your business. Maybe it’s time to scrutinize that part of your business.

Then there are the customers. Customers are expecting both more and less from distributors. They are expecting more service, quicker response, more knowledge and more information. At the same time, they have less time to spend with salespeople. If your salespeople have not adjusted to these changes in your customers, and are continuing to do business the way they did a few years ago, it’s likely that your current sales system doesn’t adequately meet your customer’s needs.

Let’s not forget about the strategic reasons to reengineer your sales system. From my vantage point, I see more and more manufacturers who are reshaping their distribution strategies and channels, and expecting their distributors to help implement those new strategies. But, too often, the distributors are unable to accomplish the manufacturer’s strategy because their sales force is unable or unwilling to implement their bosses’ commitments. The manufacturer-distributor relationship is jeopardized as a result.

On the other hand, a number of perceptive manufacturers are looking for genuine and concentrated sales efforts for their product lines as well as ways to cut their costs. The distributor sales system which can provide the sales power for manufacturers will be a highly prized organization. One of my distributor clients successfully grabbed this opportunity by working very closely with their primary supplier to streamline the combined sales system. As a result, the supplier’s sales force was reduced from 59 to 16 people, and the distributor was far more important to that supplier. It’s likely that your sales system isn’t up to this emerging challenge.

Unfortunately, too often the sales force is undependable when it comes to carrying out the distributor’s strategic plan. More and more distributors, seeing the value of creating a strategic plan, are developing initiatives and priorities designed to guide them through these turbulent days to success at the end of the tunnel. However well-conceived these initiatives may be, they are often stymied at the point of implementation by a sales system that is a vestige of the past. It’s difficult to implement a strategy that demands sales calls on new niche customers when the sales force is content to visit with old friends at established accounts.

Here’s one final reason to consider a dramatic reconfiguration of your sales system. Technology has produced opportunities to dramatically increase productivity. There are a multitude of technology advancements that can be used to streamline sales systems. Fax on demand, Internet web pages, intra-net networks for customers, sales force contact management programs – these are just some of the more dramatic tools developed in recent years. Forbes Magazine recently ran an article that reported that in circumstances where contact management software was successfully implemented, sales force productivity rose between 10 and 40%. Distributor sales systems which make use of these new technologies bypass their less sophisticated competitors like a Ferrari passing an Escort.

All this means that it is a new day for sales efforts. The distributors who rely on the simple systems of the past will be left in the wake of those who are streamlining their systems. Now is the time to reengineer your sales system.

******************************************************************
Copyright MM

Originally published on davekahle.com

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every salesperson at every level. To connect to the Sales Resource Center use this link:
http://www.thesalesresourcecenter.com

Let Go of Unproductive Behavior

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.
Sales Goals - Sandler Sales Training

The STORY:

“The best sales thing I ever did,” said Melinda between sips of soup at lunch, “was give up trying to reach a dollar goal.”

Bob stared with a shocked expression on his face.  “Sure,” he said, “you who could coast for a year on what you’ve closed in the last fourteen months.  Easy for you to say.”

“I suppose you could say that, but that’s not how I got to where I am.”

“Come on; get real.  It’s me, Bob.  Remember we both started the same day three years ago?”

“Sure,” she replied, “I remember.  I also remember that for the first year, I had a sign hanging up on my bathroom mirror that had the monthly amount I needed to make on it.”

“Yeah, and you hit it more often than not.”

“Yes, I did.  But that’s when I discovered something else more important.”

“What’s that?”

“That not a single prospect or customer gave a damn whether I reached it or not.  As far as they were concerned, there were 10 other salespeople selling the same thing; I just happened to get there first.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

“I just did; you just don’t want to hear it.”

“What?”

“Here, I’ll make it simple for you.  They don’t care about me, but I need their money.  To get their money, I have to give them something they need.  The more energy and time I can spend on their needs, the more I can give them.  The more I give them, the more money they give me.”

“Hate to admit it, I still don’t get it.”

“You’re thick.  I have a new sign on my bathroom mirror.  It reads, ‘What prospect needs have you discovered today?'”

“And this makes you more money.”

“Who’s the one, as you put it, who could coast for the rest of the year?”

“A low shot, Melinda, a low shot.  Finish the soup.”

The RESULT:

Melinda has discovered for herself that no matter what she wants, her customers and prospects are the ones who put money in her bank account.  The only Melinda behavior that counts is what makes those deposits happen more and more often.

DISCUSSION:

Why do some salespeople insist on using a certain pen?  Why do some have a lucky tie?  Why are others convinced morning appointments are “closable” and afternoon appointments a waste of time?

Simple.  At some point in time, a sale was made and a certain pen was used.  Or, that blue tie was worn when the Jones account closed for seven figures.  All of these could be dismissed as salespeople exhibiting superstitious behavior.  Unfortunately it’s not that minor.

All of these beliefs have a common element underlying them.  In essence, the reason the sale closed had nothing to do with the customer’s need or had nothing to do with the ability as a salesperson; the sale closed for some other reason.

What other reason is there?  If the customer didn’t need what was being sold, would the tie make the slightest bit of difference?  If the customer did have the need but the salesperson was a bumbling idiot, would the felt tip pen matter at all?

APPROACH:

Ask yourself a question.  Do the prospects care whether I put money in the bank or not?  Are they going to stay up all night worrying about my personal financial condition?  Probably not.  Why should they?  Absolutely no reason in the world they should.

Consider this line of thought.  Why should I waste my sales time thinking how much this sale would mean to me if I made it?  My prospect doesn’t care about my needs; he only cares about his needs.  If I take time to think about my needs, that’s time away from answering the needs of my prospect.  That lessens the chance of the sale being made.

Thus, the more of my time I can devote to my prospect’s needs, the more sales I will make.  Seems pretty simple.  It is.

Does each task or behavior you engage in during the sales day solve a prospect’s need?  If they do, you have let go of unproductive behavior.  If there is any behavior done during the sale day that does not attempt to solve a prospect’s need, it should be done on non-sales time.

What’s non-sale time?  Those are the hours when you could not possibly make a sale.

THOUGHT:

Does a salesperson put money in the bank by focusing on a monthly sales amount or by closing sales?  Pick one or the other.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.

Commence Adds Project Management to Popular CRM Software

CRM with Project Management

Commence Corporation, a provider of CRM software for small to mid-size businesses, has introduced an integrated Project Management application with its popular CRM software. Well regarded for its robust functionality, ease of use, and affordable price points, the company continues to lead the way with new innovative capabilities that differentiate Commence CRM from the competition.

Commence CRM offers a suite of modular applications for managing sales, marketing, customer service and now project management. Commence fits squarely between low cost, out-of-the-box CRM solutions and overly complex expensive products like Salesforce.com. Customers consistently give Commence a five star rating for the company’s customer service. To learn more about Commence CRM visit the company’s web site at commence.com.