Helping Your Salespeople Develop a Real Marketing Plan

Helping Your Salespeople Develop a Real Marketing Plan

Although many salespeople may balk at creating and scheduling their marketing activities and materials months in advance, I’ve found that if the work is done up-front, it is far more likely to be implemented that if it is simply scheduled for future design and development.

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Even though salespeople may have all the good intentions in the world to follow through with their marketing calendars, seldom do these items get done unless they are already in existence.  Consequently, it is to their advantage for them to go ahead, spend the time now and create all of the marketing pieces they will be using, at least for the first half of the year.

Depending on the number of marketing channels they intend to market into and the type of marketing they determine to use, this process may take two or three weeks to complete.

Their first task to establish their general marketing needs for each channel.  Let’s assume that one marketing channel will be their existing current and past client database.  Further, let’s assume that they have decided they want to “touch” each person in their database 12 times during the course of the year.  Their first task is to determine what these 12 touches will be.  After consideration, they have developed a touch campaign that includes:  2 snail mail letters, 4 quarterly newsletters, 4 emails, one phone call and one holiday card.  Next, they must schedule each of these.  The first task is to pick the holiday they want to send a card for.  Let’s assume Christmas.  Now, we have 11 touches.  How do we space them?  Quarterly newsletters can go the second month of each quarter.  Now we have a touch in Feb, May, Aug, Nov and Dec.  A year summary letter would be appropriate for Jan.  The salesperson determines that their slow time of the year is early summer, so a phone call would work then,  Personal phone call in June.  Now we have something scheduled for Jan, Feb, May, June, Aug, Nov and Dec.  Let’s take an email and disperse them into March, July, Sept.  If we put an email in October we’ll have two emails back-to-back.  Nothing particularly wrong with that, but maybe we can do something else.  They take their second snail mail letter and decide to put it in October.  That leaves April as the month we need to concentrate on.  After considerable thought, they decide they don’t have the money for an additional snail mail campaign, there really isn’t a holiday to send a card, it is a busy time of the year, so a phone call is out.  They are left with an email or possibly a postcard.  A postcard would cost almost as much as a snail mail letter, so that’s out.  They are left with sending an email.  But what would be an effective email in April?  An email with tax prep tips, of course.

So, now they have their 12 touch program set out in terms of what format each touch will be.  Now, they must go a step further and write each of these items–right now.  If they simply schedule them, they will fail to follow through.  Guaranteed.

They should take each of their touches and decide right now exactly what each will communicate and write each one.  You may alllow them to only do the first 6 months if you want, but then you have to be sure to make them create the second half of the year during the second quarter.

Salespeople, being salespeople, will balk at creating all of their marketing pieces up front.  Yet, time and experinece has proven that if they don’t, it doesn’t get done.  The objection that they don’t know what will be happening 6 months from now is a canard.  If, in fact, the world has changed in 6 months, the piece can be re-written just prior to its scheduled send date.  More than likely, what is written now, will still be the message then.

The salesperson should design and write each and every communication for each of their marketing channels.  General items such as personal brochures and the like should be redesigned at this time also (if the salesperson is intending to redesign).  If there are pieces to be implemented during the course of the year–say the salesperson does not expect to have the funds to acquire a personal brochure until May, those pieces should also be designed at this point.  Don’t let anything wait until just prior to its scheduled execution date or it won’t get done.

To date, the salesperson has analyzed their past performance, analyzed their potential marketing channels and then chosen those they intend to target in the coming year, have determined a 12 time touch schedule and have designed their touch pieces, as well as their general marketing pieces.  In the next couple of bolg entries we’ll look at determining and scheduling follow up, specifically how the rep is going to spend their time and energy, creating projections and creating a viable system for determining success or failure.

Are You Afflicated?

One of the most common complaints I receive from salespeople, managers and professionals is that their lead generation programs don’t work well. No matter what they try—cold calling, direct mail, email campaigns, advertising, generating word-of-mouth, attending trade shows, networking through organizations, or any other format, their results are substantially less than they had anticipated.

Most of the time when questioned, I discover, not surprisingly, that the root causes are a lack of long-term commitment to the program combined with a lack of experimentation to find the optimal message format.

Lead-Generation-for-New-BusinessLead generation programs typically are not overnight successes. No matter the formats you choose to utilize, it takes time and effort to make a lead generation program work. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic formula. But there are lessons that can be learned and applied from the major companies that will work—over time:

First, know who your prospects are and where they are. Although basic, many forget to analyze their lead generation program for its ability to reach exactly whom they want to reach. You hear about a lead generation format that has worked well for someone and you get excited and decide to implement a similar plan without thinking through the issue. What works for your best friend’s product or service may not work for yours. Define your ideal prospect and target them—where they are.

Second, use a combination of formats. Don’t rely on one prospecting method. Prospects are not all the same. Some will respond to one media while others will respond to a different prospecting method. Try to integrate two, three or four prospecting methods into a unified whole.

Third, be consistent in your message. For each target group, keep your message consistent throughout your marketing campaigns. If you have several different target groups, you can certainly have different messages to each group, but even then you must keep your message consistent within your lead generation program to that market.

Fourth, give your campaign time to mature and payoff. Running one or two ads isn’t going to produce results. Sending a series of three letters isn’t either. Marketing is a long-term commitment. It has been estimated that it takes at least 7 exposures to a prospect before they begin to act. Plan your campaign to generate a number of touches to the same prospect over a period of time that acclimates your prospect to who you are and what you do. This is where the consistency of message really begins to payoff.

Fifth, don’t be afraid to experiment with your format. If you are establishing a combination mail and email campaign, experiment with different lengths of letters, different days of the week and times of the month for your letters and emails to go out. The message is the same; you’re simply experimenting with the variables within the format you have chosen.
Sixth, keep track of what you do and the response you get. Over time you’ll begin to see patterns that you can take advantage of. You may find that a two page letter works better than a one page letter. You may find that sending you mailings to arrive early in the week works better than late week arrivals. Maybe your response is better with communications in mid-month than early or late month.

Seventh, be consistent. Don’t send out three communications and then give up because the response isn’t what you hoped for. Whatever your chosen methods of prospecting are, set out a campaign with a definite duration and schedule and stick to it. Consistency doesn’t mean you don’t experiment within the method—it means you plan and carry out the campaign to its end, giving it time to work.

The secret is simply to be diligent, consistent and creative. If you carefully analyze whom your prospect is and how to reach him or her and then carry your plan out over a reasonable period of time, you will begin to see the results you are seeking. Expecting overnight results will kill your efforts and waste the time, money and effort you’ve invested.

Are You Ready for Hard Selling Times?

A few weeks before the last election I had sent out an alert to my corporate clients and included that alert in my newsletter. The alert warned that the economy would be slowing down sometime in the coming months and those salespeople and sales teams needed to be preparing themselves for a more difficult sales climate. My reasoning was two fold: first, and short-term, there was a real chance that if the Democrats gained control of Congress they would increase taxes–either through a tax increase of by rolling back some of the tax breaks that had been passed by Bush–causing the economy to slow; or, secondly, long-term, by the natural course of the economy slowing down over a period of time and in reaction to both national and international conditions.

its_about_sellingThis alert resulted in a number of people electing to unsubscribe to the newsletter and I received a dressing-down from several people who accused me of trying to campaign for the Republicans. In addition, I received a couple of emails from some apparently relatively young MBA’s letting me know that I, like many from my generation, didn’t understand the new economy and that the old rules didn’t apply any longer. There was no reason, according to them, for the economy to ever slow again.

Being hardheaded–and simply observing the world and employing a little common sense, I believe it is again time to speak that alert. Congress has made some arrangements that will allow them to increase taxes if they so desire (over the Republican’s objections) and there is no reason to believe these moves do not indicate future intent. Although I am not an economist and make no such claims, a simple review of history demonstrates our current strong economy is a direct result of the Bush tax cuts. Just as happened in the Kennedy and Reagan administrations, tax cuts resulted in a hot economy. Putting dampers on that economy by increasing taxes and decreasing capital will have the opposite effect.

Now, the subject of this isn’t really economics, but preparation for a slower selling environment. Over the coming months–who knows if we’re talking 6 months, a year, two years?–salespeople are going to find it more and more difficult to find good, qualified prospects who want to buy. If you prospect via cold calling, direct mail, advertising, or any of the other mass marketing methods, you’re either going to end up out of business or have to dedicate considerably more dollars to your marketing campaign.

Nevertheless, fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are solutions that can help prepare you for a slowdown and actually increase your income in a slower economy. By learning how the true million dollars a year sales superstars generate their huge volume of referral business, you can learn to find a large number of highly qualified prospects from your current client database, just like the mega-producers. Now, while you have time to prepare yourself for the future, is the time to purchase, read and then implement the tools, techniques and strategies in Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals. The only effective, cost efficient and proven method of overcoming a sales slowdown is the way the top salespeople do it–by getting lots of quality referrals.

Why do these top producers get so many great referrals? It isn’t because they are lucky. Moreover, it isn’t because they just happen to have clients who know other people or companies that happen to need the producer’s products or services. It is because they don’t do business like you do. Their business, their techniques and strategies and their relationship with their client is totally different from yours. And basically, what it comes down to is–their techniques and strategies work and yours don’t. Take the time and the effort to invest in your career–your future. Now is the time because next year, if you don’t do it now, you may not be in business.

Finding Time to Service Clients

One of the most difficult tasks most salespeople have is finding time to prospect and service their clients. For many salespeople, their pipeline is a roller-coaster. They have a decent month of sales and then spend all of their time servicing those clients. What follows is a month or two of starvation while they reload their pipeline, resulting in a month of decent sales–followed by, of course, a month of servicing clients, followed by a month or two of starvation.

How do you break this cycle? There are only two ways: 1) find a method of generating clients that doesn’t require you to spend 60-80% of your time prospecting, or 2) get organized.

The first method is certainly the preferred. That is the subject of my bestselling book Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals. It teaches the tools, techniques and strategies the true million dollars a year sales mega-producers use to generate their huge volume of referrals. It works for any salesperson in any industry and will not only increase your sales 200, 300, 400% or more in just months, it will reduce your prospecting time to only 20-30% of your time.

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But if you aren’t generating a ton of high quality referrals, then you must find a way to spend a great deal of time prospecting AND taking care of your clients. That means you gotta get really organized if you want to avoid the roller-coaster effect.

I’ve found one of the most effective methods of getting organized is to structure the week so that you have very specific tasks to do at certain times of the day and you stick to them.

For example, let’s assume that your best prospecting hours are from 10 am to 4 pm, but Friday is a lousy prospecting day after 1 pm.

Then you structure your time so that Monday through Thrusday you are prospecting from 10 until 4, period. You do nothing else during those times.

That leaves Friday. You prospect on Friday from 10 until 1. Monday through Friday you get to the office at say, 7:30 and work on service work until 10.

On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, you work on service work from 4 until 6. On Tuesday you work on marketing from 4 until 6 and then again on Friday from 1 till 5.

You do not deviate from this schedule without extremely good reason. At the end of the week you’ve spent 27 hours of the week prospecting; 23 1/2 hours servicing clients; and 6 hours a week marketing (sending out marketing emails, writing and sending out letters, working on fliers, etc.).

What if you don’t need to spend 23 hours servicing clients? Then take those extra hours and shift them to prospecting, even those aren’t “prime” prospecting hours, don’t waste them–do something to make money.

Same if you don’t need 6 hours of marketing time. The key is to use all of the “prime” prospecting time for prospecting and then work servicing and marketing around that time.

Don’t allow yourself to lose the best prospecting hours because of some service work. Service work can usually be done almost anytime. And what if you have a service phone call that must be made during prospecting hours?

Take advantage of the time you must spend in the car going from appointment to appointment. Turn travel time into service time.

As a salesperson you really only have one thing to sell–your time. You must decide what you are worth and then structure your time to generate those dollars.

Evaluate everything you do in those terms during business hours. Is it making you money? If not, why are you doing it? That doesn’t mean you might not have a non-productive acitivity on occasion that you engage in.

You certainly may. Mentoring another salesperson isn’t money-making per se. But it is productive in other senses. However, if you send all of your time mentoring, you’ve lost sight of what you are supposed to be doing.

You have two activities that make you money–finding customers and making sure they are satisified by meeting their wants and needs. Do your activities achieve one of those ends? If not, is it something you should be doing?

Structure your week and then evaluate based on the two above tasks and you’ll find much more time to smooth out the roller-coaster. Better yet, learn how to generate a large number of high quality referrals and you’ll be spending far more time making sure far more clients are happy–and taking home a far bigger paycheck.

Professional Selling for the New Salesperson

I received the following email from Virginia in, of all places, Virginia:

Mr. McCord, I’m a recent college graduate and have just accepted my first professional position.  I will be selling employee benefit packages to small companies.  Quite honestly, I’m both excited and scared.  Athough my friends and have always told me I’d be great in sales, I’ve never had a sales job (if you don’t count working in a clothing store while in high school).

Annoying salesmanI want to really make my mark and do it quickly.  I think your referral training is great, but a little advanced for me at this point.  I’m expected to be out selling pretty quickly but have NO idea what I’m doing.  How am I supposed sell something I don’t know?

I’m excited, scared and confused.  I don’t expect you to solve my problem but what suggestions do you have?

Virginia is certainly not alone.  There are thousands of salespeople on the street everyday who are in her position.  Wondering how to hit the streets when they haven’t the slightest idea what they are really selling.  They tend to be pretty easy to spot becasue their greenhorn status sticks out like a sore thumb.  They demonstrate a serious lack of confidence, stumble through their presentation, have a blank look when asked a question they don’t know the answer to, and rush through their presentation, just hoping to get done and get out.

First, Virginia, keep in mind that most companies do a very good job of product training and a really lousy job of sales training (if they do any sales training at all).  I would suggest you rely on your company for your product knowledge and look elsewhere for your serious sales training (which is not to say to not to take advantage of whatever sales training your company offers).

Secondly, if you wait until you believe you are throughly prepared to get out on the street, you’ll fail in your career before you even start.  New salespeople want the confidence to hit the street fully prepared.  Consquently, they’ll try their best to avoid getting into the fray as long as they possibly can, thinking they’ll be better prepared the longer they study their product without having to get the scars of battle until “fully prepared.”  Becoming fully prepared can take months–years–depending on the product.  Can you afford to avoid battle for months or even years?  Even if you can, your company won’t let you.

Third.  Selling is something of a chicken and egg affair.  You need the confidence to get sales, but you need the sales to get confidence.  You need knowledge to get confidence, but you need exposure to questions to really know what knowledge you need.  You need toughness of mind to work through sales rejection, but you need rejection to get toughness of mind.  And so on.

What selling really comes down to is attitude.  You must develop a professional image, attitude and persona.  And, fortuantely, you don’t have to be experienced to develop these.  It is possible to quickly develop the confidence and attitude of a professional salesperson.  It is possible to learn how to professionally deal with tough questions you will be faced with as a new salesperson.  It is possible to hit the streets quickly and effectively while still learning the basics of your product or service.

I encourage you to register for a free tele-seminar to be given on January 30 just for new and relatively salespeople that will discuss all of the issues and give some solid, concrete help in addressing them. I’d also encourage any sales managers and executives, if you have new or relatively new salespeople in your organization, register them.  This seminar will help them set the stage for their first years in sales.