February 13, 2012
3 questions to ask yourself before you spend money with a competitor.
I got a call this week from a “marketing specialist” at a large law firm directory company announcing that it was time for a law firm client’s marketing review. Of course, that meant it was time to hear the annual sales pitch.
I started thinking about the value these directory/marketing companies add versus the competitive threat they present, so I searched “Family Law Firm on Google. Read the rest of this entry »
December 19, 2011
Improving your 2012 marketing results without spending more marketing $$.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… 2012 planning season. You’re looking back at your firm’s 2011 results, trying to figure out what went well and how to drive better results (clients and revenue, of course) in 2012.
Before you let visions of social media strategies dance in your head, think about ways that you can improve results without spending more marketing money or even changing your marketing strategy. Look no further than your current flow of prospective clients, also called your prospect pipeline to use a sales term. Read the rest of this entry »
July 10, 2010
Build a quick business plan so you can focus on building your business.
There are a number of articles about the importance of having a business plan, as well as tips about what to do or not do. As someone who has written several business plans over the last few years, I understand the importance of having a plan and appreciate any advice offered.
Unfortunately, that’s not my problem. My challenge is just getting started — organizing my thoughts enough to start documenting my business idea, plans, and goals. It’s converting all of that information from my brain into a Word file. Since there is no iPhone app (yet) that can interface between mind and Microsoft, I developed an exercise to help me start developing the business plan. Read the rest of this entry »
July 28, 2009
7 questions to ask yourself before you fire everyone.
This will probably be my easiest post, since I really started writing this several months ago after hearing three prospective client CEOs make similar comments in as many days. Here’s what they said:
- They hired reps with terrific track records.
- The reps weren’t contributing enough to offset the expense.
- The CEOs couldn’t understand why the reps weren’t more successful.
- The reps either left, were fired, or were heading down one of these two paths.
After hearing these comments, I started to think about some of the basic barriers to successful selling. The changes that ultimately improve sales results may actually need to start much earlier in the marketing and sales process. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you hand out pink slips.
- Do you have a plan? A marketing plan (and/or sales plan) doesn’t have to be a novel, just a document that outlines the basic who, what, when, where, and why. Set activity goals that will drive your revenue goals. When in doubt, just make something up and make adjustments when you start seeing real results.
- Are you selling to the right buyer? If you are selling something that will streamline (read staffing cuts) IT, you should probably go above the VP of IT who will be directly impacted. Think about who will ultimately benefit, and who will sign the check. It also helps to know the buyer’s current environment and solution, as that may impact your marketing message.
- How do your reps meet buyers? Local businesses often see great results door knocking and phone calling, since the target owner is often the one behind the counter. If your true buyer is a company executive like a VP or COO, you are wasting your time and diminishing your reputation by cold calling. When’s the last time you answered your phone for a telemarketer? Get your reps involved in networking groups, chambers of commerce, trade associations, and even charitable organizations. That’s where they will build real relationships with buyers and influencers, not during a 30 second cold call.
- How are you marketing to buyers? Basic marketing tools include professionally designed (no 3rd party logos) business cards, print and PDF brochures, and website. For some companies, a bulleted PowerPoint presentation will also help present your value, and it can be customized for each prospect to show you understand their “unique” needs.
- How often? There’s a good analogy that compares the sales and marketing process to one hour on a clock. While the sales rep represents 1 minute of contact, ongoing marketing contact represents the other 59 minutes. Create content that shows you are a credible source of knowledge and experience that will improve the buyer’s ability to do his/her job. Think about sharing successes, related experiences, aggregate data, and best practices in a brief format. Avoid a blatant sales pitch. You will add value, earn respect, and buyers will start calling you. I promise.
- Did you hire the right reps? Less that 10% of sales reps are natural hunters, meaning they thrive when tasked with generating something from nothing. The other type of sales rep is a farmer, best at building and growing relationships over time. Make sure you’ve got the right people for the task at hand, and you will ultimately need both types to grow your business. Some people (like me) pretend to be able to play both roles. Ask about their largest sales wins and losses, and the truth shall be told.
- How are you measuring them? Build some metrics that are realistic to the sales cycle as well as the end results. Measuring only revenue results, or hourly progress in a 6-month sales cycle, just doesn’t make sense. Think about the activities that have to occur before a sale is closed, like introductory buyer meetings, presentations, proposals, and contracts, and then set reasonable monthly or quarterly goals. If your reps are achieving those targets, they are more likely to hit the revenue goals. If you only measure revenue, you will always be a complete sales cycle late in taking corrective action. Link compensation (like a small bonus) to these metrics, and your reps will be more likely to focus on the short-term activities that lead to long term success.
If you don’t have a complete answer to one of more of these questions, it’s probably worth the time and effort to make some upstream sales and marketing process adjustments. If you’ve got everything covered, then it’s time to call your sales reps in before they start on the back nine.
If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.