I ran into a good friend of mine recently. Mike has been in direct sales for 15 years and has been highly successful. He is a can-do, nothing can stop me type, which has served him well in sales. He has been a consistent recipient of president’s circle awards at annual sales meetings. However, this time he seemed dejected.
We got to talking about work, and Mike shared with me that he thought that he had lost his “selling mojo.” Turns out, he had recently joined a new company and was trying to build his pipeline. He went on and on about how hard it was trying to cold call his way into new appointments. His new start-up company did not have much in the way of demand yet. It’s a new product. There’s no inside sales team. Mike came on board to bring in the first group of clients and then to build a sales team. Having been selling in Silicon Valley and having worked for my share of start-ups, this sounded familiar.
I told him that his selling mojo was probably just fine. However, things have changed in the market. Thanks to caller ID, more and more decision makers are quickly screening calls and deciding which ones to answer. Direct sales executives, like my buddy, find themselves competing with dozens of telesales companies and hundreds of other sales executives, to reach the same decision maker. The result? It is taking over 20 dials just to get through. Moreover, decision makers, who grow weary with the never-ending barrage of calls, are not in the best of moods when they do answer their phone only to find another sales person on the line. Having high paid direct sales executives spend their entire days cold calling is not the best approach to getting meetings these days.
However, that is not the biggest change in the market. Thanks to the Internet, people have an entirely new way to learn about your company. By simply switching on their laptops, they can read about your products, compare them to your competitors, check prices, and find out what current customers are saying about you. In addition, they can do this 24×7—whether they are working in their office, drinking coffee in a cafe, or sitting in their living room dressed in their pajamas!
One result of such changes is that prospects no longer need to meet personally with a sales rep to stay up-to-date. Another result is that potential customers are better informed about your products and services before you ever meet. Buyers have more control of their buying cycle than ever.
Research shows that 80% of the time, it is the buyer who seeks out the seller!
We set-up a meeting with the founders of Mike’s company. We proposed a new approach to the market, based on a combination of inbound marketing, balanced with a judicious use of outbound telesales.
The inbound strategy consisted of the following:
Develop sales frames to create a unique, differentiated go-to-market message. Revise their website copy and downloadable content using the new, differentiated messaging.Optimize their website and their downloadable content for search engine optimization (SEO). Start a blog with articles by their company’s thought leaders.
Start to participate in discussions on social media sites, like Linkedin, that their target customers frequent and where the discussion topic relates to issues that their product could fix.
Develop a nurturing campaign that offers a steady stream of educational content relating to the problems and challenges facing their target customers. This content should not sell in an overt way. The goal is to create a positive image of Mike’s company in the mind of their prospects. Another goal is to nudge the prospects along a path towards being ready to meet with a direct sales executive.
Because of this program, website traffic is up dramatically, along with an increasing flow of conversions (website visitors who give their contact information when downloading content). These conversions go directly into the lead nurturing program. The lead nurturing program generates new sales ready leads each month. The sales pipeline has also increased significantly. Mike spent less of his time cold calling, and more of his time in face-to-face meetings with prospects.
And guess what?
Mike has his sales mojo back.
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