I was in Shanghai doing a few seminars a while ago. It's a dizzying place. Every time I looked out of my hotel window the building they were putting up had gained another storey in the night, because people were working 24 hours a day.
Ambitions there are limitless — but not many people understand marketing well as yet. What they are especially good at, though, is asking highly relevant and perceptive questions.
One man asked me to explain the relationship between sales and marketing.
This made me think about a problem we come up against time and again. As Thomas Watson Jnr of IBM put it, "Nothing happens in business until something gets sold."
Many of the people we work with who are in sales appreciate that unless they have a full pipeline of leads the business is in trouble.
More to the point, they are in trouble — because they're judged by sales results.
And why are they in trouble? Very often because although they have to produce the results, they don't have the money — the marketing budget. The marketing director has that. And he or she is often more concerned with things like branding and advertising. Lamentable, really.
Results: impasse — and very often bad blood between sales and marketing.
What's the answer? Collaboration.
In far too many firms, sales and marketing — who should be natural partners — are sworn enemies. The sales people see the marketing folk as a bunch of high-falutin' theorists who know nothing about the real world. The marketers regard the sales people as a bunch of unsophisticated oafs. Yet the truth is — as you would know if you ever had to take money off people face to face, that selling is damn hard work.
Get them to talk to each other. Get them to explain each other's problems. Then get each side to come up with solutions — for the other guy's problems. A session which involved doing this would achieve a lot more than some of the stuff that passes for training in business.
Want to read more by Drayton?
Here are a few of his inspirational articles and blogs:
Forget you and forget your standard sales presentation.
Let me explain. All of us have our own unique way of perceiving the world. This map has been created from the moment you were born to this very day; all your experiences have gone into the pot and created your map. Nobody else will have had your experiences in exactly the same way. They will have had their own experiences and will perceive the world in their very unique way.
So what does this mean to you and importantly how can you use this to increase your sales?
It’s really important to get into the map of your potential client, really understand them, their problems and desired objectives. Only then can you deliver an offering that is irresistible and create the desire to buy from you.
Why is it then that so many people pitch their offering before finding what the buyers “map” is?
This causes so many challenges when it comes to sales:
It’s so much more effective, and actually easier, not to start with your pitch. Start by asking well-crafted open questions — any that start with who, what, when, where or how. Avoid “why” questions as they can seem confrontational. Find out what’s going on in their world, from their perspective. Do they want to solve a problem or do they need something to move them forward.
Forget what you think they need until you’ve got every last scrap of information from them. Then you can tailor your pitch exactly to their needs, using their words, values and beliefs.
It’s also crucial to use “you” language. This is so much more engaging and shows that you are really in their space — their map! Whenever you use “we”, “I” or your company name, you are in your own map and focusing on yourself, your offering or your company.
The benefits are enormous:
One more thing — give your buyers lots of time to answer, really listen and pause when you think they have stopped. It’s often in these pauses that you’ll get the golden nuggets of information that make all the difference!
The sales team and the marketing department: often at loggerheads, always playing the blame game and usually situated at different ends of the office. Why?
The benefits of these two vital cogs working together are numerous and far reaching. Here are our four top tips on how to improve those inter-departmental relationships:
Before implementing any marketing initiatives, speak to the sales team. Get input and feedback from the people who speak to the customers on a daily basis and work together to generate campaign ideas. The sales team has the knowledge and awareness of what is likely to work and how your customers will respond.
Invite members of your marketing team along to your client meetings. There is no better way to learn the motivations of your customers, their needs and how to win business than in face-to-face situations. This information will prove invaluable in the development of successful direct marketing campaigns, identification of new markets and product development.
Incentivise the members of your sales team. We all know sales team motivations lie in their wallets (most of the time) so use this fact to promote a closer working relationship. Bespoke incentive schemes can be used to ensure all leads are followed up, CRM systems are regularly updated and team morale is kept at an all time high.
Information is power, and the sharing of information is vital. If when communicating to your clients, the marketing team is saying one thing and sales another, it makes you all look stupid. Make sure you are giving the customer the best impression you can of your company by all singing off the same hymn sheet.
Getting your sales and marketing teams to work together will reap rewards for the success of your campaigns. Both camps have precious information about your customers and target market which when used together will ensure that your marketing efforts pack a powerful punch.
Get more ideas in our article on motivating your sales and marketing team.
So you already know that whatever claims are made, there aren’t actually any “one size fits all” magic treatments that bring business to your door in droves.
So, how can you work smarter?
I hope the following insight through hands-on experience provides some food for thought.
Not only about their industry, markets, challenges and issues, but also who they are as people. What switches them on? Where do they hang out – at industry or networking events? Behind a desk? On Linkedin or Twitter? Reach out to your targets in the places they are most like to be, and where they are most comfortable.
Base it on your observations. Be concise. Be clear on why you’re getting in touch and what you want from them. Make your content engaging and compelling, not desperate: more a meeting of minds.
Don’t take the easy route of email every time, not only is it a very competitive spam-heavy channel, it’s dull and there might be a better way of standing apart. Think about your audience. As individuals with different tastes and interests, we should apply more thought to how we approach cold targets. Emails do work for some, direct contact with others, printed colourful material or even cakes can have the desired memorable effect.
Approach prospects with insightful relevant information, whether industry-led or a new case study you feel will be of interest. Also be persistent — contact every eight weeks is just about right.
Offer to drop by or meet at an event. Invite them to visit you to get a feel for the culture of your business. Challenge them to trial you to see what they’re missing.
Get involved in industry events to showcase your expertise and approach. Blog regularly and ensure your targets can find you easily — just as you research them, they will undoubtedly want to check you out thoroughly before welcoming you in.
Receiving good referrals from your business contacts is a great way to bring in new business. The prospective customer is more comfortable with the possible transaction as you have been recommended to them and a lot of the initial hard work of engaging dialogue is removed. Referrals are good news all round but how do you get more of them?
Here are my top three tips on how to make the most of potential referrals.
Nobody enjoys sounding confused or not being able to answer questions. If they don’t know how to articulate what it is that you do they won’t be able to refer you, so make sure your proposition is simple and that they have the tools to be able to refer you effectively. I was fortunate enough to have an excellent group of non-execs involved in a business a few years back, they were very well-connected but never brought any referrals into meetings. I challenged them on this and after much discussion it became clear that the company proposition was too cumbersome for them to articulate easily when they met potential referrals. I refined it, they brought referrals.
It is essential that if someone takes the time to give you a referral that you follow it up properly. Basic courtesy dictates that even if you feel that the referral is a waste of time it is important that you at the very least email/ call the referred party. You may be wrong, you really never know what potential business is behind the referral until you speak with the prospect. I received a referral a couple of years ago that seemed very random and a total waste but once I spoke to the company it transpired that they were looking to launch something new and that was what they wished to speak about, it was a great piece of business. You just never know until you make the call, so make the call.
This may sound like the most obvious tip of them all but it just doesn’t happen often enough. Whether the referral results in business or not you need to make the effort to thank the person that make the intro. In a recent exercise, a client of mine found that he had received over 50 referrals over a three-year period but not one had referred more than once, a stat which surprised us both. We went back six months and thanked them all, with an email update on what had happened with the referrals, sending an email plus a couple of bottles of wine to the ones which had led to business. From those 14, eight have since referred again. Not only is it the right thing to do, but thanking your referrers actually generates more business!
Craig McKenna is a managing partner at The Growth Academy.
Qualifying a prospect is probably one of the most important elements of selling if you are a small business. The time you can save by not trying to sell to prospects who ultimately never would have bought anyhow is invaluable, as well as the mental advantage that can be gained by being able to focus only on the right prospects.
The eight key stages that should be followed can be remembered easily using the term SCOTSMAN.
(S) Solution — Have you clarified if your prospect understands what it is that you wish to sell them. What is your solution and why will it work for them?
(C) Competition — Have you an awareness of whether there is anyone competing with you to sell to your prospect or for the money they may use to buy from you? Your competition could be internal as well as external.
(O) Objective — Have you a clear understanding on what your client is looking for, what are they in the market for? What is important to them now and in the future? Do you improve their services or processes, or do you save them money?
(T) Timescales — Have you clarified what timescale the prospect is working to? Can you deliver within that timescale? Does the timescale work for you? Is there a timing factor that could be used in your favour, for example a financial year end?
(S) Size — Is the potential size of the deal worth the effort going to be needed to win the business? Have you a clear picture on what size the deal will be? Is it smaller than ideal but could open doors? Is it too big and may have a detrimental impact on your business?
(M) Money — Does the prospect have the money in their budget to pay for your solution? If they don’t have a budget, can they find the money or do you need to consider walking away?
(A) Authority — Are you speaking to the decision maker? The person who ultimately will sign the cheque? Are they even aware that you are speaking to their company? It is no longer imperative to deal with just the decision maker, there is a value in dealing with another contact within the business but very few pieces of business are completed without the main authority signing off on it.
(N) Need — Does the prospect actually need your solution? Very few deals happen in the current climate without a clear need. There are many reasons why they may need your solution and it is key that you find out which one is relevant and focus on it.
If you can answer all of the questions in a positive manner, then your chances of closing the deal are significantly higher than if you can’t. Very few deals will actually happen if one or more of these eight key stages are missing, and the time you may waste on chasing shadows is valuable.
It can be easy to get sucked into thinking that every deal will happen, and there is also a sort of comfort that some small businesses value in having a large pipeline that “could” close but I would encourage you to qualify properly and allow yourself to focus only the deals that have a chance. You are better off closing three out of five good prospects than two out of ten prospects as your focus was stretched thin.
Craig McKenna is a managing partner at The Growth Academy.