Author Archives: Miles

About Miles

Miles is a lead generation specialist at The Simons Group who is dedicated to quality service at the office, at the food pantry and on the tennis court.

Follow up fearlessly with this guide

sales follow-up best practicesIf you have a good system in place for following up with your prospects, you’re already ahead of most salespeople. According to Hubspot and the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog, 80 percent of sales occur during or after the fifth point of contact between seller and buyer. Unfortunately, Hubspot finds that 44 percent of salespeople give up after just one contact attempt. Only 10 percent of sellers make three or more contacts, according to LinkedIn.

Clearly, lack of a good follow-up system can lose a lot of revenue. Since buyers do business with those they trust, building familiarity through simple repetition can result in a relationship and, ultimately, future sales. But even if a sale never occurs, you still cheat yourself by not following up. To get in touch with a prospect is to train yourself. Thus, following up is beneficial regardless of outcome.

What are the logistics of following up?

It’s important to follow up with your prospects at least five times in order to see significant returns. The maximal benefit comes from using as many channels as possible, but since it may not always be appropriate to text or send fruit baskets to your prospects, phone and email suffice. The typical recommendation is three calls and two emails – with an email coming after both the first and third phone calls. Because busy prospects aren’t always at their desks, you may also want to leave messages so they know you called.

By the same token, you don’t want to come off as overbearing or, worse, annoying. One way to stay on your prospect’s positive side is to space your follow-ups a few days apart to give them some breathing room. Not only does this keep you from seeming intrusive, but it also stretches out the period of time where the prospect can expect to hear from you.

What to do once you’re on the phone

Of course, you may as well not follow up at all if you don’t know what you want to get out of it. Determine your goals for contacting a prospect – and you should have more than one so more calls are successful. Say, for instance, your primary goal is to set an appointment. If that doesn’t work out, having a secondary goal – such as signing your prospect up for a newsletter, sending an email, or scheduling a firm time for another follow-up – comes in handy for keeping you on their radar.

Relatedly, you should understand the value of your product or service to your prospect, because that’s what you need to communicate to them. It’s important to be able to explain what your product or service is and what its features are. More importantly, how can it help? This is where sellers have the opportunity to be educators, particularly if the prospect doesn’t see a need for the product or service at first. This approach builds trust, and we do business with those we trust.

How do you build trust with your prospects? Let us know in the comments.

3 steps for effective selling

Business development techniquesThe traditional and incorrect view of the sales process as an underhanded, manipulative set of techniques for cajoling a prospect into spending too much money is outdated, with many thought leaders making only a general suggestion for salespeople to act like consultants. I think this suggestion is a little too general. Instead, an actionable goal is to make prospects feel comfortable about spending money on solutions.

Before the internet, salespeople had the advantage in most transactions. Prospects had few options for finding information about companies, and getting their hands on it could be costly.

Now, prospects can see what competing companies are doing differently. Sales thought leaders, including Hubspot and SalesHacker, recommend that salespeople act like educators and consultants to establish trust with prospects.

Being helpful is a good start, but how can salespeople drive future sales?

Map it

Prospects can find plenty of information about a company’s products and services online, but they may not know enough about the company’s industry to determine what information is most applicable to their needs. As a result, they may feel overwhelmed and confused, and hesitate to spend money.

They need help from sales reps. For example, when I’m talking with prospective clients, they sometimes reference a small aspect of what The Simons Group offers, as if that’s all we do. I clear up the misunderstanding, making it easier for them to learn more later. Education helps foster trust with prospects and increases the chance they’ll buy products and services in the future.

Don’t rush

Every salesperson wants to close sales now, but every prospect wants to buy when ready. Some companies frame this contradiction as a game, implying that salespeople and prospects are facing off. In reality, prospects don’t want to inconvenience you, but they also don’t want to make potentially wrong decisions.

Make sure that prospects are willing to spend money. Salespeople should consider how productive were their conversations with prospective clients. When prospects become less active, that may be a signal to move on.

Make sure it fits

When solutions don’t fit with a prospect’s needs, don’t push it. Otherwise, it could jeopardize trust. When they realize they’ve been manipulated, they’ll be upset and possibly walk. If they do come back, they (rightfully) won’t trust the salespeople they were dealing with.

Instead, salespeople should be upfront when they can’t help prospective clients. Prospects will appreciate the honesty and, perhaps, see sales in a more positive light. That could open the door to future sales.

What has your experience been with the sales process? Let us know in the comments.

Track these 3 email marketing metrics

marketing analyticsAnalytics are an important tool in email marketing because they reveal how effective your campaigns are. While it’s easy for me to say that a heavy investment in marketing will yield more revenue for your company, analytics are the data-driven proof. And if things go wrong, analytics can help you determine what didn’t work.

For example, a key aspect of a marketing automation campaign is that you target leads who have opted in to access your gated content. If these people unsubscribe from your campaign, you can review and tweak your messaging to see if that helps.

Before you can review your email marketing analytics, you need to know what you’re looking for. Click-through rate, bounce rate, and unsubscribes are three key metrics to scrutinize. They’ll help you determine if your campaigns are worth the investment.

Click-through rate

One of the most important metrics in email marketing, the click-through rate is the percentage of recipients who clicked on one or more links. It’s based on the total number of people who opened your email. For example, a 30 percent click-through rate would mean that for every 10 people who opened your campaign, three people clicked on at least one link.

Using this metric, you can see how many people are engaging with your content each time you send an email.

Bounce rate

The bounce rate is the number of emails from your list that couldn’t be delivered. Sometimes, it means that recipients’ email providers marked your campaign as spam. Other reasons for bounces include full mail boxes and server issues.

You might want to try resending once more, but don’t keep doing it if the addresses bounce again. Internet service providers look at bounce rates with a wary eye. You don’t want to be reported as a spammer.

Unsubscribe rate

The unsubscribe rate shows you how many people unsubscribed from your email list for a specific campaign. Depending on where you got your email list, this number could be high. Purchased lists often result in high unsubscribe rates as do old lists that include people you haven’t communicated with regularly.

Make it count 

If you create targeted, timely, and valuable content that benefits your subscribers, your email campaigns should do well. They’ll want to hear from you – and keep reading. That should help your delivery rates and your bottom line.

What have you learned from your email marketing metrics? Let us know in the comments below.

Get prospects to “yes” with a lead nurturing campaign

lead nurturing campaign In the digital age, prospects need to trust you before they’ll buy your products and services. A lead nurturing campaign is a straightforward way to develop this trust, beginning when potential buyers show interest by providing their emails in exchange for compelling content.

But getting emails is only the beginning. You want prospects to remember you when they’re filling out their purchase orders, and one way to do that is to follow up periodically using autoresponders, which are automated email messages that you schedule for specific times in response to prospect interest.

For example, you might create a landing page that promotes an ebook or a benefit-driven tip sheet for solving a common customer challenge. Include a form on the page that requires basic customer information, including names and email addresses. That’s all you need to start a lead nurturing campaign.

Keep the momentum going

The next step is to create an autoresponder series that triggers when someone completes the form on the landing page. In the first autoresponder email, you might thank them for downloading your content. In the next message, let them know how you can help them in other areas.

For example, you might offer webinars or other training. In subsequent autoresponders, you can ask for feedback about your products and services, encourage them to sign up for your newsletter or blog, and engage with them in other ways. Just make sure the content provides clear benefits and fresh messaging, including relevant offers to help your prospects be more receptive to follow-up emails.

One caveat: nothing will turn a lead off faster than acting needy, so timely communication is key. You don’t want to give them enough time to forget about you in this new world of short attention spans, but you don’t want to over-communicate, either. Treat your autoresponder follow-ups the way you would manage those in the traditional sales cycle, allowing two to four days between each new message.

Consider long term goals too

When someone completes the form on your landing page, they’ve already expressed an interest in your products and services, but the ultimate goal is to get them fully engaged. The next step might be scheduling a free consultation as a way to upgrade leads into prospects. An alternative is to generate more long-form content, or even a video on a relevant subject.

Bottom line: marketing automation is a proven process that generates measurable results. Following a logical series of steps enables your prospects to make better buying decisions, which positions them for future sales.

How did you approach your most successful lead nurturing campaign? Let us know in the comments below.

Are you invested in customer service?

customer service in marketingListening to hold music is the biggest part of my day. In my time spent in the auditory waiting room, I’ve noticed that hold music is the only properly functioning part of some companies’ phone systems. For example, the directory listing for Joe Schmo ends up at Jane Doe’s voicemail box. Or pressing zero for operator just repeats the automated menu. I dig through these messy phone systems as part of my job, but it’s still frustrating to deal with the unnecessary complexity that a poorly maintained system causes.

To me, a company’s investment in its phone system reflects its overall take on client service. If Corporation X doesn’t think fixing its broken directory is worthwhile, its leadership probably doesn’t consider client interest a top priority. I’m not saying that they’re only looking for opportunities to upsell you on products or services that you don’t need, but being difficult to reach doesn’t imply a customer-first attitude.

In the long run, a self-serving company ethic is self-defeating. Clients – potential or otherwise – can smell it from miles away.

Our clients usually come to us already knowing a little something about marketing. But just as a copywriter probably can’t design a visually compelling logo, no prospect knows every aspect of our industry. So, it’s our duty to educate our clients on why and how we can achieve their marketing goals, while respecting their time and business.

We go out of our way to fill in the gaps in a client’s marketing knowledge and develop a mutually beneficial relationship.

Agencies that don’t invest time teaching their clients and explaining why they recommend certain tactics are damaging the profession. A less-educated clientele sees less value in marketing. This attitude leads to the unfortunate result of businesses relying entirely on unsupported sales forces.

Some companies believe that they haven’t lost anything if they haven’t invested anything. But by not investing in the materials that their sales teams need to build relationships and close deals, they’re losing opportunities for revenue.

That out-of-date phone system or bad sales collateral may have just lost them a lead – but how would they know?

What’s your take on making behind-the-scenes investments to help your customers? Let us know in the comments.

 

Turning outbound marketing ‘in’

inbound marketing

You missed a lot at The Simons Group this week. First, we got new chairs. My back has never felt better! (I also have a great price on some – lightly – used office chairs, if anyone is looking.)

Second, we had a kickoff meeting to integrate inbound marketing into our own rebranding effort. What is inbound marketing, you ask? Let’s start at the beginning.

The first marketing touch-point for a prospect generally comes through a company’s outbound marketing. Outbound marketing makes sure prospects are aware of your company and services. An easy way to think of outbound marketing is that it’s any time a company reaches out to potential customers. Cold calls, email lists, direct mail and digital, print and broadcast advertising all fall into this category. Obviously, good outbound marketing is essential for shaping your brand awareness and perception, but it’s a blunt tool that shows the same content to every prospect.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is specialized ­and relies on you breaking the trail for customers to find and engage with your company. Inbound marketing centers not only around bringing new prospects in, but also on keeping and enticing quality prospects. Once the outbound marketing has yielded awareness, inbound marketing draws prospects closer and moves them through – and beyond –the sales cycle by showcasing specialized, relevant content.

An inbound marketing campaign puts specific content in front of specific prospects – those who would find it relevant. Developing such a campaign requires creating a small series of buyer profiles to help define your target audiences’ differences.

An example of a buyer profile is a mid-level industry manager at a national company whose main concern is finding a solution with a good return on investment. Within this strategy, the content you would direct his way would showcase how your solution has definable metrics and flexibility to adapt to long-term needs. Then, you have to work that content into a strategy that makes it appear when and where that mid-level manager is most likely to interact with it. The hope is that the content is so relevant the prospect develops enough respect for your brand to become a client, and is enthusiastic enough to become an advocate for the company.

While none of your buyer profiles will come to life and walk through your door, creating content for a smaller generalized group will help a broader range of prospects find what you’re doing worthwhile. This is why the planning stages of an inbound marketing campaign are crucial. It is important to get an accurate buyer profile before implementing a content strategy so that your efforts are most effective.

Have you made the shift toward inbound marketing? Let us know what you think about it in the comments.

What does ‘truth’ mean to marketing?

truth in marketingHistorically, much philosophical debate has focused on the search for “truth.”

This history includes myriad accounts of what truth is. They range from being relatively simple, like Rene Descartes’, “I think, therefore I am,” to mind-numbingly complex. But what all of these accounts have in common is an assertion that there is “truth” – that reality has a certain structure that, with the proper philosophical viewpoint, you, too, can comprehend.

As you get later into the development of philosophy, however, the definition of truth opens up. Friedrich Nietzsche is famous for is his dramatic insistence that “truth is a mobile army of metaphors.” Many American philosophers in the same period agreed, saying that “truth” is a commendatory term that expresses favor and not correspondence to reality. Crucially, Nietzsche and the American Pragmatist movement both thought that a true statement has to fit with other true statements. This undercuts the interpretation that a lie can be seen as a truth.

This definition of “truth” relates to marketing in a very tangible way.

In marketing, we calculate truth in moments. These “moments of truth,” a phrase coined by Swedish businessman Jan Carlzon, happen every time a customer interacts with your brand and has the chance to form an impression; it’s every time that a real customer tests the promise you’ve made.

By capturing and capitalizing on these moments, you can shape a customer’s perception and turn your brand promise into a truth.

Your offerings touch clients and prospects through many channels, so you have many opportunities to fulfill your promise and make it a truth. Consider what potential customers see when they search for your brand or find you in an industry search (what Google calls the zero moment of truth). Is their initial impression different if they come through a mobile channel versus a desktop format? Now think of their experiences making a purchase – how many ways can they do that?

Your sales team, every piece of marketing and every other customer interaction are up to you to shape. You owe it to yourself to find the unique driver that leads people to your company and leverage it to influence the perception of your brand. Find the most interesting approach you can to your company, and then to broadcast that to the world.

In what ways do you shape your brand’s truth? Let us know in the comments below.

Why do you really need marketing?

I marketplaceoften run into prospects that say, “We don’t need marketing.” Most of the time, these prospects work in an industry with a firm client base – and can maintain a steady-enough cash flow. That might be a company with government contracts or maybe just a few loyal large corporate clients.

When probed, however, this objection often is followed by a reference to the sales staff. I might hear: “My sales team doesn’t need any support, we get most of our business through relationships.” Or else they reference the industry: “We are a [fill in the blank], [blanks] don’t do marketing.” Regardless of the industry, marketing makes every sales staff more effective and, most times, we have a client in whatever industry our prospect claims does no marketing.

What is marketing anyway?

There are few business investments as intangible as marketing, since most other corporate functions are clear-cut. A finance department deals with ingoing and outgoing money; a legal department tends to contracts and terms; but the marketing department deals with the company’s self-image. Crafting the narrative the company uses to sell itself requires the marketing team to balance expenses, jump legal hurdles, appease management and grow the company – all using metrics like “impressions” and “influence.”

When a prospect says, “We don’t need marketing,” what he means is that his company is too straightforward to benefit from one of our services. For instance, management at a company like Widget Manufacturers Inc. might think its mission and products are self-explanatory, so why overcomplicate things? Why obscure such clear purpose underneath things like websites and e-blasts filled with jargon?

I’ll tell you why.

Many different companies do the same thing. One may do it faster; one better; one cheaper. But, without the kind of narrative that good marketing provides, how can a competing company ensure that prospects know that it’s better, faster or cheaper than the other guy? How does the sales team differentiate your company from your competitors?

If the reason you have no marketing is because nobody in your industry does it, you are using your competitors’ decisions to stunt your potential growth. The right marketing strategy is the kind of investment opportunity that you don’t want to miss out on.

What drives your marketing initiatives? Let us know in the comments.

Experts make the best sales team

Sales team, sales strategyWhat separates a standard sales approach from business development is the level of interaction with the product or service. How many salespeople can take a part in the creation or development of what they sell?

For the stereotypical used-car salesman who upcharges for standard features, the sleazy salesman only knows as much about his product as he needs to charge the highest price. Even some service industries are this way. Restaurant wait staffs, for instance, are primarily salespeople, and a server who doesn’t know much about food or providing atmosphere can ruin any dining experience.

Some companies have pared down the role of salespeople so that they’ve become responsible for drumming up clients for something they aren’t actively engaged in creating or improving. They add value to the organization only by meeting their quotas.

Business development, however, uses relationship building to ensure that prospects become long-term clients – not one-offs. To do this, the business developer needs to have a more robust understanding of her product or service to show that he is invested in the company and can make educated recommendations in the best interest of the client.

A lot of my prospects use a business development approach, as opposed to straight sales. Some might assume that business development is more important in professional services industries, but I’ve found that it can be just as successful in other industries, such as transportation and manufacturing. For example, a business developer working for a manufacturer will get down on the plant floor and see how the products are made, then go out and see how customers are using those products. He can then go back to the plant and talk to the engineers about what tweaks to the products would be most beneficial to customers.

In my experience, these folks in business development have extensive knowledge of their products and industries. They have clear goals and they have some influence over the direction of their company, whether with hands-on involvement or in an advisory capacity. It’s the perfect blend of sales and expertise.

Do you think business development is the best sales approach? Let us know in the comments.

Build trust to build sales

Bridge to trust in salesBusiness deals, especially in B2B markets, are the result of relationships between people. Prospects have to trust the business development specialists on a level that surpasses how much they trust the represented companies. Good representatives know how to strengthen that trust by building and maintaining long-term relationships and taking a personal interest in their clients, not just their business. Since clients benefit from a deeper level of understanding, the relationship becomes mutually beneficial.

Sometimes, however, business development specialists focus so heavily on building rapport that they lose sight of their agenda. They want to make their prospects or clients feel comfortable, but overlook opportunities to close the sale. Here are some tips on how you can balance the personal and business sides of the sales equation.

Don’t be shady. Some self-serving salespeople engage in underhanded tactics to trick prospects into becoming clients. These are the salespeople who won’t take no for an answer, or who use disingenuous tactics to get prospects to call them back. This behavior is untrustworthy and sabotages any chance of a long-term relationship. Even if you trick a prospect into one sale, they will realize what you did: sacrifice long-term business for short-term gain.

Sell your perspective. Marketing communications are vital to every business, but I’ve heard a lot of reasons why prospects think differently. As an outsider, it’s my duty to paint a bigger picture for them so that they can see how marketing initiatives can play an active role in improving their businesses. Take time to listen to your prospects concerns, ideas and goals, then show them how your business can support their individual needs. An educated, outside perspective can help prospects, but only if they can see its worth.

Work together. Pandering or being a yes man does the prospect a disservice. Work with your prospects to identify solutions that meet their available time and financial resources. Make sure that you present all the available solutions, including your recommendations, so that they can make the right decisions to meet their short- and long-term goals. When they’re ready to move on to another step or find a new need, they’ll look to you, a trusted partner, for a solution. Together, you’ll find ways to sustain a lasting relationship that helps both businesses grow.