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OK, Salespeople Can't Find Enough Prospects. Now What?

by Michael Webb | * Comments (3)
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The economic sea change we have all been going through makes companies pay attention to their sales process.

One company president I spoke with yesterday said his revenue shrank 25% in December (compared with the same month last year). Companies affected by the financial crisis (like housing, oil, or automotive) are trying to survive. They are worried whether their customers even have enough money to pay for things any longer.

Hopefully, your business can find enough customers to stay alive. Will your marketers find them? Can your salespeople find them? Will they be found fast enough?

If you are like most B2B organizations, your salespeople may have been struggling to find sales opportunities even before the financial crisis!

The danger of this is worse than you think, because there are hidden, double threats.

Good Prospects Aren't Flowing into the Funnel

For example, a marketer on our teleconference in December said their trade shows were no longer working to generate leads. "What do you define as a lead?" I asked.

"Someone who stops by our booth and demonstrates interest in our product," he answered.

"How is that working for you?"

"It is not working," he said. "They stop by the booth. Some even fill out a card. But they don't end up buying anything."

Salespeople are also having a tougher time getting into new accounts. Prospects won't call them back. They can't get appointments. And prospects aren't responding to traditional ads and promotions either.

Fixing the Process

The sea change we are struggling through has made things a lot different than they used to be. Salespeople alone can't bring in customers at a profit anymore. Their prospect's behaviors have changed so drastically in the last few years, it is disorienting.

Now, prospects are feeling, in effect, "Don't:

  • Waste my time.
  • Try to be my friend.
  • Expect me to tell you about my business.
  • Give me a product dump.
  • Use any self-serving verbiage.
  • Expect me to infer the value.
  • Create extra work for me."

How can you get prospects to take your salespeople's calls in this environment? How can you get them to read your ad and respond?

There are ways of doing it. A few highly talented individuals have learned to do it.

One is Jill Konrath, author of "Selling to Big Companies" (Kaplan, 2005), which made Fortune Magazine's top ten "must read" books of 2008.

On Thursday afternoon this week, I'm teaming up with Jill to conduct a unique and timely webinar:

How to Permanently Improve Salespeople's Ability

to Access Big New Accounts in 90 Days or Less

With A Sales Kaizen Event

https://www.salesperformance.com/GainAccessKaizenJan08.aspx

We'll be discussing some crucial questions, like:

  • How to know if getting access to accounts is the real problem
  • Improving your salespeople's ability to access the right executives in big new accounts
  • How to make this improved ability permanent

Visit https://www.salesperformance.com/GainAccessKaizenJan08.aspx to sign up for this event now.

Before it is too late.

Over the Edge

These are such scary times because companies can't spend money very long without getting a financial return. 

In fact, when things have changed as drastically as they have recently, how can a company know for sure if they are going to get a return on their sales and marketing dollar? Spending money without knowing the return is like walking around on the top of a building blind-folded. Sooner or later, one of your feet is likely to miss the edge. 

There is just about no way to measure returns in traditional views of sales and marketing.

You might think companies would have already done the research to know why customers buy. You might think they would have set up early warning detectors to give signals when prospect's responses change, and to tell them where the bottlenecks are.

How well has your company done that job?
Most companies exist because somebody along the way stumbled onto a market where money was already flowing. The people who work there now assume things have been figured out. 

Until, that is, things are like they are right now. Many people in many companies today never lived through bad times. When money stops flowing in sales and marketing, people get into big trouble fast. They don't know what to do when the pavement is flying up at them.

Sales and marketing people typically don't know how to use words like "problem" and "solution" precisely. They don't know how to distinguish data from opinions, or causes from effects. They don't know that they don't know. Heck, they don't even know what they DO know.

Voices get raised, politics get played, people run for cover. Some get the RIF.

Sellers and marketers need help. Not just figuring out how to fix the sales process, but also to IMPLEMENT the fixes so they will stick. If ever there was a time to help your sales and marketing team get oriented the right way, and make the improvement stick, the time is now. 

Fix the Sales Process the Right Way
By "the right way," I mean: 

     1. Gain profound knowledge of the customer's journey

What stages do your customers go through? Why? What help do they need along the way? How do you know this? (I mean "profound knowledge" in the sense Deming meant, by the way.)

     2. Make the sales process visible and measurable

How can you know that value is created for customers, and for your company (i.e., that we will get a return?) What proof, or evidence, do you have? How can you construct the sales process so the data is easily generated?

     3. Recognize the "system" of the finding, winning, keeping lifecycle

How can you understand the interdependencies of marketing, selling, and servicing? Which is the easiest way to reach your objectives: by taking better care of existing customers, or by finding new ones? How do you know?

     4. Eliminate waste whereever it occurs

What value is created by every dollar you spend? How do you know whether you need more brochures, or a better website? More demo equipment, or DVDs about the product? Where is the best place to spend (or save) your sales investment dollars? How do you know?

     5. Incorporate Plan-Do-Check-Act at all levels to close the "feedback loop"

Of course, I'm referring to the only evidence-based approach to designing - and implementing - a sales production process, what we are calling "sales kaizen."

+++++++++++++

On December 18 Robert Ferguson and I announced a new guidebook:

"How to Conduct a Sales Kaizen Event -
Improve Your Sales Process in a
Way Your Customer Will Love"

The book is now shipping and it turned out even better than we had hoped.

Due to some slight delays in getting it completed, we have extended the availability of charter pricing. After Saturday, January 10, the price will be increased to $470. Your satisfaction is guaranteed.

Visit https://www.salesperformance.com/SalesKaizenEvent.aspx to get your copy today.

+++++++++++++

Getting answers to your sales process questions 

If the steps of "sales kaizen" sound abstract to you, that's because they are.

The fixes to your sales and marketing challenges are concrete, specific, simple fixes, applied successively, while watching the needles of hard data metrics climb steadily in the needed direction.

Trouble is, it takes some analysis and thinking to identify which fixes are the right ones. Once you know what needs fixing you can recommend activities that are easier for people to go out and do and won't be a waste. 

Many of you know that we're launching a professional community devoted to sales process improvement this month, so we can focus on answering application questions like these. Everyone needs help thinking these things through.

For starters, this Thursday's teleconference will be our first webinar from SPIF! - the new Sales Performance Improvement Forum (our website will be undergoing some changes by the middle of January).

I look forward to chatting with you there!

Michael Webb
January 6, 2008

3 Responses to “OK, Salespeople Can't Find Enough Prospects. Now What?”

  1. Tony Cole says:

    Finding prospects now that is a problem. Problem is is that it has always been a problem. No let me take that back. It has always been a challenge. Let me reference Jack Horan. I don't know if Jack is still alive. But I did meet him in 1989 at a dinner honoring him and his service to the insurance industry here in Cincinnati. He had been in the local association. I found myself alone with him and so I aske, "Jack, what is the biggest challenge you face today after 30 years in the business?" his reply - finding prospects. This is new, the challenges as a result of our economic times may be new but prospecting isn't new. Here is a question for you. How many of your clients have 100% of the market? None right? Ok so let's just make sure that we teach our charges to go get the ones that are being sold and seviced by our competitors.

  2. Michael Webb says:

    Yes, when the market is not growing you have to get business from competitors.

    And, lets make sure we are leveraging all the technology available to us (i.e., the Internet) to maximize our ability to attract, develop relationships, and ultimately convert those people!

    MW

  3. Its really bad time for all the industries. In such a case, to find a Prospects is very hard for all sales peoples. we all knew that, quality of six sigma is very good, but still the economic status is in bad. so we have to wait for some time to sale the six sigma products.

    Thanks,

    Green Belt Six Sigma Training

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