Improve the world! Eradicate bad sales processes!

When you want something, don’t you just love to buy it?

It is fun, though sometimes it takes a lot of work. The experience is even better when someone is expertly helping you accomplish it.   

That happened when we bought our house in Chicago over ten years ago (we’ve since moved). We were from out of state and it was an incredibly competitive market. Yet we succeeded because of the skill and hard work of a motivated real estate agent. 

Compare that to a completely different kind of experience:

The phone rang. The voice said “May I speak to the person responsible for improving quality for you folks?”

I knew immediately this would be a waste of time. Yet I find it interesting to observe and analyze sales calls.

“I guess you’re looking for me,” I said. Here comes the pitch …

“Ok, great. I’m Fred and I’m calling for Quality Manager’s Alert, a newsletter designed to help you do a better job improving quality. What we’re doing is sending out free issues of our newsletter, so you can see how valuable it is in helping you reduce costs and save your company money. I wonder if I could send you out two free issues so you can experience it for yourself.”

Hmmm … This is a really bad sales call. I wonder how much it is costing them to waste people’s time like this. The last thing I need is another piece of mail or a subscription. I wonder what the conversion rate is on these calls. 

But, wait. … Maybe I’ll test him a little.

“I don’t know,” I said, “if this newsletter is focused on quality managers at manufacturing companies it might not apply to me …”

The salesman took the bait. “So, tell me what does your company do?”  At least he asked me a question. That was good.

“I work with marketing and sales executives.”

“I see, well I’m sure it would be valuable to you, so why don’t we just send you some trial issues so you can see for yourself?”

Jeez, asking a question and not listening to the answer is totally bush league. This guy knows nothing. It’s disrespectful, and he’s just trying to fill a square. What a tedious and boring job this guy is doing.

As it turned out, the fellow’s offer was not even free. You could only get it if they could send you an invoice for $299 after the second issue! Time wasted: about 90 seconds.

It would have been cheaper for them to just send me a check for $10. I would have had a higher opinion of them!

Why do companies continue to flog the market like this? It costs them a lot of money, it makes prospects unhappy, and it doesn’t work. Further, no true sales professional would ever condone it.

Sales and marketing is supposed to create value for the customer as well as for the seller. Hopefully, you already know the fundamentals of what needs improving here:   

Improvement Number 1: Market Segmentation
The salesman seemed to be calling from a random list like a phone directory. If so, that’s like having no input specifications on your raw material. How can you produce anything if you don’t know whether you’re dealing with sand, or steel, or plastic?

Perhaps he was calling names from a subscriber list from other quality publications. Fair enough. Still, the list caused him to call me, and it wouldn’t have taken much investigation to realize I was not a prospect. Which would have enabled improvement number two.

Improvement number 2: Know Your Customer
The magazine was focused on quality in manufacturing, yet there are thousands of different kinds of manufacturers. Are manager’s needs in all those companies the same?

Nope. There are differences in large vs. small companies, plant locations vs. headquarters locations, discrete vs. process companies, firms with and without Six Sigma programs.

Any one of these things might have provided the poor fellow a “hook” so he could have a more productive conversation with me. Of course, he could have checked the Internet before he called.

Spending that time would have been a better investment than proving he had no value proposition by making the call unprepared! 

Improvement Number 3: Value Proposition
This guy offered me two free issues. Why should I try to read them? What does Quality Managers Alert offer me that would make my job easier?

They’re leaving it up to me to figure that out, so obviously they don’t know!

If they knew they could engage me in some productive interaction. For example:

“Mr. Webb, we’re calling because many of our metal fabricator subscribers have found simple ways to reduce costly mistakes by applying one of our assessment techniques to their manufacturing specifications. We’d like to send you a free kit that gives you the step by step approach for doing this. It takes about twenty minutes of your time, and is guaranteed to help you save money, not to mention helping you conduct a lively meeting with your peers in production, engineering, and purchasing.

“Would it be OK if we sent that kit to you along with a free trial subscription to Quality Manager’s Alert?”

Ok, indeed!

Of course, the example is made up, but you get the idea. Like I always say “Everything you do in marketing and selling must create value for the customer.”

So, how will you know if your newly designed sales process will cost less and work better than your old one?  It is easy, really. You can measure it.

Copyright © 2006 Sales Performance Consultants, Inc.


Michael Webb

Michael Webb founded Sales Performance Consultants to create a data-driven alternative to the slogans and shallow impact offered by typical sales training, sales consulting, and CRM companies. Michael helped organize and delivered the keynote speeches for the first conferences ever held on applying Six Sigma to marketing and sales. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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