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Time for Real Change in Your Approach

9 May, 2011 By: David Ramos imageSource

Time for Real Change in Your Approach

When a recent edition of Conde Nast Traveler showed up in my mailbox, I came
across an interesting article that drew parallels to our own industry: The 15
Best Places to See Right Now opened with, “Destinations come, destinations
go, and sometimes they come again. It’s all in the timing. At any moment, there
are places undergoing such profound changes that they are fundamentally
different from what they were last year, or what they will be next.”

I’ve attended many national sales meetings, dealer ownership leadership
meetings, and strategy sessions and the common theme that I am sharing with
sales leaders and principals is simply, “change.”  I understand change is
difficult and it requires effort, alignment and resources, yet I am surprised at
the level of reluctance I have found out there regarding changing approaches by
dealers in the imaging community. 

Why do you need to change?  Because sales leaders in the trenches know that
using past approaches – some which have been successful before – will no longer
work well in today’s selling environment. Given many factors (the economic slow
recovery, anemic buying, and customer risk aversion), sales people need to work
with customers in new and different ways.   Now, as efficiency has become the
rule of the day, companies realize they can’t afford to let valid contacts waste
away in their database. They have to get smarter about how they generate and
follow-up on opportunities. As a result, more and more companies are putting a
new emphasis on nurturing the leads they have and finding more effective ways to
convert leads through the various stages of the marketing and sales funnel.

Let’s examine ten ways sales organizations can accelerate the progression
from “cold to close” and accelerate change in their organization. From improving
marketing results through pinpoint prospecting to making sure sales and
marketing are on the same page, here are some tangible steps you can take:

1 - Improve marketing results through pinpoint prospecting

a. “Pinpoint prospecting” means taking the time to identify and locate the right
markets, companies, and titles. Market intelligence and advisory firm IDC also
categorizes this focused approach under sales enablement, and defines it as “the
delivery of the right information to the right person at the right time in the
right format & in the right place to assist in moving a specific sales
opportunity forward.”

2 - Refine territory lists & messaging: broader is not better

a. Savvy marketers are improving results by carefully identifying
prospects and then gearing marketing efforts to them. It’s pinpoint prospecting
applied to lists and messaging.

b. Too often, B to B sales professionals and organizations are tempted
to follow consumer marketers by casting their net as wide as possible. This not
only leads to inefficient sales spend, but also wasted time from the sales team
chasing unqualified leads. Industry leaders are driving higher conversion rates
by going narrower and deeper into high profit potential prospects. By knowing
the right contacts and pain points within those target accounts, the engagement
process accelerates and close rates improve.

3 - Convert inquiries to leads through nurture

a. The industry benchmark for moving a response to a lead qualified by marketing
is typically between 4% and 10%. Even small improvements in conversion rates at
this phase of the funnel can have a big impact on deal close rates and top line
revenue for any business. In addition, some companies are drilling down into
leads which have previously disqualified and finding new opportunities through a
new contact or new messaging.  As any sales organization knows, this kind of
qualification cannot be automated; it must come from a human, usually in the
form of an outside sales or teleprospecting team.

4 - Improve response rates through analysis & segmentation

By using highly targeted information about prospects and leads to slice
and dice the demographics, large and small B to B companies have been able to
deliver relevant messages to targeted buyers. This not only drives ROI in terms
of closed deal, but makes the marketing spend more efficient due to fewer
bounce-backs and better response rates.

b. The more time you invest up front identifying your target and
buttoning down your message the more efficient your sales process becomes and
the better your ROI. B to B companies who know how to segment properly will
enjoy better response rates because they’re reaching the right people.

5 - Increase the relevancy of your marketing content

a. Listen to your customers. Use simple tools like Google Alerts, Twitter
Search, LinkedIn, or OneSource product i-Sell with LinkedIn integration to
figure out what your customers and prospects are struggling with. Target
important keyword phrases and follow the conversation. Topics should appear that
show trends and the need to expand on key issues. If that’s not enough, ask
them. Call them up and talk to them. Visit them in person. Use online survey
tools. Your customers want to share this information because they, in most
cases, want to solve their challenges. If you can help, that’s great for them.

b. Knowing the pain points of your top prospects increases the
likelihood that you will deliver relevant messaging, whether it is via an email,
voice mail or direct mail campaign. Experienced sales and marketing teams are
using insights from published material and speaking engagements to learn more
about the hot button topics for hard-to-reach C-level executives.

6 - Build a repeatable sales process

a. A repeatable sales process is fundamental to everything else a sales
organization does. If you don’t have a strong, repeatable process, the money
that is spent on sales automation is wasted. It’s essential for sales
organizations to establish sales process milestones. For example, when leads are
passed from marketing to sales, that status must be clearly known.  A repeatable
sales process also means examining and replicating “everything that works”
within the organization.

b. “Einstein noted that doing the same thing over and over again and
expecting a different result is insanity.  But doing the same effective thing
over and over again is genius because it saves steps and repeats successful
techniques.  The result: shorter sales cycles, higher win rates, and larger deal

7 - Leverage trigger events to shorten the sales cycle

a. In today’s economic environment, shortening sales cycles has taken on
a new importance. After all, the shorter the sales cycle, the more sales the
organization can make—and the faster revenues can start coming in. But,
according to CSO Insights, the sales cycle has become 32% longer as buyers are
taking longer to consider their decisions.

b. What is a trigger event? It’s an ‘occurrence’ that creates an
immediate need for your products or services. Internal trigger events include
reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions or new product introductions. External
triggering events could be new legislation, hurricanes or announcements of new

c. Being “first in” can be invaluable to winning a deal. By responding
to trigger events such as changes in management, a merger or a new product
launch, leading B to B players are gaining “trusted advisor” status and are not
only edging out their competition, but they are also positioning themselves for
future cross-sells.

8 - Use lead scoring & routing to increase close rates

a. Sales close rates can be affected by a number of factors—many of which
cannot be influenced by marketing.  That doesn’t mean that marketing cannot
increase sales effectiveness. Gartner Group Research found that “following
improvements in lead, content and proposal management, close rates could be
expected to increase, on average, by approximately 5% to 20% per salesperson. 
The most dramatic example of the economics of the sales & marketing funnel comes
when you look at the close rates of different organizations. The average close
rate for B to B organizations is less than 25%, according to Sirius Decisions. 
One way to increase close rates is to find contacts and decision makers who can
be “champions” within target companies. These referral sources are invaluable
when it comes to making a business case for sales cycles.

9 - Find like-minded buyers

Every good customer can lead to other good prospects. Sirius Decision’s
Joe Galvin sums up the power of reference selling: “If I have sold inside an
organization to a given buying center, I can use them to refer me to someone
else,” he says.  Galvin advises sales organizations to build “profiles of
success”—a description of needs, criteria, roles, and responsibilities based on
previous sales success and using these profiles to identify like-minded buyers.
“If you’ve sold well into a certain part of an organization, then you know that
they are more likely to buy than someone in a slower growth industry, or a less
progressive company.

b. In refining their contact databases and cleaning up their pipeline,
sales organizations large and small often start by identifying target companies
and decision makers. By digging deeper into their latest announcements and
researching key business events they attend (networking), sales teams are able
to identify common connections between their needs. Some companies are even
developing persona-based marketing, which develops specifics strategies around
common profiles.

10 - Get sales, service & marketing on the same page

a. The 2008 Miller Heiman Sales Best Practices Study found that only 37% of
respondents agreed that their sales, service and marketing organizations were
aligned in what their customers want and need.  Here are some essential steps
you can take to get your organization on the same page.

Start Using “We” Stop Using “They.” Alignment starts with a
companywide commitment that together we stand, divided we fall.

Marketing Needs to Take Accountability for Influencing the Buying Cycle.

I believe marketers should take full ownership of the buying cycle.
Marketing material and campaigns should be structured to address each phase in
the buying cycle and help educate and influence prospects.  Don’t have a
marketing dept?  Outsource it.

Increase Quality and Decrease Quantity by Scoring Leads. In essence,
organizations should be focusing on the quality, not the quantity of leads that
are passed from marketing to sales.

Integrate Sales and Marketing Technologies. By integrating CRM and
marketing technology, reps can gain a comprehensive view of how marketing
interacted with an account. The goal is to deliver value to reps in the vehicle
they are most accustomed to using on a daily basis; CRM. For this reason,
integration is critical to empowering sales and marketing with data that both
functions can use to increase effectiveness.

Set Up Periodic Meetings Between Sales, Service and Marketing. Sales,
Service and Marketing should be meeting on periodic basis to review successes
and failures. Alignment means the three functions are working as a team, so if
processes or practices are not yielding expected results, something needs to

Measure What Matters. Measurement is probably one of the most important
components to aligning sales, service and marketing effectiveness.
How can
you improve if you don’t know where you’ve been and how do you know where you’ve
been if you don’t have measurement? Metrics allow the organization to understand
how much to spend on marketing to acquire a new customer and more importantly
where to spend those dollars to acquire, retain, and up-sell to prospects and

David Ramos is sales operations consultant for Strategy Development,
an industry management consulting and advance sales training firm providing
sales, service & MPS information, including workshops for the BTA as well as a
MPS Sales eLearning program with InfoTrends. He also instructs a selling skills
workshop called “Sell With Success.”

Reach him at www.strategydevelopment.com or ramos@strategydevelopment.com

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