3 foundations for B2B revenue generation.

3 foundations for B2B revenue generation.

Creating a process that delivers consistent and profitable revenue involves a whole range of functional collaboration from the agreement of the strategic objectives to the relationship building that occurs after the early honeymoon of the first sales.

It takes time, effort and commitment from a lot of people, and importantly a process that is sustainable.

The usual metaphor of a ‘Sales Funnel’ is well understood, but flawed in many respects, principally because the behaviour of existing and potential customers is rarely as predictable and linear as a funnel assumes.

However, the sales process can be broken into a series of steps that reasonably represents the sort of activities required to assemble leads and develop them into long term customers.

Prospecting.

To my mind, prospecting has three elements.

  • Building a wider network of relationships within existing customers, focussed on the servicing of existing business, with the objective of increasing the share of wallet
  • Identifying and making contact with those to whom the value proposition has the potential to resonate in the existing market segments
  • Go exploring, seeing where the capabilities you have may be applicable in ways that are not as obvious. I find the 70/25/5 rule applies as much to sales prospecting as it does to the more complicated and holistic challenges of a business turnaround. 70% of a sales prospecting time should be spent finding ways to increase the share of wallet of existing customers, and perhaps chasing those generated who have lapsed, 25% devoted to identifying and engaging with new customers who fit the usual profile of a prospect, and 5% being ‘out there’ exploring.

All three elements recognise the role played by the tools of digital marketing. People are expensive, so it is managements  task to leverage the cost to the maximum extent. Much of the role of the traditional sales rep has been overtaken by digital tools, but it still takes a person to ‘close’ and build a relationship. Such people are not order takers, they are amongst the most important people in your business.

Metrics present challenges, the adage that what you measure gets done is largely true. Therefore prospecting needs to be tasked and measured in meaningful ways that direct the effort made in alignment with the strategy. There is a whole list of elements that are present in a prospecting toolkit, such as: time bound revenue objectives and qualified sales opportunities, conversion rates of leads generated, outbound calls and contacts, Identification and relationship building with new contacts in existing customers, same for prospective customers, understanding  and profiling of a prospects business,

 

Conversion.

Long term revenue generation  requires a mix of repeat business, new business from existing customers, and business from new customers. The mix will be different in each case, and some level of management of these needs to be reflected in the way the metrics are set up. For example, a start-up leveraging new technology will have targets very different from an existing business that operates in a mature industry. Nevertheless, the process of conversion needs to be managed so that there is a steady and predictable as far as possible flow of business. Predictability of  the business coming in is a key to managing a business with as little ‘internal friction’ as possible. When there is predictability, most of the revenue is generated in a semi-automatic way, but when there is little  predictability, everything is a crisis, and crises consume inordinate amounts of management time and attention, leaving the important but not urgent stuff undone.

The sorts off metrics used can be broken into a number of classes:

  • Revenue generated
  • Leads generated and conversion rates necessary to generate the revenue
  • Data base management. This applies to the data on the markets in which you operate, the number and type of prospects in a market, as well as the more common CRM type data that accumulates detail on calls, responses, status of enquiries and what next type information.
  • Quantification of the funnel, how many leads are just ideas, to the hot prospect stage. As noted earlier, customers rarely behave in a linear fashion, but the metaphor often helps to ensure that the right resources are allocated at the right times.

 

Relationship.

Measuring the state of a relationship is never easy, the measures are usually subjective, and only truly evident over time. Like good parenting, we all know it benefits the kids, but the outcomes are really only evident over time.

  • Share of wallet my  personal favorite B2B ,measure  the most useful and often overlooked measure of the effectiveness of a relationship and of the sales personnel involved. How much of the spending of a customer that you could supply, do you actually supply? How much of their available ‘wallet’ comes to you? You can delude yourself in the manner in which you define the wallet, but defining the wallet in accordance to the things you can reasonably supply Vs would  like to supply, is sensible, and leads to the building of capabilities that will get you into other areas of a customers wallet.

How they see you. Are you the supplier of a commodity product, one that relies on price to make the sale, or at the other end of the scale, are you a trusted partner who collaborates for mutual success, and the sales you make are simply an outcomes of receiving an order from a purchasing system. For 30 years, I have used a sliding scale between these two points to measure the state of relationships. You easily create such a scale for yourself, but it does require some objectivity, just asking your sales reps for their assessment on a once off basis usually delivers nonsense.

 

5 habits of really successful B2B sales people.

5 habits of really successful B2B sales people.

Last week, I was unfortunately the target of an unwanted sales pitch from someone who would not take ‘Not today’ or ‘No thank you’ or  ‘I am not interested’ or ‘Piss off I am busy’  as an adequate response to his ministrations.

Clearly he had been to a sales training course that had at its core,  the ‘ignore any feedback you might get, plough on regardless using this template‘ school of selling. This morning I stumbled across this video on YouTube, that nailed exactly the situation, except I was not in an office.

Sales is the key function in any business, without sales, there is no business.  Why is it then that sales people are often towards the bottom of the organisational totem, why do we allow anyone but our most trusted, intelligent, persuasive, sales trained, and effective employees anywhere near our source of revenue… customers.

Really effective sales people, those who bring in business that sticks, should be well rewarded, after all, they can easily go to your competition.

What sets the great sales people apart? How can you pick them?

Seems to me there are several characteristics that make super salespeople, based on years of watching them.

They speak to you as they would to their best friend.  The bloke in the video above not only worked to a script which did not fit the situation, he was absolutely full of faux enthusiasm, a sure sign of snake oil to come. If you want to engage someone, it pays to be respectful,  to seek their permission to speak, and deliver a message, and do it with humility that implies that you are doing them a favour, as you would your best friend, just because you can.

They build trust. Trust is a vastly overused word in sales training, everyone advises to build it, then sets about destroying any possibility by being assertive and overpromising. Trust is built on performance, not promises, so demonstrate that you deliver. Humans build trust in others by actually seeing evidence that they do what they say they will do, or by having those we already trust assure us of their veracity. This is why testimonials work on websites but they must be videoed, the person specifically identified, and they must be similar to you to be trusted. You would not trust the sales manager of ABC used cars to tell you the truth about their exemplary customer service, but you might trust someone who looks and sounds like you saying that they had great service from ABC used cars.  Your prospects must feel like they are buying from you, not that you are selling to them. The hard sell is out, it can work in some transactional and low value situations, but almost always leaves a bad taste that removes the possibility of a repeat.

Only subtle Anchoring is used. Anchoring is perhaps the most used sales tactic there is, you see it every day, and it screams ‘ hard sell’. Again, it can and often does work, it generates immediacy and urgency, which is why we have legislation that invokes a ‘cooling off’ period in some circumstances. Anchoring is when you see something promoted with words similar to ‘Normally this will cost $300 but if you buy in the next 10 minutes, we will give you this once only offer of this magnificent thingo for only $39.95‘. It does sound like a bargain, only because of the contrast between the so called ‘normal’ price and the deal not because $39.95 is itself a great deal. Anchoring does not have to be about price, although it most often is. Anchoring is about contrast, good vs bad, them vs us, up Vs down, any contrast will do.

They give reasons. When you give a prospect a reason ‘why’ that is credible to them, they will feel somewhat compelled to agree with you. This is the discipline of communicating the benefits rather than the features, and the more personal the benefit the better. A reason delivered with the word ‘because’ is always more powerful. ‘I want you to have this gizmo because it will double your productivity‘ rather than ‘This gizmo will double your productivity’. People are not silly, they know you are selling something, but if they believe that the reason you are selling to them is that you are looking out for them, that it is for their benefit rather than yours that you are having this conversation, they will tend to trust you, just that little bit more. It also puts the onus of making the decision onto them, so they will have a far greater commitment to the decision, than if they feel you pushed them into it.

They sell to the heart, not the head. We all know this, but so often we sell to the head because it seems  easier, and certainly requires less work. It is clear that nobody buys an expensive sports car because it will cover the standing 1/4 in under 5 seconds, they buy it because it tells everyone else that they can. Understanding the emotional triggers that apply in any selling situation rather than relying on the rational ones, which are always more  obvious,  will make you far more effective.

Call me when I can help you be more effective.

Header image courtesy www.gapingvoid.com. I use Hugh McLeod’s insights quite a bit

9 steps to making cold calling work for you

9 steps to making cold calling work for you

I find cold calling really difficult, while recognising the potential effectiveness when the inertia is overcome.

For me,  it takes time and emotional energy far greater than the return I have ever got from cold calling, except when I have run  out of options, then it seems to work. When the instinctive fear of failure is overcome by the necessity to take a step, when the fear of failure, or rejection is beaten by the fear of not being able to feed the kids or pay the bill on the fridge, the fear of rejection by a stranger seems trivial.

What does it really matter if you are rejected by a complete stranger anyway?

A friend of mine treats cold calling as a game, she does it for a living, and is very good at it.

Recently I sat down with her to try and extract from her routine a scalable cold calling template, and realised two things:

  1. The fear of failure was crippling
  2. Cold calling is pretty much the same as sending a cold email , which I am OK at.

Her advice was to get over the fear, and she referred me to this terrific TED talk, and to treat cold calling with just the same set of disciplines I used for cold emailing.

I have a process for developing email success that I use as a coaching outline for those I work with, and it almost always gets great results when applied sensibly. However, adding Jia jiang’s Ted talk will add greatly to the effectiveness of the following pretty standard management process to increase your effectiveness.

Segment your list.  The better you know the prospect who answers the phone, the more likely you will have a successful call. The more defined your call list, with unique messaging and value propositions developed for each segment, the better. This is as different from the completely random call you get as you are sitting down to dinner in the evening, from someone in a call centre flogging home insulation, insurance or a holiday, as it can be.

Headline. The first sentence in a phone call, or headline in an email carry the same responsibility: to pique the interest of the receiver. Fail in the first glance of a headline, or 5 seconds of a call, and it is a long hard road back. There are plenty of headline generating tools around, but the best lesson in my experience is to go to the local newsagent, and just think about the headlines on the cover of the magazines you see. They are aimed to grab attention, and direct the reader to the following sub  head, which leads into the magazine article.

Them not you. Make the message about them, and the things that interest them, not about you, as generally they will not be interested, and you will have lost them. You need to  be able to spell out exactly how you can help them.

Be a peer. Speak and write like a peer, not a supplicant sales person. There are few worse sales turn-offs than a “needy” caller. Much better to be a busy peer, making a little time in a crazy schedule because you have discovered something that you think will be of value to them.

Credibility. Be credible by providing social proof, or better yet, a referral from someone the receiver knows and respects.

Personalise. Ensure everything is personalised, anything less than a highly personalised call will almost always fail. It is necessary for you to have done the research, to know a fair bit about the receiver, the problems they face in their role, and the value of a solution you may be able to provide. Making a call to the switch of a target company and asking to be transferred to the “person responsible for XXX” is a waste of everybody’s time.

Respect. Time is our most valuable resource, so respect the receivers time by keeping it short, but to the point, ending with some sort of call to action by you or them. However, the CTA needs to be consistent with the context of the conversation. Early stages may lead to a further conversation, or the inclusion of someone else, but rarely to a sale on first contact. Generally the objective is to get some sort of positive response, a step towards a sale, but not a sale, yet.

Differentiate yourself. If you are just the same as everybody else, why should the person you are trying to engage bother with you? While the call has to be about them, and not you, it is also about articulating the way that you can help  them in ways others cannot. The necessity here is that you have done some homework, at least enough to have a shot at articulating the solution you may have to a problem they face, or opportunity they may be unaware of. Differentiation early in the conversation offers a reason why they should continue to give you their time, and builds the status you have in the conversation, you are not just another cold caller.

Follow up. And follow up again, and again, politely and with respect. Generally sales people give up at about 3, whereas all the research indicates that 5-7 follow  ups are the point at which the ability to convert increases significantly. It reflects the old advice about advertising frequency, at about the time you are getting sick of the ad, if it is worth anything, the target audience is just building awareness of your proposition.

 

So, what is stopping you, pick up the bloody phone!

 

Photo courtesy Nancy Rose via Flikr.

 

5 Psychology strategies used to increase sales

5 Psychology strategies used to increase sales

Success in sales is not just about getting the other person to like you, and trust you, although that helps.

It is about how you employ human psychology.

Robert Cialdini articulated 6 rules in his seminal work ‘Influence‘ in 1993, Reciprocity, Social proof, Commitment and Consistency, Liking, Authority, and Scarcity.

Imagine you gave someone $30 for completing a task, and then because it was completed satisfactorily, you gave them another $20. Compare that to someone to whom you offered $70 to complete a task with an impossible deadline, and then took $20 away because they missed the deadline, although completing the task satisfactorily in all other aspects.

Which of the two would be happier? In this case, you have framed the situation to ensure that one saw the outcome in a positive light, rather than a negative one.

This sort of basic psychology is at work every time you negotiate in any way, it just happens. Thinking about the process with a little sensitivity the basic psychology can make you considerably more successful.

Some simple examples.

Part of a group.

Humans are herd animals. We tend to do what those around us do, to follow the lead of the group. Suggesting that others with whom they relate are doing ‘A’ will increase the likelihood that they will do the same, as demonstrated in Cialdini’s research in 2008 articulating his 7th principal of influence, the Unity principal. This leads us to be influenced by others the more we relate to them. This was the subject of his famous towels in a hotel project, where he demonstrated that guests could be significantly influenced simply by the persuasive power of telling them what others were doing.

Foot in the door.

This is not the old fashioned door to door technique of not stopping until you call the police, it is far less intimidating, and is a widely used tactic in digital marketing. The offer to try a product free for a month before paying for it is a foot in the door, as is the one that offers a free book, you just pay for the freight, or the one-time .97 cent offer, to get to the first level of a normally more expensive course, or club. The psychology is that once your hand has gone in your pocket once, you have made the purchase decision the first time, the second time is way easier.

Create a decoy

Potential customers seek value, defined in all sorts of ways, but when making a choice, they always look at the options available and ascribe a value to each, then make the choice. By making your preferred item look great compared to the alternatives you offer, you can significantly influence the outcome, Again this is used extensively in digital sales. On almost every sales page for a software product, there will be lists of comparative tools you are given for different amounts per month. Usually it will be three options, as option overload leads to confusion, and potential customers walking away, choosing to buy none, but when there are three, there will be the first with a few tools available, for free, or a small price, then there will be the $29/month with an extensive list of options, and a third with the same extensive list and a few more that might be important to a few, for $59/month. The vast majority will look at the value delivered by the $29 option, and opt there, as it offers the best value, the few who opt for the expensive one, well, they are the cream, and those that take the freebie or very cheap version are ripe to be upsold at a later time.

Sell time.

We all understand the old adage, ‘Time is money’ so saving time with a purchase, time that can be used in other ways that will benefit the purchaser, is a powerful motivator. This technique is used extensively when selling services. Most of the so called ‘Business coaches’ out there use this technique, weaving pictures of how great it would be for small business owners to have the time to play golf every day, or run their businesses from the beach between diving expeditions on the reef.

It is also used in reverse, putting a time limit on the availability of a product. ‘Available only at this price until 5 pm tomorrow’ often accompanied by a clock running in reverse is similarly a strong motivator.

Quality = Price

In a market where the knowledge of many buyers is limited, like wine, consumers have over time recognised that price is a fair indicator of quality. When you understand the perception levels of a category in a consumers mind, they can be significantly influenced in a purchase decision by the ticket price.

The foundation of all this is of course that you have a very clear picture of your ideal customer, so can anticipate which of the techniques, and they are often used in tandem, will work, in your set of circumstances.

It also remains true that people love to buy, but hate to be sold to, so selling is really the wrong word, it is more about persuasion, and we all understand that psychology plays a huge role in persuasion.

PS this post was put up yesterday with a different headline, and redefined the dead cat bounce. I thought it was better than that, so polished it up a bit, to see what happens.

 

 

Does ‘Know, Like, & Trust’ still hold?

Does ‘Know, Like, & Trust’ still hold?

The only way businesses survive is to generate revenue in excess of their costs, consistently.

Common sense.

One of the oldest adages in revenue generation is that people do business with those they know like and trust.

It was correct, and to an extent it still is, but with a huge, game-changing wrinkle.

Most of us by now have done some sort of transaction electronically.

You have most likely moved to that transaction without ever meeting the person on the other side, so you certainly do not know them, and have no idea if you would like them, but you trust them to complete their side of the transaction.

One out of three now seems to be good enough?

Not really when you think about it.

In most cases there has been some interaction that you as the purchaser have undertaken that the seller knows nothing about.

You have looked at their website for technical specifications, prices, service promises, you may have downloaded some of the free stuff from their site, often to a junk email address so you do not get bothered with the following auto-marketing.  Depending on the product you may also have checked out the various product forums, and review sites, and you have compared all this to the competitive offerings.

The summary of all this is that when you get to the point of initiating a transaction, you have come to value and trust those you do not know, sufficiently to decide to do business with them.

Value and trust. Key words.

Trust is mutual and earned by performance over time, value is delivered.

The challenge now in revenue generation is therefore to reach out to those who do not know you, but who may have some problem you can solve, some irritation you can remove, and demonstrate your value to the point where they trust you sufficiently to do business with you.

A complete turnaround from the days where you did business with people you got to know like and trust while walking the golf course.

How do you calculate a Cost Per Lead?

How do you calculate a Cost Per Lead?

The smoke and mirrors crowd of “Digital marketing made easy” will tell you that Cost Per Lead (CPL)  is a key measure. This is half right, but the half that gets missed most of the time is the half that really counts.

First, how do you define a lead?

Is it a webform download, attendee at a webinar or seminar, business cards collected at a tradeshow or network breakfast, someone who calls up ,looking for information, or just a random conversation about the product you sell with someone at the tennis club in a weekend.

It can be all of these, and none.

All so called leads are not created equally, and until there is some sort of qualification that there is a problem to be solved or some circumstances that can be leveraged, it is not a lead, it is just a name you happen to have.

The task is to qualify the name in some way that indicates its potential to result in a transaction, and therefore attract the resources necessary to convert.

Most businesses have some sort of prioritisation process in place, even an ad hoc one, that recognises the difference in value between a business card from that exhibition, a referral from a trusted contact, to a request from existing customer for advice on a problem they face.

It is not however an easy process, nor is it one that is aided by the simple metrics found in most CRM and marketing automation packages.

The most expensive resource an organisation has is often its salesforce.

It is not the absolute cost of them that counts, but the business that their face to face time delivers.

Lets assume that your total cost of employment of a sales rep is 100k.

They work 42 weeks, 8 hours per day, so the nominal cost per hour is $260.

Let’s further assume that they have a lot of internal meetings, order follow up, report writing and  emails that takes 2 hours per day (a conservative estimate in my experience) travel time of another 2 hours/day to get to 3 meetings with customers taking 30 minutes each.

All that means that the face to face selling time, the key to revenue generation in most B2B businesses is  just  1.5 hours a day, so the real cost of the sales representatives time, doing the real work of selling is $1,387/hour.

Puts a different light on the common task of sales reps of following up the business cards collected at that sales conference, or cold calling door to door in the local industrial park, doesn’t it?

The only real way to measure the CPL is to have a process in place that is sufficiently complete, and agile enough to recognise differences in the nature of the so called leads. This really requires the knowledge of people to be applied. Leaving it to the algorithms in the CRM is no way to go, although at the rate of development of machine learning, that will be possible in the very near future.

Scary thought that for sales and marketing people.

However, currently a robust process looks something like:

  • A strategy for creating and leveraging demand
  • Articulation of the value proposition of the business
  • Identification of  the ideal customer on the basis to whom the value proposition will be of most value
  • Detailed customer  journey analysis
  • Automated systems to do the ‘grunt’ work
  • Face to face sales time & conversion rates
  • KPI’s and dashboards to collect and monitor key sales pipeline data
  • Continuous improvement of all the above.

When all that is done, measure the CPL in a way that is meaningful to your business.