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Successful Prospecting Integrates Sales and Marketing

Who is responsible for prospecting? Sales or Marketing?

It is an age-old debate between these two disciplines, isn’t it? Sales claims that marketing hasn’t created enough leads to meet their goals. And, Marketing claims they have generated hundreds of leads that sales never follows up on.

And, who is right?

They both are! What I have found after working with many sales and marketing teams across many different industries, is that the issue really comes down to two easily addressed areas:

    1. The definition of a lead. Both teams must be VERY clear about what defines a lead. I like to define a lead as an opportunity where the buyer is actively shopping or open to shopping for what you have to sell. If the opportunity is more of a “possibility in the future” then they are still a prospect. Regardless of how you define a lead within your own sales process, the key is that you do so and that both sales and marketing agree and understand that definition. 2. The lack of integration between sales and marketing efforts. Defining what qualifies an opportunity as a “lead” is a great start to successful prospecting. Now you must also define the role of sales and marketing in the converting of prospects to leads. This is where many companies fall down-by either assigning this responsibility to marketing alone or assigning it fully to sales. In reality though, the most effective approach is assigning the responsibility to both and integrating the activities of each. This is not a relay race where one runner hands the baton off cleanly to the next. This is more like a baseball game, where catchers, pitchers, basemen, and outfielders all play their part in an integrated way to win the game.

So what does this mean for you?

Take a hard look at how you identify prospects and what defines a lead for your organization. NOT just from a marketing perspective, nor just from a sales perspective, but from both. Then, analyze your marketing programs for how well they integrate with sales.

An example of an integrated prospecting effort would be: Marketing generates a prospect through a web download from a promotion, Sales calls to further qualify, Marketing invites the highly qualified prospects from the sales call downs to a seminar, Sales meets each attendee at the seminar and sets an appointment for a product demo, etc.

From this example, you can see how integrating your efforts will allow you to more efficiently and effectively identify, qualify, and convert your best prospects. If your efforts aren’t well integrated now, it’s time to get busy reworking your sales and marketing plans.

Essentially, successful prospecting comes down to the powerful integration of the magic of marketing with the science of sales. And though it is not easy and does take discipline, it is well worth it.

The World’s Oldest Profession: Sales and Marketing

I’d like to focus on the world’s oldest profession: sales and marketing. Now some people might disagree with my theory, but I think even Heidi Fleiss would have to admit that nothing happens until a sale is made.

Today, sales and marketing are merely a civilized form of warfare in which most battles are won with words, ideas, and disciplined thinking. They are critically important because generating new sales is the key to success in any business. Experts estimate that with the current rate of business failures and consolidation we need to replace about 15% of our accounts each year, just to stay even.

So how do you properly market your business? Here’s a four point plan that can dramatically increase your sales:

Step One:

The first step to increasing your sales is understanding who your customers really are. It amazes me that most business owners I ask really don’t know their customers. They get so busy running the business that they don’t understand who buys their products and services. I like to ask, “If the “Perfect Prospect” was the next person through the door, what would they be like?”

If your answer sounds something like 55-65, conservative white collar professional male working in downtown Phoenix with an income above $100,000 and a minimum net worth of $250,000 you probably have this step mastered. If not, here are a few questions to help you identify your perfect prospect.

Look at your existing customer list. Pick out your top 25 accounts and identify what they have in common. What are the demographics? Are they young, old, male, female? Are they located in a particular area of town? Are they in similar or related industries? Are they big companies or small companies? Many times our clients get stuck at this point in the process. If that should happen, I suggest they start with a different question, who isn’t your customer. Once this is clearly established it will be easier to identify who is.

Step Two:

The next step is to ask yourself why these individuals or businesses chose your company? Why do your top customers buy from you? A few questions here are key.

Walmart sells price, Nordstrom’s sells service and Tiffany’s sells quality. Each are successful, what do you sell?

In one sentence, what distinguishes you from your competitors?

How is your product or service different or better than your competition?

What problem does your company solve for the consumer?

These questions will help you discover what your competitive advantages are. To illustrate the concept of competitive advantage, let’s pretend for a moment that you are an NFL coach.

If you had just taken over the coaching position and looking down the team roster you noticed that you had a horrible quarterback, huge linemen and and 2 MVP running backs, you wouldn’t spend all your time developing passing plays. You’d want to run the ball. And run it, and run it and run it until they stop it. And when they do, it’s time to run the ball in a different direction. Likewise in other businesses, you need to play to your strengths; you don’t have the time, money or energy to be all things to all people.

Incorporate these competitive advantages into every part of your marketing. Put it in every ad, on every delivery vehicle, brochure, business card, website or other marketing tool you have. And run it and run it and run it.

Educate your employees, every one of them, about your advantages. Every person in your business must be a salesperson in some way and understand why customers chose your company.

Step Three:

The third step is to integrate your marketing across a variety of mediums. Try not to rely on just one form of advertising. The most effective vehicles for marketing most businesses are:

The yellow pages – both printed and electronic forms

Direct Mail – postcards, letters, doorhangers and flyers produce cost effective results

The internet – your own website and other referring sites. How well does your company rank in Google. How many search terms list you on the first page? What is the competition for those words?

And the best of all sources, referrals from existing clients

Develop a written marketing plan for the next 12 months to do this. It should be a rolling 12 month calendar that allows you to be prepared to hit your promotions at the peak times. It should also include specific goals include total sales or a percentage of growth over the previous year.

The Final Step, Just Do It:

The last and final step is just do it. Take the time to work through the program I have outlined and make adjustments as you go. I think General Patton got it right when he said that a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. Yes, sales and marketing is where it all starts, but just like a health club membership it only works if you do.

Aligning Your Sales and Marketing With Your Customers’ Decision Making Process

In the heart of every business is the desire to convert more sales. In the competitive race to win more clients, many organisations focus on advancing the customer through the stages in the sales cycle. It is important to ensure your prospect is progressing through the sales process. However, it is critical that you do not to lose sight of your customers’ decision making process. Orientating your sales and marketing towards the customers decision making process ensures that your prospect naturally moves through the necessary steps in the sales process.

In the typical sales cycle, the sales person will prospect for opportunities. Once a reasonable opportunity is uncovered, the sales person will seek to establish a meeting with the prospect to perform a needs analysis and pitch the company products, services or solutions. Upon a successful meeting the sales person will develop a proposal. The objective is then to close the proposal to win another paying customer.

The danger of being too orientated towards the sales cycle is that it does not focus on the customer, their needs, motivations and decision making progressions. Obstacles in their decision making process will prevent the customer from moving forward in the sales cycle.

For this reason it is important for organisations to align their sales and marketing with their potential customers’ decision making process.

The decision making process can vary from customer to customer or from product to product.

Here is a description of the key ingredients in a buying decision:

Need Arousal: Understand how your customer develops a need for your product or service and ensure that you have marketing efforts in place to stimulate the interest of your target audience. Customers can develop a need for your products by trying them out in stores, product trials or simply by viewing product demonstrations. These are just a few examples. What is important is to ensure that your product or service has a presence at the time and place that your customer would typically develop a need.

Information Search: The customer will then seek information about the product. The customer needs to feel certain that the product or service can fulfil their need. The customer will seek to eliminate the risk that the product or service will not do what they want it to do. It is important that your marketing collateral is thorough and builds the purchasing confidence of your potential customer. Ensure that your marketing information builds desire and confidence. Ensure that your and communications demonstrate how the product or service is aligned with the customers needs.

Evaluation of Alternatives: The customer will arrive at a small range of choices. Each may have their own positive or negative aspects. The customer is looking to determine which product or service is best suited to their needs. At this point it is important to understand what competing products or substitutes you are up against. Ensure that your product or service has the closest match with your customers needs. You may need to offer better value or renegotiate price at this point. Communication with your prospect at this point is critical.

The Decision: This may be made on product benefits and positive attributes that will benefit the customer. There may be numerous stakeholders in the decision. Make sure you do not exclude them. Negative aspects may also play a role. Make sure that you have no deal breakers. The key to success at this point is to ensure that the previous steps are done correctly.

Post Purchase Response: After the sale, the customer will evaluate the purchase decision to ensure that they made the right choice. After sales support and courtesy calls are important to ensure that the customer does not develop buyers remorse. There is no sense in selling a product if the customer returns it the next day. Furthermore, good after sales support will lead to repeat business and ongoing referrals.

Orientating your sales approach towards your customers decision making process is about empathise with your customer and helping to make the buying decision easy for them.