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Basic sales requirements?

The basic sales requirements.

Currently I’m a partner in a Technology company. We do Technical support and Service for Small to medium sized businesses as well as in home and in store service for home computers.
Our sales model has been Word of mouth and advertising in local publications. We have also done 1 local Television commercial (aired 300 times) which didn’t bring in any business.

I have known for a while that we have limited knowledge of the sales process and I need to get a handle on what I’m missing. I’m a big fan of education and have listened to Tom Hopkins and Tony Robbins and a host of other Sales, Business and motivational material.

However I still feel I’m missing a practical knowledge of what a successful business does to Find, Manage, Close and Maintain long term clients.

So I would like to hear some opinions from the experienced forum members as to what constitutes a full sales cycle, who is responsible for what and what resource you recommend.

I’ve realized that our target market is Businesses with 10 – 100 computers.
I’ve also realized that we may need to hire a sales person to handle this part of our business.
Similarly I’m not sure if 1 sales person would also be responsible for Marketing and creating Bids and pricing?

Any help and insight would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Big Rob - by Big Rob
So I would like to hear some opinions from the experienced forum members as to what constitutes a full sales cycle, who is responsible for what and what resource you recommend.
I think the basic areas you're asking about fall into "Prospect, Sell, and Service". There are mountains of information on each of those areas but not as much consensus. :sa - by Houston
However I still feel I’m missing a practical knowledge of what a successful business does to Find, Manage, Close and Maintain long term clients.
This is going to vary from company to company. Just like business models, marketing plans, etc. are going to vary from company to company.

So I would like to hear some opinions from the experienced forum members as to what constitutes a full sales cycle, who is responsible for what and what resource you recommend
This will vary based on the product or service and responsibilities will vary from company to company.

At the end of the day, or this thread, I believe you're going to find that what you've asked is too broad in scope to be answered in a forum thread like this with anything more than general tips or advice.
- by BossMan
I'd be happy to start with General Tips and advice and chunk down from there. As I said any help is appreciated.

Thanks again. - by Big Rob
Lead Generation Tip: Deliver the right message to the right prospect at the right time. :) - by Calvin
Big Rob,

May I ask a few questions? Need to get more information to be able to give any suggestions that would actually make sense.

Your target market is companies with 10 to 100 computers. Have you found that you seem to work best or attract business from any particular industry or segment?

How large is your market area (geographic)?

Where are your price points in comparison to your competition?

What is your budget? (You have two functions--sales and marketing. Is it fair to assume your budget at this point won't allow for two different quality people? If not, you must fit both functions into one person or find a way to contract on a part-time, limited basis for marketing help.)

What is your typical size contract? (or do you do your work on an as needed basis? Or, both?) - by pmccord
Hi Bob,

According to Marketing Sherpa B2B buyers are the most receptive to white papers. The response rate is 79%.

You both establish your credibility and generate high calibre leads. And then you can distribute the white paper in any means you can.

Similarly I’m not sure if 1 sales person would also be responsible for Marketing and creating Bids and pricing?
I think it's retarded to make one person responsible for the company's success. it must be a team effort.

The white paper on my site generates about 50-80 downloads a week. These become warm leads. I have no hard selling to do and no fee objections.

Oh, and one more thing. You'll never have to bid again. Actually, you don't even write a proposal for free. - by Bald Dog
May I ask a few questions? Need to get more information to be able to give any suggestions that would actually make sense.
Please do.

Your target market is companies with 10 to 100 computers. Have you found that you seem to work best or attract business from any particular industry or segment?
Not really, I would say our business is pretty diverse. Although most of our clients are Real estate businesses, I think that is only because there has been a boom in real estate recently.

How large is your market area (geographic)? All of long island NY, so 1,377 square miles and a population of 7.5 million at 5,470 people per square mile. median home prices rising in excess of $400,000 USD. And some manhatten.

Where are your price points in comparison to your competition?
We are for the most part slightly below our competition. Generally 10% better and I feel our after sales support is 100X better then our competition. Some times I think our after sales support might actually be costing us too much money in both man power and potential sales (back end/Up selling that is).

What is your budget? (You have two functions--sales and marketing. Is it fair to assume your budget at this point won't allow for two different quality people?
Yes this is true.

If not, you must fit both functions into one person or find a way to contract on a part-time, limited basis for marketing help.)
Full time sales and part time marketing might be possible.

In your opinion a good sales person will not be able to participate in our marketing effort?

What is your typical size contract? (or do you do your work on an as needed basis? Or, both?)
Generally we work on an as needed basis. I have been pushing my partners to work on getting contracts. I think our lack of contracts is directly related to us not having a sales person. We can't seem to convince someone that maintanence is an important part of support. Most of our clients feel that they can save the money and just deal with their problems as they arise.

Thank you. - by Big Rob
Similarly I’m not sure if 1 sales person would also be responsible for Marketing and creating Bids and pricing?
I think it's retarded to make one person responsible for the company's success. it must be a team effort.
I can appreciate that, at this point our budget doesn't allow for both sales and marketing.
Our business only consists of technical people, so our business as a whole has been a major team effort, we all do everything and it's no longer working. We'd like to start taking our high profit on-site technicians off the sales and marketing team if you know what I mean.

When I ask about the Sales person doing Bids and Pricing what I'm asking is when a sales person goes to a client to sell they obviously need to sell our services which comes in the hours form. So the Sales person would have to design a service contract or write a bid to secure the client. I'm having a hard time understanding how someone in sales would be capable of determining how much time a project would take or what resources would be required. I'm just trying to understand how most people handle this situation.

Oh and I checked out your website I will be reading you pdf's.
Thanks,
Robert - by Big Rob
You will have to make a decision whether to hire one salesperson or a salesperson and a free-lance marketing person to help with your marketing materials.

Since I’m from the sales side, much of what I’m about to say is from a sales perspective. If I were a marketing person, some of the things I’d say would be different. However, I believe marketing should follow the lead of sales. A marketing person would tell you the opposite.

As a one salesperson company, you will need to hire a top-of-the-line salesperson if you can (they are not cheap). You’ll probably face a couple of issues trying to hire a truly top notch salesperson: 1) many won’t be willing to risk going with a small, unproven company (unproven in terms of sales); 2) many others will analyze your systems and processes very critically, as they will only want to be associated with the best. Overcoming the second may not be an issue—overcoming the first may well be a real issue. Consequently, you may have to settle for a 2nd tier salesperson (they’re not cheap, either). If you try to buy a salesperson cheaply, you’re more than likely going to get that quality of salesperson. You want someone with proven skills, a large number of quality contacts, and who understands your company’s goals and objectives. Again, they’re not inexpensive.

Most salespeople, no matter their quality, aren’t very good at creating marketing materials, just as most marketing people aren’t very good at selling. If you happen to find someone who is good at both, they’ll be worth every penny. But more than likely, you’ll have to hire a free-lance marketing person to work with your salesperson. The salesperson should be key in the process of creating the materials since they are the one who has to use it.


At this point, you really shouldn’t need that many marketing pieces and farming it out shouldn’t be a problem. Just stick with the same marketing person so there is a consistency to the look and feel of your materials.

Your first job in selling is to define in as great a detail as possible who your ideal prospect is. The more you can identify your ideal prospect, the more you can focus on finding and selling them. Your description should include company size, annual sales, number of employees, industry, location, etc.

One of the things you should really consider is focusing on one, two or maybe three industries and to become a niche company. By focusing on a couple of niche markets, you can have the ability to become the dominate company in that niche. It is far easier and more cost effective to focus on one or two niches and really penetrate those markets than to try to reach everybody. You can have more impact trying to focus on say 4,000 companies rather than say 30,000 companies. Dollars and time goes further; image and reputation is built quicker; referrals and networking is more effective.

The only real problem with concentrating on a couple of niche markets is that most companies and salespeople are afraid to do it. They fear that they’re ignoring a huge number of potential prospects. So, they try to be everything to everyone and end up being not much of anything to anyone. There is a lot of money to be made being a big fish in a small pond, and no money to be made being a dead fish in a large pond.

Since you already have a good number of real estate industry clients, seek quality referrals from them to other real estate industry companies—other brokers, small to mid-size mortgage banks and brokers; small to mid-size builders; title companies; appraisal and inspection firms; etc. Real estate is a huge market, with thousands of potential prospects in your area and you already have contacts.

Also, networking in that industry is easy. Between the various industry associations, there are limitless networking opportunities. Becoming a minor sponsor of some of their events isn’t overly expensive. And you can claim to really know their needs and issues. As time goes on, you really learn their industry specific software programs and eventually can bring additional value by suggesting programs and equipment they may not be familiar with to help them improve their business.

Once you have your ideal prospect defined, you’ll have to put together a prospect list. This can be done by various means—referrals and networking as suggested above; purchasing leads (typically a waste of money, despite what the lead companies will tell you, unless you’re looking for a few quick, low profit sales); researching various industry organizations and associations; local business and civic organizations; and other methods.

Once you have a fair size prospect list, you’ll have to figure out how to contact them. Cold calling, direct mail, direct email, drop-by, etc. Since you’re in an industry that is needed, but probably not needed exactly when you contact a company, you’ll have the opportunity to build a relationship with the company before they need you. That works in your favor. The stronger the relationship you build, the less price will be a factor.

When you approach a prospect, don’t emphasize your price. You are a little lower than most of your competition, which is an advantage, but you don’t want to become known as the “cheap company.” Once you’ve established a reputation as being the cheap guy, it’s hard to raise prices or re-establish your image as high quality. And you want to be known as the quality company, not the cheapest way out. Use your pricing to your advantage, just don’t emphasize it in marketing.

You might also consider teaming up with one or more other companies that market to the same industry to do joint marketing and sales. This can be an extremely effective way to market. It takes time and effort to put it in place, and you must be very selective in whom you partner with (you only want to partner with companies who already have the image, reputation and reach you want—so, obviously, putting this together isn’t easy or fast). But if you can put together a strong marketing partnership, it can do wonders for your sales.

This is getting a little long, so I’ll stop here to get an idea as to whether this is helping or not. - by pmccord
When I ask about the Sales person doing Bids and Pricing what I'm asking is when a sales person goes to a client to sell they obviously need to sell our services which comes in the hours form. So the Sales person would have to design a service contract or write a bid to secure the client. I'm having a hard time understanding how someone in sales would be capable of determining how much time a project would take or what resources would be required. I'm just trying to understand how most people handle this situation.
The salesperson won't be giving a proposal without first consulting the tech department. Your salesperson will have to work closely with your tech people to make the proposals. If you find and hire someone who is highly skilled in your area, you'll find that in short order they'll be able to make the majority of proposals on their own. If it is someone who doesn't have the background, they will, over time, learn to do the majority of proposals without having to consult the tech department. Either way, at first, it will be a process of the salesperson working closing with the techs to develop a proposal that meets the prospect's needs while giving you the profit margin you need. - by pmccord
Brilliant points, pmccord. Great points on niche development and ideal clients.

Freelance marketing person: While this person provides marketing strategy, all other people in the company can chip in to help with the tactics. With a client I organise the direct mail campaign and write the letter, but it's the client's staff (engineers, technicians, accountant, etc) who lick the stamps and stuff the envelopes.

I'm doing business development strategy with several technology companies, and work (teleconference, email, online forum, etc.) with the tactical people. And it works really well because together we create some neat ****. And since they are not competitors, we can freely exchange ideas and materials among members.

> Since I’m from the sales side,

I believe marketing and sales should be integrated into a seamless process of business development. Just like foreplay and the main course of lovemaking. I would sound silly to tell my girlfriend that I do only foreplay and for the main course, she has to find someone else. I think marketing and sales are the same. The better we integrate the two, the better the client is served and the better off we get.

Thoughts? - by Bald Dog
I agree to some extent that sales and marketing are one function--except in the real world with most companies and especially with most marketing people, they see things much differently than the sales folks.

The goal should be the same--filling the prospect and client pipelines with great prospects and clients. The unfortunate reality is that most sales, marketing and management people see things from very different perspectives and, consequently, rivalries and divergent views occur--and get in the way of the real objectives.

Unless there is a mediator around (and usually from outside the company), it is almost impossible to prevent these rivalries from occurring.

So, if we're dealing with the real world of most companies, either marketing or sales must take the lead. Each has their own view of how to generate prospects--and in many cases, each has their own view of what an ideal prospect and client is.

Big Rob has the luxury of starting off with marketing and sales in harmony where most companies have to try to reign in both and get them to work together instead of at odds.

Same function with two different tasks? Yes--ideally. No, for most companies. - by pmccord
pmccord - Yes this is exactly what I was looking for, your advice is like gold.

Thanks as well to Bald Dog.

In your opinion what typically constitutes a good sales package.
i.e. Testomonial, Case studies, Biography, Services.. ect..?

What should we be mailing clients and what should we be handing them in person?

Thanks, and I apologize for being vague. - by Big Rob
Most marketing material is nothing but a crutch for salespeople and "stuff" to make marketing feel that they're doing their job.

Now, that I've irritated most everyone on both sides of the fence, let me explain.

Most collateral material is never looked at, much less read. It goes from the salesperson's hand to the trash. Salespeople love "leave behinds" in hopes that the leave behind material will help sell the prospect. Seldom does it-because first, it isn't looked at, and secondly, it hardly ever adds value.

That's not to say that there aren't effective marketing pieces. Another advantage of niche marketing is that you can direct your marketing materials to the real world problems of a specific industry, rather than trying to scatter-shoot everyone.

Testimonials work very well if done correctly. If you can, you want testimonial letters from one client to a specific referred prospect that you can use as a testimonial. For some examples, look at some of the referral letters on this page. You want testimonials to be as specific as possible as to what you did for the client. Also, don't use the old "Joe B." type testimonial. No one believes this. Use a full name, title, and company (and if necessary, city, state). Let the prospect know that if they really wanted to, they could verify the testimonial--that is the only way to be effective.

Never use superlatives unless they come from a fully identified other person. For example, I use lots of superlatives about my book and my training--both on my website and in my marketing materials--but they are quotes from others, most of them very well known sales, marketing and business leaders and publications. I let them make the statements for me; fully identify who said it so it can be verified if necessary; and I make sure I quote accurately. I also use testimonials from "regular" salespeople, professionals and business owners--again with full identification, including city, state.

As Bald Dog mentioned, white papers are excellent. A white paper should very specifically add value, not hype. There should be no advertising or self-promotion (fully identified examples aren't self-promotion). Case studies are a great topic for this type of material.

A one-page flier should be sufficient for general marketing and leave behind material.

Your materials (leave behinds, not direct mail pieces) should aim to do four things: 1) build credibility; 2) add value; 3) strengthen your image; 4) pique interest and help move the prospect along. Marketing materials shouldn't aim to sell--paper seldom sells anything, although a call to action is appropriate (the call to action more than likely won't move anyone to action, but it can reinforce the salesperson's call to action). Marketing materials shouldn't aim to take the place of a salesperson. Marketing materials shouldn't aim to make the complete presentation (your salesperson should be doing this--the leave behind is simply to highlight the critical factors to build credibility and pique interest; add value and strengthen your image. The real selling is your salesperson's job).

Direct mail pieces are another matter altogether.

A direct mail piece is designed to either soften someone up for a call or a direct call to action. If a direct call to action, then your direct mail piece is a selling piece. It's goal is to take the place of a salesperson. Typically, with your services, direct mail should probably be used as a pre-call piece, rather than as a hard sales piece.

Again, you want your direct mail piece to add value (every communication with a prospect or client should add value. You either train prospects and clients to ignore you by sending stuff that wastes their time, or to recognize and trust you by adding value when they see your material) and to enhance your image. Your call to action is for them to call for an appointment. In reality, your direct mail piece is to get them to accept your salesperson's call when they do call. (Again, if this were coming from a marketing person, they'd tell you that they can sell your prospect with their direct mail piece. I doubt that simply because of the nature of your service--you're not selling a commodity). - by pmccord
As I mentioned I have reviewed many sales and marketing educational products so I understand everything you are saying. And I’d like to add that you are really helping to give some real world understanding to the theories. These last few posts are really helping to round out my knowledge.

I have a few more questions, you mentioned that sales leads don’t work. Did you mean specifically for cold calling? If I’m to do Direct Mail marketing wouldn’t I do so utilizing sales leads? If not where would you suggest getting my leads from for the mailings.

I’d like to do direct mail marketing because of the ease of tracking responses and the cost efficient nature of the method. What in your opinion would be a good format for the message?

What are some key “Call to action” phrases you would use in direct mail marketing. Considering my audience is Managers, Owners, Partners and C level individuals.

Thanks for your help. - by Big Rob
I'm just not a big fan of purchased sales leads. Seldom do you have the opportunity to purchase exclusive leads. If your leads aren't exclusive, then you know going in that the prospect will have other companies calling--usually at least three other companies, so you know going in that price is going to be one of the primary factors in making a decision. I'd rather have the ability to find my own prospects where I can educate and sell, rather than paying to go into a price war.

When you purchase a sales lead you're purchasing the name and information of someone or a company that has somehow given indication they're looking for your product or service. On the other hand, if you purchase a list of companies that match certain criteria that you've established, you have no idea if they are actively looking for your services. So, purchasing a list is much different than purchasing leads. There certainly isn't any problem with purchasing a list.

You can create your own list by getting industry organization and association membership lists. These may be more relevant and up to date. One is much quicker, the other possibly more accurate. - by pmccord
pmccord: Most marketing material is nothing but a crutch for salespeople and "stuff" to make marketing feel that they're doing their job.

Spot on. Brilliant response.

> Now, that I've irritated most everyone on both sides of the fence, let me explain.

Great. You irritate people out of their often erroneous perspectives. Great job.

pmccord: Salespeople love "leave behinds" in hopes that the leave behind material will help sell the prospect.

But very often marketing floods the sales folks with stupid slogans and brand awareness crap. So, prospects become very aware of the brand and buy from the competition. I love using white papers as leave behind stuff because they are read by the most prospects (79% - recent Marketing Sherpa study).

pmccord: That's not to say that there aren't effective marketing pieces.

There are. Especially in companies that practise result-accountable direct response marketing not image marketing.

I stay in touch with hesitating prospects with a printed and snail mailed article on the first of each month. I do this for 12 months and if they still don't move, I bugger off.

Also, I use leave behind pieces to help prospects to self-diagnose the situation. According to Jeff Thull, diagnosis is the greatest differentiator is today's sales environment.

If I'm a cardiac surgeon, I leave behind a piece on what a numb lower jaw means (almost certain precursor to a heart attack), and let prospects make up their minds. So by the time they call me, they are ready for the $50,000 heart surgery without price objections and dragging their feet.

And at that point I would suggest a $50,000 only a $5,000 detailed diagnosis. And the $5,000 diagnosis will sell the surgery without pitching.

Thougths?

Big Rob,

Would it make sense to develop a diagnosis service as a precursor for full implementation? This is the context here. Let's say I'm a lung specialist.

Ms. Jones, based on the preliminary diagnosis you have lung cancer. Here we have two options.

1) We start chemo and radiation right away, and your insurance covers them, so it doesn't cost you even a sausage.

2) Before we proceed with chemo and radiation, which would undoubtedly make significant peripheral damage to your body, we can conduct and extensive diagnosis to make 100% sure that you need surgery. You may or may not. This diagnosis is not covered by your insurance and it costs $15,000. Can you justify to invest $15K to establish beyond the shadow of a doubt whether or not you really need chemo and radiation, considering the significant damage it will cause.

At this point $15K is small change. No one says, I want to save that money, so go ahead and burn my body to pieces with chemo and radiation.

Thoughts? - by Bald Dog
Big Rob,

Would it make sense to develop a diagnosis service as a precursor for full implementation? This is the context here. Let's say I'm a lung specialist.
In my field usually we do free evaluations in order to let the client know what their options are then we try and close the sale. This is a general practice for our area. From reading your web page you mention you have a technical background how would you word your analogy of diagnosis in terms of a server or network installation (as opposed to lung cancer)?

A have a few more question if you guys don't mind.

I'm interested in Direct Marketing, I've always heard good things. What in your opinion would be a good format for the message or where can I find some good idea's on direct marketing formats?

And again, What are some key “Call to action” phrases you would use in direct mail marketing. Considering my audience is Managers, Owners, Partners and C level individuals.

Thanks for your help you guys have been wonderful and are helping myself and my partners to have a good idea of what direction to go with out sales and marketing practices. - by Big Rob
> From reading your web page you mention you have a technical background how would you word your analogy of diagnosis in terms of a server or network installation (as opposed to lung cancer)?

All right. Instead of lung cancer…

Joe, before we replace your current system, for which you paid $1.3 million only 4 years ago (and a full replacement would cost about $2 million), based on your self-diagnosis, would it make sense to do a detailed diagnosis to establish whether we need a total replacement or only partial upgrade?

I believe that if this $20,000 diagnosis establishes that we can keep a $50,000 server or a $100,000 cable network intact, then you already get a fair return on your investment.

And you make this suggestion after the prospect returned to you a detailed Cost Benefit Analysis and a Feasibility Analysis.

Actually I don't even talk to prospects until and unless I receive these two documents. This is harsh but I expect commitment from people to themselves before I make a commitment to them.

I believe the key to great differentiation is to start managing the project before it becomes a project. You manage it using meaningful self-diagnostic tools which prospects have fill in and return to you. But this is still only self-diagnosis (explain to the doctor what hurts). The $20K gig is a detailed customised diagnosis (MRI scan).

> I'm interested in Direct Marketing, I've always heard good things. What in your opinion would be a good format for the message or where can I find some good idea's on direct marketing formats?

My process is this:

1) Send one page letter to "sell" a free white paper

2) Readers join my newsletter

3) They start receiving my newsletter and become clients whenever they want to. I stay in touch with them with articles and occasional info product announcements. But they buy whenever they're ready.

Call to action: I keep it simple and somewhat humorous.

> Considering my audience is Managers, Owners, Partners and C level individuals.

The key is that throughout our communication we refer to indicators these C level dudes and dudesses are tracking and concerned about.

Supervisor in a manufacturing company -> spilt oil on the floor
Line manager -> Increased maintenance cost
Higher Manager -> Reduced productivity
C level folks -> Reduced shareholder value

thoughts? - by Bald Dog
Wow, thanks for the quick reply...

Joe, before we replace your current system, for which you paid $1.3 million only 4 years ago (and a full replacement would cost about $2 million), based on your self-diagnosis, would it make sense to do a detailed diagnosis to establish whether we need a total replacement or only partial upgrade?

I believe that if this $20,000 diagnosis establishes that we can keep a $50,000 server or a $100,000 cable network intact, then you already get a fair return on your investment.
I feel a little childish in that your analogy just blew away my paradigm, I guess I was just stuck in our current methodology. I think your right we could start offering more complex diagnostics.

My process is this:

1) Send one page letter to "sell" a free white paper
When you send white papers are they documents that you wrote from scratch, do you piece them together or do you get them from vendors?

I like the idea of Self Diagnosis, we put together some brochures with 10 Data recovery diagnosis tip and some basic solutions for our clients and the last Tip was to contact us if the above tips didn't work.

Do you have a sample on your website of a White paper and/or self diagnosis paper you send to clients?

Thanks again. - by Big Rob
I guess I was just stuck in our current methodology.
Aren't we all? We all are stuck in one way or another. Most people just don't have the spine, guts and balls to admit it. But we all have room for improvement.

When you send white papers are they documents that you wrote from scratch, do you piece them together or do you get them from vendors?
They are custom-written for each client based on research and experiential data. Good white papers have lots of footnotes with the titles and sections of research papers you're quoting from. That gives them weight and credibility.

I like the idea of Self Diagnosis, we put together some brochures with 10 Data recovery diagnosis tip and some basic solutions for our clients and the last Tip was to contact us if the above tips didn't work.
You can even skip the brochure part. It can divert the buyer's focus from the diagnostic tips. And make sure your tips are not the same as the tips that are commonly available on the web. Add some meat to the tips. At this point many people worry that "they will do it themselves." They won't self esteem, the ability to do something, is competence and confidence. They may have some competence but no confidence for they've never done it before. And they know that if they screw up, they have to call you to replace a million dollar network. That's a bit pricey to play with.

Do you have a sample on your website of a White paper and/or self diagnosis paper you send to clients?
I can't attach here, so I'll email them to you. You can find some here. These are my first three documents to initiate a gig. - by Bald Dog
Let me give a different perspective from Bald Dog:

First, I have a different view of sales and our obligation to the prospect than Bald Dog. Rather than seeing the prospect as having to earn our attention, I see it as our job to educate the prospect that they need us. We do that by giving them real, honest value that builds trust and educates at the same time. This process, depending on your product and service, may take time.

The reality of business is that we have competition. Some of it is good, some bad, some just so-so--some is great. But despite what we all claim, we aren't the best--the best doesn't exist. No matter how superior your company may be, there are others out there just as good in technical and customer service terms. Consequently, no prospect needs "us." They may be in need of our services, but they don't need us specifically. We have to earn that spot.

Obviously, developing the image and reputation as experts and "the best" can go a long way in helping to earn that trust. But when it comes right down to it, it's the personal interaction with the client and what we bring to the table that will have the final say-so.

Most every company is seeking to build that image and reputation that gets them half way there. Unfortunately, building that image and reputation isn't an overnight event. So, in the interim, we have to be highly proactive in finding and courting the right prospects.

Direct marketing, if defined in the sense of direct mail, etc., won't do the trick. I can help. It can supplement. It can open a door here and there, but it's trust and relationships that nail down large contracts.

If you're going to focus primarily on direct mail type of marketing, at least at this point, you have to develop pieces that highlight issues, shows your industry leadership and enhances your image, while calling the recipient to action. That's a pretty tall order for a piece of paper.

Studies have shown that in order to build an image and maintain top of mind consciousness with a prospect, you need to "touch" them about 12 to 14 times a year--in various formats. 12 postcards won't do the trick. 12 letters won't either. Neither will 12 emails. A mix works best, simply because different people respond to different formats. A mix of cards, letters, emails, phone calls, and other media is effective--and takes considerable time and work.

A newsletter and/or blog can really help. The problem with these is they must be maintained and the content must be good. It's difficult finding or developing quality material for a monthly newsletter. I have a twice monthly newsletter and it is tough coming up with 24 new pieces every year (like most authors, I'm tempted to retain my best stuff as articles for major magazines, and I have two to three articles published a month, so I have to come up with 50 to 60 original pieces a year. That's tough to do. So, don't do a blog or newsletter unless you can really commit to it.) And if you do a newsletter or blog, you must maintain your publication schedule. If you say it's monthly, you must publish on time, every time. You're training your prospect and client to trust you, or ignore you--and if you can't maintain the schedule on a simple newsletter, how can you maintain your schedules on other things?

And, as I mentioned previously, everything you get in the hands of a prospect must add value. If you look at it and think "I don't know . . . ", start over, it's probably not adding value.

As to your call to action--what do you want them to do? Call for information? Call for an appointment? Call to have a tech do something, like a diagnosis? Buy something? Your call to action must be specific. You, and they, must know exactly what you want them to do and when you want them to do it. Since you would be hitting them several times over the course of the year with different contacts, you can actually have several different calls to action--one in each piece, or progressive calls to action--the call to action gets stronger with each communication.

But above all, as I mentioned earlier, you're first and primary job is to identify in detail your ideal client and then focus your efforts on them. Don't waste time and money on the fringe prospects. Take dead aim at your real prospects and pursue them with real vigor--and value. - by pmccord
First, I have a different view of sales and our obligation to the prospect than Bald Dog. Rather than seeing the prospect as having to earn our attention, I see it as our job to educate the prospect that they need us.
It's not so much about deserving, but rather about a concept that I only move after the other party has moved and shown a certain level of commitment to solve the problem.

This has both advantages and disadvantages. Tyre-kickers hate the fact that they have to fill in 4 pretty big and detailed documents to "earn" a telephone discussion. Serious buyers look at it differently. They usually say, "Holy ****! I wish our operation were as systematised and streamlined as this dude's. I bet we could make more money with less effort." Also, by filling in the four documents - based on feedback - prospects get huge value upfront by improving their clarity and direction. These documents bring me up to speed on their businesses, and until I'm up to speed, I can't see the point in getting involved live (in person or on the phone).

Thoughts? - by Bald Dog
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