The Natural End of Marketing: The Sale!
Some have said that marketing is the preparation for the sales force to begin selling. This includes planning, product design, channel distribution issues, positioning and advertising. Then it is efficient to sell.
With the emphasis of getting the sale closed, many companies shoot themselves in the foot by missing much of the “back room” follow-up to qualify a lead for the sales force. According to an article in Marketing Tools Magazine, by Mark L. Boos, and Tweed Tobinson, of Tri-State Advertising in Indiana, research continues to show that “. . . nearly half of those who inquire about a product (46%), buy within a year. Twenty two percent will place an order in the first six months.”
A seller that follows up on its inquiries can obtain the normal market share that they enjoy. Naturally those that do not follow up adequately do not get their normal share. Nearly 70% of sellers never hear from a salesperson. Ten to 20% don’t even receive the literature they requested, according to Robinson and Boos.
A related mistake is made by most companies. They do not track where the leads come from (ad campaign) , what type of people are calling (qualifying the caller), or identifying the source of the call (such as a referral, current customer, media an ad was placed in).
Taken as a whole the lack of follow inquiry follow up can drain resources, create in efficiency and invite good competitors to have their way with your customers. Many companies think their systems are adequate when they really fall into the above description. Few companies who recognize they have room for improvement actually have the resolve to make the change.
One reason is that sales people are expected by their companies to find and follow up on their own leads. However, according to Pro-Files of California, a human resource consultancy in Redlands, the best sales personality is rarely a great clerical or system person. However, the fulfillment and follow up system generally needs improvement also.
The first step to tuning up your system is to design a carefully tailored inquiry management system. It should emphasize prompt response, pre-determined qualification parameters, and well timed and paced follow up. Don’t implement the system unless upper management is dedicated to the program and demonstrates this through resource allocation. Every person in the distribution channel—product design, advertising, fulfillment personnel, sales and customer service- must understand the priority of making the system work.
A sales organization with more than a few people need excellent coordination. It is important to remember who fits into the sales organization; these are people that touch a customer or prospect in any way, this includes sales and sales support people, fulfillment or shipping departments, advertising, marketing and purchasing or customer service departments. When all these positions are included, it is easy to see that all but the smallest companies qualify.
Coordination can include a combination of computer systems and paper systems. Few integrated paper flow and sales software packages exist now, but they are available. Don’t confuse a PIM (personal information manager, or contact manager with a full prospect/customer inquiry system. Most common off the shelf products will not work the way your business runs. However, using a popular contact manager program can be part of a complete system, if carefully combined with other software packages and paper flow systems. But many businesses can justify a good system that will really deliver the results.
Start your system by gathering name, address etc. and all the information you need to know to qualify a prospect. Determine what you need to know to eliminate some information such as requests form competitors and kids for example. Build your database to include all the information you determined above.
Determine the information tracks, or paper flow, to move your suspect to a prospect then a customer. For instance, an accounting firm might build an ad campaign to attract queries on subjects which are known problems areas such as new tax changes, or cash flow problems. Phone, mail-in cards, or e-mail quirts will receive information on the subject of interest. The sales support staff will gather the information which allows qualification to occur; small or large business, general income group, or even specific type of problem. The information is sent with a personalized cover letter and the information requested. This should always be sent with in 48 hours. With in the week the development officer, should call the qualified prospect just to say hello, and see if the information met the prospects needs. This should lead to a conversation that will allow the officer to categorize the prospect into groups. These groups (individuals, business decision makers, frequent tax problems, high asset values) will then be communicated with in accordance with the communication track that is most appropriately to eventually close the business.
Many of the best prospects in an accounting firm are already using a CPA. Therefore the lead time may be longer term, two or three years. The communication track is designed to create a targeted awareness for the accounting firm, and in the best circumstances, build a relationship. It has been said that it takes over 10 contacts to increase awareness enough to get a sale. If this is true for the accounting firm, you can see that a short term commitment will be a colossal waste of effort.
Finally, analyze all information to fine tune inquiry generation, and close effectiveness.
Inquiry and sales contact functions are increasing at a dizzying pace. The best companies are carefully fine tuning their existing systems. If your company isn’t you should start.