Business Development Rants and Resources

Lead Management – “Working a Lead”

As someone that has spent a lot of time on the prospect side of the table, I am often amazed at the “great” follow-up on the part of salespeople to whom and I have spoken and to whom I expressed some interest. While there are some products and services that are quick hits, “impulse items” if you will, like gum or cheesy celebrity magazines at the checkout aisle, often the purchase is part of some larger process going on at the company and constant calling simply can’t affect that.

Our own sales efforts with the AMG Alerts notification system and to a lesser extent, the SalesInSync sales lead management system are typical. The larger the company – and the carrot – the less likely that constant hounding would have any effect. People are positive and give us all the GO signals and then disappear for however long it takes for them to move forward. That can be months, and harassing them in the meantime, while probably not a deal-killer, is at least going to leave a bit of a sour taste in their mouths. What we experience as customers is intense contact followed by a disappearing act. That’s not the way to do it.

Sales resources (and really just about all business resources) are in short supply for most companies. You have to be smart, have a sales process that involves staying visible without invading personal space, and have at least a simple, collaborative CRM System that assists in this. Too many people have a hot list on paper and work those, and as they get new leads to “work”, the old ones disappear to the bottom of the pile and then off the desk completely. I recommend our other blog post about the Marketing Shell Game, which is another commentary on sales process management.

September 22, 2012 Posted by | Lead Management and CRM | , , , | 1 Comment

Lead Management System Deployment to Channel Partners?

Many manufacturers use independent distributors as a primary sales channel. Even if the manufacturer has a great market presence and may appear to have their choice of distributor, a good distributor is still to be coveted in the same way a seller has to covet a customer.

This means that support of the distribution network is key, with elements that include training, good communication, and sales tools.

Good local distributors usually develop their own sales leads and have their own sales operations – and this in fact is a primary selection criterion for a manufacturer. The distrinutor needs to add value in some way, and this is a primary way to do so.

However, some manufacturers like to augment their distributors’ lead generation efforts by supplying leads of their own. Often, these leads are derived through expensive sources. These well-intended efforts, at least as a program, tend to be short-lived for the same reason why many other lead generation efforts are “events” rather than processes – the person paying the bill can’t measure the result due to lack of visibility.

A manufacturer will say “I spend $5,000 per month on my construction leads and I send them out and never know if anything came of it. I stopped doing that. I don’t even know if these things are followed up.” When we mention the possibility of putting in SalesInSync for this purpose, we hear “I can’t force them to use any particular system.”

But that response isn’t completely true. The problem is that the lead program had been rolled out to the distributors without all the tools in place. The program should have been rolled out so that basic disposition reporting was a requirement. Provide at least one SalesInSync user license free of charge, for distribution of the lead. Maybe the program will spread within the distributorship. Maybe it won’t. But the distributor will have to log into the system to retrieve the information and will have to provide some information on the resulting activity in order to keep receiving them. It’s not much to ask in exchange for valuable incremental business, and those (many) sales operations without an effective lead management system may get on board completely, which will make their own lead handling more effective and provide a high ROI for the manufacturer.

July 10, 2012 Posted by | Lead Management and CRM | , | Leave a comment

Quantum Mechanics in Sales Forecasting

I am not sure that this doesnt simply qualify as a Rant. I mean, I feel like I am ranting, but that is a common feeling for me as I am pounding at my keyboard.

Often when working with a sales or marketing manager in setting up their SalesinSync Lead Management System system I will suggest setting up their Probability (of close) percentages in increments of 10, i.e. 0%, 10%, 20%, 30%, etc. Every once in while someone will say, “oh, come on, nobody can guess that close. Gimme 0%, 10%, 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%.” Sometimes the choices are even more limited, like 0, 35, 50, 80.

Okay now I KNOW that this is a rant because it doesn’t happen often. But when it does it is irritating. The point of ALLOWING SALESPEOPLE TO GIVE THEIR BEST GUESSES is that, collectively, the data will be more accurate and precise. This is a simple statistical exercise. This will always be the case unless some extremely weird mechanism is in place due to bad management elsewhere. The sum of all these supposedly problematic uncertainties makes for a the BEST guess, most of the time!

So why not have a dropdown that allows 1 percentagepoint increments? Simply because then it becomes a bit of a farce and salespeople will not like using the interface. Our suggestion is to provide to the sales force the highest level of granularity that is reasonable. Maybe it is in 5 point increments. Who knows? There is simply no reason to force someone to select a number that does not reflect what they feel. Frankly, it can be frustrating and cause the user to question the process, as well as the value of the information. Once that starts happening, the game is lost because salespeople want to be making money and not punching numbers into a system they don’t believe in

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Lead Management and CRM | , , , | Leave a comment

A Compliment

I was training one of my callers on a new program. We are helping to increase attendance for seminar that a consultant is holding. His target is companies that do not have performance management systems in place.

I was explaining to my caller that the Consultant wanted to use his own staff to call. I talked him out of it. Calling is a special skill. While I wouldve trained his employees, they wouldve never achieved the results our callers would achieve. They’re not dedicated callers and their skill set would not mirror our professional callers after a few hours of training. My caller replied, “Wow, Alicia, you should be in sales.”

The compliment to me is that my caller doesnt realize that I –am– in sales. My style is to listen to the prospect and then collaborate on the best decision possible. The best decision often includes one of my products or services. Im not selling or manipulating them. Were coming to a joint conclusion. If I provide the product or service, I make a fair profit. The prospect understands that. Neither party feels exploited. This process makes my work fun. When its done well, it seems effortless. I was feeling pretty good the day Karen recommended I go into sales.

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Lead Management and CRM | Leave a comment

Lead Management System Setup

Companies are implementing sales information applications, or sales lead management systems,or web- based CRM systems (or whatever you want to call them) by the thousands, every business day. What is amazing is the little thought that actually goes into the setup. This lack of planning is a theme within some previous article and undoubtedly will be for many other articles.

As we have deployed SalesInSync within hundreds of companies, there is one simple mistake that can absolutely bring down the house: field redundancy. This is when you force users to put basically the same information into the database in two or more different spots. The most common example is having both sales Cycle Stage – where they are in the broad spectrum as they move through the funnel – and another field that classifies the record by whether they are just a suspect, or a prospect that has not yet had a proposal, or one that has had a proposal, or is now a customer. Sound identical? Well, yeah! So why do so many companies have databases that are set up like that?

An extreme example that I encountered the other day was a setup where the company had one field for the ABBREVIATION of the Lead Source, and another for the FULL NAME of the Lead Source! This type of thing destroys the database, and then ultimately takes the entire sales information infrastructure with it.

You see, as salespeople fill out information on the form, whether it is web or locally-based, they will not reliably take the time to make sure these redundant fields are filled out or are in agreement. In fact, even presenting a salesperson with a form such as this will make the smart ones question the value of the program as a whole, and they will ultimately use the database only in the way that it benefits THEM because their confidence in the intelligence or abilities of the rest of the organization is shaken, no matter how subtly and/or subconsciously. Once that data is not reliably entered, its value as a tool for analysis by sales management and marketing is greatly reduced. And then the ugly part happens – the database itself is deemed “ineffective”, and that is blamed on the salespeople, and the database, and everyone else that has come within a half a mile of it. The solution is to chuck out the old database and start over. The cost of doing this enormous, and it happens every day.

A sales activity database needs to have fields that are mutually exclusive, and that reflects the philosophy of sales management with respect to the sales process. Ideally, Marketing will have a role in its design, to the extent that their efforts feed those processes.

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Lead Management and CRM | , , , | Leave a comment

Sales Lead Management 101 (or, The Marketing Shell Game)

DISCLAIMER: I am not a marine biologist.

You are at a beach, and for about as far as you can see, there are shells scattered around. They are mollusks. Some of these mollusks are oysters. Some of them even contain pearls! (By the way, in case I forgot to mention, that is why you are there.) You aren’t there to get a suntan or to see bathing suits. And you brought 10 people with you in a search for pearls. You turn around and say to your team, “Alright people, lets get em. Go!” And your people start running all over the place on the beach, looking at each shell, determining if the mollusk is an oyster and whether it has a pearl that is big enough to harvest. Once the determination is made, the team member throws down the shell and runs to another one that they are sure they have not yet examined. You see people gathering pearls! Things seem to be going pretty well. At the end of the day, your team comes back and puts the pearls in your little red plastic pail. There sure are a bunch in there. Looks like your team did a number on this beach! Time to go home. We’ll come back tomorrow.

Okay, lets get into land mode. The beach is a market. Maybe it is your only market. The shells are suspects (someone that fits the broad profile), an oyster is a prospect (someone that actually uses what you are trying to sell), and the harvested pearls are sales. The pearls that are not harvested because of their size are sales that will occur when the timing is right. Theyre still growing. Does the above description of the pearl hunt in any way resemble your approach to sales lead management? If it does, don’t feel bad because the great majority of companies do the same thing turn people loose to dig up pearls. These are companies that have afinite and identifiable set of suspects, and could be doing things differently, whether using  a lead management system or sales management system such as SalesInSync or some other web-based CRM system. So what’s wrong with the “just go wild” approach I described?

Wouldn’t it have been more effective to gather every single shell on the beach (“own” the market by owning the informatoin, another Groundroll article), bring them to a central location, divvy them up among the team, and methodically examine each one? The shells that are not oysters get put in a special bin. They are not randomly tossed back. The oysters that do not contain pearls of any size get put in a similar special bin, and the ones that contain smaller, nonharvestable pearls are in another bin. The ones wherein you picked a pearl are put into the fourth bin. The bin we are talking about in this case is simply your sales database, from Excel sheets to a Lead Management System such as SalesInSync. We even have seen customers with shoeboxes of 3×5 cards as their lead management system. At least they kept the information! This article will stop here for now, in case the analogy is getting tedious or making people seasick. But the concepts will certainly form the basis of much of what is on this site, so look for more pearls of wisdom or annoying grains of sand.

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Lead Management and CRM | , , | Leave a comment