6 Tips To Increase Sales Growth

SalesBelieve it or not, the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” doesn’t mix well with businesses. What may have worked wonders a few years ago just won’t work today. You need to be able to improve your sales in order to ensure the survival of your business. One day something may be popular or trending, and in the blink of an eye the world has moved onto something better. I want to share 6 tips with you on how to improve your sales performance.

1. Know your mission. Find out what makes your business different, and what sets you apart from the competition. Who are you targeting with these services/products? How much are they willing to pay for these services/products? How much do these customers make? What are other competitors offering and at what price? The most important question you should ask is, how do you go about making these changes? When you know the answers to these questions, then write them down and give yourself goal times. Specify things like sales you’d like per month, amount per sale,and profit for
sale. Setting time limits for goals allows you to measure your progress.

2. Sell to consumer needs. Your job is to convince your customers that they need what you’re selling. When you know your target market, it will be easier to see your customer needs. Highlight those specific features that reduce costs and make life easier for the customer. What problem does your customer have that you can solve? Make sure that your products is something people will need, and capitalize on those needs.

3. Listen, Ask and Act. If you practice these three things in your company you will be successful. You must have highly developed listening skills. Take time to really listen to the questions/concerns mentioned. Make notes as to which you can actually make happen, and if they would benefit other customers. Ask direct questions that are creative, and relevant to your product sales. Then after all this, you must act. Show your customers that you are actively listening, taking their input(when plausible) and want the sale. Get into the habit of following-through with customer service, and success will follow.

4. Take advantage of Social Media. There are so many social media platforms, that are extremely beneficial to businesses. By building your relationships with customers on these platforms, you are able to connect with many people. These platforms are beneficial because you have access to certain leads on product trends, and you also will have more platforms to sell your product through. On social media sites your product can generate sales by trending. If you’re trending, that causes more traffic through your site and attention to potential customers.

5. Promotions and Inside Scoops. Think about having a free trial period of your product. Let customers sample your product if possible, and they will be more likely to purchase your products. Give them an amazing snippet of content for free to get them looking forward to the premium benefits of the product. Along with this, take care of your current customers. Let them know about any promotions and new products that may be approaching. By doing this, you are building trust with them and hopefully building sales.

6. Change your attitude. Change those beliefs in which limit your success. Your thought habits control your commitment, persistence, resilience, happiness, and confidence. Recognize them and decide which ones are unproductive, and then make a commitment to change. Be accepting to change, even when it may not be your idea originally. Always look for ways you and/or your team can improve. Maximize your time, and apply it to those changes you want to make.
What are some strategies you’ve found successful for sales growth?

Written by: Dee Caples

 


 

Is Big Data a Big Flop or a Big Win? You Decide.

“Big Data is the biggest game-changing opportunity for marketing and sales since the Internet went mainstream almost 20 years ago.”

Big Data this. Big Data that. The term has been bouncing around the marketing universe for a few years now, even more so in the last year. But, what IS Big Data? Well, not to be obtuse, but Big Data is just that: big data. It’s data analytics- the collection and examination of information- on steroids. It’s the ginormous sets of data that are created in today’s world of digital and social media. For my own sanity, we’ll just say data for the rest of this post.

This data is coming at B2B marketers harder and faster than ever before. It comes from things like:

Your company’s website

  •  Number of visits per month
  • Number of visits per page
  • Names, titles, employers of those who visit your site (if you’re smart enough to have a website member area)
  • Number of minutes someone spends on your site
  • What’s being downloaded

Search Engines (Google, etc.)

  • The words that are driving people to your site
  • The most popular search terms in your industry

Social Media

  • Number of fans, followers, etc.
  • Analysis of these fans, followers (Who are they? Where are they from? What companies? What industries?)
  • Who’s commenting?
  • What’s being shared?

I could go on and on, but I’m preaching to the choir. If you’re reading this, you know that there are almost unlimited ways that you can gather data on prospects and customers. The question then becomes…what are you doing with all of this information?

Now What?

“Those that use Big Data and analytics effectively show productivity rates and profitability that are 5 – 6 percent higher than those of their peers. McKinsey analysis of more than 250 engagements over five years has revealed that companies that put data at the center of the marketing and sales decisions improve their marketing return on investment (MROI) by 15 – 20 percent. That adds up to $150 – $200 billion of additional value based on global annual marketing spend of an estimated $1 trillion.” (Forbes)

What you do with your data depends largely on two factors: the size of your data pool and the size of your marketing team, but here are some things that companies of all sizes should consider.

1.      Map your top prospects’ behaviors: Map your prospects by tracking their digital interactions with you. What do they open, click on, link? What pages do they visit? What do they download?

2.      Identify your purchasers, and then branch out: Identify prospective purchasers, and use this as a starting point to map out his or her sphere of influence.

3.      Don’t wait!: If a prospect is nibbling, contact them sooner rather than later. And don’t, under any circumstances, send a generic email. Pick up the phone!

4.      Know the B2B Customer Decision Journey: Contact, nurture and delivery sales-ready prospects to your sales team.

Here’s a real-life example.

Platform: Website

Tool: Online Member Area

Specifics: In order to access e-tools, users are required to register their names, emails, locations and company names. They also have the option to give specific application or industry information.

Result: Company has database of more than 20,000 members, broken down by sign-up date, location and whether or not theses members are current or prospective customers.

For this particular real-world example, the company is a part of a multinational corporation and offers complex e-tools and services targeted at engineers.

Now ask yourself: if this situation existed in your company, how would you go about converting these leads?  Sure, you could set up some sort of automated system where anyone who signed up would receive an email and a kind of ‘we are aware of your interest’ letter.

But what if these leads require immediate action? Do your sales engineers have the resources and time to make that happen? More honestly, do they even care about these leads? Let’s be blunt. A lot of sales engineers are territory-driven, so they don’t want to spend their already stretched-thin time focusing on leads that won’t affect them.

Here’s how Connects can help:

Your new members are downloaded and contacted via phone within 24 hours of registration. Through a well-thought-out conversation based on a pre-determined set of questions, your inbound web leads are qualified (either in OR out) and turned into hot, actionable sales leads ready to be handed off to a sales engineer.

The bottom line: Big Data can almost be overwhelming, but to not have a system in place to take advantage of it is almost a criminal waste of marketing dollars.

 

 

Email Marketing: What is It Good For?

The old adage is true:  Time is Money.  The more efficient your process is for developing leads, the higher the ROI on your marketing budget will be. In our focus on lead generation, we’re continuing to look at some of the traditional sources of leads and how much they cost.

Let’s talk about email marketing.

Email marketing has come a very long way since the days of simply pumping out mass messages from your company’s CRM system and praying that even half of your targets open them.  There are some very sophisticated email-marketing providers out there that are really doing it right. Constant Contact is one that most everyone knows.

You can find a nice breakdown of some of these providers here.

In researching email-marketing statistics, I came across these from Jay Baer over at ConvinceandConvert.com. These statistics were gathered through email subscriber studies.

  • 21% of email recipients report email as Spam, even if they know it isn’t
  • 43% of email recipients click the Spam button based on the email “from” name or email address
  • 69% of email recipients report email as Spam based solely on the subject line
  • 35% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone
  • IP addresses appearing on just one of the 12 major blacklists had email deliverability 25 points below those not listed on any blacklists
  • Email lists with 10% or more unknown users get only 44% of their email delivered by ISPs
  • 17% of Americans create a new email address every 6 months
  • 30% of subscribers change email addresses annually
  • If marketers optimized their emails for image blocking, ROI would increase 9+%
  • 84% of people 18-34 use an email preview pane
  • Subscribers below age 25 prefer SMS to email
  • 35% of business professionals check email on a mobile device
  • 80% of social network members have received unsolicited email or invites

A full 75% of marketers say that they are using more email than they were three years ago. (Source: HubSpot) However, building a quality email distribution list takes a major time investment. Email marketing can be an excellent way to share information with your prospects and customers, but gathering qualified leads still takes that extra step of connection.

Can you make the leap from cold to qualified through marketing automation?

Marketing automation combines software with a company’s CRM system and scores leads based on defined criteria. This information is supposed to allow the marketer to better target messages and promotions to individuals based on perceived interests.  Marketing automation software can include email marketing, campaign management, lead nurturing/scoring, lead lifecycle management and analytics.

Marketing automation is, in its most basic form, a tool with which to take marketing leads and nurture them until they are ready to be converted to customers. While this can be somewhat helpful in the very beginning stages of a lead, letting your prospect know that you are aware of his or her interest and that you will be in contact, that is where the automation should end.

Particularly in the oftentimes highly technical world of B2B product sales, marketing automation can come off as a little too impersonal and out-of-touch with your target customers’ decision journeys. In that space, nothing beats a phone call and an honest conversation.

The bottom line:

Email marketing absolutely has its place, but it’s not to produce qualified leads.

Outbound Marketing: Are You Reaching Your Audience in Print?

The old adage is true:  Time is Money.  The more efficient your process is for developing customers, the higher the ROI on your marketing budget will be.

This month, we’re going to take a look at some of the traditional sources of leads and how much they cost.

How many times have you had the “print is dead” debate with other marketing colleagues? If you’re like me, it’s more times than you care to count.  Yes, there is something to be said for branding. The truth is, though, that your audience is increasingly moving online.

From Marketo:

Advertisers knew this trend was coming as more and more people started moving towards the online world. A recent report released by eMarketer earlier this year states that 2012 would be the year that spending for online advertising would surpass spending for print advertising. In 2011, online ad spending grew 23% in the US, just passing the $32 billion mark, and in 2012 the online ads will grow another 23% to nearly $40 billion. As the spending for online ads continues to grow, B2B marketing professionals need to watch for this development and catch on quickly because we live in an increasingly interactive world, and opportunities to market to your future customers may be lost if this is ignored.

As with anything in branding, the key to advertising is having a consistent presence. That’s hard to do in print if you don’t have a limitless budget. As an example, below is the 2013 rate schedule for one of the number one trade magazines in B2B manufacturing.

Let’s say you wanted to run one full-page ad per month in this trade magazine. Per your company’s brand standards, you are required to use at least a 4-color process. That puts your total spend at $42,855 for the year.

Now, for the sake of this example, let’s say you receive 50 inquiries per month based on your ads. We’re only going to calculate cost per lead, since the ROI on print advertising is so subjective.

  • Cost per Lead 42,855/ 600= $71.43

Stop the presses! (Pun definitely intended) That is an outstanding cost per lead. But let’s be real. Based on real-life experience, we know that 50 inquiries per month on a print ad is a bit high. Doable, but high. The bigger problem is the quality of these inquiries. After qualification, your number will probably drop to somewhere around 5-10 real, quality leads per month. 

This is more realistic (minus the cost for qualification):

  • Cost per Lead 42,855/ 120= $357.13

Yes, you can calculate ROI and cost per lead for print advertising, but it’s a bit tricky. Your ads need to contain some sort of call to action so that you can track clicks on a specified web page, or something similar. But even then, these are only prospects. They still need to be qualified.

The bottom line:

There is still value in print advertising from a branding perspective. For lead generation, however, it’s debatable. A click on your landing page is a formidable distance from a qualified lead.

 

B2B Customers Need Lovin’ Too

One of the most vital components of any successful marketing strategy is customer feedback. Or, more to the point, finding out what is NOT working for your customers.That’s right, leads that are qualified OUT are just as important as leads that are qualified IN and pushed along through the nurturing pipeline. Great companies always want to know how they can improve.

Backing up just a bit..

Just a few short years ago, most B2B companies were still completely averse to the customer-centric philosophies that their B2C peers have long since embraced. Today, however, the B2B world is firmly seated on the customer service bandwagon.The problem remains, however, that most B2B marketers are still missing the mark when deciding where and when to focus their budgets.

To right that train, B2B organizations need to develop a much deeper understanding of the modern Customer Decision Journey (CDJ). Where the old sales funnel assumed a linear purchasing path – customers take in information; narrow down their choices; kick the tires, and submit the purchase order – the CDJ moves away from the “funnel” way of doing things. It recognizes that the decision process, in fact, is anything but linear. (Forbes)

The B2B Customer Decision Journey

It’s not enough to identify the decision makers in an organization. For marketing and sales activities to be effective, companies need to focus on those points in the decision journey where they can be most successful in influencing those decision makers. For some that might be procurement or finance. For others, it might be the CMO or even the end user. And for others still they might be a specific set of segments. (McKinsey & Company)

If you want to read more about the Customer Decision Journey, there is an outstanding article here from The Harvard Business Review.

Beyond the CDJ

What marketers need to remember, however, is that just because the way in which we look at the B2B buying and decision-making journey has changed, our customers’ feelings have not. An unhappy customer is an unhappy customer, no matter what our fancy marketing charts and tactics may entail.

These are still facts that any good marketer should be able to deliver to his or her CEO:

  • What do our customers think about us?
  • What is it about our company that disappoints our customers?
  • What can we do to improve?
  • Are our customers happy with our customer service?
  • What isn’t working?

You may be asking yourself, “Can’t I find that out with some sort of customer survey?” Well sure you can, but a good quality survey takes time and money and usually only happens once per calendar year. “OK,” you say, “but that’s what my sales engineers should be telling me.” In a perfect world, yes, but let’s be honest- do your sales engineers have the resources and time to make that happen?

The Connects Component

With Connects, you get instant customer feedback through daily reporting. This feedback is infinitely invaluable to a CEO and can help companies immediately put more dollars on the top line.

  • What products work in certain industries and not in others?
  • Are there product features that need to be adjusted?
  • Are there business practices that need to be improved or changed?
  • Are you happy with your level of service and support?
  • Which marketing tactics work and which don’t?
  • Should you invest in that industry event or not?
  • Do you customers find your e-tools helpful?
  • Are there functionalities that would change that opinion?

Markets change so quickly. Your competitors change their products and product positioning so frequently that it can be difficult to keep track.There are too many things in terms of technology and methodologies impacting the market today, and economic struggles impacting your customers as well, to not invest in a daily customer feedback mechanism.

Salespeople usually aren’t frank enough to give you this kind of information. They tend to blame lost opportunities on products, be it price or features, while this may or may not be the case. The truth is that most sales engineers aren’t trained to ask the right questions and actively listen to get this information from people.

Due to time constraints, most sales engineers unfortunately drop the ball when it comes to service and support after a deal is closed. Customer service is so, so important, and Connects does this for you.

Failure is a strong word. It brings on visions of loss and defeat. In business, failure is just as important as success. Companies lose and gain market share all the times. It’s a constant battle to be the best or have the best product. That’s a good thing, competition means everyone has to be working hard to succeed. But for every winner, there are many losers. Failure is important because it helps companies and individuals to identify their weaknesses.
(Source: Mike Fisher, examiner.com)

The bottom line: 

No matter how you look at your customers’ decision-making journeys, always remember to find out your customers’ pain points.

Telemarketing May Be Your Missing Link

Whether your company is a small start-up, a well-established brand or something in between, chances are you’re not doing all you can in terms of creating and moving leads through your pipeline. As a result, you’re missing out on untold dollars in sales. Telemarketing may be your missing link.

Last week we talked about the importance of lead nurturing. I touched on telemarketing in that piece:

Whether automated or manual, a message should go out letting your prospect know you are going to contact him or her. Better than an email is a phone call. If you don’t have in-house telemarketing, invest in a high-quality, professional telemarketing firm that can speak to prospects on your behalf.

Yes, we’re going to talk about lead nurturing again! Because it is that important. This week, however, we’re going to focus solely on the advantages of using telemarketing to create and move leads through the sales pipeline.

Right out of the gate, let’s define what we mean when we say telemarketing. Just as you wouldn’t hire just any Joe off the street to head up your sales team, you should put time and care into selecting a top-notch telemarketing team. We’re not talking about your typical call center telemarketing. We’re talking about high-quality, professional telemarketing.

The company you choose will essentially be an extension of your brand, so you want a group that will take pride in and ownership of the projects they are given. In other words, this should be a true partnership, with your telemarketing team working earnestly towards your company’s goals. And remember, you get what your pay for.

Must-Haves for Your Telemarketing Team:

  1. Callers should know your brand as well or better than you know it yourself.
  2. Callers should immerse themselves in your products/services.
  3. Callers should be knowledgeable about your target industries.
  4. A given, but callers should be friendly, outgoing and great listeners.

Your telemarketing group should be industry pros in the following core competencies:

Lead Generation/Qualification

Take all of those leads from trade shows, advertising, your website, etc. Most of these will be qualified to some extent, some may be totally green. Throw them all into the mix.  Let your group help you sort through all of your data and refine these into highly qualified sales leads ready for follow-up.

Additionally, if you have any special programs, marketing initiatives or want to break into a target industry or company, your team should be on task.

Typical campaigns might include:

  • New customer creation
  • Email or direct mail campaign follow-up
  • Territory expansion
  • Web-based inquiries
  • Trade show registrations or inquiries
  • Webinar registration or follow-up
  • New product launches

Lead Nurturing (Did I mention how important this is?)

79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance. (Marketing Sherpa/ KnowledgeStorm)

One of the most critical aspects of your sales cycle is keeping leads warm until they are ready to purchase.  Sales teams don’t have time to nurture the pipeline, they need to close deals. Enter your telemarketing team. I almost want to call them your nurturing team, because really, all of these core areas are or relate very closely to nurturing.

Your team should keep you connected with your prospects, handing them over when the prospects are ready to take the next step. Your ROI will be maximized and your pipeline kept active with well-paced ongoing dialog and direct communication.

Lead nurturing means:

  • Staying in front of your prospects with new developments and offerings
  • Connections will be deepened with relevant decision makers
  • New sales opportunities will be identified
  • Your sales pipeline is up-to-date and always active

Brian Carroll, founder and CEO of InTouch says, “Imagine your marketplace is like a field of banana trees. Your marketing people are those who nurture and pick the bananas. Bananas are harvested when they are green, and they turn yellow as they ripen. Fully 95 percent of your leads are like harvested green bananas, and, off the top, your sales team needs only the other 5 percent, those that are ripe.”

It’s those 95 percent that need to be nurtured.

Account Mapping and Expansion

Sometimes the easiest way to increase your sales is to leverage your current customers and grow these accounts organically so they meet their full potential.

  • Identify new contacts and decision makers
  • Discover new projects and programs
  • Understand the needs of your customers
  • Identify other locations or divisions to replicate success

Appointment Setting

Imagine breaking into a territory for a new product launch with a full week of appointments. Whether you are looking for face-to-face or phone-based appointments, your telemarketing group should help your sales team keep their calendars full- not just hand over leads for future follow-up, but work directly with your team to coordinate next steps. Ensure that you:

  • Maximize your sales team’s time while out in the field
  • Increase ROI for sales travel costs
  • Leverage investments in trade shows or conferences

So, confession time- all of the best-in-class core competencies I listed above are things that we offer here at Connects Marketing Group. In fact, I’m confident in saying that we are experts in all of these areas. I try to keep the blog here non-“salesy,” but I’ll make an exception with this one. 

In my previous life as a Marketing Communications Manager, I worked with Connects Marketing Group for six years, so I have the benefit of having partnered with CMG before I actually worked for them. Basically, I’m telling you this piece is not just me toeing the party line.

During those six years that we used CMG, we used all of the services listed above and then some. We saw an ROI that far outpaced all of our other sales and marketing activities.

“In my term at Trelleborg Sealing Solutions, we were able to sustain double digit, year over year, growth for over seven years.  Connects Marketing Group was an essential part of that growth performance.  They were able to connect our sales professionals with key decision makers or product specifiers with pre-meeting knowledge of our offerings, improving our sales meeting effectiveness. I always considered them to be our ‘secret weapon’ for growth.”

– Tim Callison, President Marketing Americas, Trelleborg Sealing Solutions

The bottom line: If you’re not taking advantage of a high-quality, professional telemarketing group, you should be. It’s more than likely the missing link in your quest to turn sales opportunities into dollars.