Ability Means Little Without Opportunity
When John arrived at lunch Mark was already sitting at their usual table. He greeted John with his normal cheery hello. Once again John had two beautiful crystal drinking glasses sitting on the table. John looked at the two glasses then looked at Mark.
Mark shook his head, “Later John, you’ll see, just be patient.”
“So Mark I think I’m pretty much up to speed in terms of all of the background work and materials I need to more effectively market my giggler pins. I also buy into this whole idea of educating my customers first but I have a question,” John said.
“Ask away,” Mark said.
“If everyone is producing educational content and there is more and more of it on the Web then how on Earth will my content even get noticed?” asked John.
“My marketing guy told me the trick is for your educational content to help your prospects sift and sort through the incredible amount of available information. It must summarize guide them in the right direction. In other words it must not add to the noise out there, but cut through the noise,” said Mark.
“Got it,” said John.
Mark ordered a coffee and continued, “So now that you have the tools you need to market your company the next step is to gain access to your ideal prospects. You first need to generate and qualify sales leads.”
“Obviously,” said John, “all we need to do is a big Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter campaign and the leads will come rolling in. We can get all three of these types of inbound campaigns setup in less than two hours and we’ll be good to go.”
Mark rapidly shook his head from left to right, “I was waiting for you to say that. A lot of business executives out there think social media is the be all and end all and answer to all of life’s marketing challenges.
"Now John, before you call me a Luddite or a Neanderthal let me add that social media is not going away anytime soon and is important for growth. It’s a critical component of your inbound marketing system. But it is not where to start. We’ll get back to when to use social media a bit later.”
In spite of what you may have been told social media is not the answer to all of your growth problems.
“OK, so what do you recommend I do first?” asked John.
Mark continued, “When we were setting up our new marketing system my marketing guy told me that executives without marketing and selling systems could never create predictable revenue.
"He also mentioned that the lack of systematic approaches leads to: sales forecasting problems, staffing problems, cash management issues, inconsistent growth, and substandard profits. He also told me that no business process could be improved if it’s random.”
“True, so in effect marketing and selling activities are almost like a predictable manufacturing process or a recipe. They need to create predictable outcomes,” said John.
“Exactly,” said Mark, “Every manufacturer needs three separate but interconnected systems. One to generate and qualify sales leads, a system to develop those sales leads not yet ready to buy, and a consultative selling system to convert a predictable percentage of ready to buy sales leads into happy customers.”
“That’s kind of a marketing 101 concept isn’t it? It doesn’t sound like your marketing guy was offering you much in the way of insight with that advice,” said John.
“Maybe so,” said Mark, “but he did give me the context and outlined how these systems worked in a systematic way. Frankly, I had never really had a structured system in my company and once I did my growth really took off.”
John laughed, “OK so fire away and tell me what your illustrious marketing guy told you.”
Mark continued, “As I mentioned earlier he told me you need to have high-quality and unbiased educational content. Once again, wherever possible, tie educational content into helping prospects solve big problems, maximize ROI, and improving the performance in their companies.
“He also reiterated that your content must be aligned with their buying processes. He then mentioned the critical importance of using content to get to prospects early. In effect you want to reach and influence your prospects at the recognition of needs stage before they start evaluating alternatives. This is a great way to get a jump on the competition or, if you absolutely must participate, can give you an advantage in a RFP contest
“For this reason be sure your initial offer educates your prospects in a general way, aligns with your strategy, and ends with an offer for further personalized education onsite or virtually.
“He repeated how important it was to think of marketing as campaigns instead of one off marketing tactics. Because your prospects are over-communicated and overworked it’s more difficult than ever to get their attention. One-touch marketing is rarely if ever noticed by prospects and is a waste of time and money. You need a series of communications using a variety of media.
“You must also combine outbound and inbound marketing in a logical way. This ties in with what I was going to tell you about when to use social media. Now my marketing guy can be a bit contrarian. He told me it’s very important to not fall for the generally accepted wisdom that inbound marketing is all you’ll ever need and somehow outbound marketing has become irrelevant.”
John interrupted, “Actually when I go online all I read about is social media, content marketing and inbound marketing. It seems no one is writing about outbound marketing anymore. Are all of these people wrong?”
Mark continued, “All of these are very effective ways to build awareness and grow your manufacturing company. First, all of these activities take time to ramp up so they are more of a longer-term activity. Second, you are making a major commitment to ongoing content production so be sure you have something worthwhile to contribute for the longer-term.
"Your best bet is to start with highly targeted outbound marketing and leave the social media to later."
Rapid growth is the result of three interconnected systems: lead generation, lead development, and lead conversion. All staff operating these systems must have open communications. No silos allowed.
Using your content to get the attention of prospects early in their buying process is another key to success.
Use your educational content to educate and to "sell" the next step in your sales process.
One off marketing activities don't work. It takes many touches to get the attention of a prospect.
Social media and inbound marketing take time to ramp up. If you want more growth in less times always start with outbound marketing.
“Makes sense so far,” said John.
“Glad to hear it,” said Mark, it’s a lot to take in in a short period of time. So once you've attracted your prospects with your educational content you need to have a simple system in place to determine if they are worthy of any attention from your salespeople.”
“Yeah, yeah,” said John, “and this is the part when my salespeople spend their days on the phone chasing down prospects they can’t reach instead of getting out in the field and closing sales. Man it’s expensive having them sit around the office."
“That’s true,” Mark agreed, “and that’s why you need to take a simple step to get your salespeople spending more time selling and less time dialing for dollars.”
“And let me guess,” said John, “your marketing guy discussed some magical way to do this that has really made a difference in your company.”
“Well done, and we’re nearly done. In fact there's only one more lesson. I will tell you this, what we then discussed made my salespeople, my banker, and me all very happy. But first, what does a man have to do to get another coffee around here?”
Specialization Saves The Day
Mark got a call on his mobile phone and left the table. The stupid thing was always ringing or pinging.
John kind of zoned out for a minute. His mind was in overdrive thinking about all of the things they had discussed. There really was a lot to absorb. John also thought about how a majority of his business growth problems were caused by the lack of a properly aligned marketing system. There were quite a few pieces to the marketing system but he was comfortable with the general idea.
He knew that when this last meeting was over he was going to track down Mark’s marketing guy and get in touch with him.
He also knew that with skill (and maybe just a bit of luck) he and this mysterious marketing guy just might be able to pull things out of the fire in time before his annual loan review with his bank manager.
Mark came back from his phone call and sat down at the table.
John started, “Before you go on I have a two questions for you, how do you know your marketing guy isn’t some kind of ivory tower academic and his marketing system is some kind of flavor-of-the-month theory? How do you know any of this will work in the real world or in my company?”
Mark laughed, “So you’re the trusting sort eh? But John, you can trust your old pal Mark can’t you? Actually, the answer is my marketing guy has real world experience running his own manufacturing companies."
"He’s bought, started up, built, and sold his own manufacturing companies and understands the real world of manufacturing.
"Second, his systems work in all types of industries and will work in yours.
"Last, if you decide to hire him he fully guarantees his services. Simply follow the steps in the marketing system he develops for you, without fail. If you don’t get your mutually-agreed upon results you’ll get a full refund.”
“Sounds like he has it all covered. I suppose you were a bit skeptical that he’d help you grow faster so you totally checked him out,” said John.
“I checked him out, but in my own way,” said Mark, “we had our initial Strategy Session which lasted about 25 minutes. As I mentioned the other day I felt I got real value. He said a lot of provocative things and really made me look at business growth in a different way.
"We then had a second more in depth phone conversation in which we got into more detail about my challenges and goals. During this call I became highly confident that his marketing system was exactly what I needed.
"At the end of the second call he gave the the price for his Manufacturing Growth Marketing system. There's one price for the whole system and no additional costs. I was happy about this because I knew what the total cost would be from the outset. I also knew he wouldn't drag things out and rack up a huge bill with hourly billing.
"He offered references to me but I went with my gut. After all, who would ever provide a bad reference?
"He was genuine and, I know this isn’t very scientific, but I got a good feeling. Also, the fact he offered a full money-back guarantee and has been in business since 1994 didn't hurt either.
"Now here's another cool part about how his company works. One of the things I was worried about was that my staff and I would live in my boardroom and we'd waste all kinds of time in meetings."
"Man I hate meetings," said John.
"Well you'll love this then," continued Mark, "the customizing and implementing of the entire marketing system is done over the web, the phone, and with email. There are no onsite meetings. As in zero. They work all over the world this way.
"My marketing guy and his staff took about 4-5 hours of time spread out over the entire project to interview me and key members of my staff over the phone.
"We emailed documents back and forth and forth for edits. Oh, and speaking of documents, all of our education-based marketing materials, scripts, emails, and letters were designed and written by my marketing guy and his staff. The whole process was fast, easy, and effective.
“In less than 90 days we had our marketing system set up and really working well. We’re growing consistently, maintaining good profit margins, and everyone’s pretty happy.
"Hiring my marketing guy to solve my business growth problems was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Oh, and as you know, I’ve done lots of smart things.”
It was John’s turn to laugh out loud, “Of course you’ve done lots of smart things, after all, you chose me as a friend. So now that we have that established how we keep salespeople selling instead of chasing down prospects.”
“You may recall I mentioned that one way to view a marketing system is like an assembly line,” Mark began, “well the selling process you need in your company is no different. You need to break your selling down into a simple repeatable system.
"My marketing guy told me something once I’ve never forgotten, he said ‘If you want your salespeople to dramatically increase their closing rates tell them to stop spending time with prospects who either aren’t ready or will not buy.’ It sounded pretty obvious, but the way it’s actually done is simpler and more ingenious than I thought.”
The easiest way for a manufacturer to view a marketing system is like it's an assembly line.
Lead generation, lead development, and lead conversion systems are the machines used in a precise sequence to convert prospects (raw materials) into customers with total predictability.
"If you want your salespeople to dramatically increase their closing rates tell them to stop spending time with prospects who either aren’t ready or will not buy."
“So how do you do this?” asked John.
Mark continued, “You hire and train a Sales Development Representative, or as we like to call it in the business, an SDR. The purpose of a SDR is to prevent your highly-paid inside and field salespeople from wasting their time with unqualified prospects.
"It works like this. Your education-based marketing activities produce sales leads. In some cases you may also have your SDR produce sales leads using education-based marketing.
"Each lead is contacted by your SDR, qualified, and put into one of three buckets.
“First, the lead is disqualified as not being a real (qualified) lead and not passed onto your salespeople.
“Second, the SDR determines if the lead is qualified but their time to purchase is long. This type of lead will put into an educational lead development program. This lead development program sends out educational content until such time as the prospect is ready to engage with your salespeople. It keeps your company at the top of their mind without being pushy and adds real value to your relationship.
“Third, the SDR determines if the lead is qualified as being ready to interact with a salesperson. This type of lead will be forwarded to a salesperson for further qualification and the salesperson will disqualify the lead, send the lead back for further nurturing, or schedule a selling appointment.
“The bottom line of all this activity is your salespeople aren’t wasting their time qualifying leads and are getting the opportunity to sell more often to well-qualified leads with genuine opportunities."
"Well an SDR would be a great time saver and I bet my salespeople would love spending more time selling instead of prospecting,” said John.
A sales development rep (SDR) will help your salespeople spend their time selling instead of prospecting.
Imagine what your sales volume would look like if your salespeople spent all their time selling.
An SDR finds and identifies sales leads that are fully qualified to begin the sales process with your salespeople and hands them over.
“Yes, continued Mark, what you may find is that a substantial percentage of your leads aren’t quite yet ready to buy and need to be nurtured. Some of them have long buying cycles and sometimes the timing just isn’t good. That’s what makes the lead development system so important.
"The rule you can apply is that about 45% of qualified leads in most markets will buy within a year. What this means is if all you focus on are immediate opportunities in any 12 month period you are missing out on about half of the total opportunities. That’s what I call a sobering statistic. In fact once my marketing guy got our lead nurturing system set up we quickly began to see its value.
“We sent out sequenced educational content every couple of weeks or so. We used tip sheets, reports, guides, videos, webinars, and checklists. We made sure every piece of educational content built value and trust. Our SDR would call these leads once a month to see if they had any questions or needed clarification. When they were ready to engage with our salesperson it really gave us a big advantage. We gave then value on a consistent basis and many of these prospects awarded us the business.
Approximately 45% of longer-term sales opportunities will buy within 12 months.
A well structured lead development system allows your company to maintain top of the mind awareness and keeps these longer-term opportunities from slipping through the cracks.
“So what did your magical mysterious marketing guy tell you about selling? What’s the best way to do that?” asked John.
“Selling is actually easy, Mark said, “the key takeaways are that random selling processes can’t be improved upon, old-school show up and throw up features dump presentations are a waste of time, no-decision outcomes are often the result of prospects not seeing the value of change or their decision paralysis, and leave the PowerPoint at home.
“High-pressure always be closing sales techniques are a waste of time because the average buyer who spends almost any time on the web is well-informed about their options. Truly effective selling, like marketing in general, is not about you and your products. It’s about proving empathy. The best sales process must be focused on gaining prospect knowledge. It’s not about your salespeople talking forever about their product knowledge.
“Fast-growth companies insist on their salespeople using a consistent and measurable selling process that builds value. And value is in the eye of the prospect. Your selling process must determine what they truly value which is their most-sought outcome.
“To do this you uncover the consequences and costs of what every prospect involved in the buying decision views as their main challenge. You then ask each of them to determine the specific ways both their company and they personally will benefit as a result of reducing or eliminating their main challenge.
“So each sales appointment must start with a list of standardized questions. By asking these questions your salespeople will create more urgency, make the cost of your product less of an issue, and result in more action.
“Once your salespeople have this information they may take it, create a proposal, and come back to make a presentation. You may not work this way. Maybe your salespeople will make the presentation on the spot. In any case the presentation needs to be customized to solely revolve around the answers your salespeople received to their list of questions. That’s why you need to leave the PowerPoint at home. A standardized presentation means your salespeople are assuming they have answers before they’ve taken the time to ask questions.
“Once more, be certain every presentation given by your salespeople is focused only on how your product meets their main needs, reduces the consequences of their needs, and allows them to get their most-wanted outcomes. One size fits all sales presentations are a waste of everyone’s time."
"Remember John, prospects buy for their reasons, not yours,” said Mark.
“So instead of a features-filled presentation in which salespeople hope they blather on enough that they mention a hot button they actually ask for the prospects to tell them their hot buttons?” John asked.
“That’s it,” said John, “but of course over our luncheon dates I’ve only been able to give you the highlights of what I learned from working with my marketing guy. All of this has been in a general way.
"If you really want to get some good advice that’s specific to the situation in your manufacturing company you’ll have to contact my marketing guy directly.
Selling is easy with a standardized process that's based on consultative selling techniques.
If your sales process is not standardized it's random. If it's random it can't be improved.
By asking questions and actively listening your salespeople won't be trying to find "needles in hay stacks." Their prospects will tell them exactly where these needles are.
Well-structured questions make selling more efficient, less manipulative, and less stressful.
"A couple of other things, I’d like to meet with you again in three months. I want to see how things have progressed. Also when we meet again I will have some very fine Scotch to put in these crystal glasses. If you choose to work with my marketing guy I predict we’ll be celebrating. If you try to do it on your own, well maybe we’ll jointly drown your sorrows,” said Mark.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence in my abilities," said John.
Mark laughed, “Well doing what you’ve always done will keep you where you’ve always been.
"Remember Einstein's definition of insanity?" asked Mark.
John replied, “I've lived in Einstein’s definition of insanity for too long.”
"Well I like to paraphrase his definition like this, doing what you've always done will keep you where you've always been," said Mark.
"One other thing John, my marketing guy is Andrew Shedden. He’s the president of Broadfield Communications. He's the guy who designed the Manufacturing Growth Marketing System for small manufacturers that want faster more consistent growth.
"Contact him on his website or call him at 705-874-3631 and set up a time to talk. You’ll be glad you did."
Mark left and John immediately got on his phone, found Broadfield Communications online, and scheduled a Strategy Session with Andrew Shedden for later that week.
Andrew called John precisely on time and said, “Please tell me about your particular situation.”
“Well,” John said, “I’m under a lot of pressure to get my company growing more quickly.”
Their time together on the phone flew by.