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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

There was a time when telephone selling, or telesales, was considered an lower level of of sales, compared to the smart-suited executive in his top-of-the-range car. Of course, this opinion varies from sector to sector; just look at recruitment to see highly paid executives who spend all their time selling by phone.

Nowadays, other sectors are beginning to realise that the telephone, when accompanied by online tools, can be a far more effective method of selling. We're seeing telesales now being utilised as a compliment to the sales cycle, particularly in areas such as software which were once considered "high-touch" and too complex to be sold using the phone.

I think that there are three key drivers behind this:

Online Presentation & Demonstration Tools - such as GotToMeeting, and WebEx, now make it simple to handle early parts of the sales cycle remotely. With decision makers and their teams often geographically dispersed, handling initial presentations online not only saves money in travelling costs, but can also dramatically shorten sales cycles. Plus, it enables the telesales agent to collaborate with pre-sales technical support (which could be located elsewhere) to provide all the answers that client needs.

Fee-Based and Disruptive Business Models
- hosted applications, "software-as-service", and other low-cost charging models have made the on-the-road sales person no longer viable or cost-effective. Utilising remote selling, usually in conjunction with e-commerce platforms or live-agent tools, is the way forward. You still need highly-skilled people, but now they can service more customers in less time than is possible with face-to-face selling. Need an example? Look no further than salesforce.com

Changing Customer Attitudes - can you remember when they said no one would buy groceries online? when it comes to enterprise sales, people have been a little slower to catch up. Partly, I suspect, because sales people have a vested interest in keeping their cars. However, decision makers have become time-starved and scheduling a 20-minute online presentation can be much more preferable to blocking out an hour in the day (plus they can fit the online meeting in while they're working from home...or even while they're on the train!). Can you remember when most of your clients didn't have email? Nowadays, most middle-managers can only be contacted via their Blackberry (see Email vs Cold Calling) You get the point, people are far more open to new ways of doing business, especially if it saves them time.

Telephone Sales, Telesales, Remote BizDev, call it what you will...it's a growing part of sales today, and a great way to shorten otherwise long and costly sales cycles.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 10:25 am |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

There's a great phrase that Jill Konrath used in her book, "Selling to Big Companies" when discussing sending emails to targeted prospects within large organisations - "one-on-one marketing". Jill writes:

"When you set your eyes on getting into a particular big company you are doing one-on-one marketing. It's writing to one person. That's all. Totally personalized. Totally Customized."

That is so true and, I think, it's probably one of the hardest forms of direct marketing there is.

Consider this: successful direct marketing campaigns are usually measured in single digit response rates, say 1 or 2% (and you can invest a lot of time and money trying to increase that rate by a fraction of a point.)

We're trying to get the attention of just one person, and we need to carefully research and craft our approach to have a chance of success.

Also, when you're running a direct marketing campaign, let's say a mail-out, you can test your copy on a segment of the list, check the response rate, make a few changes, test again etc. Once you've found the copy that pulls the most responses, you can release it to the bulk of the list.

With one-on-one marketing there's no such luxury.

I guess this is typically why I work with companies with high ticket propositions, or where a large account could represent a major lifetime value as a customer; it's worth investing the time as the payback can be substantial.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I've been following an interesting discussion on the Electronic Recruiting Exchange about whether cold calling or emails are most effective for sourcing candidates.

Whilst the discussion has a recruiting focus, it's equally valid for sales & business development.

Reading the emerging discussion posts, what became apparent was that there seems to be a polarised view on this. Some people say email, some say cold-call..with each citing outstanding results they've had from their respective method.

To me, this isn't a case of "either or"...more like "and both".

Cold calling, sending unsolicited emails, using online networks such as LinkedIn are all valid strategies. Each has it's advantages and disadvantages and, guess what, none of them work 100% of the time with 100% of people.

In my experience, different management levels, and different industries have their own particular quirks. And, of course, it all depends on how compelling your proposition is...and what the outcome is that you're after; appointment, qualified opportunity, passive candidate sourcing...they all put a different spin on your approach.

Truth is, for some client's I've set up great high-level meetings without ever speaking directly to an executive. For others I've accurately sourced passive candidates through LinkedIn. Sometimes it's all been by phone...it's like they didn't know email even exists :-)

Email is certainly not going away, and with the rise of Blackberry's and mobile email devices it's often the only way you'll reach someone for a time-sensitive project.

To me, the quality of your approach counts more than how it's delivered. If it's targeted, simple and compelling (and, of course, the timing's in your favour) then you'll get good results.

The secret is to remain flexible and try something different until you get the results you want.

Much like life, really.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

One of the best articles on the subject is Competitive Intelligence: The Ups and Downs of Elicitation by ChiefZilla himself David Carpe.

David's a respected figure in the CI industry, and this article looks at the closely guarded and mysterious art of elicitation.

It's funny, I first heard the term many years ago when I started studying NLP - another mysterious art (actually, there's more than a few NLP terms in this article)

David describes it as "open dialogue...with a purpose", which I think is pretty much spot on. If it's done well, the other person doesn't know it's happening.

This is my favourite quote:
"Search engines, while powerful, continue to fall short when it comes to efficiently delivering deep insight....Skilled primary researchers can glean tremendous insight through conversations with key industry participants - information that might otherwise never be found or is not available through secondary research. This is the main reason why primary researchers prefer to go to the source, and recognize the need for a deep dive into the watery recesses of other minds."

Go to the source...I like that.


Posted by: David Regler @ 7:10 pm |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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There's a great quote from Lou Adler from his article "The Best Article Ever Written on Passive Candidate Recruiting"
on the Electronic Recruiting Exchange.

The article covers key metrics which Lou believes will significantly increase your results for sourcing passive candidates. Incidentally, this article is equally appropriate for cold calling for sales people.

The quote I particularly like is:
"The Internet has made the process of finding names of passive candidates quite easy. But this is only the first step in getting them into your network and possibly hired into your company. Look at the names as the start of the process, not the end."

Resources such as ZoomInfo have made it easier to search for people (especially if they're US based). For LinkedIn read the same.

However, in most cases, this will just provide the entry-point, or the starting block. As Lou observes, "this is only the first step...look at the names as the start of the process, not the end."

Whether you're sourcing names, digging for competitive intelligence, setting appointments...at some point you need to pick up that phone ;-)

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

I was chatting with a good friend of mine, Michael Beale, who has an interest in, amongst other things, the use of language patterns for seduction.

We were discussing a book we both own called "The Full Facts Book Of Cold Reading" by Ian Rowland.

It is, incidentally, the only book on the subject endorsed by the excellent Derren Brown.

Cold reading is (my definition) the art of convincing people that you can read their mind, tell their future, etc. It's done by making vaguely specific statements and then adjusting to the responses you get. In my opinion, there's nothing super-natural in it.

Anyway, there's an excellent section on how you can apply techniques from cold-reading to making cold-calls.

Now, I've got to say, these techniques carry a potential risk of blow-back (they're more appropriate with low-level "blockers") but, if you really need to get that information, and you've tried other approaches...they're worth a go.

And, our course, if you want to learn an interesting party trick...

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

The other day I had an amusing cold-call from a recruitment company. I'll not mention their name, but they bill themselves as "specialising in placing and training graduates for high-profile sales and marketing jobs". Yeah, right.

Anyway, this guy calls me up, let's call him James, and from the start he's not listening.

ME: Hello, David Regler.

JAMES: Can I speak with Mr Regler please?

ME: This is Mr Regler.

JAMES: Er...er...(He recovers and launches into his pitch) We're a UK Recruitment company specialising in placing and training graduates for high-profile sales and marketing jobs. I want to arrange a meeting with you...yadda, yadda....synergies....explore relationships...yadda, yadda....

He goes on for a couple of minutes and I don't say a word (apparantly the more he talks the more I'm convinced). His pitch is just the usual canned waffle. Eventually, he closes me for an appointment with probably the oldest one in the book.

JAMES: I'm going to be in your area either May 8th or 11th, which is best for you?

ME: James, I don't understand why you want to meet me (I ignored the fact that he obviously didn't know where my area was and I seriously doubt whether he was going to ever be in it).

JAMES: Er...er....

ME: You're a recruitment company right?


ME: Well...we don't employ anyone.

JAMES: Er...er...(this was obviously not an objection on his script)...I don't understand...er...

ME: We work on an associate model, that means we don't employ anyone. So why would you want to waste your time meeting me?

Talk about lack of qualification. If he'd taken one minute to look at my website he'd have found that out. I mean, the clue is in the name: Maine Associates ;-)

I went on to question James about his company, got to find out that he'd been there 6 months and had been through their intensive sales training which included, wait for it, cold calling. His target was to make 6 appointments a week; obviously it didn't matter what appointment it was - the company didn't have to meet some basic criteria, such as do they hire sales people ;-). If he just wanted an appointment he should have gone to the doctor.

I emailed his MD and suggested that if they wanted to run a real training course on "cold calling" they should give me a call. I'll not hold my breath on that one.

Needless to say, James' approach is not unique. In fact, it's pretty much the standard out there. And while people like James are doing such a bad job, our life is so much easier.

When we contact prospects they instantly know that we are different - and that's what makes the difference.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

We use the term "prospecting" to describe what we do everyday: that is, going out there and uncovering opportunities, lead generation, appointment setting, etc.

It's become such a common phrase in sales that it's easy to forget where the term comes from.

In a recent message on Sourcers Unleashed, Maureen Sharib of TechTrak, the US-based Names Sourcing company, posted about the term "pocket mining", found in a narrative by Mark Twain:

"In that one little corner of California is found a species of mining which is seldom or never mentioned in print. It is called "pocket mining" and I am not aware that any of it is done outside of that little corner. The gold is not evenly distributed through the surface dirt, as in ordinary placer mines, but is collected in little spots, and they are very wide apart and exceedingly hard to find, but when you do find one you reap a rich and sudden harvest.

There are not now more than twenty pocket miners in that entire little region. I think I know every one of them personally. I have known him to take out three thousand dollars in two hours...This is the most fascinating of all the different kinds of mining."

Now that strikes a chord with me, and I'm sure with many others in this business.

Prospecting is all about using your skill and expertise to seek out those hard to find nuggets of gold. It takes a little time, the gold will be spread about a bit and not that easy to locate, but when you find it...the rewards can be very lucrative.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I remember reading Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat and thinking, "Oh so that's what we do" ;-)

There seems to be so many different labels in this sector I thought it might be worth exploring a few to see which is the best to tag us with.

We fit into "Outsourcing" as companies use us to fulfil a business process which they would normally handle in-house: namely, business development, lead generation and appointment setting. There's nothing new here, people have been doing this for some time and outbound telemarketing was probably one of the first to be outsourced.

As a company that works on an associate model, most of our people would fit with the "Homeshoring" label, that is, they work from their own homes.

And on some projects needing qualification of a large number of companies (or a very detailed and lengthy qualification process), we offshore that process ourselves to our partners in India.

The reality is that, we mix and match these services to deliver exactly what's needed for each client. Sometimes a project will start with myself to profile the target market and refine the process. Once I've done that I may use associates to help scale up the project, or offshore the project to leverage a lower cost base.

This is what they call "Bestshoring", finding the most appropriate resource for each stage of the process. Or you could just call it common sense ;-)


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