David Osrin: Creating a sales campaign
David Osrin is the Managing Director of Music Makers Business Development Consulting Ltd. He started the company in 2004 with the aim of providing business development support to professional and financial services firms. The company now specialises in a range of sales focused support services, including lead generation, coaching, outsourced sales director and consultancy work.
A common thread amongst our clients is that their career development focuses heavily on technical skills and training, be it a chartered accountant, solicitor, actuary or chartered financial analysist. Often this comes at the expense of broader business learning, which means that when they progress to more senior roles with less emphasis on the technical work, they can be lacking in the skills required to manage teams, look after clients and of course, win new work.
This in turn can create gaps in the sales infrastructure, which Music Makers helps to plug. For some businesses it will be at the early stage of the sales process where they need to build their profile and win new clients. For others it will be about generating new work from existing clients. Either scenario relies on common elements of process and successful execution and this article will use a typical sales campaign to illustrate some these points and hopefully provide some useful insight.
Data Quality, not Quantity
Once a product, service or proposition is ready, a sales campaign will most likely start with a list of leads. And the single biggest reason why a sales campaign fails is because of the quality of that list. It is important to work on the quality of the data, rather than the quantity. Think about the assumptions and characteristics that will make for relevant leads. Where data isn’t available you might need to use a proxy instead; for example, the number of employees or total assets on the balance sheet will give an idea of a company’s size, in the absence of other financial information.
Identify your target audience
Defining your market is equally important and this can be another reason why a campaign doesn’t succeed. The market needs to be as homogenous and distinct as possible, which is another way of saying that your proposition should be relevant to everyone that is being targeted. It is easy of overlook sub-sectors or segments of the market that won’t be relevant, and where a different approach may be required.
A market must also be accessible, so once you have decided on your target market or list of leads, it’s time to think about how best to approach them. For B2B sales we have lots of options: email, online media, we can send letters, or equally old-fashioned, we can pick up the phone and make some calls! In my experience, the easier the method employed, the less successful the outcome. That doesn’t mean that we have to make life hard to be successful, it just means that if your sales campaign is entirely email-based, it is less likely to be as effective as a multi-media approach.
A large part of our work is telephone based lead generation, so clients do often ask me where email and other media fit in. Provided the content of an email is good, it can be an effective way of maintaining profile, but it is unlikely to be effective at generating sales leads. Equally, connecting with someone on LinkedIn can be a useful way of broadening a network (and I have seen it used to very good effect), but it is unlikely to help if the focus is on sales.
In my experience, and by far the most effective way of selling is through direct engagement, both in-person and over the phone. By talking to a prospect, we have the opportunity to ask questions, find out what is important to them, better understand their challenges and establish and build on a relationship. However, picking up the phone for the purpose of selling can be a daunting prospect if you’ve never done it before. Indeed, many experienced sales people still do it very badly.
If the quality of the data is good and the proposition is relevant to the people being targeted, this will increase the chances of success, but like developing any new skill, it requires an understanding of the process and lots of practice.
Planning a Call
In the same way that planning is essential to building a quality data set, the approach that I advocate before making a call is to prepare
1) what you’re going to say
2) how you’re going to say it; and
3) when you’re going to say it.
Although I would advise against using a script, it is useful to write out your pitch or have some sort of framework for the call:
- a brief introduction
- who are you
- why you are calling
- the purpose of the call
When writing this, put yourself in their shoes – What’s in it for them? Why would they agree to a meeting?
Think about the likely objections that might come up, so that you are prepared when they do (they definitely will). Rather than respond to an objection with “yes, but…”, it is better to acknowledge the objection, ask another question to help surface any underlying issues, and only then, answer.
Think also about how and when you will ask for the meeting (if that is the objective of the call). Don’t put everything into the opening gambit, keep some content aside as a backup, which is especially useful when dealing with push-back.
Practise reading the pitch and keep refining it until you end with something that comes across as well as you want it to. The tone should be direct but courteous. The pace should be balanced, not too fast and too slow (although if I am talking to busy people I do tend to pick up the pace a little).
Follow Up actions
I have referred to much of this as a sales campaign, but this approach could well sit within a wider marketing campaign that consists of other activities, including email marketing, advertising and social media, all of which should also be leveraged during the call. Think about the follow-up too, as not every call will result in a meeting. An agreement to keep in touch or a call-back is also a small win. It means that the next time you speak with the same prospect, the tone of the conversation will be that much warmer.
As technology evolves and invariably makes the sales process easier (or at least more easily defined), it’s important to remember that we still have a wide choice when it comes to communication. Sometimes the old-fashioned ways can still work best.
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Please feel free to contact David Osrin on 020 3217 4496 or email email@example.com