I met with a client a few weeks ago that had one sales rep… an experienced and, by all accounts, pretty good rep. Over coffee, I talked with this rep about his day-to-day activities. I expected to hear about his calling on existing clients, responding to inquiries, following up on leads from conferences, etc. And while he did do some of that, he spent the majority of his time (the vast majority) digging through directories for new names, sending out letters of introduction (along with sales collateral) and then following-up by phone. Yup… he was cold-calling.
For a sales rep, nothing is more difficult, induces more fear or is less productive than cold-calling. If you are having your sales rep cold call more than 5-10% of his/her time… STOP IT! It is not the responsibility of sales reps to find leads… their job is to follow-up on leads and close deals. It is the responsibility of your marketing to generate those leads.
So, set-up your sales rep(s) up for success by having him/her follow-up on some solid, lead-generating activities. For example…
- Following-up with those who downloaded an eBook or white paper from your website.
- Following-up with those attended a webinar you presented.
- Following-up with those who stopped by your booth at a conference.
- Following-up with those they networked with at a conference.
- Following-up with those who clicked-thru from your monthly e-newsletter to your website.
- If you’re using a website ‘chat’ function… following-up with those who visited your website.
- Following-up with those in your CRM database that haven’t been contacted in a long time (I’ll bet there are hundreds… maybe even thousands!).
- Following-up with any potential client that’s submitted an RFP in the past few years.
- Following-up with any potential client that has requested information about your services by sending an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Following-up with those the rep recently connected with on LinkedIn or Twitter.
- Following-up with those who recently viewed the rep’s profile on LinkedIn (LI provides a report).
- Following-up with existing clients… looking to make additional contacts inside those firms.
In every one of these circumstances, there is a ‘reason’ to call, the prospect knows at least a little something about your firm and they have expressed some (however small) interest in what you do. That is… they’re warm, not cold.
And by the way, study after study has shown that most salespeople give up after just 1 or 2 touches… when it really takes many more. So, hang in there and be persistent.
Want to improve your sales odds even more? Then go after the most qualified leads… focus your follow-up efforts on those prospects that have had multiple touches with your firm. For example, they downloaded an eBook AND attended a webinar AND stopped by your booth AND viewed your LinkedIn profile. Any prospect that does that is more than casually interested… and should be categorized as “sales ready.”
Bottom line: If you’re going to invest in dedicated sales personnel (and you should), then make sure they’re focused on what’s most important… not generating leads – but generating new business.