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Become a Follow-Up Fanatic

Far too many businesses lose valuable sales through a lack of consistent follow-up. Here’s how to do it better.

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BecomeFollowUpFanatic

It’s time to shine. Targets have been set, marketing activities are in full swing, and sales collateral is hot off the press. Like a bull in the chute, your sales team is clawing the ground, frothing at the mouth, hungry to corner and close prospects. Time for one last pep talk…”OK, everybody,” you say, your voice rising to a crescendo, “let’s get out there and…nurture.”

You are surprised; the word ‘nurture’ is not exactly a word that a salesperson expects to hear from the sales manager. But given the prevailing mindset of B2B and B2C prospects today, it’s just the kind of tactical advice a fire-breathing sales force needs to hear to set the tone for a successful sales campaign. There’s a perception – often a valid one – that salespeople tend to be hunters, not nurturers. But some experts feel that if you go through a nurturing process with your prospects, you will have a competitive advantage over the hunters, and your margins will improve.

Resist the easy sale

This attitude is great, as long as that energy is properly channeled during the sales process. What plagues many lead-conversion efforts is an over-emphasis on low-hanging fruit – ‘sales you can close the same day’. Findings from a recent study by international lead-generation firm Resource Nation support this. The study finds a direct correlation between the speed at which a company’s sales force follows up with leads and the company’s lead-conversation rate; yet, it also reveals that many companies are surprisingly weak in their follow-up with prospects.

For example, only 33% of companies followed up with prospects within an hour of prospects submitting a request online for more information about products or services; a larger portion – 47% – followed up within the second hour after contact by prospects; 14% didn’t follow up at all. What’s more, 37% of companies failed to follow up with a second phone call if their first call to a prospect went unanswered, while 33% didn’t even bother to leave a message if they couldn’t reach the prospect. Lurking between the lines of those findings is a compelling, encouraging message for business: If they stress responsiveness, resourcefulness and relationship nurturing during the sales process, they’ll put themselves in a position to beat their competitors – even the most entrenched ones – to the deal.

It’s follow up or die in today’s competitive landscape. Here’s how to get it right:

Be first to respond

There’s no substitute for timeliness. The first person to respond to the client is usually the person who’s going to close the deal. Waiting even several hours to respond to an Internet or phone lead leaves too much room for competitors to gain traction. Prospects that make the effort to contact you are likely to do so with a sense of urgency and they expect a similar urgency with your response. This is a very directed behaviour. They’re looking for something very specific from you, and most likely, they are looking to make a decision quickly, even if a long sales cycle is involved.

Take it personally

While Web-based vehicles certainly can play an integral role in advancing prospects through the sales process, there’s no substitute for person-to-person contact, either by phone or face-to-face. People respond well to warmth and human contact from a salesperson who actually speaks to whoever they’re considering doing business with. Having meaningful personal conversations is what closes the sale.

Track your touches

As vital as timely follow-up is in the sales process, it’s critical for salespeople to track their touches with prospects during the process. While customer relationship software is viewed by some as a luxury, others see it as essential for their growing businesses. Keep good, detailed records – how the prospect found you, what they did when they visited your website, who the decision-maker or decision-makers are, and the contact you had with them.

Be the prospect

Salespeople gain a distinct advantage by making the extra effort to understand their clients’ businesses and the problems clients are trying to solve, or the need they’re trying to fill, with the product or service you offer.

Follow-up Tips to close the deal

1. Be an information source
Find an article you think would interest prospects? Send it to them. It’s a non-salesy way to keep yourself on the radar screen and shows them what it would be like to partner with you.

2. Shoot straight
Stay away from ‘wishy-washy’ language. You want to drive a clear future, where you tell prospects exactly how you plan to go about following up with them.

3. Give prospects space
You want to let them feel like they’re dictating the pace of the process, and that you’re there to help them make a decision.

4. Don’t fear mistakes
Be cognisant of your weaknesses. You can often learn more about sales from your failures than your successes.

David Port is a freelancer who writes on small business, and financial and energy issues.

Techniques

4 Tools For Perfecting Your B2B Sales Funnel

Cloudlead, GrooveJar, Stripe Checkout and Drip can help you customise your first-time visitor’s journey, to ‘customer.’

Thomas Smale

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The B2B customer journey from visitor, to lead, to customer, to promoter is often broken down into four steps: Attract, convert, close and delight.

These steps are the foundation of inbound marketing, a term first coined by Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan. And each one of these steps is intended to guide visitors to your website through your sales funnel, with the end goal being to not only close that first one-time sale but convert your customers into repeat buyers and advocates for your business.

Here are four tools your business can put to work today to optimise your B2B sales funnel and boost your sales.

Attract: Cloudlead

Typically, the top of the sales funnel for online business focuses on generating relevant organic traffic. Traffic generation can be achieved with a solid content-marketing strategy covering the creation and promotion of quality content that engages your target audience through blog posts, social media, guest posting and link-building.

While content marketing is the best way to increase your organic search traffic, its results are far from instantaneous. If you’re in the B2B space, for instance, you may find that your strategy to reach the decision-makers you need, to close a sale through content marketing, isn’t producing results quickly enough. That’s where tools like Cloudlead come in.

Related: Creating a Sales Forecast for your Business Plan

Cloudlead harnesses the power of machine-learning coupled with human research, to find qualified leads for your business. After you provide this tool with a detailed description of your product and buyer persona, Cloudlead’s proprietary research tools provide you and your sales team with detailed contact information for decision-makers relevant to your product.

This in turn enables you to target potential customers with pinpoint accuracy and move them to the top of your sales funnel without having to wait for your content marketing efforts to pay off.

Convert: GrooveJar

groovejar-logoOnce you have attracted a visitor to your site, the most crucial incremental step you can take to edge him or her toward a purchase is to capture the visitor’s email address. According to a 2017 survey by Episerver, “92 percent of consumers visit a brand’s website for the first time for reasons other than making a purchase.”

So, when targeting first-time visitors, capturing an email address is a much more realistic conversion goal to aim for than an outright sale.

Email capture enables you to follow up with targeted marketing emails, such as special offers and discounts or engaging content relevant to your lead’s interests. This process is often referred to as “lead nurturing,” and it helps move potential customers further down your sales funnel, closer to the ultimate goal of achieving a sale. But how do you convince a visitor to your site to part with his or her email address?

GrooveJar is a suite of eight intelligent pop-up apps that have been shown to triple the industry-standard email capture rate of 3 percent. The most popular app, GrooveUrgent, uses the psychological principle of urgency to convince visitors to provide their email address by creating  a pop-up window with a countdown timer; this gives visitors a limited time to heed a call-to-action that you specify.

The latter offer can be a discount, a free trial offer, the opportunity to download an ebook – whatever you think may entice a visitor to leave an email address. Once you have captured that address, GrooveJar’s Collect and Convert function utilises the power of email automation to retarget your leads and turn them into buyers.

Close: Stripe Checkout

Once you’ve nurtured your lead sufficiently to the point where this person is ready to make a purchase, how do you close the deal? While this may seem straightforward, 67.4 percent of checkouts are abandoned before the purchase is completed, according to CoxBlue.

Abandoned cart email apps, such as MageMail for Magento, can be highly effective in helping recover those sales, but it is essential to optimise the checkout process itself. Payment processor giant Stripe is popular for a reason: It has been making it easy for businesses to accept payments from major credit cards since 2011.

More recently, Stripe Checkout was developed to allow online businesses to embed highly optimised checkout forms anywhere on their site. Stripe uses data gathered from its many users to continually refine and optimise the checkout process, helping ensure you don’t lose sales due to poor checkout form design and functionality.

Stripe Checkout renders seamlessly on desktops, mobile and tablets. As an added convenience, consumers have the option of having Stripe Checkout “remember” their payment details, enabling faster checkouts on repeat purchases and on other websites that use Stripe. Stripe Checkout can help ensure you don’t stumble at the finish line when your customer is ready to make a purchase.

Related: Mastering The Sales Process

Delight: Drip

Many business owners assume that the ultimate goal of any sales funnel is to make a sale. While that is inherently true, Halligan’s hierarchy of inbound marketing states that the sales process doesn’t end there. The crucial final step is to delight your clients, turning them into repeat customers and advocates for your business.

Many businesses devote most of their marketing efforts to acquiring new customers, but a BIAKelsey study showed that 61 percent of SMBs surveyed reported that more than half of their revenue came from repeat customers, rather than new business. That’s just one reason why it’s so important to stay in touch with your customers after they make a purchase, and not just with an order confirmation email.

You should deliver personalised, engaging content and incentives to encourage a repeat purchase or upsell to more services. You can even incentivise your clients to send other potential customers your way by offering a reward for referrals. Drip enables you to do all of these things at scale through email marketing automation.

While automated marketing campaigns that send out emails based on defined intervals or customer actions – usually referred to as “drip campaigns” – are often employed at an earlier stage in the sales funnel, they can be just as effective in delighting your existing customers. Repeat customers are often one of a business’s most valuable assets. Clever use of marketing automation using Drip can help turn customers into advocates.

Final thoughts

Optimising your B2B sales funnel means maximising your chances for success at every stage of the customer journey, from visitor to brand advocate. Cloudlead, GrooveJar, Stripe Checkout and Drip can help your business do just that.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Techniques

Want To Become A Supplier To A Big Company? Consider This First

A giant customer can be highly profitable or cost you your business. Have you considered all the angles?

Ed Hatton

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“How do I get into the big corporates or Government?” Business owners visualise huge sales and profits by becoming a supplier to a giant, and that is often the case. For a big organisation with billions to spend, a trivial expenditure to them may be a large fortune to you. Do not let the number of zeros dazzle you, riches are not guaranteed; many entrepreneurs have suffered losses or businesses collapse from such dealings.

You must understand the motivations of managers of large organisations, and the risks they face. They are KPI-driven and risk serious damage to their careers if something goes badly wrong. Compared to these issues, your profitability, work hours and ego are minor considerations. You may believe that you only have to perform in terms of your agreement, but in reality, you need to make your contacts look good. Aim for a zero fail rate; deliveries that are late, faulty or incorrect may cause a disproportionate explosion because that means your contact has let someone down. If you are smart, you can help your contacts get a reputation for superior internal service.

Related: How To Stay One Step Ahead In The Knowledge Era

Understand the risks that big customers pose to your business

There are risks in any unequal buyer/seller relationship. The biggest risk is if the giant stops buying. Large customers can be extremely demanding; they see you as an extension of their business and can be intolerant of your need to service other customers. Many small suppliers will be familiar with a peremptory summons to an immediate meeting and occasional rudeness. A supply contract inevitably favours the big guy, and this means pricing and other terms of trade are vital. You must protect your ability to make a reasonable margin even if circumstances like inflation, exchange rates or sector wage agreements change.  

Large organisations care about meeting their budgets, not about your profitability, and many suppliers have failed because they were bound to supply goods at an unsustainable price. Managers move around, and if your champion is promoted, the replacement manager may prefer their favourite suppliers, so out you go. Broaden your range of contacts in the organisation to avoid this risk.  Large organisations are huge bureaucracies; decisions may take time and payments may be delayed, especially if your paperwork is not perfect.

There are opportunities — but evaluate them carefully

The major opportunity is significant growth. They will buy if you supply a product or service that suits their needs and budget at service levels that make the managers look good. It is entirely possible to make your company almost indispensable by solving problems and offering them innovative new ways of exceeding their KPIs at reduced cost. There are opportunities to supply other parts of the giant, as well as their supply chains. Be careful with growth. Your primary contact will be used to your full attention and if he or she senses that this is no longer happening because you have grown, they can seek alternative suppliers. Never let growth reduce your customer service level.

A very large and prestigious customer gives your company credibility, allows you to attract the brightest staff, makes selling to other giants easier and gives you funds to develop new markets and new products.

Related: Are You Forgetting To Think About Your Business Strategy?

Is it worth it?

Is it worth the big money? Yes, if you can manage the risks, chief of which is becoming too dependent on one customer. However, dealing with the big gorillas is not the same as having a more balanced supplier/buyer relationship. It works if you use your ability to be nimble and flexible to solve their problems. It helps if you are innovative and can use your creativity to respond rapidly in ways that big corporations cannot. It works if you can give very personal service, even if that means you, the owner, are the primary interface. By doing these things you can become an indispensable cog in a huge machine.


REMEMBER THIS

You need a champion in your client’s organisation, but ensure you have other contacts too. What happens if they leave or are promoted? Is your contract safe?

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Accurately Predict Future Sales With These Two Things

Being able to predict your sales for next month and those to come, is a result of a combination of two things.

Andrew Aitken

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sales-forecasting

As someone responsible for sales in a growing business, you would love to be able to predict your sales accurately, month after month – but this can be a difficult process. Fortunately, it’s not impossible. With some initial effort and careful monitoring, you can predict whether the team will have positive sales results in the future, and where you can see trouble looming, you can take advance action to avoid problems.

Being able to predict your sales for next month and those to come, is a result of a combination of two things:

1. Developing a sales process

As ‘boring” as it might sound for many entrepreneurs, it is extremely useful to understand the benefits of working to a process in business. This applies to any part of the business, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, is very applicable to sales.

Related: How To Find The Right Salespeople: And Attract Them To Your Business

Think about it this way:

  • If you do the same task a different way every time, you can expect a different outcome every time. It becomes difficult to predict whether the outcome will be good or bad.
  • But if you do the same task the same way every time, the outcome becomes very predictable, and you’ve laid a platform for systematic improvement. By making one small tweak to how you do the task, you can see if you get a better, or a worse, outcome. You can then keep all the tweaks that improve your outcome and drop the tweaks that make it worse.

2. Developing sales systems

A superior quality sales management capability necessitates that you have a Sales System on a best of breed technology platform, to help manage the sales function in the business.

A good sales system helps you capture your sales process. Good sales management practices drive home the discipline needed to implement the sales process, and in turn, predict sales results.

Take the first step in your journey towards accurately predicting sales by developing a sound sales process.

Next in this series: HOW TO DEVELOP A SALES PROCESS THAT WORKS LIKE A CHARM

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