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Kenneth W. Keller: The two questions you must truthfully answer

Inside Business

Posted: August 25, 2009 8:10 p.m.
Updated: August 26, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Many companies today have two problems. The first is that they are not consistently generating enough qualified leads. Put another way, whatever is happening in marketing is not working as well as it needs to be.

The second is that company sales department, consisting of one or many, is not making enough presentations to qualified leads to grow the client base.   

If you are an owner reading this column satisfied with your client base, revenue, cash flow and profits, read no further. On the other hand, if you are not happy with the size or makeup of your client base, believe that having more revenue is a good thing, desire and want stronger cash flow, and will gladly use more profits, read on. This column is for you.

Back to those two questions. Answer them truthfully and what you learn can change your business for the better for years to come.

Play with the truth and you will continue the status quo.   

The first question: Are the current marketing efforts for new clients generating the leads needed to grow the client base in a suitable timeframe?

Marketing is everything done to “make the phone ring.” Within this definition are all forms of advertising (print of all types, electronic, outdoor, internet), direct marketing (mail, cold calling), public relations, networking, referrals, trade shows, website inquiries and so forth.

The first step to answer the question is to make a list of how each current customer came to do business with you. Next to the client name list the marketing method employed. Estimate the amount of money spent to acquire the client.

The second step is to put a dollar amount to each client in terms of revenue and compare that to the cost of client acquisition. This provides return on marketing investment. Make a list of what is working and what is not based on the numbers. Start eliminating marketing activities that don’t work and start investing more where they do.

The “sales department” takes over when prospects contact the company. This leads to the second question: Is everyone in a sales function presenting to qualified prospects as often as they could?

The answer is a resounding “no” for 99.9 percent.

Many in sales make few prospect calls on Mondays or Fridays. Many in sales don’t make calls before 9 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

Research suggests that the first call for many sales people doesn’t take place until 11 a.m.

A rumor about sales people: Apparently they have to be in the office on Mondays and Fridays to do expense reports, attend sales meetings and lead sheets around. This rumor continues that sales people engage in unnecessary chit-chat; surf the Internet; take long lunches; and golf whenever possible.

There are unchartered waters for many companies. It has always been tough for those in sales but this economy is even worse than predicted. This means things have to change.

If you are the owner that needs more clients, better clients, more sales, stronger cash flow and more profits, you need to change the sales paradigm. Now is the time to create a new work ethic for sales. You can start today.

The old ways (see rumor above) have to go. The rest of your staff is working their behinds off to deliver to the company’s clients with fewer people and reduced resources. And they see you, the owner, letting sales people not just believe in the above rumor but living it.

Your sales people can sell any day that ends in the letter “y.” They can start seeing prospects before 8 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Your sales people can do paperwork on the weekends or during the evenings.

Let your sales people surf the Internet, golf and chit chat on their time. Start holding sales meetings at 6 p.m. at night. Demand your sales people be out of the office calling on prospects every day of the week all day, every day. Start tracking their activities instead of just the results. Demand change in their activities to secure a different result.

Neal Boortz gave a commitment speech at Texas A&M University, his alma mater. He told those graduating if they wanted to succeed in life, they had to be willing to work long, hard and smart; to “drive home in the dark.” It’s a lesson we should all learn if we want to make headway in this economy.

No more wasted marketing programs that don’t yield prospects. No more excuses, no more short days, no more believing in rumors for sales people. It is a new day with new realities and it requires doing things differently.

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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