Solving the Sales Prospecting Problem
Given that most marketing departments are under significant cost pressures, how can you make that process more efficient? Making a ton of calls, or sending out a lot of high-cost mailers or polluting the Internet with thousands of emails carries with it a lot of costs, many of them hidden but all of them a function of volume. So let’s reduce the volume.
Segment Your List
Who DO you want? How about companies that look a lot like your existing clients? This gives you a double leg up. First, you may notice a trend in that most of your clients are clustered in a certain industry sector, like hospitality or transportation. You may find that none are under $100 million in annual revenue. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start at learning where your value prop resonates. But the double leg up? If you DO find a prospect that looks like your current client base, you likely have a success story to reference and speed up the sales cycle.
Clean Up Your Database
A recent survey of Marketing Directors, VPs and CMOs* found that almost 40% called their marketing efforts “Mission Impossible.” A major reason was the contact database. 73% said their contact database needs work. Of these, lack of contact emails was the most commonly cited flaw. Breaking into new accounts can take up to 5 times as many touches as selling to existing accounts. Lack of accurate email contact information adds complexity to reaching the 5X touch hurdle.
Third party vendors can help with the initial clean up, by testing and filling in inaccurate or missing emails and other contact information. However, to keep the accuracy up to the level needed for success requires disciplined processes with sale and marketing.
One of the easier ways to reduce absurdly large universes of prospects is to start by eliminating those you don’t want. Is the product you’re selling interesting to government agencies, schools and other public entities? A huge swath can be purged right there.
What about eliminating organizations simply too small to cost-justify your solution? Would a 5-person firm ever buy a $25K software system? Toss those out.
Do the upfront work to determine who really is an appropriate prospect. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gotten solicitations from other marketing companies pitching me their services. My first thought is, “Well, THAT’S a marketing company would never use!” Don’t they want to filter out competitors?
This sounds obvious: defining your target market, selecting sales prospects intelligently, avoiding large, costly campaigns aimed at volumes of companies with little chance of ever buying. But it is amazing how often companies don’t think this out. Why is that? Well, it’s a moving target. It’s always changing. Your sweet spot may have shifted as the product or market matured. It’s a constant process of listening for clues, looking for trends.
To quote 80s music icon, Joe Jackson: “You can get what you want ‘til you know what you want.” Answering that question is an on-going effort, but in doing so you will learn you don’t need to build so large a prospect list, that your marketing message can be refined to match the needs of a tightly-defined market, that response rate might go up as you precisely match solutions to needs. That means the marketing you do upon this newly defined target market can be concentrated and high-impact. You can afford “push” marketing because it will be more effective. Oh, and how DO you learn the message match, the specific pains of that target market, etc.? A target survey is an efficient tool to do that… but that’s fodder for another blog!