by Julia Paulus
To answer your most burning sales and marketing questions, we approached some of St. Louis’ most experienced and forward-thinking sales and marketing professionals. Here’s how they suggest you work your sales and marketing teams to amp up your business.
Andy Belval, vice president of sales at Datotel, which offers business solutions including colocation, cloud computing, managed services and insourcing.
Gina Hoagland, president of Collaborative Strategies Inc., a strategic consulting company
Ed Mayuga, whose sales career has spanned 19 years at such companies as UPS, Abbott Laboratories, Parke-Davis and Pfizer
Steve Randazzo, president of Pro Motion, an experiential face-to-face marketing agency
Tricia Zimmer Ferguson, owner of Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Co.
Q: What’s better: outsourced or in-house sales? Why?
A: Hoagland: It depends on your business. If your business is like mine and it’s highly relational and person-dependent, the consultant who makes the sale is the one who must continue working with the client. Outsourced sales will work for a business that is transaction-based where decisions are made at low levels.
A: Zimmer Ferguson: In-house sales because no one knows your product or service better than the people who work within the culture every day and share in your vision.
Q: What are some effective strategies for getting past the gatekeeper?
A: Hoagland: To get to decision makers you have to fish in the ponds with a lot of fish and appear as a peer. Once I have met the decision makers, I have them tell the gatekeepers, “I’m expecting this call. Put them through right away.”
A: Randazzo: In today’s environment you must have a really good referral or a really good compelling story to get to a decision maker. The story must be focused on the prospect and include tangible results you have gotten from the same or similar industry. Even with a compelling story, it is taking more time to get to a decision maker. A personal referral or relationship is still the best way to get past the gatekeeper.
Q: What traits define someone as an ‘A-player’ salesperson?
A: Belval: Passion, competitive drive , integrity, consistent track record of success (always above quota). Builds effective relationships with clients and with others in the company.
A: Mayuga: An A-player business developer is someone who is assertive, self-assured and confident, even in the face of rejection. Even the best salespeople only convert 50% or less of their prospects and have to deal with daily rejection. What I often see missing in less experienced salespeople is the inner drive to go out and face rejection every day, preferring instead to go with “safe calls,” where they know that they can find a little bit of business. Because of this, they fail to call on enough “safe prospects” to achieve their quotas. They also may want the “big score” immediately without working the necessary steps, such as relationship building and networking, to build up to that sale. As soon as they encounter the first bit of push-back, they come up with an excuse, such as the economic environment or some outside factor.
Q: What’s better: commissioned or noncommissioned sales? Why?
A: Randazzo: It depends on the difficulty of the sale. Why? In a complex sale, a highly commissioned sales professional works best. I believe you need to pay the salesperson enough in base that they are hungry and a lot in commission so they stay focused. If there is a simple transaction, commissions are less effective.
Q: What are the newest approaches to effective cold calling?
A: Mayuga: In my opinion, a true cold call in today’s environment is futile and similar to throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks! A savvy business development professional will utilize social networks to find out as much information as possible about the prospect and be armed with that knowledge during the initial contact. By expanding and utilizing a social network, such as LinkedIn, the salesperson could ask a mutual contact for a virtual introduction, and suddenly the cold call becomes a warm lead.
Q: How should I be documenting my sales process?
A: Belval: Every aspect of the sales process should be documented and measured at a minimum of weekly and preferably daily. Use a customer relationship management or sales force automation tool if at all possible. Know every stage of your process. Send letters/emails to the potential client/clients, and have them acknowledge that you are progressing. Do not move any opportunity to the next stage without acknowledgement from the potential client/clients.
A: Zimmer Ferguson: No. 1: Focus on one issue or problem your potential customer is experiencing, and build an open-ended conversation around a solution.
No. 2: Be helpful and make it about the potential customer and their needs.
No. 3: Be genuine and let them guide some of the conversation.
Q: What’s the difference between marketing and sales?
A: Belval: Marketing is everything you do to reach and influence prospects/suspects. Sales is everything you do to sign an agreement once the prospect/suspect has engaged.
A: Mayuga: Marketing is the practice of getting people to know, like and trust your brand. Selling is using the positive brand image created by marketing to close sales. A mistake that I often see small-business owners make is to confuse marketing with selling. They often list feature after feature of their product or service but neglect to illustrate any benefits or reasons why the prospect should buy. Sales is the art of demonstrating benefits to make a prospect’s life easier, a process faster or an opportunity for the client to make more money.
Q: What can I put in place to get my salespeople in front of prospects more often?
A: Belval: Attend as many networking events as possible. Establish yourself as a thought leader in your field through PR and social media. Never stop marketing.
A: Zimmer Ferguson: Make sure to attend events, events and more events. Find out what kind of events your prospects are attending and go. That way you will learn more about your prospects and what motivates them. It’s usually a more casual setting, and a lot of the pressure is taken off.
A: Hoagland: You need to free them up from the unnecessary stuff that’s sucking up their time. All of these expensive salespeople you’ve hired need to have their time freed up so they can actually sell.
Q: Where is the line between persistence and annoyance in marketing my business and selling?
A: Randazzo: It takes more time to get to someone today than in the past. Therefore, we are focusing more on our outbound marketing efforts, so it provides the opportunity for prospects to raise their hand and contact us. We continue to put a lot of money and effort into our website and optimization of it as our most powerful tool. We continually get warm leads and close business via our website. This has been the biggest change for us over the past three years – our website has been a great 24/7/365 marketing tool for us that leads to converted sales and revenue.