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Archive for May, 2011

Be Quick. Don’t Be An Interruption.

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Quickly getting in touch with a prospect who has submitted an online inquiry is one of the key ingredients in a customer-centric service strategy. This is true simply because people’s attention is constantly shifting. What is important now, is less important in an hour.

If a sales rep at the other end of an online inquiry receives it some hours or even days later, they are going to see that inquiry as a fresh bit of news. In reality, the prospects priorities have shifted in the time that has passed since they requested information or a quote.

It’s tempting for a sales rep to think of the prospects interest in their product as a permanent or at least durable fixture in the prospects overall landscape of interests and desires. It is true that their interest in the product is real. It’s real enough for them to ask for information about it. But it’s important not to confuse a realness of interest with a permanence of interest.

There’s an old saying that you never step in the same river twice. This is true of reaching out to prospects as well. The person who, yesterday, thought long enough and deeply enough about what you sell to ask for more information is the same person who, today, has spent the day with their family at the beach. Call this prospect within one minute of when they submit an inquiry and you will be speaking to the same person who wants to hear about what you are selling. Call them tomorrow and you’ll reach them in the middle of family time. You are an interruption. Or more likely, you are a guy leaving a chipper voicemail.

While you are interrupting them, you are asking them to reconnect with desires and interests that they articulated at some time in the past. The further back in the past, the more likely that the desires will be difficult to connect with. The more difficult they are to connect with, the more of an interruption you are. And of course, the more of an interruption you are, the worse the experience of your customer.

So be quick. Don’t be an interruption.

Consumer Empowerment 2.0

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Since the dawn of the Internet, consumers have been experiencing ever greater degrees of empowerment. Nowadays there are are a whole host of tools that allow consumers to share ever more information about products and services.

As the technologies behind the Web and the people who use them get more sophisticated, the tools of customer empowerment are becoming more and more powerful.

The Web is the first place of its kind where visitors could publish discussions about products and services. They could share their experiences with anyone in the world who was interested. This is so commonplace now, that we forget what it was like before. In the old days, companies would issue top down declarations of their products superiority. Word of mouth spread some, but only pretty locally. If Paul had a bad experience with a company, Paul told two friends. And they told two friends. But it pretty much petered out after that. Now, anyone who is curious and knows how to use a search engine will read about Paul’s bad experience. And it will give them pause.

This massive exchange of information between customers resulted in a realistic expectation of what one could expect if they gave their business to one company over another. No longer were consumers left to decide based on the company’s own proclamations. It’s now possible to find out what a person like you, using this product might reasonably expect.

And it doesn’t stop at consumers offering opinions about products and services. They are also suggesting alternatives. The Web has enabled people to 1) find what they’re looking for, 2) discover that there’s a better alternative, and then 3) find and buy the better alternative.

This first generation of consumer empowerment tools were game-changing to say the least.  But the tools that people are using to become more empowered consumers are at whole new level, giving even more control to the consumer.

Google has just launched Google Advisor. Along with sites like Zillow, Google Advisor is turning the financial marketplace into a virtual bazaar where vendors undercut each other to give consumers the best possible deal. Think of sites like this as Ebay in reverse. Instead of a seller displaying what he has to sell and sitting back while competing consumers drive up the price; a buyer announces what he is looking to buy and competing vendors drive down the price.

It didn’t take long for consumers to get the taste for the first set of consumer empowerment tools that cropped on the Internet; search, forums, review sites, blogs, etc…   (Who would consider making a major purchase without researching it on the Internet?) As soon as it became the preferred way for consumers to shop, companies had no choice but to respond by offering better service and when possible, better products. Looking forward, this new way of shopping pioneered by Google Advisor and similar sites will be the kind of consumer empowerment tool that, once consumers get a taste for how it works, will tip the balance further towards consumer empowerment and a better customer experience.

Hit ‘em High, Hit ‘em Low

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Sales reps need tools to do their jobs. They need the basics, a phone and a desk. A computer. And they need leads. The lucky ones have lead management software. Lead management software (LMS) is actually a suite of tools that are designed to help sales reps contact leads quickly and help sales managers and marketers optimize their lead spend to get maximum ROI. LMS has tools that help reps contact leads quickly; tools like automatic lead distribution and an integrated lead dialer. LMS has tools that help sales reps keep in touch with leads and nurture them until they close; tools like lead nurturing email campaigns, and lead prioritization that filter leads to the top of the list when they are due for another contact attempt.

A lot of these tools, if not every one of them is fully configurable to enable sales managers and sales reps to create a truly intelligent workflow that is unmatched in its efficiency and repeatability. LMS is a high efficiency set of tools that enable everyone to work smarter. The results for companies using lead management are often dramatic. Recent research on the importance of speed to contact has shown that leads contacted within one minute of an online inquiry are %391 more likely to close than those contacted after one minute.  LMS gives sales reps the tools to make contact in under a minute.

LMS is a smart tool. How smart? LMS even has a feature that hunts through all the ripest and best leads and connects the rep to the lead. This feature is so smart because no matter what kind of sales rep you are, your brain fatigues. When fatigue sets in, using smart tools to work smart might seem like a lot of work.  It is during these times that you need a button; a big button in the center of your software that says “Get Lead.” Click it and get a lead. Don’t worry about finding the best opportunity, LMS found it for you.  Just click the button, and get the prospect on the phone.

So in the morning, when you’re bursting with energy and ready to take on the world you can get into your leads more strategically. Play your hunches. Comb through your list of leads, and find your opportunities. But after lunch, when it’s harder to work smarter, you’ve got a button. A big blue button that you can push to talk to a lead.

Keep in Touch

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

How do we keep in touch? And what exactly is meant by ‘keep in touch’? Sales Reps need to keep in touch with their prospects. Clearly, when you fall out of contact with a prospect you effectively lose any chance of closing them. The fact that you do keep in touch is important. But it also matters how you are keeping in touch. It’s important to be consistent without being overwhelming. It’s important to interact in a way that gives useful information. It’s important to make contact quickly and if your sales cycle is not a quick close, to hover within reach. To stay on the mind of the prospect.

How is this done? Probably mostly with Emails and Phone calls.

Emails sent to leads should be sent according to a strategic pattern that can be monitored and improved. A few factors to be considered when contacting prospects by email are:

1. The speed at which the first email is sent to a prospect making an inquiry
2. The content of the email, both in terms of how useful it is and how well it is formatted
3. The interval at which emails are sent

As far as contacting leads by phone, there are very similar considerations

1. It’s important to be the first person on the phone with a lead
2. The content of the calls
3. The interval at which the calls are made

Lead management lets you implement an out-of-the box comprehensive communication strategy. Are all your leads being followed up on? Lead management software is designed to address all of the above email and phone contact considerations.

When a lead submits an inquiry either through your website or a lead provider; a lead management solution helps to ensure that:

1. A professionally formatted email will be sent to the prospect immediately
2. Emails are sent according to proven best practices to keep your company in the front of the prospects mind
3. One of your reps will be the first on the phone with the prospect, within a minute of the online inquiry
4. Recordings of calls help ensure that sales calls are being executed in accordance with company policy
5. Sales reps are prompted to call leads when they become due for another call. (In accordance with proven best practices)

Lead Management does many things well, but fundamentally it’s about keeping in touch with leads until they close. Fundamentally lead management is an out-of-the box comprehensive communication strategy.

What Happens to Inquiries Generated From Your Website?

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Maybe you are a small business owner. You built a website, but no one ever saw it. So you did some search engine optimization to make your site easier to find. You started adding content to your website, or added a blog, to keep people coming back. And it’s all working. People looking for whatever you sell are finding your website, and they are clicking through looking at your materials. You speak to customers on the phone and they say they found you on the web. You even have a form on your website to capture inquiries, so customers are contacting you. It would appear as though things are going pretty well so far. Congratulations. You are one of the small business owners who truly understands what a properly maintained website can do for your business.

If it is just you selling your product; if you don’t have competition, or you don’t other people at your company who also sell, you may not need to go any further. But if you do have competition, and there are multiple sales reps at your company, there are some other things to consider. Consider your competition. A person who has sought out your product or service and has submitted their contact information is a highly motivated buyer. This is a person who has identified the need and is ready to pull the trigger. Have they contacted only you? If you have a monopoly on your offering, you don’t need to worry. But if you have competition it’s a safe assumption that the prospect submitted an inquiry elsewhere.

It is important to be the first person on the phone with this highly motivated buyer. With lead management software it’s possible to add a form to your website that posts the lead information directly and immediately into the lead management software platform. From there it is possible to instantaneously assign the lead to a sales rep at your company based on configurable rules. When the lead is assigned to a rep, the reps phone will ring and he will be connected to the person who made the inquiry at your website.  Maybe your website is the first website where they submitted their inquiry, maybe it’s not. But if you are using a lead management solution that allows you to capture leads from your website and has an integrated lead dialer, there simply is no faster way to get a lead on the phone.