Sound Sells – Say it Quietly

Outbound marketing

CEO’s across the county are thumping their desks demanding sales people talk with more customers. So lots of companies are going outbound, no longer waiting for customers to come to them.  We want those conversations to be good conversations obviously.  But is sound a barrier to your sales?  I mean the sound quality of all those phone conversations.  It’s easy to overlook, easy to fix and I think it can have as big an impact as lots of other things you’re trying as you fight this recession.

Driving home recently, as the car warmed up and my attention shifted from freezing to death to a conversation on the radio something got my attention: how intimate a good conversation is.  Two people separated by a continent, across the ether, talking like they were sitting next to each other.  Two people in two sound-proofed studios, with headphones and mikes and audio so clear they could almost sense each other.

It made me aware of the phone calls I’ve made since I bought a stereo phone headset (yes that’s right two headphones and a mike).  The sound has been great.  And so have the conversations.  I can hear every word, every nuance in the conversation, every hesitation – and that added information really helps me communicate more effectively.  My conversations have even been intimate, though not in a way my partner needs to worry about.

There are three problems in any sales pit with regards to sound.

The more noisy it is, the more sales people lack intimacy with the customer.  Have you ever noticed that the best telesales people are often the most intimate.  They speak quietly and really listen.  They’re not selling with cute techniques.  If you’re solution selling, you’ve got to listen and listen well.

In noisy sales pits, the buzz can be intense but often the sales people can’t really hear themselves.  Ever had a sales person who knows the product, works real hard, but doesn’t quite perform like he or she should?  Chances are, he isn’t listening to himself enough, even though he may be listening as hard as he can to the client.  If he’s talking loudly into the phone  because his neighbors conversations are distracting, he probably needs ear protection.  Have you tried having a conversation next to a jackhammer or several jackhammers?

This is one is really important. How do you feel as a customer when you deal with a call center and hear all those other sales people in the background?  How special do you feel?  With the sound of the sales pit in the background, the customer is never relieved from the reality that he or she is being sold to.  Is that how we want our sales conversations to sound?


Bi-aural headsets are often difficult to find in the retail stores, but Logitech and Plantronics both have great products and they’re priced similarly to the single ear sets.   The cushioning and noise canceling is great.

Improving the sound of sales can be a really small expense and easy to rectify.  The net effect is sales people improve their listening, stop shouting and the quality of the conversation improves noticeably with every sales person who I’ve had try this.  In addition overall noise level in the sales pit drops so the customer stops being reminded it’s a sales call. It’s a big impact…of the sort of magnitude we should be looking for in these tough times.

4 Ways to Innovate Sales & Marketing

Image Credit switch75, Flickr

We’ve all invested in the latest and greatest marketing automation tools.  But have we really reaped all the promised rewards? Is there a better way to use these tools and reap even greater rewards?

Here’s a few ideas based on what I am seeing from our own customer conversations and something I’ve noticed about how behavioral changes can make all the difference:

1. Zero Cost Innovation

Image Credit switch75, FlickrAsking more from your sales team is a fact of life each quarter, but this economy means we need to pull out the stops and get creative.  It’s clearly not about working harder, most of us have already pulled that lever…it’s an obvious one.  Budgets are going down so it’s about “working smarter” and that other old chestnut…”doing more with less”.  Tired phrases I would think to many grizzled professionals but both are just code-words for “innovate”. Here’s four suggestions, one is admittedly self-serving, the other three are for free.  All are great ways to get more for less out of your sales and marketing organization in a down economy.

Upgrade sales skills to meet the new responsibility of becoming mini marketing units

Many of us have invested in sales and marketing automation tools that deliver up nimbleness and flexibility and which have the impact of drawing sales and marketing functions closer together to be more efficient. But those efficiencies have already been extracted and if we are to get more out of our organizations there have to be other things we can do to improve sales results even if we are swimming against a strong current. I’ve noticed the key to extracting many of the benefits in sales and marketing tools is in a change of behavior that is usually overlooked but isn’t difficult to execute once it’s identified.  Putting sales and marketing tools (and therefore more autonomy) on sales desktops might still make a few marketers and CEOs shudder, but the benefits of a decentralized motivated sales force no longer dependently waiting for marketing to feed the beast are clear. There’s far too much opportunity for us as sales and marketing professionals to ignore here. There are risks when we put communication back into the hands of sales people but that’s what management has to figure out if we are to beat this downturn.  The way to reduce the risk and gain the benefit is to upgrade your sales team skills and if necessary bring people in to the organization that are good enough to drive this particular bus.

2. Leverage Hidden Assets Like Old Sales Leads

Trading old business contacts for new sales opportunities is the principal benefit behind NetProspex. When a sales person has worked through a list of prospects and found the buyers, the remaining list is of little value. NetProspex works by letting sales and marketing professionals trade in old prospect information in return for brand new targeted leads.  It’s a simple one for one swap.  The sales person gets new opportunities and NetProspex refurbishes and validates the old leads to makes sure they’re accurate.  Recycling old prospect lists is clearly a good example of efficiently using internal resources to your benefit.


3. Mine the Sales Team for “Golden Nuggets”

Golden nuggets fall from the tongues of sales every day – we just need to mine the seam

Start really listening to your sales people’s conversations with customers.  Managers get out of your offices and go listen.  Find a chair and sit down for half an hour each day and be quiet.  Look for the little bits of excellence that hang in the air for a few seconds on sales calls and make sure they get multiplied across the whole sales team. I’m pointing to the phrases that sales people create in their conversations with customers that elegantly or simply sum up your product or service offering. The way sales people pitch products or services with customers is continually changing as they experiment with different ideas on how they weave in news, new features information and response from customers.  Good sales people are experimenting all the time with their pitch and once those gems crystallize in the minds and mouths of your sales team, magnify them across the sales team quickly.  You’ll also hear bad practices too, and its easier to drive that out and replace it with what you want said. Managing this process and transmitting this information across the sales team more quickly will make the sales team extremely nimble and effective in the conversations with customers.

4. Get the Sales Team to Coach Each Other

Set a rule, once a week each sales person should sit in on another sales persons call and critique what they hear.  The whole team need to be open to coach and being coached – by their colleagues.  How we pitch our products, the innovation we use to just describe ourselves is more effective sales training than any external consultant teaching the more generic techniques that outsiders have to offer.  It’s best done internally, it costs little and it binds the sales team into a coherent and optimized unit that are on message.

Recycling business leads

Image Credit tisdale2905, Flickr

Change is in the air!  I just
can’t get tired of that sentiment. As far as business is concerned, that change
is the response to the threat of an economic climate that will be more of a
Image Credit tisdale2905, Flickrdriver than any change agent we’ve seen in decades. The disruptive
technologies of the 90s seem like a quaint idea compared to the double whammy
from the political threat of foreign oil and climate change. It’s clear
we’re going to see a lot of change in the business landscape and this is a new
era in more ways than we have time for here. In that vein, we’ve come up with a
great way for business to reduce cost and increase sales, even in a down
economy…recycle! NetProspex is a great new system for recycling sales leads.
How does it work? For most sales people, you might sell to one in twenty
prospects. When you’ve worked your way through your prospect list, the
remainder – the people who turned you down – have very little residual value.
NetProspex lets sales and marketing people trade in old prospects for
completely new opportunities. It’s simple and it’s FREE. If you don’t want
to recycle your old leads, then simply buy the contacts you need. Like
all good recycling, NetProspex “re-furbishes” all the contacts it receives from
users and validates them before publishing to ensure quality of the product. If
you have a NetProspex account, log in and click on “earn credits” to get
started. If you’re not a NetProspex user, sign up is free.

Business Expert Webinars and NetProspex Announce Formulation of Strategic Alliance

Image Credit o5com, Flickr

December
1, 2008, Minneapolis, MN –
Business
Expert Webinars
(BEW), the leading provider of business eLearning, and
NetProspex a business contact directory and sales lead recycling platform announced
that they have formulated a strategic alliance to cross-promote their services.

Image Credit o5com, FlickrNetProspex is a fantastic resource for
sales people to build and develop their contact portfolio. Business Expert
Webinars is a great way for sales people to learn effective uses of these newly
acquired contacts. Oftentimes, leads are wasted because the wrong strategy was
used to pursue them. By attending a BEW webinar, sales people will learn
strategies and tactics that they can immediately use,” said Lee B. Salz,
President and CEO of Business Expert Webinars.

“We
have partnered with Business Expert Webinars to offer their eLearning program
to our users so they can benefit from sales and marketing thought leaders,” said Mark J. Feldman, Director of Product Management
at NetProspex. “We recognize the challenge that businesses have with
training their sales and marketing teams in a tight economy and see BEW as a means
for them to enhance their team’s skills on a limited budget.”

About
Business Expert Webinars

Business
Expert Webinars (BEW) is the leading provider of skill-based, business eLearning
programs for business professionals. The BEW speakers are international business
experts including best-selling authors, award-winning speakers, and business
gurus. With over 750 webinars delivered by over 150 speakers, BEW can help any
business professional improve their skills. For more information, visit BusinessExpertWebinars.com.

About NetProspex

NetProspex
was founded in 2006 by Gary
Halliwell
and Jeff Clewley,
two veterans of the electronic financial information market. NetProspex
understands that effective sales efforts require the most in-depth and accurate
prospect data. The company’s core product line overlays user-contributed
contact information with multiple layers of quality control to produce an
entirely unique and highly effective sales and marketing contact database. With
over 3.9 million accurate business contacts across almost 600,000 companies,
NetProspex is a major new source of contacts – including difficult-to-find
mid-management decision makers across North American businesses. For more
information or a free membership, visit www.netprospex.com.

“Freshness Dating” for Sales Leads: NetProspex Displays Last Validated Date for Contacts

Image Credit {platinum}, Flickr

BOSTON, MA June 30, 2008 –  It’s a simple equation: quality contact information means more targeted leads, more effective sales efforts and ultimately a shorter selling cycle.  Continuing in its drive to bring much-needed accuracy to the online sales contact market, NetProspex has begun publishing the “last validated date” for its executive contact database.  The “last validated date” shows when the contact was last actively validated and is designed to give sales and marketing professionals complete confidence in the quality of their contact information.

Image Credit {platinum}, Flickr“Sales contact information is only useful if it’s accurate,” says Gary Halliwell, CEO of NetProspex.  “Sales people can’t waste time chasing down bad leads.  NetProspex is designed to provide both accuracy and transparency to our users. Displaying the date a contact was last validated, and allowing salespeople to sort results by it, is the clearest way we can meet our users’ needs and help them shorten the sales cycle.”

While quality is paramount, it goes hand in hand with content.  NetProspex, a relatively recent entrant into the online sales contact marketplace, allows sales professionals to exchange existing contacts for new prospects and has built a robust collection of contacts that reaches deep into North American companies.

NetProspex recently released its sales contact trading system with 100% validation of user-contributed executive contact information.  NetProspex sees accuracy as the key to realizing the enormous market potential of the 3 million business-to-business sales executives in North America.  The company has been in development with its technologies for over a year, continually testing and improving a complex set of proprietary data management systems.

About NetProspex
NetProspex was founded in 2006 by Gary Halliwell and Jeff Clewley, two veterans of the electronic financial information market. NetProspex understands that effective sales efforts require the most in-depth and accurate prospect data. The company’s core product line overlays user-contributed and commercial sales lead data with multiple layers of quality control to produce an entirely unique and highly effective sales and marketing contact database. With over 2.5 million accurate business contacts across 350,000 companies, NetProspex is a major new source of contacts – including difficult-to-find mid-management decision makers across North American businesses. For more information or a free trial, visit www.netprospex.com.

Is Web 2.0 Killing Marketing?

Image Credit Mediajon, Flickr

I’ve written a lot lately about the premature reports of the death of outbound sales in the Web 2.0 world.  Now I’d like to add to that:  Marketing is not dead either.  Nor is it resting, or becoming the same thing as sales, as Nigel Edelshain postulated recently in his Sales 2.0 blog post No Need to Close the Gap between Sales and Marketing.  As Nigel rightly points out, new sales tools have allowed sales people to generate their own, precisely targeted prospect lists.  Tools like NetProspex have brought additional depth of coverage and accuracy to the mix, aiding the incursion of sales into what has traditionally been a marketing role – lead generation.

Image Credit Mediajon, FlickrSo, does this mean marketing is irrelevant because salespeople have the tools to go directly to the customer?  Sure – if you believe lead generation is the only value marketing offers to the sales organization.  But while it’s great that salespeople now have the tools to reach out to customers directly without waiting for marketing to tell them whom to contact, they still need to present a relevant, coherent message that will “hook” that customer. The true value of putting more and better lead generation tools in the hands of the sales team is that it frees up marketing to create sales-relevant messaging that maximizes the value of those prospect lists. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle with a constant feedback loop that enables continuous improvement.

Laura Ramos of Forrester makes a similar point in her article B2B Lead Management Market Heats Up, pointing out that innovation is improving efficiency in lead flow and lead utilization and, as a result, is removing friction between sales and marketing.  But as we approach this brave new world, proper implementation and a two-way flow of information will be the key to realizing a solid return on the sales and marketing investment:

–    Marketing needs to understand what sales is hearing in the field and craft their message accordingly. Customer needs and objectives can fluctuate, and last year’s message may not be as relevant in this year’s economy. The salespeople on the ground are the best sources of intelligence for this kind of information.

–    Sales needs to not only tell marketing what’s not working, but tell them what is working. If a campaign or offer strikes a strong chord with a specific segment or buyer profile, marketing needs to know this and see if the approach can be adapted or replicated elsewhere.

–    Sales AND marketing need to work together to create relevant, targeted campaigns that map offers to customer objectives – not the other way around. Most organizations now understand that benefits, not features, sell a product, but those benefits must be meaningful to the customer. Salespeople have unique insight into their customers’ strategic objectives and can help marketing position offers that will help advance these objectives.

NetProspex Releases Free Sales Lead Validation Tools

Image Credit colorworks700, Flickr

Waltham, MA, March 28, 2008– Reaching the right person with the right offer is the key to effective selling.  Now, a new set of sales lead tools from NetProspex, a leader in providing accurate sales information, helps sales professionals validate their contact information. The tools are free, and available on the NetProspex web site.

Image Credit colorworks700, Flickr“The new suite of sales lead tools increases NetProspex’s value as a time management tool for sales,” says Gary Halliwell, CEO of NetProspex.  “The goal of NetProspex is to reduce the time sales people spend digging for accurate, targeted information so they can spend more time selling, which has a direct impact on sales cycles.”

“Our core competency is ensuring data accuracy of user-contributed content,” continues Halliwell, “which we achieve through several layers of quality control.  No one else in the industry is doing this, so we can go deeper into mid-management and provide a higher level of confidence in our data”.  Customer David Haas, vice president of strategic exhibitor services at BDMetrics agrees. “NetProspex’s deep coverage into mid-management level contacts augments our database significantly.”

The NetProspex Sales Lead Toolkit:
•    Got a contact name but need an email address?  NetProspex Company Email Pattern Lookup fills an important gap in sales contact information.  Use this tool to select a company, and NetProspex will return the email pattern for that organization.

•    Want to be sure the email address for a prospect is valid?  NetProspex Email Checker evaluates an email address without actually sending email to a recipient.  This is useful to check individual emails for validity or to verify a group of email addresses, to evaluate the overall health of a campaign list.

•    Got a list of target company URLs? The NetProspex Leads by URL tool maps available executive contacts in target companies.  Simply input a target company URL, and NetProspex returns any matching records from their database of over 2.4 million contacts.

•    Find the contacts you need using the NetProspex Custom Search function.  The NetProspex search interface allows sales professionals to easily evaluate NetProspex coverage by sales territory.  Specify job function, title, industry, company type and size, geographic location, and more.

NetProspex is a database of sales information, including over 2 million contacts that go deep into mid-management decision-makers at over 350,000 companies across North America, complete with title, phone, address and email address.  What sets the Netprospex model apart is adding value to community-contributed content by actively ensuring data accuracy with rigorous quality control measures before the data is published to the database.

NetProspex offers both subscription membership to its database of business executive contacts (for as little as $25 per month) as well as the free NetProspex Exchange service, for users who wish to trade in existing contact information in return for new contacts.

About NetProspex
Founded in 2006, NetProspex understands that effective sales efforts require the most in-depth and accurate prospect data. The company’s core product line overlays user-contributed and commercial sales lead data with layers of quality control to produce an entirely unique and highly effective sales and marketing contact database. With over 2.5 million accurate business contacts across 350,000 companies, NetProspex is a major new source of contacts – including difficult-to-find mid-management decision makers across North American businesses.

In its first year of business, the company has seen significant sales growth and already has over 300 enterprise clients across a range of industries including technology, media, business services and financial markets. The company recently secured Series A funding from angel investors.  For more information or a free trial, visit www.netprospex.com.

Gary’s Corner: Generating Leads

Image credit James Debono, Flickr

The sales game is changing as business use of the web continues to evolve and new Internet sales and marketing tools hit the market. A lot of the focus has been on innovation in inbound lead generation tools.  Sometimes we hear that outbound solicitation such as phone and email is a thing of the past.  I think that’s over-simplification. Outbound sales tools are starting to get interesting. If the market weakens further, then I suspect more than a few CEOs will increase their focus on outbound lead generation.  It’s a lever that, when used properly, provides a lot of control in hitting targets. Better visibility into potential customers is like shining a light into the recesses of a sales territory. It really helps to be able to acquire greater knowledge on who the potential customers are, especially with the targeting Image credit James Debono, Flickrability tools like NetProspex provide. Outbound has become less scattershot and more focused.  New tools like this help you dig deeper into a company to identify the right target for your particular message, and help you assess the accuracy and validity of your information.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is in finding and evaluating the best tools for your needs. Assess your priorities – do your require ease of use, low cost, data accuracy and freshness, depth of coverage, high volume?   And don’t be shy about your needs – if you don’t see what you want out there, ask for it! Technology has broken down many of the barriers to development, and smart companies will listen intently to customer needs.

New Product News:  Contact Trading
NetProspex’s new contact trading mechanism allows users to trade old contacts for new. Check it out! I’m sure you’ll find it a great way to get new prospects…FREE. We’ve made it extremely easy. Just upload a file of contacts to our database and then we take care of all the rest – matching, checking and validating the data so that when the data is put into the database, it’s clean and accurate. We have lots of new tools in development and I’ll use this space each to let you know about them.

More HotProspex>>

Boost eMail Marketing Success with Free Trials

Image Credit internetmarketingservices14, Flickr

If you’re a marketer looking to jumpstart your demand generation program, consider this time-honored tactic:  try giving your product away.

For a short time, that is.

Image Credit internetmarketingservices14, FlickrWith online services and hosted applications assuming greater prominence in the market, “try and buy” offers are not only a smart marketing tactic – they’re an essential step in the sale process.

“You can’t sell online services today without letting people try it first,” says Seth Godin, author of Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing Out of Synch? Because customers are both value and risk sensitive, “if you can answer the risk question and you can answer the value question, then you are going to get the sale. One of the best ways to do both of those things is to put in front of people and get them to try it.”

As important as these offers are, it’s equally important to target them appropriately to ensure adoption. David Lewis, president and founder of DemandGen, a marketing automation consultancy headquartered in Danville, CA, advises marketers to pre-qualify trial users, as well as to create a sense of urgency so that the trial customer will be driven to test the product in a real world environment. Lewis also advises companies to implement an effective “nurturing” program to complement the trials, keeping in contact with trial users and being available to answer questions or provide assistance.

With an effective nurturing campaign in place to support free trials, Lewis estimates that companies can expect 70% to 80% of people who sign up for a free trial to actually use the application, and from there conversion rates to actual customers can reach between 20-30%.

The success of companies like Salesforce.com bear this out – in fact, Salesforce promotes its trial-to-conversion ratio as a selling point.

“When you are evaluating the digital body language of a prospect,” Lewis concludes,  “signing up for a free trial is one of the strongest indicators of real interest.”

More HotProspex>>