Marketing and Sales

May 15, 2006

Is Cold Calling Dead?

Filed under: Marketing,Tips and Hints — Philippe Mesritz @ 5:03 pm

There are those that say cold calling is dead. There are those that say it is alive. Personally, I believe a company offering products or services to the outside world can not succeed without a balanced view on this sales and lead generation tactic. Concentrating solely on making outbound cold calls and neglecting other avenues is a mistake, however the same goes for ignoring the benefit that contacting prospects without notice can offer.

When should a company cold call? When shouldn't they?

An organization, for profit or not, that depends on a revenue stream coming from brand new customers can not normally sit upon its laurels and simply wait for revenue to be generated. There has to be some sort of outbound marketing tool. Using these tools correctly is the reason that a company retains a marketing director or a company specializing in marketing. Note: I didn't say sales, I said marketing. Marketing allows a business to retain a brand and plan its projections to the outside world. It allows a company to optimize its sales force's success rate through branding, through advertising and through marketing.

Cold calling is both a marketing and a sales tool. On one hand, it can be used to develop a name and to generate interest. On the other, it can be used to directly generate an interest and, from there, a sale. There is at least one website and newsletter out there that claims that cold calling is dead. I happen to disagree with them, but I am sure that there are many people that agree.

I disagree because I believe that cold calling is a tool that still has its benefits. It is impossible to, unless you are lucky enough to garner as much media and word of mouth attention as companies such as Microsoft do, simply wait and expect customers to come to you. It is unreasonable to be passive about your sales generation. Cold calling is one way to increase interest and contacts.

It is, however, not the only tool that should be used. A company should use all the tools at its fingertips including websites, opt in newsletters or blogs, referral contacts, and advertising. By using all of the marketing and sales avenues that a company has available, the business sets itself up for success.

Cold calling is an excellent way to generate interest and contact people you hadn't considered. It is a good way for a lead or referral generation company to optimize their time for your success. Cold calling is not something that everyone is good at or enjoys. It is something that requires a specific attitude and perspective.

May 11, 2006

New Direction Marketing, Inc Website

Filed under: Company Information — Philippe Mesritz @ 1:48 pm

As of the 4th, we've released our new website look. Please feel free to travel on over and leave feedback. 

WordPress Lag

Filed under: General — Philippe Mesritz @ 8:24 am

WordPress is having some problems with regards to lag as they are having some hardware issues. They are aware of it and working on some additional redundancy.

My apologies and thank you for your patience.

Qualified vs Not Qualified

Filed under: Company Information,Marketing,Tips and Hints — Philippe Mesritz @ 8:16 am

Any prospects that you contact can be considered either qualified or not qualified. Depending on where the information was gained or how you received their contact information, an individual or company could have gone through a level of identification that would make them a good match for your product or services (called product from here on out). This would make them a qualified lead, a type of company or individual that could use your business in direct order rather than in some nebulous future time-frame. An unqualified lead are those companies that may not have a time-frame to purchase your product, may have no interest in your product or service at this time, or perhaps simply have never even heard of you before.

What, exactly, is the difference and how do we get them?

In theory, an "incoming referral" should always be qualified. Someone that has been sent to you by a current customer because your loyal customer felt that the referral could use your product is an excellent prospect — someone that obviously has a need, certainly is interested, and has proactively contacted you. A little less qualified, but certainly still falling within the 'qualified' realm is a referral given to you to contact. These are people that a current user felt could be contacted because they would likely have use for what you have to offer.

Unqualified leads are, all too often, "not qualified" leads. Cold calling is a technique that requires significant effort and knowledge. An untrained cold caller, one who has never done it before, is obviously not as experienced as one who has being doing it longer. The response rates for straight cold calling vary drastically, but even organizations who have specialized in cold calling for decades, such as the Direct Marketing Association, do not exceed an average success rate on cold calls of more than about 8.25% to simply generate leads! This means that almost 92 out of 100 calls made to unqualified leads are "not qualified". Generally, your sales force will become frustrated with numbers such as this — they're trained in your product and have just spent about 5 hours (*) trying to talk to people not interested. Their time is better spent talking to qualified referrals.

The biggest question has always been "where can I get these qualified referrals"? Most people intrinsically realize, even without statistical numbers to back their belief, that companies succeed upon word of mouth and referrals. This is especially true in the small to medium size businesses that do not have millions of dollars to spend on advertising and generating a 'buzz'. As I have said before, the best place to find referrals has been, and most likely always will be, your existing customers. By keeping them happy and ensuring that you hold a high level of service, they will gladly refer other companies to you for your product. For those companies that do not generate enough business through their own processes or clients, generating qualified referrals can be done by using "lead generating" or "referral generating" companies. Through the use of these organizations, your sales team is provided with a list (daily or weekly, usually) of companies or individuals (depending on your product) that have been contacted and shown interest in finding out more. These are not as strong as true referrals from existing customers as you will, generally, still need to 'make a sale', yet the success rate of prospects that have already gone through a first round of qualification should be significantly greater than 1 every 5 hours! I say should be as it does depend on the company that you are receiving business through. Personally, I suggest New Direction Marketing (**)!

(*) Assumption: Approximately 18 calls per hour to allow for both interested parties, hold time, and notes.
(**) Disclaimer: New Direction Marketing is my company :)

Delay Apology

Filed under: General — Philippe Mesritz @ 7:39 am

This week's posting has obviously been delayed a little bit. I must apologize for this to those that have been reading both the blog directly and the RSS feed, but my father in law has been in the hospital/ICU since last Sunday, so I haven't been paying a great deal of attention to the business side of my life.  He's doing much better now, so I can look forward and catch up on those areas that I've neglected. Thank you for your patience.

May 2, 2006

Follow up

Filed under: Marketing,Tips and Hints — Philippe Mesritz @ 7:55 am

Although this has to be one of the most obvious tactics in sales and to use strong referrels effectively, there are not enough companies that actually bother doing it. By not doing so, organizations lose touch with their customers and lose open opportunities. What is this elusive trick?

Follow up.

There. Its simple as you can see. Why is it that companies don't call back when a message is left? Why do they not respond to emails? Why do they leave contacts untouched for months and months? Truthfully, I can't tell you. There have been countless instances where I've left a voicemail for a company stating my interest and then did not receive a call back — a wasted sale and a lost proactive contact. When a customer calls you, call them back — whatever it takes.

In the case of a referral or lead, it is not quite as immediately critical as a proactive contact, but it is still imperative that you contact them as soon as possible. Many times, a referral has been given information about your products through either a sales touch or a customer and wishes to make a decision almost immediately. By not contacting them, you are losing a prospect who could easily be turned into a client.

A key use for lead or referral generating companies is to get customers who have been pre-qualified to be interested in your product or services. To optimize the use of these contacts that have been pre-determined to be open to purchasing your product, it is vital to follow up and contact them soon. The longer you wait, the less likely the prospect is to be interested in your company.

Follow up.

That is the trick and a very important tip to remember. Obvious as it may seem, all too many companies do not hold to this.

April 26, 2006

Sales Lead Insights: B2B Marketing Blog

Filed under: General — Philippe Mesritz @ 1:39 pm

Mac McIntosh, one of the leading b2b sales leads consultants in the United States, has a blog he calls "Sales Lead Insights: B2B Marketing". I've recently been introduced to his site and found it to be very interesting. There are certainly topics that could be of great use to companies and is an excellent source for tips for the b2b marketing organization on how to generate leads.

One of his more recent entries, posted at the beginning of March, is his 16 B2B advertising tips. Excellent advice for all marketing efforts.

Thanks, Mac!

Revelation of Naming Conventions

Filed under: Marketing,Tips and Hints — Philippe Mesritz @ 7:30 am

I had a revelation yesterday morning when I was speaking with a prospective client for my services. He was asking me why he should use companies such as mine to generate leads when he could simply buy access to a database. A comment made/question posed by a reader a few days ago had started me considering the same question, but I hadn't come up with an actual answer.

Why should a company that has an active sales force pay more for 'leads' when they could buy 'leads' for a smaller amount from a database company?

The answer? They shouldn't.

After much consideration, I believe that it is more prudent and effective to separate prospects into three different categories instead of a mass of information. It may be semantics, but it makes the difference between able to explain why a client should retain the services of companies such as mine and losing them to a database. I realize that this is a slight change in terminology from my earlier posting.

"Leads" – Basic information that you've gained through some fashion whether this is through lead databases or some other data mining company. Contacting these prospects includes cold calling and un-qualified contacts. Leads are the hardest to turn into a customer and require significant work. Based on the Direct Marketing Association (DMA)'s numbers, less than 8.5% calls made in a telemarketing campaign succeed. This is a game of numbers — the more you call, the more likely you are to gain an interested party by virtue of luck or skill. These would be called "cold prospects" on every call.

"Referrals" – Warm contacts that have been gained through companies such as mine, associates from current customers and re-touching base with past customers. These are prospects that have been given a reason to be interested and could be interested in doing business with your company. Referrals are strong possibilities to turn into sales. Good sales staff and a good product can turn referrals into customers. Generally, a company only calls a prospect a referral if an existing customer sent them over – why? Perhaps you were passed over by person X because they had something else or did not need your services, but they felt that their friend could stand to gain by doing business with you. A referral. Perhaps a referral generation company contacted them while still a lead and brought energy and interest to the table, enough that they’re interested in speaking to your sales team. A referral again! Gaining referrals is the second best way to gain new customers. These would be called "hot prospects" on most contacts.

"Proactive" – These are customers who have initiated contact with you because they are interested in your services. These are prospects who are a making the effort to get a hold of YOU. That is the best way to gain new customers. If you can gain a true referral network, then there will never be a nead for companies such as mine or database generating customers. These would be called "sales", more often than not.

If you can get "Proactive" contacts, you are doing a great job and your company is probably earning money without significant lag time; The epitome of a marketing success. "Leads" are the most difficult to deal with and require specialists in the 'art of cold calling' and converting people into referrals or sales. It is a difficult task and, without a staff geared towards it, your best choice is to outsource to a company that is focused on converting 'cold' into 'hot' for your sales team. "Referrals" is what you want most of your time to be concentrated on. A customer who gave you a number to an associate of theirs so you could contact them; a list of referrals that you've received from a Referral Generation company — these are both ways to get strong prospects which you have a good chance of turning into a customer.

And that’s the goal. Isn't it?

April 24, 2006

Huh?

Filed under: General — Philippe Mesritz @ 10:23 pm

I read a lot of ezines and blogs … more than I probably should, so I tend to simply skim them.  One of the interesting ones that has topics that could prove to be of interest to various readers is Selling to Big Companies, by Jill Konrath (Author of a book by the same title). She posts a few times a month about how to create sales with larger companies and is certainly a worthwhile read, in my opinion.

Recently, she posted about a company named "Huh?" which is a spoof on sales and marketing organizations.  Their site, Huhcorp.com, is really amusing. Thanks to Ms. Konrath for the reference to the laugh. I hope that you find it to be as amusing as I did.

Sales or Leads? Which is better…

Filed under: Marketing,Tips and Hints — Philippe Mesritz @ 2:35 pm

Well, obviously — Sales, in the long run, is better for your company! Without the final sale, you are unable to proceed and establish a relationship with a customer to generate revenue. That, however, been said, the question is really whether it is better to hire a telemarketing organization to do your sales for you or to simply generate leads that have been pre-qualified. It is a decision that can not easily be made without truly understanding the advantages to both.
Why sales?
The advantage to hiring a company that has a sales force to do it for you is that you don't need to think about it at all. When the company gives you the name of a customer, they've already paid for the item or service or they've already signed up for the contract. It is a no thought process on the company's side, a simple solution to what can be a very difficult task. It does, however, have drawbacks that need to be considered. An outside sales person, unless they've gone through rigorous training with your company or have an established relationship, can not easily know as much about your company as you, or an employee, can. There are questions that the sales person may not be able to answer which could, in turn, cause the sale to be lost. In addition to this, an outside sales person will cost you more. Often, sales companies charge a high percentage of the final invoice to make your sale. They've done the initial work to get you the client. In many cases, this is the most difficult aspect of doing business. One large advantage to having a company do sales for you is that, once you've ensured they're not tainting your reputation and are doing what you want them to, you do not need to spend a significant amount of time on them. The company has great incentive to ensure that sales are being made and, as such, you can concentrate on other aspects of running your business.

Why Leads?

Instead of sales, a company can be brought on to generate leads. These leads should be pre-qualified and with a decision maker before they ever hit your sales team's desk. Once they do, however, there should be nothing to stop your sales team from calling the prospect and turning them into a customer with excellent rates of success. Leads are an excellent source of genuine targets. A drawback to leads, however, is that you may receive too many for your sales force to handle and that it is crucial to follow up on them almost immediately. These are customers that have shown interest, but without strong and swift follow up, their interest will wane with each passing moment. Leads have the advantage that they tend to be cheaper than sales, in terms of impacting your bottom line. Many lead generation companies charge a base for each lead generated, a commission for each lead generation, or some combination there of. In all cases, the impotus is on you to ensure that the qualified leads are now contacted and to make the final sale.

As you can tell, neither method, sales nor leads, has a significant leg up on the other. Each has its distinct advantages and disadvantages, whether that is in terms of cost, time or effort. Overall, however, finding an outside company which can do either sales or lead generation for you is a choice that can improve your bottom line and help your company grow.

April 21, 2006

Blogger v WordPress

Filed under: General — Philippe Mesritz @ 10:03 am

Initially, this blog was setup on blogger.com since they were a company I had used many years ago and had been quite happy with. After getting the account setup and running into repeated frustration due to being unable to publish the blog onto our web host server, I threw my hands up in frustration and contacted my ISP, Internet Services Unlimited, to ask them what might be going on. While working with them, it appeared that blogger was not connecting to the server at all! I emailed blogger's support and posted on their web forums for assistance. Neither venue offered much assistance — I didn't receive a single response to either in over a week.

At that point, I decided I'd venture into new territory and do some research. Thanks to Entrepreneur magazine for introducing me to WordPress 2.0. Trying it out this morning for the first time, I discovered that it proved to be almost exactly what I needed, much faster, and significantly easier to use — and its free, even if you want to download it and install it on a remote server. Even better for those people with existing blogs, comments and complex information? You can import all your information and not lose a thing!

April 17, 2006

What are “leads”?

Filed under: Marketing,Tips and Hints — Philippe Mesritz @ 2:53 pm

Leads vary based on organization. In some companies, leads are considered to be prospective customers who are on the brink of buying; in others, they are simply prospects that could, eventually, turn into a consumer. Each business has its own requirements and definition.

Before understanding how to put "leads" to use, it is necessary to define them in a quantifiable format. For the majority of the clients that New Direction Marketing has generated leads for, a lead is a contact within a company that has the decision making power and has shown some interest in the product in question. This is a quantifiable, yet generic, definition that can be used for almost all industries.

A decision maker is a contact who has the ability to approve a purchase at the price you are offering.

Interest is defined by an agreement that the consumer has some use for the product and the value that it can add.

Through careful contact with companies, it is possible to generate these leads that have a strong potential to turn into a sale. By cultivating contacts and treating prospects with respect, there is a greater chance to succeed in actually using these leads — and that's really the point behind a lead.

Converting the lead into a customer.

April 12, 2006

Introduction

Filed under: Company Information,Marketing — Philippe Mesritz @ 8:31 am

My name is Philippe Mesritz and I am the president for New Direction Marketing, Inc. I started this blog to give ideas to companies on how to put leads, whether internally or externally generated, to use and to emphasis a co-operative working environment. It is my hope that some of the information given will help put into perspective what can be done with leads that have been qualified and quantified for your business.

I will be trying to post a new tip or post weekly. These tips may include information on the current telemarketing industries, documented studies, or ways to optimize leads.

Please feel free to contact me at any time with questions. The blog is also open to comments for those who wish to leave them. I do, however, require an email address for comments simply to prevent certain levels of spam.

Sincerely,
Philippe

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