Monday, October 22, 2007

Why Telesales doesn't work

just think of all the countless legions of telesales workers using all that electricity to sit in an office with their ass suitably heated / cooled with a whirring PC and central board operating ..and 99% of it is wasted ....

Today the bosses here wanted a great big telesales marathon from all employees. This is proving of course to be a lot of hot air. Most people of course know that taking some time to find out more about the company and trying to even evaluate their needs or aktuelleness in the market.

Telesales is hugely unproductive and only serves to support sales manager empires and a wanten lack of investment in marketing. What does however work, is telephone research and intitmate marketing.

The trouble is that these sit between two stools. Telephone research and scoping out of companies is of course not beyond the average persons ability but it is beyond the average call senter/ sales managers psychie to organise, structure, measure and the young bull, they see a cow down there and they want to run down into the heard, shag that one and if it turns them down they want to move on to the next. At the end of the days rampage, the whole heard think the bull is an asshole, but he has got in with the easy cow who actually is the company with bad economy who will sleep with any supplier, or the one who wants to make their current suppliers get a quote.

...............walk down and shag them all, says the old bull. Take your time to see th ebody language and get in tune with each cow and then when they are ready, fu'em all.

The old bull though has long since given up being a sales manager and is higher up in the feeding chain., haven given up the Omega with two slices cheese.

Now the old bull story says alot about how business structure fights against effective customer identification, conversion and retention. Sales managers understand running down and fucking a cow, then running back up, talking strategic goals just to run back down with a "quarter making" sales pitch - usually bringing orders forward on discount which is the same-old-same-old tool in the hands of the "powerful" sale mangement. Marketing are just tarts and farts. They don't grind the shoe leather and make it happen.

But the world is changing and not only are some companies embracing new forms of sales but new companies are stealing business by being more intelligence oriented and media-effective. Some SMEs are even defining their strategy as keeping small- keeping close to their customer psychically and geographically so as to focus on these relationships. Expansion is based upon :

  1. a model where the business unit scales by duplication not structural growth
  2. when their initmate customer need evolves into being a wide-marketable productised package

So what do I think works?

Well it's bad news to both the sales manager dinosaur and the kotler muska-marketeer.

It's business intelligence and intimate marketing. This is not just the reserve for B2B but also in consumer markets where visible relationships function by reference and word-of-mouth marketing...the intimacy is visible and transmissable. However, of course, as a discpipline in it works best in B2B ..Why?

B2B has a rather small customer base either from known clients and potential customers or from prospects. Marketing has got to be therefore, through channels which touch the customer in a segment ...mass marketing is usually a waste of time. Often a focus is kept on a well definable business segment which is easily targetted. This is a double edged sword because while FOCUS is good and sounds strategic, if the benefit reaps more value in another application or further up in the value-chain then the business suffers from targetting MYOPIA.

Now some B2B is actually just that in name- it is really mass consumer marketing with a transaction interface. Buying is driven by brand influences, trends, information / buying convenience, cross-purchasing (basketing). So knowing which ball-game you should play in is important as initmate marketing and business intelligence is often expensive per head of customer.

I had a new CEO come into a biotech tools company from an engineering firm and the first things he put on the MUST have list were all sales realtionship oriented around swinging "the big deals". He wanted to book the fantastically expensive bill-board above the main down esculator at arrivals in some US airport near a well known customer, JUST so he could talk about it and the committment to the bio-area with the directors at the customer. 99.9999999% of passers by would see no relevance in the ad'. It took him four years to realise that the company was in fact a mass marketing company, as it had been from outset of being DM driven!

Further to this- at this firm in one analysis I did I found out that 80% of the business came from ...wait for it-...... 80% of the customer base. A further 10% came from just 2% of the customer base i.e. there were some huge deals on the books, BUT not a focus to drive growth and investor value. To be balanced a little more to all those Harvard MBAs- the company was actually missing out on some other big deals and knew it, but this was because they were not intimate with small gazelle customers or new project R&D managers. These gazelle opportunities would suddenly scale-up and hey-presto "where are we", "we went in on price and lost , why?" and so on. To get in as a qualified/documented and approved supplier for high growth, high risk projects you have to be validated early...or rather you are an out supplier until you accept the cost of re-validation. Only one in maybe 20 of these projects goes to market or to clinical trials scale up but if you aren't in early - forget it.

So in a B2B (or some special consumer circumstances!) environment tred carefully before you actually plunge in with money for intimate marketing becuase.

  • intimate marketing is done with relative few customers pulling in relatively many employees
  • is therefore expensive in tools and internal resources
  • Communication is easy to get wrong by not understanding the customer enough
  • SO the key events, meetings, PR, sponsorship or stunt can go wrong
  • it is to build committment and trust and hence loyal non switching customers
  • Time line to purchase is critical. They must be HOT leads.

The kotler marketeers aren't liking this because they know what is coming: intimate marketing means for an organisation:

  1. multi level contact with customers
  2. shared, organastion-wide intelligence
  3. events are key
  4. risk of bad communication is high

The one group of people who are liking this so far are the product managers who have at some point worked in sales and currently work a lot with the field reps. And they like it for the same reason sales management don't:

  1. PMs take authority and marketing take over one sevy thing from SMs
  2. The brownie-point score is ridden by the PMs and not the SMs
  3. Authority is further stripped from the SMs by the multi-level contact

God, everyone gets in on the old game of chummying up to customer. Marketing come out their academic 'target segment' shells, customer services say what's really the problem, R&D talk willingly about joint NPI and customer needs to customer R&D and cheif executives get to reside over the whole thing without having the vaneer of sales management distroting the information flow in a selfserving way.

How does the key sales process 'translate' into intimate marketing then? that is the Prospecting, developing, pitching, closing and retaining cycle?

Prospecting: the whole company becomes the eyes and ears. Lost customers take on a new prominence and lost potential deals get re-examined without the sales management filter. New cutomer enquiries are treated like diamonds falling from heaven in "joined up marketing" integrated to sales and customer services. Other functions go out and meet other companies in the industry or target segment and start chin-wagging. S&M people start going to R&D conferences as participants out of their suits! R&D people start manning booths at trade shows...

Soon new customers get the feeling that the whole company cares about getting their business because they met someone who wasn't tell-selling them!

Developing, Pitching, converting: this becomes the multi level task groups which organise resources about the key meetings which will happen. Small, intimate events for less than 100 participants are organised by the PMs to channel in several potential customers. Then a focused effort of mulit-level detective work is swung into action to deliver the key intelligence on customer needs and behaviour which will inform the pitch. The pitch is done at the appropriate management level, with those delivering in the selling company attending ie. every point of influential touch with the customer is mirrored in the conversion group.

Retaining : now by this time much of the work of retention is already done. No longer is it a sale driven by price and sales-filtered information. Compared to going through one sales repsonsible and their sales boss, the whole sale is probably on a shorter cycle to close. Also the resources are already lining up, and not stuck blind infront of the 'closed deal' from a suicide or volume based quote. True costs and implications of "resource alignment" at the vendor are much more accurately assessed and hidden costs or opportunities to bill for support services are aired and not swept away by the "close now" old fashioned sales channel.

Now traditional sales management hate all takes away that deal doing, commission getting thrill and power from them. To begin with they think, hey great, I get those dossers in marketing to pay for my meetings...which is the trojan horse senior managerment and marketeers should for customer group meetings with high value content for the attendees. When R&D turn up, the SMs get a little nervous. Customer services can be patronised away, but when PMs run the show then there can be outright war because the writing on the wall is KAM managed from HQ and not the field.

Intimate marketing is especially effective when introducing new products or technologies which will later take on a wider transaction market down the line. It is very worth doing to influence the opinion leaders and those inovators who have a high profile. The trickle down is good, and the initial sales or projects are of high value in either payment or later pay-back for the early "test marketing" and relationship building. In the self-same market for biotech-research tools, the best growing and stronest performing companies are using it with all their NPI and KAM work. There are many other B2B markets, (it's B2B which employs the most marketeers actually) for which this approach is very suitable.

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