Sales Process Management | Consistent Sales Messaging & Execution

Sales Process Management – Executing Consistent Strategies

Consistent and Coordinated Sales Execution

Two weeks ago, I received an email from a sales representative working for a company whose mailing list I had opted into some time ago. The company is in the luxury vacation rental industry and sells a membership that entitles you to renting any of their 200+ incredible properties anywhere in the world.

The email read:

Hi Townsend,

I see you’ve been in our system for a while and have yet to speak with anyone here about membership.

I’d love to arrange a brief phone call to learn about your travel preferences and see if membership makes sense for you and your family.

Please call me at the number below or let me know a preferred time and number to reach you.

Sarah

Not bad, I thought, it’s professional and straightforward.

I’d actually signed up almost a year ago, when I had met the founders and wanted to learn more about their business. Up until that time, I had received their newsletter, which I criticized in a past post for being internally focused and irrelevant to me. I was pleasantly surprised to see they were finally getting off their butts and using the data they had acquired to actually try to get in touch with me to sell me something.

Of course like most people, I’m busy and get lots of emails so I pretty much ignored it. I didn’t even delete it. I just left it there because it made a positive impression! One week later I received a second email. Again, I was pleasantly surprised that they were making a second attempt. The tone of the email caught my attention.

It Read:

Hi Townsend,

Even if you don’t have any immediate vacation plans, I would love to just introduce myself, learn about your travel preferences, and build a relationship for the future.

Please call me at the number below or let me know a preferred time and number to reach you.

Sarah

Now there is nothing wrong with the email above, but to me this felt like the salesperson was defaulting to a submissive ‘sorry if I am bothering you’ tone. Because I pay attention to these things, I can tell you it immediately made me perceive this individual differently. In simplest terms, it lowered her standing in my eyes. Whereas the first email created the impression it was written by an executive assistant, the second smelled of a salesperson. What a difference a few words can make.

All of this got me thinking…

  • Will I receive another or will this person give up after two emails? Does Sarah plan to try reaching me via phone as well? (They have my cell number!)
  • Were the emails written by Sarah herself or are they standard templates in controlled tests and used across the organization?
  • Was this outreach initiated by Sarah? Was she trolling through her database (as great salespeople should do)? Or did marketing put together a list of ‘neglected’ leads?
  • The basic question I’m trying to answer is, if I buy, would it be to a deterministic sales strategy executed and measured across the organization or would it be dumb luck?

Can you guess where I’m going with this?

Unfortunately, sales organizations are usually no more than the sum of a number of autonomous, independently operating, independently thinking individuals.

So why is that a problem?

First of all, most salespeople are not successful. In fact, current data suggests less than 25% of salespeople attain their annual goal.

Second, imagine there’s somebody who’s sitting next to Sarah whose email is just a little more tightly worded. Now imagine there’s somebody sitting next to Sarah who’s just a little more persistent, meaning they’ve decided they’re going to send four emails and follow up with a phone call. If the new approach results in an opportunity twice as often as Sarah’s approach, what are the chances that knowledge will be shared 100% across the organization? Even if it does, how long will it take for this knowledge to disseminate?

So What?

Think about how decisions are made in your sales organization. Who decides who you will target, what medium will you use (email, phone, etc.), and how persistent will you be? (number of touches, sequence of messaging, etc.) More importantly, how are these decisions implemented and measured in real time to optimize results?

More often than not, I run across an “everybody does their own thing” approach. Or worse, an individual (usually the CEO or Marketing VP) is driving a dogmatic “we’re going to do it this way” approach.

The bottom line is that I’d like you to think about if and how you intend to pursue your prospects once they have opted in or otherwise come onto your radar. Is this pursuit of that prospect a reactive, ad-hoc, everybody does what they think is best approach? OR is it systematic, organized, and consistent across the organization?

I can tell you from personal experience, very slight changes in a campaign – one more call, one more email – can have a dramatic impact on your results. How you determine what’s working and what’s not and how you then ensure that knowledge, that process, and that approach is shared across the organization, is the only thing that really matters.

By Townsend Wardlaw

photo credit: Philip James Claxton via photopin cc

Comments

  1. Great post Townsend,

    I certainly agree, there is significant value in having a consistent, scalable methodology behind prospecting. My firm is currently working on this, but as you said, sales teams are typically “the sum of a number of autonomous, independently operating, independently thinking individuals.” I am on a team of experienced salesmen that have came from several different types of software companies – all of us have our own approach that has worked for us in the past. So we naturally gravitate towards what is effective in our own minds.

    My Manager is struggling to get us all on the same page – using email templates is simple enough, however, voicemail scripts and the sequence of delivery is where we fall apart. I feel the team would be more likely to adopt a prospecting system if there were metrics to back up its success. So far it has been trial and error.. and errors are repeated since we have no way of tracking them. People tend to talk about what is working for them, not what is failing.

    I would love to hear your thoughts about targeting SMB’s with a one year old SaaS product. Although I would not expect you to post that here.

    *Given how generic Sarah’s emails are, and the fact that she hasn’t called you.. I would be willing to bet that those are mass emails. Could end up being a successful campaign if they blast that mediocre messaging out to their entire database.

    Great stuff, keep it up man

  2. Nice article and good points but I thought you were going in a completely different direction. TW rule #1 – pick up the damn phone.

    HBR and InsideSales did an analysis on lead response time – 5 minutes opposed to 10 minutes increases your likelihood of contact nine fold. In this case, a full year goes by and they have yet to call. How many times could/ would you have used this service in the past year?

    What really stood out to me is the audacity of writing you an email a full year later and saying YOU call ME; they are asking you to take action they should be taking themselves.

  3. Thank you – this was a good piece explaining the importance of better managing the communication acros the firm and even the sales force. What in your view would have been a better second, follow-up email; which while being polite and non-intrusive, would still have been effective and ‘non-apologetic’?

    1. Author

      Prashant… I may have been too critical in characterizing her email as apologetic… Fundamentally, the objective needs to be to engage me in a conversation. Naturally, the sales rep is going for a live interaction but there are other options. Why not use the email to ask me a simple question? – Where was your last vacation? Any planned trips? Do I vacation with children? etc. These days a ‘meeting’ phone or in person is a big commitment…. the goal is to get me talking… both to develop a relationship as well as gather information that will be valuable when we finally meet.

  4. Townsend-

    Welcome back to the blogosphere, amigo. Let me take a swing at converging a few themes…

    Townsend: “Fundamentally, the objective needs to be to engage me in a conversation.”

    Kevin: “all of us have our own approach that has worked for us in the past…My Manager is struggling to get us all on the same page …“

    I recently was part of a situation where team members were encouraged to play to their specific strengths. One was a cold calling machine…another was a relevant/value added/well timed/concise email maven. I was somewhere in between, warming up prospects with the email, then following with the calls. The convergence of the apparent strategy chaos was the approach/personality of our SVP of sales and his mantra: “Just get us a meeting”

    He structured the books of business so that there was very little overlap between sales people and established the discussion of successful engagements to get meetings(vs deal status) every week… successful emails and call scripts were shared (and devoured) by team members. There was most definitely a sense of pride among team members “Hey, man, how about a cut since you used MY idea??” Team member were given the liberty to modify to fit their personalities and clients. As long as the company, products, etc were not misrepresented…have at it. As a result, the pipeline built out very nicely.

    Now, of course this all depends on your clients, product, maturity/background of sales team…you can say our SVP set himself up for success by hiring folks with this kind of wiring. Good for him. For our situation, consistency and scalability probably were not as critical as most folks on this thread. But let chaos reign where possible…it fosters innovation…which tests best practices…which fills the pipeline for meetings.

    Now, if the meetings don’t translate to sales, that’s a problem for another day

  5. Good stuff Townsend! I always struggled to craft the right message when making sales calls (mostly leaving voice messages) or emailing new prospects. Trying to build one-sided rapport is always challenging. In my last sales position I requested & pushed to collaborate to share best practices w/my associates since we were all on our own w/little direction. It seemed that my peers were hesitant to impart their secrets to anyone lest they lose their “edge”.
    I’m happy to be out of the sales game for a bit…at least as a Project Manager I have more control of my world (or at least I like to think so).

  6. Great info Townsend! I would love to set up a time to meet with my boss and have you evaluate our sales and marketing tactics!

    – Ashley

Leave a Comment

Or