Famous Last Words – “Our What?”
Last week, I met with a new sales manager for a medium sized company. As we began talking about his business and the challenges he faces every day, he made a statement that caused me to struggle with keeping my jaw from hitting the floor..
His statement came after I asked him about the number of impressions/touches it takes for his company to convert someone from a lead into a customer, one that actually buys something. The conversation went like this..
Me – How do you obtain leads?
Him – We do about 20 tradeshows per year and gather our leads during those shows.
Me – Wow, that is a lot of work. How do you convert those leads into a sale?
Him – In our follow-up calls, if we can’t sell them or at least get a strong indication that they are interested, we typically move on to the next lead.
Me – (after collecting myself) And how much is your average sale?
Him – Around $3k
Me – And what is your sales conversion rate?
Him – “Our what?”
This is a well paid sales manager (granted, he is new) of a company that has over 300 employees and 30+ sales people. If this were someone I knew well, I would have given him my best dose of brutal honesty, but this was our first interaction so I tried my best to suggest some things for him to consider. Here however is the brutal honesty that I so badly wanted to share and maybe one day will get the chance to do so.
Old school marketing (20-30 years ago) used to separate prospects into two different categories, consumer (buying for themselves) or business (buying as part of their job function). The reality of today is that they are one of the same. Business prospects may be representing a business, but when they are not working they too are consumers and are using their personal buying experiences as part of their business buying functions.
Considering that the average consumer, is subjected to over Six Thousand (6000) marketing messages a day. We are just plain overloaded with content! In addition, many businesses targeting to consumers have used unethical marketing practices which have made consumers far more hesitant to make significant purchase decisions without first getting comfortable with the company they are working with and the product they are buying. They now use the internet to research companies and products, reading reviews and testimonials from others in order to help them get comfortable with each step in the buying process. These habits are now transferring into their job functions because they know they are spending someone else’s money and if they screw up, their job could be on the line.
It is my belief that because of all of this, it now takes 10-12 positive impressions before a buyer will feel comfortable beginning a new relationship with your business. The sales manager I mentioned above, has a team that is wasting a lot of money by giving up on prospects before they have even gotten started. If you add up the hours of manpower, the travel expenses and the money spent to participate in the 20+ tradeshows, I would venture to say that it is quite substantial. To give an analogy of the process, picture a cold, shivering camper trying to start a much needed campfire in 20 MPH winds, with only a few books of matches. How many matches will they go through and toss to the ground before they get lucky and get one that stays lit long enough to light the fire (make the sale)?
I will admit, creating 10-12 positive impressions with a buyer is not easy. It takes effort and planning. One must be prepared to use integrated marketing in order to connect with their prospects in a variety of ways, thus strengthening their relationship and increasing their sales conversion rates. For more on integrated marketing, please watch for next weeks post.
Chris Morrissey is the Owner of Proforma Big Dog Branding, an award winning provider of printing services, promotional products, multimedia production and ecommerce solutions. To reach Chris: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.bigdogbranding.com/.