The Human Driven CRM
Yesterday I did a “Google Search” on “Customer Relationship”. I got 99 Million responses! Some time between when I started working in the distribution channel and yesterday, things changed. To at least half of the listing, Customer Relationship equates to a software package. And, Customer Relationship Management has migrated from being a process to being a code word for a new generation of software - software that comes with hundreds of features, an amazing price tag and dozens of promises for future results.
Yet as I travel around distributor-land, I often find these very same software systems, either sitting idle or being used as “glorified Rolodexes”. To quote a movie favorite, “We have a problem here Houston.” The issue isn’t with the software; the problem stems from lack of a well planned process. One process that links customer needs, customer value and modern technology is Telesales Prospecting. The vital link between customer and distributor, need and value lies in a plan to build a human link. Telesales Prospecting is the link.
Telesales Prospecting puts an emphasis on locating and expanding the distributor contact base – adding detail to existing contacts along the way. Targeting Accounts is important but once accounts have been targeted, Telesales Prospecting provides the right contacts for your sales people to “touch”. It adds a catalyst to your existing push for more customer data and added customer focus.
Invest four minutes now as I answer the most frequent questions associated with the practice.
What is Telesales Prospecting?
TeleProspecting gathers strategic customer contact data via telephone, email, and fax. The Salesforce gets the benefit of ever expanding contacts from within their most active accounts - sales activity yields more results – better ROI’s - because the salespeople have access to more data and contacts from the accounts they have targeted for expansion.
Simply stated, Telesales Prospecting provides a deeper view into customer organizations. Its process scientifically attacks the issues of identifying qualified leads in both existing and potential customer organizations. Non-traditional customers – once not economically feasible to develop – become viable because Telesales Prospecting streamlines customer maintenance.
Seeking out “technology users” rather than “technology appliers” is at the heart of the process. Value based selling rides on the power of proving customer advantage. Technology users better understand the value drivers required to improve productivity, reduce scrap, or justify a project. Value and knowledge-based distributors have traditionally focused their efforts on technology appliers (such as Plant Engineers and Maintenance) rather than technology users. The problem: Often this traditional customer group thinks “bits and bytes, band vs. blade” rather than dollars generated by reduced scrap or improved production metrics. Historically poor communication within customer facilities exacerbates pushing the real value proposition. One end-user publication said it best, “the technical experts …have done a poor job of documenting successes in a way that businesses leaders understand and appreciate.”
How does it work?
A specially trained Telesales Prospector with very close ties to sales management builds a well planned database of “technology users”. Technology users are categorized according to specific disciplines and financial drivers. Examples of these disciplines could be Maintenance Managers (which most of our readers currently know), Safety Managers, Quality Managers, Production Supervisors, IT department heads, and many others.
The Telesales Prospector systematically works through the customer contact database - touching each client contact, inquiring about informational needs and updating information in the company database. Each call is carefully designed to gather three basic pieces of information:
· Product informational needs – is their previous investment working according to promise.
· Accuracy of current listing in the database – do we have all of your personal information listed correctly, did you get our last email, and are there lists you would like to be added to?
· Referrals to other people who would value from non-sales based training, information or technical references.
On each successive pass through the customer data base more names, information and value interests are drawn. One distributor who worked this plan began with 250 names and over the course of two years grew the database to over 3000 contacts.
Each contact receives a “touch” verifying information and solutions interest every quarter. In many instances the active touch process identifies projects or future informational needs well ahead of any type of sales based initiative. The point to remember; this person is not engaged in sales activity. Because of this special aspect, the client contact views her/him as a valuable information source. But, informational requests handled by the Telesales Prospector are immediately reported to the sales team for follow-up.
In addition to normal sales activities, the traditional sales force conducts specially tuned seminars, workshops and web-based events to match needs with information presented. This moves the sales folk into a consultative role with the technology users identified. The Telesales Prospector insures all new contacts receive regular attention to maintain a warm connection. At the same time, these groups are offered very well focused information that matches their particular needs.
The plan develops relationships on both sides of the “technology applier- technology user” equation. The applier of technology’s work is appreciated more within her/his organizational environment and that makes for a successful relationship.
What kind of results can we expect?
Interaction with those who understand our value is the number one expectation. Sales people struggle to balance territory, technology and time. Using Telesales Prospecting establishes and maintains warm relationships with Warehouse Managers, Production teams, Quality Managers, Safety Coordinators and Plant Managers.
Expect new faces in solutions-based seminars. Maximize your impact by getting past gate keepers and by becoming the preferred source for new solution information. Salespeople and Specialist react differently when the questions move from how much does that cost to what should I expect to invest?
Your company will be invited to participate in Kaizen events and participate in identifying “Lean Root Cause” discussions. When new products are introduced you will ask yourself completely different questions about the benefits. You will participate in fewer “shotgun blast” market discussions and more marksman-like “rifle shots” to exactly the right person and sales people will become more effective over a wider range of disciplines.
What is the advantage to the distributor?
Distributors must drive towards increasing the efficiency of their existing sales force and continued justification of the values they provide. Telesales Prospecting achieves this result. New levels of customer communication are possible with the added benefit of reaching into the difficult “technology user” segment. This allows faster and more efficient introduction of new products and rapid expansion of existing products.
What are the advantages to Manufacturers supplying products through distribution?
Finer product targeting is allowed without the cost of resorting to alternative channels.
Distributors can now have access not only to SIC codes but to the inner workings within the SIC code. Advertising becomes more effective and customer ad awareness is amplified. When the data is properly gathered and measured, marketing budgets become better long term investments. Plus, data is developed which allows products to be “pin pointed” to a specific functional contact.
A locally run distributor based program achieves synergy not available through typical marketing campaigns conducted by trade magazines and telemarketing firms. Because, selling is a person-to-person process, a local distributor is more likely to uncover important data than a person working from a central location. The strong integration with a local manufacturer’s sales representative and the distributor sales force allows for better coordination throughout the entire process.
How can Manufacturers and Distributors cooperate to make this happen?
Telesales Prospecting works better in a strong joint venture environment, and the costs associated with such a program clearly go well beyond the traditional distributor model. The burden of launching such a program is best when shared between all beneficiaries. Here are some ideas designed for discussion between equal business partners – distributor and manufacturer supplier.
· Pay for leads generated
Manufacturers run ads in a wide variety of publications. I have heard a number of anecdotal figures but suffice to say a good quality lead in an industrial environment is worth (at minimum) one hundred dollars. A distributor could be provided with a bounty for each new contact name provided through Telesales Prospecting. The leads would be shared from the distributor to the manufacturer’s own marketing department for further analysis.
· Assistance with software costs and formatting
The software required to properly carry out Telesales Prospecting is an expense not paid by the typical distributor. By sharing in the software costs and IT support a manufacturer could insure that data is available in a format which is easily integrated into his own database at a later date.
· An extra percentage on co-op funds
The distributor providing Telesales Prospecting will be assuming additional duties in the supply chain. An extra percentage on co-op funding could easily drive the behavior of other distributors in the channel and at the same time pay early adopters for developing and proving out best practices in the process.
· Pay for highly targeted marketing Data for survey purposes
Marketing professionals have long heralded the value of very closely focused surveys. A Telesales Prospecting professional could conduct localized versions of the survey with a fraction of the preparation and lag time normally associated with surveys.
A Simple Test
If you wonder if Telesales Prospecting is something you should be considering, try this simple test. Gather your top 3 sales people in a room and ask them to list their top five accounts. Now ask them to list the names of the following people:
1) Plant Manager
2) Production Manager
3) Engineering Manager
4) Maintenance Manger
5) Quality Manager
6) Lean or Six Sigma Leader
7) Logistics Manager
8) Safety Manager
9) Facilities Manager
10) Chief Financial Person
If your score is 70% or greater you may be one of the fortunate few, most likely you will see a score in the 40% range. If your score is typical, you need to think TeleProspect Mining in your future.
Telesales Prospecting is available as an e-book for the cost of only 5 minutes of the typical Distributor Sales Call. ($31.50)