Sales and Sales Management Blog

November 29, 2007

Personal Marketing is Dead: How the Government is Contributing (the eighth in a series on personal marketing)

Filed under: Client Relationships,Personal Marketing,prospecting,trust — Paul McCord @ 8:22 am

In the previous posts, I’ve talked about how consumers and businesses are influencing the change in the marketplace and how those changes are making it increasingly difficult for salespeople to communicate with prospects. But those are not the only factors working to make the personal marketing of salespeople more difficult. The government is also influencing this shift in how salespeople must market themselves.

Everyone is familiar with the changes in how cold calling is done in today’s marketplace. Since the introduction of the “Do Not Call List,” it has become more difficult and burdensome on businesses and salespeople to cold call. Certainly, cold calling is still practiced. In fact, there are more cold calls placed today than at any other time in history.

The introduction of the Do Not Call List was supposed to have solved the problems consumers had with cold calling. The belief was that since consumers could opt out of receiving cold calls, anyone who didn’t want to get a call would simply put themselves on the list and the issue would be resolved.

That hasn’t been the case. There is still resistance from consumers who believe the burden should not be on them to opt-out every time they change phone numbers or add a line. Rather, many—and a growing number—believe it should be the company’s burden to make sure they contact only consumers who have opted-in to receiving cold calls. There is a growing movement to change the law from an opt-out law to an opt-in law, similar to that used for email solicitation.

In addition, since the opt-in solution with email hasn’t eliminated SPAM—the volume of which is worse than ever—many simply want to outlaw cold calling all together.

The cold calling issue is hardly settled. Many want to adopt the Denmark model that requires companies to get signed opt-in letters from each and every prospect they call—before they call. The Denmark model isn’t a blanket opt-in where if you opt-in to cold calling anyone can call you. Rather in Denmark, each individual company must have a signed letter stating the prospect has agreed to allow that company to call them.

Will the US ever adopt a law that restrictive? Possibly sometime in the distant future. But more likely would be an opt-in change to the current law, requiring consumers to opt-in to receiving cold calls rather than opting out. That change could come within the next 10 years.

Furthermore, as in many sectors of Europe, many areas within the US are considering outlawing cold walking—the solicitation on foot of both homes and businesses.

Other local governments are outlawing the posting of signs on street corners (on public property), restricting and in some cases seeking to eliminate billboards, and the distribution of fliers.

Even faxing fliers and information to companies is continuing to receive attention from those who want further restrictions on this practice.

Most of these proposed changes are the result of salespeople and companies that simply ignore current law and good business practices. These salespeople and companies are willing to risk fines because they believe they can make more than enough to justify any fine they may receive. But that attitude is leading to the eventual total elimination of those media as potential prospecting methods for the legitimate companies and salespeople.

Over the coming years, salespeople will find that government regulations will affect more and more of the marketing methods individuals use to try to reach their prospects. Salespeople and companies will resist, and that resistance will block the changes for a period of time. But just as with the Do Not Call List, the restrictions on sending unsolicited faxes, the restrictions on billboards and the other restrictions in place, they will eventually lose.

The marketplace is changing. Consumers, both individual and business, hate the ways salespeople try to communicate with them and many have learned to block those marketing messages out—and a growing number have learned they no longer need salespeople. Companies are encouraging this change by developing ways to bring in customers without the customer having to deal with a salesperson. And the government is contemplating changes that will further restrict—or eliminate—many of the favorite marketing methods salespeople employ.

The message is clear. The marketplace is changing and changing rapidly. Salespeople, if they want to be successful and not just order takers, must learn new marketing methods—the more sophisticated methods used by experts and top producers. If they don’t, they and their personal marketing will die a slow but sure death over the coming years

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November 16, 2007

Top Sales Experts Launched

Filed under: Sales Resources,sales training,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 10:21 am

I’m proud to say that I’ve been included in a newly formed group of 26 top sales and sales management trainers from around the globe, Top Sales Experts.  This group of 26 extraordinary men and women come from the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK.  Each is outstanding in their particular areas within sales and sales management training.

The group has been formed to be able to present coordinated training covering virtually every aspect of sales and management, with specialists from every area—from the foundational aspects of sales to prospecting to customer service and every possible niche in-between.

Quickly, the list includes in alphabetical order:

Wally Adamchik                      Jill Konrath
Joanne Black                           Steve Martinez
Jeb Blount                               Paul McCord
Leslie Buterin                          Anne Miller
Cheryl Clausen                        Andrea Nierenberg
Kim Duke                               Lori Richardson
Kevin Dwyer                          Kelley Robertson
Kevin Eikenberry                    Clayton Shold
Jonathan Farrington                Tammy Stanley
Colleen Francis                       Greg Stebbins
Diane Helbig                           Greg Stewart
Joe Heller                                Rochelle Togo-Figa
Mark Hunter                           Wendy Weiss 

The team’s new site is http://www.topsalesexperts.com

The group plans a number of upcoming events:

Books:  A quarterly e-book with contributions from each trainer.  A publisher is on board who will be taking the 4 annual e-books and publishing as a hardbound book at the end of each year.  The first will be published at the end of this year.

Sales Training Conferences:  The team will be doing training conferences during the course of the year, the first anticipated to be four conferences in the UN next summer.

Resource Clearing house: Establishing a central clearing house of information for companies, associations, salespeople and professionals for training and consulting information and resources via the website.

As Jonathan Farrington, the founder of the team points out, “never before have so many immensely talented and successful sales gurus gathered in one place.”

Over the coming months the site will grow rapidly with more and more resources to eventually become a major destination for any company or individual looking for help and guidance for their sales team or themselves.

Again, I’m honored to have been invited to be a member of the team and encourage you to not only visit the site today, but to bookmark it and continue returning as the site grows to become a major repository for sales resources.

November 12, 2007

Personal Marketing is Dead: an Aside on an IBM Report (the seventh in a series on personal marketing)

Filed under: Personal Marketing,prospecting,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 5:52 pm

I ran across a very interesting report that was recently released by IBM called “The End of Advertising as We Know It”.  You can find it here.  This was brought to my attention on Craig Klein’s Sell, Sell, Sell blog.

IBM’s study has some very interesting stats and even more interesting conclusions—and they seem to be getting as much flak about their report from advertising agencies as I am about this series from salespeople.  

And although the report deals with advertising, they are dealing with the same thing I’m dealing with—a drastically changing marketplace.  

Their conclusion is the same as mine—the way we communicate with prospects must change if we want to reach them.  Consumers are rejecting traditional marketing—not just the personal marketing I’ve been discussing, but all marketing.

According to their study, consumers, business and individual, are rejecting “interruption marketing” in greater and greater numbers.  The traditional formats of trying to reach out to prospects, from cold calling to advertisements, are increasingly inefficient in reaching prospects because those using these formats are trying to reach prospects through methods prospects no longer are willing to pay attention.  Prospects reject the message because they reject the format used to communicate the message.

Now, certainly, IBM is more pessimistic about traditional marketing than I am.  They see radical change in the marketplace within 5 years.  I think traditional marketing is dying–but a slower pace, although I do think it its demise will be far more advanced in 5 years than it is today.  

What I find particularly interesting isn’t that IBM is anticipating the same marketplace change I am, but that they are experiencing the same resistance to that message that I am.  I’m not getting resistance from sales executives, for they see the same problems ahead that I see.  As a matter of fact, they are often in agreement with IBM that it is literally right around the corner; and they are desperately trying to figure out their strategy to deal with it.  

Rather, the resistance I’m getting is directly from salespeople—the people who will be most affected by this change.  I have received emails from enraged salespeople that could probably be best described as “hate” email.  They react very emotionally to the idea that the market is changing and that they must change the way they approach prospects–or if the don’t, their sales career will eventually die.  

The idea that consumers are rejecting traditional prospecting and marketing methods is anathema to them.  It is beyond possibility, and anyone who suggests it will happen must be a crackpot.  After all, what’s more American that a good old cold to interrupt dinner or distract you from the report you are working on?

Yet, the evidence is piling up—the market is changing and changing rapidly.  If salespeople and companies want to be successful in the new sales environment, they must learn to communicate with prospects in a format the prospect will accept.  No longer do we live in an environment where marketers can dictate when and how prospects will be marketed to—it’s a new world.  Prospects now dictate how and when they’ll accept a marketing message, and increasing that message had better be educational and from a source, they recognize as authoritative.  

Personal marketing really is dead—it is simply a matter of figuring out when the funeral will be held.

November 5, 2007

Personal Marketing is Dead: The Herd Mentality (the sixth in a series on personal marketing)

Filed under: Personal Marketing,prospecting,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 10:29 am

To this point, I’ve discussed how the changing behavior of consumers, both individual and business, is making salespeople irrelevant to the purchasing process to a growing number of prospects and how companies are contributing by catering to the growing demand of consumers to be able to execute even the most complicated purchases without having a salesperson involved.

However, salespeople themselves are contributing to their own extinction. 

Just as a brief reminder, by extinction I don’t mean that salespeople will disappear.  Even in a world where consumers get their information and advice from experts rather than salespeople, they still need to execute their purchase and in many cases, they need a salesperson to quote a price and complete the paperwork.  The salesperson’s role changes from provider of information and adviser, to being a clerk, simply confirming the sale and completing the paperwork—order taker rather than salesperson. 

Also, this isn’t to say that there won’t be a segment of the marketplace that wants to work someone on a one-to-one basis in their decision making process rather than simply relying on the expert information they have read in books and periodicals or heard on radio or TV.  This group will always exist.  Not only will they always exist, they’ll be a highly sought after segment of the market—typically well educated and higher income with the most sophisticated and complicated issues and needs.  They won’t be making their decisions based on cost but on the expertise of the individual they choose to work with.

And, finally, there will still be a small segment of the market that resembles many of today’s consumers.  This group will not purchase based on their own research nor will they demand to work with someone they perceive to be an expert.  Many of their purchases will be made based on whoever happens to be in front of them at the time.  Of course, they will shop.  But knowledge and expertise will not be their shopping criteria.  Price and overall value will determine what they purchase and from whom.  This group will tend to be very price sensitive.

The question for salespeople is can they get to and influence the buyer seeking to work with an expert or to the buyers in the third group, the “traditional” buyer?

The typical salesperson thinks in a very small box, as do many sales managers. 

For most, marketing on a personal level consists of cold calling, networking at the local chamber or a BNI club, maybe faxing fliers all over town, sending out unsolicited emails, a little direct mail here or there, and possibly a cheap ad in some obscure publication on on-line.  Others will try putting their business cards under the windshields of the cars in the WalMart parking lot, maybe putting cheap signs up (often illegally) on street corners, or maybe walking door-to-door hanging fliers on doorknobs. 

Those who are aggressive will do several of these things and even add a magnetic sign to the side of their car.

Almost all will have spent some time developing their own Unique Selling Proposition, seeking to Wow the people they meet with the tremendous benefits people derive from their service or product.

A few will get creative and send their direct mail piece in something other than a standard envelope.  Here and there someone will invest a few dollars and send some small gift ahead of their call (often something with their logo on it as though the recipient really wants that nice wood pen with the salesperson’s company’s logo).

Sales managers, on the other hand, tend to have even fewer preferred prospecting methods.  The typical mantra of sales managers is “see more people,” or “make more calls.” 

Yet, if salespeople would simply look around, they’d see that the methods they are using are not the methods most of the top producers are using; rather they are the methods their average or below average peers are using. 

  • Top producers aren’t cold calling
  • Top producers aren’t hanging out at BNI or the chamber
  • Top producers aren’t buying cheap signs to put on the street corner
  • Top producers aren’t spamming the world with emails that will never be read
  • Top producers aren’t sending direct mailing in a hit or miss manner
  • Top producers aren’t killing hundreds of trees faxing trash filler all over town
  • Top producers aren’t walking the WalMart parking lot with their multi-colored fliers

Consumers don’t want to work with salespeople because they don’t view salespeople as professionals.  They don’t view salespeople as experts at what they do.  They don’t view salespeople as offering honest, objective information and advice.

There are more salespeople on the street than ever before.  All are doing the same thing, the same way.  All claim to be experts.  All claim to have the best price or at least the best value.  They all claim to be working in the client’s best interest.  They all claim that their product or service is the best solution to the prospect’s problem.

Prospects aren’t stupid.  They realize that if everyone is claiming to be an expert, then on one is an expert.  If every product is the solution to their problem, then no product is the solution.  If every salesperson is working in the prospect’s best interest, then no one is.  So, they reject them all and rely on themselves to find what they believe to be honest, objective information.

The amount of marketing for consumers is overwhelming, to the point they simply shutdown.  They reject virtually all of it.

In a mini-survey of 150 individual consumers and 75 business consumers, the reaction to marketing from individual salespeople was revealing:

  • On average, they receive 11 cold call solicitations a week.  Less than 8% will accept a cold call of any kind.  Only 2% have acted on a cold call in the last year (business is, by the way, more likely than individuals to respond to cold calling).
  • On average, they receive over 87 pieces of direct mail a week (direct mail was from both individual salespeople and companies).  Less than 12% read any direct mail solicitation.  Less than 6% have acted on any direct mail piece in the last year.
  • Only one of those surveyed has ever called a number off of a sign on a street corner
  • About 30% of the business respondents have been approached at an event of some kind by a salesperson trying to establish contact.  Less than 5% have purchased based on any contact met at an event
  • Of the 75 business consumers, only 4% have read any of the fliers faxed to their office in the last year with none purchasing a product or service from an unknown vendor or salesperson

This was not by any means a scientific study.  These were randomly selected people from all over the US.  Even if you assume the results are inaccurate and the response rates to these marketing methods are double this group (highly this group’s response rate is only have the actual rate), that still means only 4% of all people actually buy anything from cold calling, only 12% buy anything from direct mail, and 1% will respond to a street corner sign.  Only 10% have ever purchased anything from someone they met through networking.  

Is it any wonder the average salesperson makes about $23.00 per hour?  Less than $49,000 per year.  These figures exclude retail store salespeople and are based on a survey of 2,000 salespeople across the US and Canada in 2006.  Studies by other companies have resulted in average sales incomes about 1/3 lower than the figures cited, but those studies included retail store clerks.  On the other hand, top producers are making anywhere from $200,000 up.  The cream of the crop in the sales industry makes several million dollars a year.

The very activities salespeople engage in are making them obsolete as professional salespeople.  If salespeople want to become relevant once more, they must begin to recognize the methods they are using in reality self-defeating and to rethink not only what they are doing, but what marketing is at its core.

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