Tag Archives: sales methods

Want a Happy Customer? Coordinate Sales and Marketing

In today’s hyper-competitive world, your sales and marketing functions must yoke together at every level—from the core central concepts of the strategy to the minute details of execution. Harvard Business School professor Benson Shapiro on creating the customer-centric team.

To other functional departments such as finance and operations, the sales and marketing functions look alike. After all, they are both “outward looking,” focused on the customer and the market. But, creating a strong marketing and sales team has proven difficult in practice and is getting even more difficult than in the past.

Why the concern about coordination between sales and marketing? Every business exists for financial performance—making money. We know generally how to measure it across different companies and industries, and use metrics such as ROI, EPS growth, and EBITDA.

Financial performance is the result of operating performance. Operating performance includes all the things that a company must do to win the competitive battle in its industry to attract, retain, and profitably serve customers. It varies greatly among industries, but generally includes activities such as customer acquisition, on-time delivery, developing new services and products, and running efficiently.

But operating performance is also a result; it is derivative of human performance. Human performance involves many things but is primarily dependent on three: the personal capabilities of the individuals in the business, their individual motivation, and their ability to work together harmoniously.

Nowhere is the need to work together more important than in the twin customer-facing functions of marketing and sales. Sales and marketing look similar at a distance, just as Americans think of Singapore and Shanghai as similar and close. But, when you get near the functions, you begin to understand the differences and to appreciate the challenge of coordinating and integrating them for improved operating performance and outstanding financial performance.

IF MARKETING AND SALES DO NOT COOPERATE, THE COMPANY’S STRATEGY WILL BE INCONSISTENT AND WEAK.— BENSON SHAPIRO

If marketing and sales do not cooperate, the company’s strategy will be inconsistent and weak; and execution will be flawed and inefficient. In today’s hyper-competitive world, the sales and marketing functions must yoke together at every level—from the core central concepts of the strategy to the minute details of execution.

NEW WORLD, NEW ROLES

When companies generally made their money in a large number of mid-sized accounts, marketing was typically seen as the strategic function that concentrated on product and service lines, market segments, and competitive positioning. Marketing did the thinking, managed the brand and consumer franchise in consumer goods companies, and provided support to the sales force. In this simpler world, sales did the execution in the field and sold to end users and distributors in business markets, and the “trade” (wholesalers and retailers) in consumer goods markets. Marketing was cerebral, creative and long-term oriented; and sales was action-oriented, relationship-focused, and short term.

But, the world has changed. Now, in most industries, there are a relatively small number of large major accounts, some mid-sized ones (the previous focus of the field sales force), and often a bunch of little ones. And, accounts are complex collections of diffuse buying teams involving different customer functional departments (purchasing, engineering, information technology, operations, finance, etc.), different levels in the customer’s organizational hierarchy, and different customer regional and line of business organizations.

Customers are reached through complex overlapping means including global and national account teams; field sales including product and market specialists as well as territorial generalists; telesales and telemarketing; service specialists; distributors; dealers; value-added integrators, resellers and packagers; wholesalers; retailers; direct mail; and e-commerce. Procter and Gamble, for example, has well over one hundred people on the ground in Bentonville, Arkansas to sell and service Wal-Mart. Large individual accounts are now separable market segments, and even profit centers supported by their own multi-functional organizations. The days of easy separation of sales and marketing are gone along with the homogeneous, simple, mid-sized account base.

At the top of the customer base pyramid where the accounts are huge, marketing and sales must make joint decisions about product, price, brand, and all kinds of support. When heavyweight distributors demand private label merchandise, both organizations need to be involved. Pricing, product customization, and service customization cannot be entrusted to either group alone. The impact on economics, the whole account base, and corporate strategy require an integrated approach.

At the small account end, the sales force competes with and is often complemented by telemarketing, direct mail, catalogues, advertising, and diverse distribution channels. Often in the past, these were the sole purview of the marketing people. Now, the marketing and sales organizations must make joint architectural policy and execution decisions. Without coordination, the decisions will be shortsighted, sub-optimal, and conflict-ridden. For example, when field sales, telesales, and customer service people all interact with the same account, the objective is flawless, efficient, timely service but the real result can be chaos, infighting, expensive duplication, and terrible service.

Industrial firms have traditionally had closer sales-marketing ties than consumer goods companies, especially consumer packaged goods companies. Even the traditional industrial goods ties are not strong enough for the current challenges. But, in consumer packaged goods the changes are proving cataclysmic. The sales force can no longer passively accept and execute plans from marketing. Account managers, product managers, and advertising managers need to work together to protect profits and enhance volume in the harsh world of customer power, intense competition, and over-capacity. Most of all, the product managers and advertising managers need to develop a new respect for and understanding of individual customers, account managers and sales managers. No longer will headquarters reign supreme. As power shifted from seller to buyer, it also shifted from headquarters to the field.

AN INTEGRATED APPROACH … TO INTEGRATION

There are many approaches to improving integration. They work best when they themselves are well integrated (big surprise!). Thus, the stress here will be on “mixing and matching” the individual elements of coordination to get a robust, efficient program.

All programs must begin with two hallmark approaches. First is a common understanding of the need for integration, and for both sales and marketing to focus on productive sharing of power, information, and resources. Neither the field force nor headquarters managers can say that pricing, for example, is their purview only. It is an issue that involves both.

AT THE TOP OF THE CUSTOMER BASE PYRAMID WHERE THE ACCOUNTS ARE HUGE, MARKETING AND SALES MUST MAKE JOINT DECISIONS ABOUT PRODUCT, PRICE, BRAND, AND ALL KINDS OF SUPPORT.— BENSON SHAPIRO

The second hallmark is a clear, unified, explicit strategy. Here such topics as custom product or service programs for large customers, and coordinated communication messages for all dealers and end users can be specified. A major underlying point of contention will be the freedom for people in the field to “customize” policies for individual customers. The limits of such customization must be set, and the processes for approvals clarified. Otherwise, there will be constant tension and infighting between headquarters and the field.

Once the common understanding and the strategy are developed, major integrative tools include organizational structure, formal management processes, information technology, the informal social network, and people.

Organizational structure is a natural beginning but most people expect too much from it. There is no “perfect” structure. Instead, there are many tradeoffs to be made. And, almost invariably, each option will have both strengths and weaknesses. The important thing is to organize to accomplish the most important strategic objectives given the current environment.

And, as the objectives and the environment change, as they inevitably will, the structure must change. One major point of contention is with organizational units whose purpose it is to coordinate field and headquarters around issues such as regional promotions. At one time, Campbell Soup had eighty-eight regional promotion managers scattered across the country with one person for each of four product lines in twenty-two regions. Such approaches are very expensive and often create a barrier rather than a conduit for good field/headquarters communication.

At other times, such field-positioned marketing people work well. Hewlett-Packard once had a large number of “market development managers” scattered in the field force to facilitate the introduction of complex new products. Subtle decisions such as the location of such boundary-spanning units, and the level and experience of the people appointed have big impact. A unit located at headquarters will have access to different information, involvement with different people, and a self-image that is quite different from the same group sprinkled throughout the field organization.

Formal management processes such as planning and budgeting approaches, compensation schemes, training programs, coordinating committees and task forces, and review procedures are very important. Some companies have found that a standing committee including both marketing and sales representatives to discuss a specific issue such as pricing and discounts goes a long way to ameliorate conflict over normally contentious topics. Of course, such approaches can also add to a bloated bureaucracy and constipated decision-making.

CLEARLY DYSFUNCTIONAL ACTIVITIES,EVEN IN FUN, SUCH AS A SALES VS. MARKETING GOLF TOURNAMENT AT THE NATIONAL SALES MEETING, ARE TO BE DISCOURAGED.— BENSON SHAPIRO

Information technology is probably the only really good news here. It enables sales and marketing to gather, catalogue, analyze, and share such information as current sales rates, customer response to new initiatives, competitive activity, and marketing communication literature including brochures, proposals, and presentations. Companies have found success and/or failure with large integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems depending upon design and implementation. And, increasingly the integrated systems can be supplemented with powerful point solutions such as those designed to manage marketing literature and disseminate it to the field.

FIGHTER PILOT VS. BUTTON DOWN

The final two items are very important, but very subtle: the informal social system and the people who populate the organization. Typically the field force is made up of more independent, free-spirited people who idealize a “fighter pilot” mentality. Headquarters marketing is more “button downed” and idealizes a more sophisticated, centralized approach. Both often “look down” on one another.

Anything that can be done to bridge the gap is very useful. Several things can be done to encourage informal social ties between marketing and sales. Rotation of people from marketing to sales and vice versa helps. So too does co-location. Of course, as the company grows large and more global, co-location becomes difficult. And, there are conflicting needs. Should, for example, the product managers be located near headquarters sales management with benefits of coordination around customer needs and information, or near the research and development people with benefit of coordination around technology and new product launch? The appropriate tradeoff will depend upon the current strategy, challenges, and opportunities as well as feasibility issues like space availability. But, clearly dysfunctional activities, even in fun, such as a sales vs. marketing golf tournament or softball game at the national sales meeting, are to be discouraged. They only contribute to the schism.

The nature of the demands on sales and marketing mean that different people are appropriate for each function. Even different sales jobs require different personality profiles. “Hunters” who can open new accounts are more ego driven and less relationship oriented than “farmers” who are outstanding at servicing and developing existing accounts. These differences limit the opportunities to develop people who are “dual-faceted” and good at both the sales functions and the marketing functions. But, some companies successfully try to hire people who have good “cross-over” skills and can team well. Some companies have also found that rewarding and promoting people who can team, and actively work across the marketing/sales boundary leads to a cadre of more balanced managers. These same companies also often explicitly punish salespeople and marketing executives who callously disregard the importance of the sister function.

Marketing and sales should not be the same because the functions they perform require important differences. But, they can be complementary and operate in such a way that customers are efficiently and effectively acquired, developed, serviced, and retained.

original source for article can be found and is credited here:  http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/3154.html

John H. Patterson and the Sales Strategy of the National Cash Register Company, 1884 to 1922

John H. Patterson’s sales management techniques built National Cash Register into the dominant force in its industry and had a major impact on the development of modern selling. This excerpt from Business History Review looks at one aspect of the Patterson method.

Editor’s Note— John H. Patterson created an intricate system of management to monitor and train company salesman. He gave them scripts to memorize and assigned them territory to cover. He held conventions and thematic sales contests, and pressured salesmen to rid their regions of competition. Patterson sought to create a method of sales management that encompassed all aspects of selling, from the calculation of quotas and commission rates to the motivation of discouraged salesmen. This excerpt looks at one aspect of the Patterson method: the N.C.R. Primer.

portrait of J.H.Patterson

J.H.Patterson

To ensure that salesmen communicated all the benefits of the register, Patterson gave them scripts to memorize. The practice of writing out sales arguments was rare, but not as new as some of Patterson’s biographers claim. 25 Booksellers and other canvassers had used scripts prior to the first N.C.R. Primer in 1887. As early as 1859, Henry B. Hyde of the Equitable Life Assurance Society published Hints for Agents, which contained persuasive arguments for company representatives to rehearse. Canvassers for the American Bible Society carried booklets with helpful scripts. 26 In 1879, Bates Harrington published How ‘Tis Done, which reprinted—and thereby according to the author “exposed”—the techniques of book canvassers, atlas salesmen, and lightning-rod peddlers. 27 While it is not clear that Patterson was familiar with any of these scripts, it is likely that his agents, many of whom had worked as salesmen in other fields, knew of them.

The first N.C.R. sales script was the creation of Patterson’s brother-in-law Joseph H. Crane. “How I Sell National Cash Registers,” which became known as the Primer, contained instructions not only on what salesmen should say, but also what they were to do while saying it. 28 In the Primer, an asterisk indicated that the salesman was supposed to point to the item that he was referring to:

I think the ordinary daily transactions with your customers may be arranged in five classes, thus

  1. You sell goods for cash.
  2. You sell goods for credit
  3. You receive cash on account
  4. You pay out cash.
  5. You change a coin or bill.

Am I right?

Now, sir, this register* makes the entries.

The indication* of the transaction shows through this glass.*

The amount* of the last recorded transaction is always visible, and the records are made by pressing the key. 29

The Primer divided a sale into four steps: approach, proposition, demonstration, and close. In the approach, the salesman made no mention of the cash register. Instead, he explained that he wanted to help the businessman find ways to increase profit—that he wanted, in effect, to act as a consultant. In the proposition, the salesman described the register for the first time and explained how it would prevent theft and give an accurate account of the day’s receipts. The goal of this stage was to schedule a demonstration of the machine in a nearby hotel where the salesman had set up a display, or, if convenient, in the local N.C.R. branch office. In the demonstration, the salesmen carefully led the customer up to the point of a purchase. When the moment seemed right, he attempted to close. This was the toughest part of the sale. The Primer offered a number of techniques, including the following:

THIS,* MR. MERCHANT, IS A NATIONAL CASH REGISTER OF THE MOST APPROVED PATTERN. TO APPRECIATE WHAT A HELP IT WOULD BE TO YOU, WE MUST SEE WHAT THINGS YOU DO IN YOUR STORE OF WHICH YOU KEEP A RECORD.

After you have made your proposition clear and feel sure that the merchant realizes the value of the register, do not ask for an order, take for granted that he will buy. Say to him “Mr. Blank, what color shall I make it?” or “How soon do you want delivery?” … Take out your order blank, fill it out, and handing him your pen say, “Just sign where I have made the cross.”

If he objects, find out why, answer his objections and again prepare him for signature…. Make the merchant feel that he is buying because of his own good judgement … find out the real reason why and your chances are that that is the very reason why he should buy…. Concentrate your whole force on one good strong point, appeal to judgement, get him to acknowledge that what you say is true, then hand the pen to him in a matter-of-fact way and keep on with what you were saying. This makes signing the logical and obvious thing to do. 30

The Primer instructed salesmen to exert pressure in a forceful yet subtle manner. The key was to prevent a prospect from feeling manipulated. “Avoid giving the impression to the merchant that you are trying to force him to buy…. No man likes to feel he is being sold.” 31 At the same time, it was important for the salesman to exude confidence and honesty. Chief among the rules of salesmanship at N.C.R. was the ability to demonstrate “sympathy [toward] … the business and interests of the P.P. [or “Probable Purchaser”] and sincerity in presenting [the] machines to the P.P ” 32 These were skills to be honed. After an agent named John T. Watson had given a demonstration at the 1895 sales convention, one audience member praised Watson’s “sincerity” and another commented, “The best thing I noticed in the demonstration was that Mr. Watson’s manner indicated that he thought he was telling the truth.” 33

Even careful use of the Primer could not, of course, guarantee a smooth sale. The process of selling remained a cat and mouse game. When A. T. Webb, the agent for Portland, Oregon, set out to sell a machine, he began, as the Primer advised, by studying the prospect and gaining his “confidence.” When confronting an objection, he acknowledged the legitimacy of the complaint, and then tried to counter.

My method of taking orders, I presume, does not vary much from that of other managers. If the party calling is a stranger, the first thing is to learn and know my man, his residence, business, etc., and get his confidence then, I settle down, and will sell him the register best adapted to his wants and business; or, if he has made up his mind that he wants one like his neighbor’s, I sell him that one, no matter, if, in my judgement, it is not entirely best suited to his business. After I have his order in black and white, I then, if I think it advisable, undertake to educate him on the different registers, and see that he gets one best adapted to his work.

High prices, of course, is one of the hard things to contend with. On this point I generally say, “to you, no doubt, the price seems high, and I don’t blame you one bit for thinking so, because you lack experience and the knowledge of what our register will do.” … Frequently, in the course of my talk, I will tell the PP. that I don’t want to sell him a register, and will not, if I think he has no use or don’t care to use the register according to our instructions. As a reason for this, I tell him that one register misplaced might possibly spoil the sale of a dozen. 34

Over the years, the Primer underwent frequent revision. Not long after it was introduced, it was supplemented by a Book of Arguments that contained a catalog of answers to frequently asked questions. In January 1894, N.C.R. produced a more formal Sales Manual that combined the two. 35 The Manual reached its maximum size in the edition of 1904, with nearly two hundred pages. After that it was condensed so as to become easier for salesmen to master. The 1910 edition was a booklet of fifty-six pages. 36 Changes to the Primer were regarded like alterations in the register—both were part of an effort to constantly improve and keep up with shifting customer needs. E. St. Elmo Lewis, an N.C.R. employee who later became head of advertising at Burroughs, called the Primer “one of the fruits of the scientific attitude towards the problem of gaining greatest efficiency in selling goods.” 37

THE RELEVANCE OF JOHN H. PATTERSON TODAY

How relevant is the story of John H. Patterson and N.C.R. to the modern sales or marketing manager? Not only is study of Patterson’s leadership style informative and interesting, but a review of his foundations of modern sales techniques reveals a long list of familiar terms and methods that illuminates current practice.

While Patterson was not necessarily the first to implement training programs or institute quotas, his comprehensive approach to sales management and his own personal brand of leadership combined to shape an enduring legacy. The story is a fascinating read full of the details of Patterson’s strategies.

Footnotes:

25. See Crowther, Patterson; Johnson and Lynch, Sales Strategy.

26. Peter J. Wosh, Spreading the Word The Bible Business in Nineteenth-Century America (Ithaca, N.Y. 1994).

27. Bates Harrington, preface to How `Tis Done A Thorough Ventilation of the Numerous Schemes Conducted by Wandering Canvassers (Chicago, 1879).

28. Crowther, Patterson, 106.

29. N.C.R. Corp., Celebrating the Future, (Dayton, 1988), 17.

30. Johnson and Lynch, Sales Strategy, 178.

31. Johnson and Lynch, Sales Strategy, 175.

32. The N.C.R., 1 Feb. 1899, 72. The term “PP.” was used throughout N.C.R.’s early history to designate “probable purchaser” and was changed by the company in 1897 to designate “possible purchaser” for the “sake of accuracy.” The N.C.R., 15 June 1897, 260.

33. See “Work of the Convention,” The N.C.R., 15 June 1895, 436.

34. The N.C.R, 1 Nov. 1891, 408-409.

35. The N.C.R., 1 Jan. 1894,10.

36. E. D. Gibbs, “How N.C.R. Gets 100 Percent Efficiency Out of its Men,” Printers’ Ink 764 (27 July 1911) 34.

37. Salesmanship The Journal of the World’s Salesmanship Congress (July 1916) 13.

Excerpted from the article “John H. Patterson and the Sales Strategy of the National Cash Register Company, 1884 to 1922” by Walter A. Friedman in the Business History Review, Winter 1998.

original source for article can be found at and is credited here:  http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/1143.html

Great salesman is a great listener

When you’re at a party, do you suddenly feel the desperate urge to escape somewhere quiet such as a toilet cubicle and just sit there? Until I read Quiet, I thought it was just me. I’d see other partygoers grow increasingly effervescent as the night wore on and wonder why I felt so compelled to go home. I put it down to perhaps there not being enough iron in my diet. But it’s not just me. It’s a trait shared by introverts the world over. We feel this way because our brains are sensitive to overstimulation. I am genuinely astonished by this news. In fact, I read much of Susan Cain’s book shaking my head in wonder and thinking: “So that’s why I’m like that! It’s because I’m an introvert! Now it’s fine for me to turn down party invitations. I never have to go to another party again!”

Cain is an introvert. It has always been, she writes, “private occasions that make me feel connected to the joys and sorrows of the world, often in the form of communication with writers and musicians I’ll never meet in person”. She’s an introvert in a world that, she argues, excessively and misguidedly respects extroverts. We make them our bosses and our political leaders. We foolishly admire their self-help books, such as How to Win Friends and Influence People. Before the industrial revolution, she writes, American self-help books extolled character. Nowadays it’s personality. We introverts attempt to emulate extroverts, and the stress of not being “true to ourselves” can make us physically and mentally ill. One introvert Cain knew spent so much of his adult life trying to adhere to the extrovert ideal he ended up catching double pneumonia. This would have been avoided if he’d spent time recharging his batteries in toilet cubicles, and so on.

At the Harvard Business School, socialising is “an extreme sport”. Extroverts are more likely to get book deals and art exhibitions than their introverted counterparts. Cain had to persuade a publisher she could conquer her stage fright and promote herself at book festivals before they agreed to take her on. In America, extroverted parents have been known to send their introverted children to psychiatrists to have their introversion “treated” out of them. We think extroverts are great because they’re charismatic and chatty and self-assured, but in fact they’re comparatively narcissistic and unthoughtful and we’re committing a grave error structuring our society around their garrulous blah.

Most egregiously, we form our workplaces around the extrovert ideal. I like her nightmare descriptions of open-plan offices where group brainstorming sessions descend on the startled introvert like flash-storms. Group-think favours the dominant extrovert. The loudest, most socially confident and quickest on their feet win the day, whereas the contemplative and quietly well-informed tend not to get a word in. School classrooms are increasingly designed to reflect this flawed environment. Children sit in pods facing each other and are rewarded for being outgoing rather than original. “You Can’t Ask a Teacher for Help Unless Everyone in Your Group Has the Same Question” read a sign in one New York classroom she visited. All this even though Gandhi and Rosa Parks and Steve Wozniak and JK Rowling and Eleanor Roosevelt have described themselves as introverts, at their best when solitary.

I finished Quiet a month ago and I can’t get it out of my head. It is in many ways an important book – so persuasive and timely and heartfelt it should inevitably effect change in schools and offices. It’s also a genius idea to write a book that tells introverts – a vast proportion of the reading public – how awesome and undervalued we are. I’m thrilled to discover that some of the personality traits I had found shameful are actually indicators that I’m amazing. It’s a Female Eunuch for anxious nerds. I’m not surprised it shot straight to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.

Cain says we’re “especially empathic”. We think in an “unusually complex fashion”. We prefer discussing “values and morality” to small talk about the weather. We “desire peace”. We’re “modest”. The introvert child is an “orchid – who wilts easily”, is prone to “depression, anxiety and shyness, but under the right conditions can grow strong and magnificent”.

When I get to this part I think: Yes! We are like orchids! With good parenting we can become “exceedingly kind, conscientious and successful at the things that matter to us”. Then I feel embarrassed that I derived pleasure from being compared to an orchid and I realise that sometimes Cain succumbs to the kind of narcissistic rhetoric she eschews in extroverts.

Still: her suggestions on how to redress the balance and make the world a bit more introvert-friendly are charmingly cautious. The way forward, she argues, is to create offices that have open-plan bits for the extroverts and nooks and crannies where the quiet people can be quiet. A bit like the Pixar offices. In this she reminds me of the similarly measured Jonathan Safran Foer, whose anti-meat lectures climax in a suggestion that we should try if possible to eat one or two vegetarian meals a week. Give me this kind of considered good sense over showy radical polemicism any day.

But sometimes her brilliant ideas aren’t written quite so brilliantly. Her book can be a bit of a slog, not always a page turner. I wish she’d spent a bit more time adventuring and a bit less time analysing and philosophising and citing vast armies of psychologists. I love feeling her pain when she journeys out of her comfort zone to “life coaching” conventions. But those adventures vanish as the book wears on, and it starts to drag a little, especially during the many chapters about how brain scans seem to demonstrate neurological differences between extroverts and introverts. I don’t know why popular psychology books feel so compelled these days to cite endless fMRI studies. As any neurologist will tell you, we still have very little idea about why certain bits of our brains light up under various circumstances.

And there’s a bigger nagging thought I couldn’t shake throughout the book. It began during the preface, in which Cain prints an “Are You an Introvert?” checklist. She lists 20 statements. The more we answer “true” the more introverted we are: “I often let calls go through to voice mail. I do my best work on my own. I don’t enjoy multitasking. I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame and status …” At the bottom of the quiz she mentions: “If you found yourself with a roughly equal number of true and false answers, then you may be an ambivert – yes, there really is such a word.”

I do the test. I answer “true” to exactly half the questions. Even though I’m in many ways a textbook introvert (my crushing need for “restorative niches” such as toilet cubicles is eerie) I’m actually an ambivert. I do the test on my wife. She answers true to exactly half the questions too. We’re both ambiverts. Then I do the test on my son. I don’t get to the end because to every question – “I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities. I enjoy solitude …” – he replies: “Sometimes. It depends.” So he’s also an ambivert.

In the Ronson household we’re 100% ambivert. We ambiverts don’t get another mention in the book. Even for a writer like Cain, who is mostly admirably unafraid of grey areas, we ambiverts are too grey. Her thesis – built on the assumption that almost everyone in the world can be squeezed into one of two boxes – may topple if it turns out that loads of us are essentially ambiverts. I suspect there are a lot of ambiverts out there.

Original post credit to The Guardian can be found at: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/mar/22/quiet-power-introverts-susan-cain-review

Door to Door Sales Today: It’s not your parent’s approach.

This old-school sales tactic can bring new vigor to your lawn care business.

CHRISTOPHER NOON | September 15, 2014

As I have managed the sales and growth of my company in the past six years, we have experimented with a variety of different types of sales approaches. Some have been more successful than others in success and they have all varied in the cost to acquire a customer. Creating a successful balance between the cost of sale and the close rate of volume are two variables that have been critical to the success of our company. After all, you need profitable sales so that you can reinvest into future profitable grow.

During the past five years, Noon Turf Care has quadrupled in size – today we have $6 million in annual revenue and recently expanded to our fourth service location in the Boston area. Our sales growth has largely come from two areas: the telephone and the internet.

From my experience, the quickest and most cost-effective method in acquiring a new customer in the lawn care industry is via the telephone. As I always say to other lawn care providers that attend my tele-sales training camp , “The internet and direct mail are the trap, but the telephone is the kill shot.” At the end of the day every prospect will need to be closed by a salesman whether it be in person or on the telephone.

In recent years it has become increasingly difficult to attain phone numbers for sales leads due to the advent of the Do Not Call Registry and the growing trend of people now using their cell phone as their primary telephone.

But I’m an eternal optimist: I look at the decline in published phone numbers as a challenge that our company has to overcome. After all, if sales were easy everyone would do it.  That is why this year we are launching a door-to-door sales campaign that will run from March to September.

At its core, door-to-door sales is essentially telemarketing in person. And since we are experts at phone sales, we have a goal to master this approach as well. When I reflect back on how my brother and I started our business one of our most successful methods of getting new business was door knocking neighborhoods of where we already had existing customers. Back then, we couldn’t even afford to buy the scrubbed marketing lists with telephone numbers we have today for all of our salesmen.  Door to door sales offered a very economical way of gaining to clients or at the very least getting the word out about our company in targeted neighborhoods.

Here’s how we’ve set up our modern door-to-door program:

1.  This winter we are recruiting, hiring and training a team of ten door to door sales professionals to canvas targeted neighborhoods of where we already have customers to further condense our lawn routes. Unlike 10 years ago when we last put efforts into to door to door marketing, today we have the capital, technology and management to make it a success.  Although door to door sales is not as efficient and cost effective as phone sales it does serve as another reliable method of acquiring new customers. Ultimately it can also increase our data base by gathering cell phone numbers from prospects as our sales professionals provide free lawn evaluations in the field. So even if they don’t make the sale we now have their phone number and email so we can market them throughout the season.

2.  Our door to door campaign will run similarly to our inside phone sales department. Starting in March we have budgeted to staff ten fulltime sales reps to work through the majority of our New England season.  Supplied with handheld tablets and registered name tag/license, the Noon Turf Care salesmen will be going door to door to neighborhoods that we already service. While in their professional uniforms they will knock doors and perform a mobile sales presentation displayed on their tablets. Additionally they will have all of the pertinent data in their tablets about the prospect.  They will also have the data of existing customers so they can use these clients as referrals and of course to avoid knocking on our existing customers’ doors.  With this technology they will be able to update information, log pricing and set up accounts real-time which will then be automatically uploaded to company server. Newly customers will be scheduled immediately by our routing department.

3.  From March thru May we will be soliciting new lawn care programs to prospects similar to our inside sales campaign. Then we will shift over to supplemental services such pest control and tree and shrub care as the slower season approaches. We find success in the slower season in sales by being creative and focusing on current needs at this time like insect issues around the home or disease issues on plants and trees.

4.  Our current manager has more than 10 years of sales experience in lawn care and more than five years of door to door sales with a large national competitor. Combining his experience and skill with our team and culture we are confident that we will have a successful launch of this new sales initiative.

5.  Currently we have budgeted and laid out goals for each sales rep to close two sales per day six days per week. They will work 6 days per week Monday to Friday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Training will be critical to the success of our campaign. Similar to our inside sales training program, it is imperative that our new sales team master the craft of door to door sales by honing this craft. Their presentation need to quick, informative and professional. You only get one chance to make a great first impression and doing so swiftly will be key so that we don’t lose the attention of the prospect. We have also created a career path for our sales team and the individuals that are successful in door to door sales will then have the opportunity to join Noon Turf Care fulltime through the winter with our inside sales department.

Just like we did 10 years ago, a friendly sales presentation orchestrated by local and professional company will at the very least create a lasting impression on the communities that we serve.

Credit for the original post goes to Lawn & Landscape and can be found at this link:
http://www.lawnandlandscape.com/ll-091514-Noon-sales-approach.aspx