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#Eventprofs: 6 Signs Your Sales Process Has the Flu

Recently I came across a great blog post entitled Does Your Deliverability Have the Flu?  The author was giving advice about email deliverability to association executives.  I highly recommend it for anyone (not just association managers) looking to improve their email marketing. 

Since imitation is the best form of flattery I will borrow from this article the same approach to discuss how your sales process may suffer from the flu and what to do about it.

This applies to meeting planners and suppliers alike.  Because let's not fool ourselves, whether you are representing a hotel or destination, or you are trying to market a trade show and fill your registration with attendees, you are in sales and MUST have a sales process.

So how would you know that your sales process has been hit by a flu bug?  Here are key symptoms to watch for:
  • Lethargy:  inquiries are down, the phone isn't ringing, no one is returning your calls.
  • Store Throat, Runny Nose: you try to spearhead demand with promotional eblasts and even a snail mailing.   But your emails bounce, and mail is returned; your data is dated.
  • Cough:  When you call a list of new prospects, they are standoffish and do not want to engage in a conversation.  They don’t know you, you don’t know them and cold calling makes you feel like you can’t breathe.
  • Fever: your boss's temper is flaring as significant gaps exist in the demand for your services or events; you are “behind pace” and have too many “need periods!”
  • Headaches:  your team members are leaving and those who are left behind are under a lot of stress to “make it happen.”
  • Body Aches:  because you're not making enough revenue, your boss asks you to cut back on your marketing expenses.

What are the ways you can prevent getting sick in the first place?  This is how you avoid having a sales process that is under the weather:
  • Vaccination:  Truly the best immunization I have seen against sales process sickness is to have a complete inbound marketing program.  I define inbound marketing as: 
The process of attracting prospects to your company with a well-optimized website, providing helpful resources positioning you as an authority in your field, capturing prospect’s contact information as they opt-in to access your resources, nurturing leads with timely, value-added communication, scoring leads so that your sales team focuses their time on the ripest leads, and following up with prospects in a systematic way to turn leads into business.
  • Reduce Exposure:  Colleen Francis, my sales coach, says: the best way to weather a downturn is to always be prospecting.  But isn’t that contrary to the idea of an inbound marketing program, you ask?  No, it is not.  Prospecting here means reaching out to people regularly.  Not just because your business is down, because prospects know that (“Ah NOW you want my business!).  Reach out to find out how THEIR business is doing.  Knowing your prospects’ pain points will help you create better ways to help them.
  • Sanitize thoroughly and frequently:  Don’t wait for a high number of emails to bounce or mail to be returned.  Clean your database NOW and make a commitment to maintaining it.  For advice on how to attack this problem, consult our Tips Sheet:  11 Tips to Better Manage Your Event Database.

All the prevention in the world won't make you completely immune to catching the sales process flu.  The economy will continue to have its ups and downs, sales teams will turn over, and industries will be subject to significant changes that make it difficult to generate business.  But that doesn't mean you can't do something about getting better:
  • Stay Home:  If your sales process has the flu, start with what is closest to you and build from there: focus on your current clients.  Thank them for their business.  Ask them why they stick with you and what else you can do to help them in their job.  Then ask if there is anyone else in their circle you could help; ask for referrals!
  • Rest & Drink Lots of Liquids: Resting and drinking lots of fluid is akin to making the commitment to take care of things.  It may be too late to get the flu shot, but it's not too late to look at your sales process and doing things differently from here on.  For background information on WHY sales processes are changing, please refer to: Advice for Meetings Industry Sales Reps: Understanding the NEW Sales Process.
  • See a Doctor:  There times when you really do need a professional to have a look.  In my experience, having a sales coach has provided me tremendous value because like my doctor, she keeps me (and my team) accountable to make changes and get back to healthy business levels again.  And if you need a prescription, to speed up the healing process, the Greenfield Team is happy to help as well!   

Meetings Industry Suppliers Participate in Benchmarking Survey

Greenfield Services has launched a survey to benchmark 2013 marketing and sales activity among meetings industry suppliers.

Results of this study will shed light on how the changing nature of the B2B business development process may be affecting this sector of the economy.

Hotels, convention centres, destination marketing organizations, audio-visual companies and other event services providers are invited to participate confidentially, providing information on their planned activities and budget levels as they relate to the meetings market.

Results will be shared in aggregates only, and all participants will be rewarded with a copy of the final report when it is published in mid-February.

This is a quick survey, meant to "take a pulse" or a snapshot of the industry as it operates now.  Greenfield has consistently demonstrated interest in finding out the challenges and "pain points" felt by its various client groups.  Its last Pulse Report focused on Canadian Associations and their membership marketing and engagement practices.  

The Meetings Industry Supplier Survey only takes an average of seven minutes to complete.  Responses are guaranteed to remain anonymous.

Thank you in advance for your help in spreading the word!  Click here to take the survey.

Advice for Meetings Industry Sales Reps: Understanding the NEW Sales Process

This post is by Sales Expert Colleen Francis, who has been coaching our Greenfield sales professionals for several years now.  Many of our sales approaches and "tips" we learned from Colleen!

Welcome to a New Year! One that I think demands a new understanding of how we sell, and how buyers are buying. 

In recent years, buyers in the sales process have become increasingly educated, and with that, the sales process has undergone a transformation. In order for your team to be successful in selling, it's essential to understand and adapt to the new buying and selling process, which is now driven largely by the seller. The sales team has transitioned from leading the sales process to guiding it, and understanding this change helps to provide guidance for your sales reps in their role in the process. 

The Old Sales Process 

Let's start by taking a look at what a standard sales process used to look like. In a standard selling process, the salesperson was typically in control, driving the sales process from finding the right prospect through to the close. In the old sales process, the selling organization controlled about 70% of the sales cycle, with the client participating about 30% of the time through giving the selling organization information and helping to guide the development of the solution. 

A sales rep would begin with prospecting and research. By going online, looking for information and networking, our sales team would identify our targets in a process completely driven and controlled by the sales side. We'd then build rapport with our targets through smart, well-researched conversations. 

The next step for a sales rep was always qualifying the prospect. Through a variety of questions, sales reps would determine whether the prospect was a good fit for the product or solution and, if so, would move forward with developing a solution. This qualification was done from the sales side; knowing our solution, we'd research the prospect's business and determine whether the solution would work for them. 

The sales process would close out with a presentation and the closure of the business--a 50/50 give and take between the prospect and the salesperson. 

For years, this was a standard sales process, but in today's selling market, things have changed dramatically--and as a result, sales teams must adapt in order to fit the buyers' expectations and needs. 

The New Sales Process 

The new sales process still begins with research and prospecting, but an important transformation has taken place. Today, the research and prospecting process is dominated by the prospect. They go online, research who has solutions for the problems they're facing, read case studies and talk to their colleagues. 

This shift is so dramatic that recent studies show that only 3% of all new sales transacted are resulting from an outbound sales call from a salesperson to a buyer. Instead of waiting to be contacted by a sales rep, the prospect visits your website and determines whether or not you're qualified to do business with them, not the other way around. They request information, fill out "contact us forms" and download free materials. Prospects are taking action and reaching out to us more than ever before! 

As we move through the middle of the new sales process--qualification and solution development--we also see it is largely controlled by the prospect. Why? Because they have a better understanding of what they're looking for and what's available on the market than they ever have had before. 

Instead of leading the process, it's now the job of a sales team to guide the prospect through the process. A smart sales team will simultaneously make sure the prospect is a good fit for their business, but the new sales process dictates much more give and take at this stage. 

Presentation and closing phases still require a 50/50 effort from both the prospect and the sales team, but the tenor of closing a sale now involves guiding the buying decision instead of leading it, or facilitating instead of selling. 

By understanding the shift in the sales process and the increased control of the prospect, sales teams can better leverage this new decision-making and buying process. Solution selling is dead, and agile, engaging sales teams are the way to sell in the future.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions ( Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

Start improving your results today with Engage's online Newsletter The Sales Leader and a FREE 7-day intensive sales video eCourse:

Six Tips to Help You Keep Your Database Resolutions

The University of Scranton reports that only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them.  In our experience, that’s about the percentage of meetings industry sales teams that have the time, resources and discipline to maintain their database properly.

Let’s face it: whether it’s losing weight or getting your database into shape making lasting changes is hard.

Just as health is a person’s most important attribute, your customer database is your company’s most valuable asset.  And it is a highly perishable asset.  In the data cleansing projects Greenfield has executed for meetings industry suppliers since 2003 , we have found data accuracy diminishes at a rate between 15% and 60% annually.  Acquiring new prospect data is costly, so it makes sense to put processes in place to preserve your database assets.

The following are six best practices we have compiled to help you better manage existing client data:

  1. Reduce the number of accounts your sales reps are responsible for: A LinkedIn poll we ran in 2011 found the majority of salespeople had more than 250, some even 500+ accounts under their initials in their company’s CRM.  That is way more than anyone can effectively manage.  CSO Insights reports that 100 accounts is probably the maximum number of actively managed accounts a rep can handle PER YEAR.  If you want your data to be better maintained, cut back on the number of records assigned to each person.
  2. Put the rest on auto-pilot:  So you have a team of 4 or 5 sales people.  This means you should be effectively communicating with 400-500 accounts and related contacts.  But what about the rest of your data, you ask?  Put them on auto-pilot with Marketing Automation.  Marketing automation involves connecting your CRM with a tool that has the ability to (among other things) send regular email communication (e-newsletter, special offers), to build up your database of new interested contacts from sign-up forms on your website, and even track website visits through social media posts.   There are lots of marketing automation vendors out there, many with a wide array of functions that may or may not be suited to your needs.  If you want to know more about how it works, let us know.
  3. Audit your database:  Performance improvement expert Dr. H. James Harrington said, “If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”  So give someone on your team the task to randomly call 30-40 contacts from your database.  How many are still at the organization, requiring no update?  How many have left the company and a new person is in place?  How many companies are out of business or can no longer be reached?  Use those metrics to benchmark what percentage of your data may need updating.
  4. Assign a chief data officer:  Salespeople are not very good at most admin tasks, especially updating data.  I can say this because I’m one too!  So make it ONE person’s job to enforce data hygiene.  Give the power to your sales coordinator or CRM operator to dole out rewards or punishment, and give that person a bonus/reward if they can maintain a certain level of data cleanliness.  
  5. Have a mechanism to track & flush: If your CRM/marketing automation is used to send out regular communication to prospects and you must enter the data before the prospect is fully qualified, make sure you assign a source code and date.  That way you can easily send dedicated follow-up messages (e.g. Thank you for stopping at our booth…).  This also allows you to query your CRM to assess response to any campaign, organize a follow-up call campaign and eventually delete the data if there is no response.  For Canadian marketers, with the implementation of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation in mid-2012, it is now mandatory to track this information so you can distinguish between express and implied consent in your opt-in marketing practices. (For more information, download our Anti-Spam Checklist located on our Free Resources page.  It was originally written for professional and trade associations, but the same rules apply for all marketers!)
  6. Nurture your clients: Maybe that important planner who was interested in your hotel for their annual incentive just got let go.  How would you know unless you call as soon as you find out her email bounced?  Remember to mix up the types of “touches” with email, direct mail, invitations to events, phone calls, etc. Not only will you generate leads but bounces and mail returns will tell you who is no longer there so you can update your data.  

We hope the above tips will help your hotel, CVB, convention centre or other meetings industry service stay on top of its database.  And good luck with those New Year’s resolutions!