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!