SMBs Need to Pay More Attention to Sales and Marketing
As an executive of a CRM software company, I get to interact with hundreds of small to midsize businesses across many industries. Some are very successful while others are challenged by a lack of finances and experienced resources. My company’s primary focus is helping these businesses automate sales and marketing. It is a difficult challenge as we often find that many small to midsize companies do not have a formal sales structure in place, so it is hard to automate something that does not exist.
Marketing is not much different. There may be one or two people that have a title such as marketing associate or marketing director, but they often don’t have the experience or tools needed to design programs that build brand recognition and generate more new business opportunities. Typically, they are just sending e-mails to current customers using an e-mail distribution service like Constant Contact or MailChimp and that is about it. I am not making disparaging remarks here, but simply stating the facts.
I wrote a white paper several years ago comparing the accounting department of a typical small and midsize business with their sales and marketing departments and here is what I learned. The accounting department had specific structured business processes in place that they had to follow to be in compliance with the federal government. The accounting personnel had college degrees in accounting, and they were using well recognized accounting software to enable them to efficiently do their job.
When looking at the sales and marketing organization things were quite different. Many of the businesses we worked with did not have a structured sales process in place. The sales staff all came from different walks of life – from college grads to people that changed careers hoping to be successful in sales. This is quite common because unlike accounting there is no college degree in sales. Lastly, very few of them had an automated system in place to track and manage new business opportunities. So, while the accounting department had mature processes, mature people, and mature systems in place; the sales and marketing organization did not.
The above is a bit perplexing because everyone knows that without sales and marketing you have no business. So why hasn’t management taken a more aggressive approach to ensuring that they have the right processes, the right people, and the right systems in place to be successful? Well, many have, while others are just not sure how to address this critical need.
Fixing this is not that difficult. There are documented sales processes that they can follow; training companies that can teach inexperienced sales representatives how to sell; and several very good sales and marketing automation systems they can purchase. The biggest challenge we experience is getting management to pay attention to this today instead of continuing to ‘kick the can down the road.’
I have provided some recommendations for implementing a sales methodology, tools you can purchase for managing the sales cycle, and services available for building bulk e-mail marketing campaigns that build brand awareness and generate new business opportunities.
Creating Your Sales Methodology
Start with an outline of the stages that coincide with your sales process. Below is an example of a sales process with six stages. You can have as few or as many as you like, but the sole purpose here is to be able to get a snapshot of where every new business opportunity is in the sales cycle. This allows management to be proactive and outline the next action required to win the business.
Step One: The Introduction – Hello world! This is where you present your product, your service, your value proposition, and yourself to prospective new customers.
Step Two: Need Analysis – If there is interest, ask a series of follow-up questions to determine if there is a fit between the needs of the prospect and the product or service you are selling. Prospects appreciate an honest assessment here. This builds trust, and they are more likely to refer you to additional prospects.
Step Three: Qualification Stage – Does the prospect have a budget to purchase your product or service? Are the decision makers engaged? Is there a definitive time frame for a decision? You may be asked to demonstrate or provide a sample of your product. Your time is just as valuable. You do not want to proceed if the prospect is not qualified.
Step Four: Proposal or Quoting – Here you have a qualified prospect that has requested a quote or proposal for your product or service.
Step Five: Contract Review or Negotiation – If you require a contract to do business, you have sent it at this time. The contract is being reviewed by the prospect and you are waiting for it to be signed and sent back.
Step Six: Closed – This indicates the sale is completed and requires no further follow-up from your sales team. Your service or support team typically manages the account from this stage forward.
Having a sales structure in place is critical to managing new business opportunities. CRM software programs like Commence CRM let you assign key tasks at each step, to ensure every opportunity is progressing through the sales cycle. Use a spreadsheet or a whiteboard if you do not have a CRM system or cannot afford to get one.
Building successful marketing campaigns is perhaps the biggest challenge facing small to midsize businesses. The world of digital marketing is wide and complex. Marketing professionals that truly understand how to do this successfully are often hard to recruit and too expensive to hire for small to midsize firms. Generating effective marketing programs that build brand recognition and generate new business is no easy task and requires more than one individual.
The best place to start is to create content. This includes white papers or videos that position you and your company as an authority on a specific subject matter. This information then needs to be distributed on your web site and via social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and LinkedIn. There are also listing services, pay-per-click sites and more. Be prepared to do this month after month after month as it takes time and consistency to build your brand.
While managing the sales cycle can be achieved without sales automation tools, marketing cannot. You really should consider getting help from a third party that has a team of experienced marketing professionals that have the knowledge and tools to map out a plan for 6 months to a year. Many smaller businesses turn to third party bulk e-mail providers such as Constant Contact, MailChimp and SalesTiger which can take your list of customers and prospects and send bulk e-mails to them. This is just scratching the surface and while their services are inexpensive, they are effective for generating new business. All-All-in-one CRM solution providers like Commence CRM offer both the marketing tools and support services you need to build successful e-mail marketing campaigns. My best advice is to look for CRM solutions that offer design tools, and who have the staff to assist you with the creation and distribution of your campaigns, and a way to measure the success of each campaign.
To learn more or view additional tips and techniques for creating a sales methodology and executing effective e-mail marketing campaigns, visit https://commence.com/commence-crm-blog/ and https://commence.com/service/sales-enablement/
About the Author
Larry Caretsky is the CEO of Commence Corporation. He is considered an expert in the CRM industry and has written numerous articles about the proper use of CRM software to improve sales execution and customer service. He is also the author of an e-book, Practices That Pay – Leveraging Information to Achieve Industrial Selling Results.
Caretsky has been an invited guest on several podcasts discussing sales and marketing enablement and was nominated as one of the 40 Most Inspiring Leaders in Sales Lead Management.