T he use of telemarketing in selling records-management services is misunderstood. Telemarketing--or a better description, "teleprospecting"--is the first step in the records-management sales cycle. If performed correctly, it opens the door for a managed sales process. It is not intended to be the sale itself. This article describes the best use of teleprospecting in a formal consultative selling process.
CONSULTATIVE OR SYSTEMS SELLING USES A PROCESS TO UNDERSTAND CLIENTS' SPECIFIC NEEDS. At the heart of the process is the client-needs assessment. It differs from event selling in that it presumes the consultant (not salesperson) does not know or understand the client needs (problems and issues). Event selling is driven by the sale of an object, such as a vehicle or appliance. Event selling is usually a one-time sale in which the salesperson has the obvious solution to the client's need.
The consultative-selling method uses a multiple-step process that is activity-driven and results-oriented. The typical records-management sales cycle is about seven steps. The first step, prospecting, is one of three most important and is typically the most difficult to perform correctly. It is here the selling process can be supercharged.
Suspects vs. Prospects
In a recent sales-training session, the class was asked the difference between a "prospect" and a "suspect." A bright, young salesman said, "A prospect is an identified decision-maker in an organization that 1) has qualified an interest in need of your service; 2) is in a 60- to 90-day buying window; and 3) has money to pay for the service. A suspect is someone wanted by the law." In actuality, a suspect is any business or professional firm that has not yet been identified as a key prospect, but the salesman was still on target. It is better to have 25 predisposed prospects in an active, managed sales cycle than 10,000 suspects. In a consultative selling process, you can manage only about 25 prospects per salesman during any 60-day sales cycle with activities to provide the desirable results and signed contracts with predictability.
Teleprospecting requires diligence, perseverance, a defined target market, pre-call planning and post-call review. Telemarketing, on the other hand, requires the phone book, a telephone and the hope someone will stay on the line long enough for you to get his attention. In most cities and metropolitan areas, professional teleprospecting resources usually generate one predisposed prospect appointment (face-to-face) per hour. In a small number of cities, it may take two hours to generate one sales appointment. These statistics are from historical data collection performed by a professional teleprospecting organization.
The most productive and valuable time spent by a salesperson is in face-to-face selling with the client, moving the sales cycle through each step to a successful conclusion. Therefore, teleprospecting is something that can easily be outsourced to a well-trained and managed teleprospector familiar with the commercial records-management industry and secure document-destruction industry.
Many salespeople regard telemarketing as the most difficult and distasteful aspect of their work. In a consultative-selling process, the salesperson is still required to generate some percentage of his appointments. The money spent on teleprospecting is usually very well spent if managed through a process and measured to your standards of expectations.
A woman recently told me the teleprospecting service she hired was not working well for her. I asked what the problem might be. She said she had been on dozens of sales appointments set up by the teleprospectors but with no resulting sales. When I asked about her selling process, she was puzzled. It turns out she had no method for leading a client from the prospect stage through the sales cycle. She had no selling strategy, nor did she ask for an understanding of the prospects' business needs as they relate to business records. This is all too often the case. Consultative selling requires a process that is quantifiable and predictable.
Measurable, Predictable Results
Selling is the most measurable of all business activities. Setting expectations that are predictable is not quite as simple. I learned in Management 101 that nothing can be managed that cannot be measured. The key role of an owner or manager is to manage the salesperson and the selling process. In the more complex consultative selling processes, you must employ a tool to assist you. The most common of these tools are GoldMine and ACT. These two products are more than just contact managers, they are sales-process templates. Both are inexpensive and widely available.
The use of any software product requires some training and set-up. Setting up your sales cycle in these products can be a chore and may take some professional assistance. I prefer ACT because it has a network of certified programmers throughout the world. Additionally, PRISM International, the commercial records-management trade association, has begun a study of available sales tools and predesigned templates for them. A study will be available and discussed in a panel presentation at the PRISM event in Tampa, Fla., in December.
Teleprospecting can be one of the most effective of all the arrows in the salesperson's quiver, but it should never be considered a replacement for direct sales calls using a structured consultative selling process. Earlier, I mentioned it is preferable to see about 25 predisposed clients in the sales cycle at all times. Some of these jump out of the sales cycle and must be replaced with a maintenance process to assure consistent levels. Experience shows you can move about half way through the cycle to a close when managed through a process. The 60-day sales cycle is actually 60 work days or about three calendar months. The goal is to close four to five new business contracts per month with predictability.
To get these results, you must have three things in place: a full-time salesperson, a defined method or formal selling process, and sales management with defined expectations and an inspection process complete with measurement tools. There has never been a better time for selling records management, but it requires diligence and focus.
Regular columnist Cary McGovern, CRM, is the principal of FileMan Records Management, which offers full-service records-management assistance for commercial records-storage startups, marketing assistance, and sales training in commercial records-management operations. For assistance in feasibility determination, operational implementation or marketing support, call 877.FILEMAN; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.fileman.com.