In part 1 of 2 this mini-series on marketing and sales (click here to read) we covered the importance of discerning between marketing and sales operationally and what we found is that marketing is not designed to produce sales. Marketing's only job, as a business process, is to produce prospects - or said operationally, people that know your business exists.
So, if you follow our logic so far, sales is quite obviously the job of the sales department. But what exactly is the sales department and what does it do? The function of the sales department it to convert prospects into customers. Customers are people who buy from you one time.
This is a simple concept, however it is challenging for many small business owners and entrepreneurs to grasp operationally - especially when results need to be produced. As a result, sales is often seen to be hard as it is often collapsed with marketing. Let's illustrate this concept with an example. Imagine you are talking to a stranger trying to introduce yourself, and before you even got to know the person, you are already trying to make an offer - even before you even know what they want or are looking for! If you can imagine this, then what result do you think it will produce? A lot of rejection!
But, if you're someone like me, who does not like being rejected and wants to dramatically increase their chance at being successful read on.
Operationally, when you skip steps in any sales process this is called "hard-sell." It occurs when you co-mingle marketing with sales processes. When this happens, not only is it considered to be hard for the prospect, but also hard for the person trying to sell.
So how can you avoid the "hard-sell" pitfall?
The first step is really about who you are, and while this is not the focus of this article, the role sales people play when they are "hard-selling" can be pushy, desperate, manipulative and coercive. These are all survival tactics and push things onto people. For a sales process to be really effective we must learn to go beyond survival and learn to come from service as business people. Once that happens sales becomes much simpler. When that happens you will go from a person that is pushing something to someone who is creating a pull for something - and the way you will know this is that people will call you and results will be produced. The second step, to avoiding the hard-sell pitfall is to define your sales process operationally with the key steps along the way to having a customer for your business.
Defining your sales process
In simple operational terms, sales takes the valuable output of the marketing department (prospects) and converts them into another valuable output called customers (one-time buyers). But, there are a few critical steps on the way to achieving this outcome. Let us take a look at a sales process in its entirety.
Prospect > Qualification > Qualified Prospect > Offers and Irresistible Offers > Customer
First, effective sales people use a process called qualification to determine what the prospect needs and wants. This is a sorting process that allows you to qualify people based on their needs, wants, budget etc. This is normally achieved with an initial value offer. There are dozens of examples, such as free surveys, free newsletters, product samples etc. where the prospect can get something of value in exchange for some of their time, an email, or even their taste buds.
The purpose of qualification is to have qualified prospects - people that a) need and want what you have, b) can afford what you have and c) it is the right time for them to buy. As in relationships, qualification is an opportunity to find out if there is a chance you can start dating together.
The key thing to remember is that not every person will need and want what you have right now. However, through a sorting process, an effective sales person will have several qualified prospects, where each one of them may need and want something different. This may be true even when you are selling the exact same product! Now we are ready to have some real fun.
The third step is making offers. By knowing what your qualified prospects need and want you have a very high chance to make the right offer. And, if your offer is correct, then the process of converting your qualified prospects into customers (one-time buyers) will be simple. Your experience will be one of order taking. This is where most businesses stop, however.
What if your offers were irresistible?
What if people not only said "yes" to your offer, but because it was so good, it went viral?
An example of an irresistible offer is "30 minutes or it's free." This strategy was originally created by Domino's Pizza who, at the time, were selling pizza that allegedly tasted like cardboard to college students in the United States. Cheap flour, tomato sauce, a little cheese and a lot of salt - you get the picture. College students were their original niche market, and "30 minutes or it's free" was their irresistible offer. Imagine a student on a tight budget, needing some food so they can continue studying for their exam the next day. A chance at getting free food was a bonus! This offer was truly irresistible. So a student would call with the hope that Domino's would be late - even if they were late by 1 minute. And when they were late, what experience would the student have?
In a dorm at a college campus euphoria is contagious. Soon, everyone wants a share of the pie and get a free pizza. Virtually the entire marketing and sales process was driven by the irresistible offer. The process of marketing (converting strangers into prospects) was done by the students themselves. Qualification was embedded into the offer because if you were not a student you may not necessarily care about getting a pizza in over 30 minutes for free. But, if you were a student, the offer compelled you to get into action. As a side-effect, the delivery boys were also recruited from the college campuses. And it was all driven by an irresistible offer directed at a niche market of college students.
While this is a simple concept, as you can see it is very powerful and can be applied to virtually any business that has a niche market.
So, do you want your business to be irresistible?