All Marketing Research firms struggle with sales. It doesnt matter if youre large or small, consumer research-focused or business-to-business, domestic or multi-national. All marketing research firms struggle with sales, and the delicate balance of managing their existing clients while attempting to bring on new ones. Much has been discussed and written about this situation, and many hypotheses have been put forth. We have been told that Market Researchers are introverts. That clients always come first for Market Research firms using the seller-doer model, leaving little time for sales. Or that its just too difficult to get your foot in the door in a new client company because end-clients are risk averse, and afraid to change their current suppliers. It doesnt really matter why sales are difficult in the Market Research industry, because we still need to regularly bring in new clients to keep our firms safe and strong. The keys to generating more sales leads – and ultimately selling more Market Research services – are simple…not easy, but simple: -Figure out what youre good at (and what you enjoy), -Get a good list of companies to target, -Identify the right people in those companies who are likely to be interested in your services, -Get their attention in a polite, professional way, -Make a good impression and introductory presentation, and -Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. We wrote this e-book as a reference for you to identify the weaknesses in your sales process and to offer some fresh ideas, tips, best practices, and solutions to help you improve. We recognize as well that you might require some assistance in some of these areas -- and if so, the Bridgemark Solutions team is here to help. Thank you for downloading Bridgemark Solutions e-book on Generating More Sales Leads and Winning More Projects, and I hope you find it beneficial. If you come across an idea that turns out to be particularly helpful, have any that I may have not included, or have some questions that I could address in another chapter or e-book, Id love to hear from you! Good selling…and heres to professional persistence. Larry Brown President Bridgemark Solutions Introduction
CHAPTER ONE Who Are You? 4 Steps to Focus Your Sales Efforts
I get calls every week asking me for a 30 minute introduction session; unless you can tell me what you have that differentiates you from everyone else, I will not make the time to meet with you. - Bridgemark Solutions/Crux Research 2013 Market Research Industry Study Our industry is full of awesome marketing researchers, but when it comes to marketing our own companies and services, many of us are very much in the dark. How many market research firms have you ever heard describe themselves as full-service? What does that mean, anyway? We often forget one of the most fundamental truths about marketing: its about the customer! If the customer wants a full-service marketing research firm, thats great. But I would bet that no marketing research customer ever walked into his or her office saying, By golly, I need a full-service marketing research firm! Further, I would bet that it would be difficult to find a definition of full-service that our customers would even agree on. So the first thing we have to do is figure out what customers want from us. Differentiation is a marketing fundamental that market researchers often overlook. Granted, differentiation can be extremely difficult in the market research industry where many of the products and services that we offer are identical or very similar. Many companies offer qualitative research, in all of its many permutations. Most research firms offer several varieties of quantitative research. We all analyze data, develop reports, and make presentations and recommendations. Nonetheless, you have to find a way to stand out from the crowd. You have to give customers a reason to pick up the phone and call you, rather than your competitor.
So even if we arent truly differentiated from our competitors, we still have to carve out a distinction that we can talk about. It has to be broad enough that there are sufficient target customers for us to pursue, but not so broad that every other research firm can claim it. To get started, here are some possible ways to differentiate your marketing research firm: Make a list of all of the clients youve worked with in the past two years. Highlight those that youve worked with multiple times. Next, add in some additional information about your clients. What is their industry/micro-industry? Are they B2B or B2C? Is there a particular technique or skill they come to you for? What is their geography – local, regional, national, global? What kinds of business problems are you helping them with (e.g., customer satisfaction, innovation, brand positioning, new products)? Then take a step back and see the patterns that emerge. What are most of your clients getting from you? Or put another way, what benefit are you delivering to them? Where do you have the most experience? What are you really good at? This could be a successful distinction around which you can build your brand – and then, your sales plan. Another way to think about this that should not be overlooked is to figure out what you love researching. What are you truly interested in, personally and professionally? Are there certain product that you really enjoy, or social causes that you feel strongly about? Anything that ignites your passion can also become a distinction and a way to connect effectively with new clients. Anything that ignites your passion can also become a distinction and a way to connect effectively with new clients.
And remember – its a distinction. You should try to pick one - and only one - for each audience you are targeting and commit to it. If your messaging communicates that youre good at everything, your target audience wont know what they should call you for. Having a distinction isnt limiting, its liberating. Once you have your distinction, review your marketing materials, digital assets, and even your electronic signature to ensure that you are committing to -- and optimized for -- that distinction. While its nice to have a supplier who can do it all and has lots of experience in a variety of areas, what were really looking for are experts…people that can do it better than we can. I find it hard to believe anyone claims to be an expert in everything. So when new suppliers approach me, I wish that they would just be upfront about what it is they do best – and lets get down to solving problems. Bridgemark Solutions/Crux Research 2013 Market Research Industry Study
The Make-It Or Break-It List 3 Characteristics of a Good Prospect Company List CHAPTER TWO
Now that youve decided how youre going to stand out from your competitors, you need to determine your best company-level prospects. Which companies are going to be most interested in your experience, expertise, and what you have to say? Which companies do you think you can help the most? What companies are you especially interested in and excited to work with…and sell to? Now that youve defined the list you need, you need to get the list you need. Easier said than done. Actually coming up with that list is hard work. Lets start by defining what makes a list great. 1. Accurate and Timely. Your list should consist of accurate and current information for each of your target companies. Things change – your list needs to change as well. Keeping your list up-to-date with key facts and information about your prospects will make your list work hard for you. You need to pull companies off who you later determine are not good sales prospects, and add in new companies that you may have initially excluded. You also must be diligent at keeping your prospect list separate from your client list, so that errors arent made and someone erroneously calls a client, thinking they are a prospect. You need to demonstrate that your whole organization is buttoned-up, and on the same page.
2. Size. How many prospect companies do you need? It depends on you and the resources that you plan on bringing to bear in your sales effort. One approach is to think about your hit rates and work backwards: How many proposals does it take to generate a sale? How many sales presentations does it take to generate a proposal? How many people do you have to contact to generate a sales lead/ capabilities presentation? What sort of sales resources do you have? In our experience, anywhere from companies is generally in the ballpark. You dont want too many that its overwhelming, but you also dont want to have to go through the process again for awhile. Ranked or Tiered. Consider ranking the companies on your list in terms of desirability, from 1 to 5, A-F, or whatever works for you, so you have a starting point. Some prospects will always be ahead of others in terms of desirability…so why not start there? With that said, if youre just setting up your outreach effort, or testing a new service, it can be best to test the waters with lower-tiered companies to make sure you have everything tightened up. You only get one chance to…, well, you know. 3. You only get one chance…
Here are some how to steps for building your list of companies: Start with your current company prospect list. Are the companies on your list still the ones you want to work with? If not, take them off or give them a lower rating. Whenever possible, consider starting with a clean database. It can be incredibly frustrating and time-consuming to clean someone elses list…and oftentimes its best to just start from scratch. To build your list of companies, consider using free market research industry publications like Quirk's Marketing Research Review (www.quirks.com); buyers guides such as Greenbook (www.Greenbook.org); research conference attendee lists (including CASRO, PMRG, ARF, etc.); paid resources such as Hoovers (www.Hoovers.com), Data.com, or ZoomInfo (www.ZoomInfo.com); and general internet searches.www.quirks.comwww.Greenbook.orgwww.Hoovers.comwww.ZoomInfo.com Whether you have a dedicated outbound sales force, depend on e- marketing, or are just doing it yourself, the quality of your company target list is paramount to your sales success. If you have any questions, need a fresh perspective, or just want someone else to do the work, the team at Bridgemark Solutions can help.
Contact Identification The Importance of Accurate Contact Information CHAPTER THREE
Its not really a secret. Everyone hates cold calling, no matter which side of the phone you are on. An, according to our data, once you get to the sales presentation, no one likes those very much either. Lets look at the numbers (from the 2013 Crux Research/Bridgemark Solutions Marketing Research Industry Study). Only 28% of the market research firms surveyed have a dedicated sales staff. When you look at all market research firms, they are making 3.3 sales presentations per month on average. Only 40% of market research firms rate these presentations as very or somewhat effective. And, not surprisingly, the Crux/Bridgemark study showed that 72% of market research suppliers do not enjoy sales presentations, and 60% consider them not very effective or only somewhat effective. On the client side, the average market research prospect takes 2.8 calls per month (and on average one of those is from a supplier they already use, usually about expanding their existing relationship). Market research buyers dont seem to think that these sales calls are very effective - only 4% rate them very or somewhat effective! In an open-end question asking how sales cold calls could be better, here are some typical client responses: Dont call. Dont cold call. Dont call so often. In an open-end question asking how sales cold calls could be better, here are some typical client responses: Dont call. Dont cold call. Dont call so often.
So is it any wonder no one likes cold calling to generate sales presentations? In my experience, especially in market research shops with a seller-doer model, market researchers will do just about anything to avoid cold calling. For staff responsible for both sales and client work, client work trumps sales every time. So its no wonder 60% of market research suppliers polled describe their sales efforts as inconsistent. Nonetheless, every market research firm needs sales prospects – real people in target companies – in order to reach out and introduce their services. But when you consider the costs of getting an accurate prospects name, title, , phone number, location, etc. – including the professional time spent looking for the prospect, employee frustration, and time wasted due to a lack of accuracy – its natural to question whether it makes financial sense to have your staff look for their own sales prospects. So here are some tips to help you get more out of your time spent reaching out to new potential clients: 1. Verification services – which can quickly check the s in your list to make sure they are still valid – are a fast, effective, inexpensive way to weed out prospects in your database whose information is no longer valid. 60% of market research suppliers polled describe their sales efforts as inconsistent.
2.There are a seemingly endless number of list brokers who say they can deliver a good list (as defined in the last chapter.) But, to-date, we have not found a broker able to deliver even reasonably good sales contacts in the market research industry. When considering a contact broker, here are a few critical questions to ask… Have you worked in and understand the research industry? Do you offer a guarantee on the bad contacts that will inevitably be included in the list provided? Will you provide only net-new contacts, avoiding the ones I already have? You probably have at least some contacts already, so the ones you are buying should be incremental to your existing contacts…right? Why should you pay for contacts you already have? Most list brokers are not interested in developing customized lists, based on your specific needs. They make their money on volume, selling a given list over many times to generate revenue. So, they want to sell you the contacts they already have…not necessarily the contacts you need. Wouldnt it be interesting to know how many other companies (including your direct competitors) those same contacts have already been sold to?
3.One of Bridgemark Solutions most popular services is providing highly-targeted sales contacts to sales and research staff in market research firms looking to develop new business. You determine which companies you are interested in selling to, and Bridgemark can deliver accurate and timely information on those companies and contacts, including names, titles, addresses, phone numbers and addresses of your target prospects within those companies. By providing a list of the contacts you already have (and that Bridgemark Solutions will avoid), a fresh list of new names is ensured. Using a variety of sources like Hoovers, LinkedIn, Zoom Info, Data.com, TheList.com, etc., Bridgemark can take a lot of the drudgery out of the contact identification process by delivering hand-developed prospects for you or your sales team. Now, having contact identification done for you certainly isnt going to make any one like cold calling, but at least when they do get around to making those calls, they will be calling the right people. Reducing the time wasted with calling contacts no longer employed in your target companies can save you real money and significantly increase the likelihood of success.
CHAPTER FOUR The Introduction Tips to Getting Read
How many s do you receive each day? And how many of those do you delete without reading more than a few words, the subject line, or anything at all? What it is that gets you to read the few you do actually read? Lets face it. Sales is a volume game: youre going to have to spend some time fishing before you catch a fish. But if youve got an empty hook, youre very unlikely to catch anything. Here are nine tips to sending s that actually get read: 1.Use a reference whenever possible. Did someone internally refer you to them? Thats optimal, but not common. Have you previously done work for their company, or even their industry? This creates immediate credibility and significantly increases your chances of getting a response. 2.Personalization. Personalizing both the subject line and the greeting maximizes the prospects likelihood of recognizing that you are a person, not a machine, and are sending this to them directly. If you are sending s en masse, personalizing the wherever you can is critical – as long as its done in a natural, conversational way. 3.Keep it short. Thats all. KEEP CALM AND GET READ KEEP CALM AND GET READ
4.Keep it simple. Try to avoid any confusing jargon, acronyms, or too many internal abbreviations. You want to convey your firms services in a way that the prospect will easily understand, while giving them the sense that you are prepared and knowledgeable. And keep in mind that, while this may have been initially intended for one specific audience (i.e. researchers, marketers, brand managers), different companies manage their research in different divisions and under different umbrellas, and you never know who might actually end up receiving your . Dont make it difficult to understand you or what you can do for them! 5.Whats In it for Them? This is your guiding principle. They dont want to hear about you; they want to hear what you can do for them. How are you going to help them answer their difficult business questions? How will using your firm make them look good among their managers or peers? How can you make their work easier? Thats what you need to convey. 6.Personality. A little, but not too much. You want to remain professional and credible, as well as knowledgeable and nice. Your introductory is an opportunity to show them how well you can write (perhaps related to how smart you are?), how easy it is to understand what youre trying to convey (perhaps related to how clear your reports will be?), and all the while being polite and pleasant (perhaps related to how enjoyable it will be to work with you?). This is definitely more of an art than a science, but anyone can do it. Bonus Tip: Did the prospect respond and say they werent the right person? Always thank them and kindly ask them to redirect you to the correct person if they can. Bonus Tip: Did the prospect respond and say they werent the right person? Always thank them and kindly ask them to redirect you to the correct person if they can. Double Bonus Tip: Have some fun! When youre doing your lead generation work and come across a funny name, title, etc., keep a whiteboard in the office (or a shared document) and share it with the rest of the team. A little humor makes a tough assignment a lot more fun. Double Bonus Tip: Have some fun! When youre doing your lead generation work and come across a funny name, title, etc., keep a whiteboard in the office (or a shared document) and share it with the rest of the team. A little humor makes a tough assignment a lot more fun.
7.Avoid attachments. Most companies wont let s with large attachments through, and the ones that get through will have scary-looking warnings all around them. Hyperlinks are good, but not more than two or three, including any in your e-signature. 8.Avoid attention-makers. Italics, boldface, and exclamation points – all of these can get your stuck in the junk filter. Be careful about getting too cute with subject lines…a little intrigue is OK and can pique curiosity, but they are closely scanned for certain keywords that are likely to indicate a non-work related . And be careful with e- signatures; they account for a surprisingly large amount of undeliverable s, probably because so many of them include pictures, hyperlinks, bolding, underlining, and italics…all the things you should be avoiding in the body of your note. Should you start with the most senior contact and then work your way down? Or will you have more success if you start with the junior folks and work your way up? There is no hard-and-fast rule about this. Sometimes, the senior person will forward your to a more junior person, asking them to contact you and screen you. This is good, because the junior person is less likely to ignore the request from their boss. Other times, the senior person is less likely to respond, and you are better off starting with the junior person and working your way up the seniority chain. It really depends on the company, the size of the research organization, and the individual, so do both until you start to see some trends emerge.
9.Professional Persistence. Getting s read is also largely a matter of timing and persistence. If your prospect is slammed, he or she may just delete your because theres too much work to do. Or it may seem somewhat interesting, but shipped off to an unread mail folder, waiting for that elusive day when there might be time to read it. So to increase the chance that your will be read, follow-up…and be professionally persistent. Bridgemark Solutions recommends sending a follow-up message about four or five business days after the initial , by forwarding the initial and appending it with a new, short message reinforcing the points in your original note. After that, follow up on a similar schedule for a total of three or four weeks. Dont create a new every time…forward the ones youve already sent so that a.) the prospect knows youre a real person, not a blast machine, and b.) our conclusion is that junk mail filters tend to allow more s through that are forwarded, as opposed to new. Plan for Success While the is important, it must be supported by a consistent process, or it will just be a random activity. Set aside a time for lead generation, and stick to it. In addition to being consistent, the process must be repeatable, or it will not be efficient. Create a set of s that work for different services and under different conditions, and customize them for each prospect. Use a CRM tool (like to keep you and others honest in following the lead generation schedule. Keep track of, publicize, and reward your teams lead generation metrics ( s sent, follow-ups made, leads generated, etc.), so that you have accountability to yourself, as well as others in your company who are involved in these tough-but-critical business development activities.
CHAPTER FIVE The Sales Presentation 5 Ways to Make It Pay Off
It worked! Your list making, contact identification, and outbound prospecting have paid off. The prospect wants to learn more about your services. Like a first date, this is a chance for both you and your prospect to get to know a little more about each other. Unlike your prospect, though, you have the responsibility for making a great impression and leaving the door open for building a relationship. Here are five ways to make your sales presentation outstanding: Be prepared! If you want to make the most of the relatively short time that you will be given for your sales presentation, then you need to be prepared. And that preparation takes three forms: First do your homework and gather all the information you can about your prospect and their company. Look them up on LinkedIn, review their website, and check your internal records to see if any work has been done with their company (or a competitors) in the past. Second, check your tech. Make sure that the technology you are using in your sales presentation is working properly – and make sure its still working about 10 minutes before the sales presentation, so you can avoid any last-minute tech emergencies. 1. Finally, your presentation. This is the time to focus on what you bring to the table, including the distinction you established back in Chapter 1. This is what got you in the door, and this is what the prospect is interested in. So focus on your distinction and how you stand out from the crowd.
The Sandwich Technique, applied to sales presentations. The goal is to get as much information about what the prospect is looking for as possible. The more information you have about them and their needs, the better you can tailor the discussion to their role and interests, and how you can help them. So, after you have secured the presentation, try asking for more information in order to have a more efficient and productive discussion. Often, prospects will not give you this additional direction or will say they want a general capabilities presentation…probably because they just dont know much about you yet, and you havent established much trust. So, the first five minutes of your presentation should be used to establish credibility and rapport. Briefly talk about your industry experience, interests, and any former employers or colleagues you might have in common (from the prep work you did on LinkedIn before the call). Then, ask the prospect about their role in the company, issues they are dealing with, the types of research projects they most often get involved with, what they think they envision needing in the future, etc. Consider asking the prospect what they saw in your s that struck them as particularly interesting. Any information you get at this point is critical to helping you tailor the rest of the presentation to the prospects specific situation. 2.
Have a modular presentation. Creating a modular presentation lets you customize your sales presentation in advance – or on the fly for those situations where youre not sure what interests the prospect. For example, if your distinction is customer satisfaction tracking research, you might include modules on customer satisfaction tracking, loyalty research, lost customer or win-back research, employee satisfaction research, etc. Keep each section relatively short so you can skip through the irrelevant sections, but be prepared to expand on each slide that seems to meet your prospects needs. 3. Have a POV. Have a point-of-view. Be prepared to take a stand on critical issues in your specialty and to defend them appropriately. You dont always have to agree with the prospect; great market researchers will be willing to entertain alternative approaches to accomplishing their goals, especially if they offer a benefit over what they are currently doing. Your opposing/different viewpoint will often be considered a positive – a way for a company to look at things from a different perspective, hopefully to ultimately help them derive better insights and make better decisions. 4.
Be professional. Remember to follow the basic rules of personal and professional etiquette: be on time (or better yet, a couple minutes early) and respect time limits. Be sure to listen! If you feel you are talking too much, you probably are; stop and check in with the others on the call or in the meeting. Ask them how your presentation is resonating with them, if what youre discussing is relevant, and if they have any questions so you dont veer too far off track. Think of the sales presentation like a date; to learn more about the other person you need to get them to talk to you…and when youre talking, try to keep it interesting! 5. At the end of the presentation, which was hopefully more of a discussion than a speech, before the call ends, you want to establish some next steps. Was there something you agreed to follow-up on during the call? Remind the prospect that you will be doing that. Ask the client for their reaction to what they heard. Would they be comfortable inviting your firm to submit a proposal for their next research project? Is there anything preventing them from working with you? The purpose of the sales call is to open the door – so make sure you leave it open. Bonus Tip: Reach out to the prospect via LinkedIn after the call; if they accept your connection, youre probably in good standing – if they dont, well, at least you know where you stand!
CHAPTER SIX Being Professionally Persistent 5 Tips for Keeping In Touch
The sales presentation went great, you think…so now what? As with a first date, heres where the hard work of relationship building kicks in. Once in a while, the sales call will result in an immediate or very short-term opportunity, perhaps to deliver a proposal. Thats terrific, but its much more common that you will need to reach out to that prospect again before they will invite you to bid on an upcoming project. In fact, the average sales cycle in business has increased 22% in the past five years, due to the greater number of decision makers that are now involved in the process, according to SiriusDecisions. But how do you follow-up without feeling like a pest? Here are six tips for being professionally persistent: First things first. Immediately after the call, send a thank you and fulfill any promises you committed to during the call. What is immediate? Within 24 hours – not much later. Any longer and the prospect may feel as if they werent very important. And even if you didnt promise a specific follow-up, send the prospect something – a white paper, case study, an article, the sales presentation modified to focus on the relevant parts – or even just a mutual friends contact info to reinforce the sales call and get your contact information in their files. 1.
Deliver value. During that sales call, make notes about the prospect, their company, industry and competition. Write down their challenges, the types of research they do, and anything else that might let you help them in the future. So when you do re-contact them, you can deliver information that is relevant to them. Maybe you read an article about their industry – send the link. Perhaps you learned about a relevant new technique for data analysis – send them an . As long as you are being helpful and the information is relevant, you wont be perceived as a pest. 2. Timing is everything. In the Crux/Bridgemark research study, respondents on the client side were asked how market research companies should stay in touch. Without fail, is preferred over telephone calls, and the timing suggested is about once per quarter. 3. Lead nurturing automation. Sending your companys newsletters, blogs, LinkedIn updates, informational articles, etc. – anything to stay relevant and top-of- mind – is critical to sales success. But doing this individually to a large volume of contacts is time consuming. Lead nurturing automation can provide a more efficient, consistent and measurable approach to this task. 4.
The Personal Touch. Whenever possible, learn more about your prospect as an individual. What are their career aspirations? Do they have any hobbies or interests? Are they traveling anywhere? Any time you can step outside the purely business mentality without compromising your professionalism, you can build on your relationship. Especially if you use lead nurturing automation, balancing automated contact with the personal touch can maintain the optimal balance of high touch and low cost % of marketing leads never turn into sales due to lack of follow-up/nurturing. When you think about all of the resources you put into your sales effort to get to this point, that much waste is certainly not something that research firms of any size can afford. So its critical that firms learn to excel at follow-up if they want to generate more sales. Youre so close…dont quit yet!