Ode to the seller – who’s doing well?

Many people, including sellers, perceive sales job as filling the market demand. They forget that sales is the major value creation engine and that it has to engage most when the orders are not so abundant.

For many years I’ve been in different types of sales / marketing, business development and sales management roles. Throughout my career I heard plenty of times people showing their basic misunderstanding about the nature of a sales job. I must admit that I get irritated when I hear a sentence that should hurt every genuine sales person, and today I heard these words in three occasions: “Oh you’re very busy, that’s great, it means that you are doing very well”.

What stands in the very heart of each sales job is its scope or mission. In theory this mission is described as “fulfilling the gap between the market demand and supply”. And people often perceive it literally as it says: individuals in sales organizations walk around fulfilling orders and helping clients get what they need (filling the demand).
The more someone’s market position inclines to monopoly the more this statement is true. In every other case it is about a fundamentally wrong interpretation of the sales role. In saturated markets with high competition, sales force has to fight competitors, customer budgets, brand perceptions and many other things such as economic downturn and all of its consequences. Sellers have to be wise, competent, hard working value creators. They have to use the best marketing and sales tactics just to keep their heads above the water. And they will be lucky enough to be successful if, above all that effort, their organization is able to produce quality products within acceptable price ranges.
That’s why I get so amazed when I hear people so easily and unconditionally connecting “a lot of work” to success, over and over again. Indeed every seller can witness the fact that in sales, such as in so many areas of life, the level of work and creativity invested is in line with their achievement. From the other side, and that’s why I detest the “so you are doing well” statement, the nature of sales implies that the hardest work has to be done when the expected level of business is bad. Sellers have to invest most of their energy, time and wisdom when their sales results are below expectations, or perhaps below levels where an organization’s existence is under threat.

So my friends, next time you see me or anyone from my team being very busy, it will just mean that we are working hard to make things happen – in the way that every sales professional should.

This work is Copyright of Alen Gojceta. You might not use it or any of its part in commercial or academic work without citing the author and this link.

The “bdp Triangle” – my Article on challenges of telesales campaigns – (English translation), Liderpress, 11/2005

Outbound telesales campaigns take part of many contemporary channel strategies. Those are often used to cover large customer base within sales models with simple transactions. There are plenty of arguments that support such approach, but there are some rules to respect as well. I have embedded these rules into the “bdp Triangle”…

Managing proactive telephone campaigns

Alen Gojceta

Today’s organizations that operate in intensively competitive environments need to adopt comprehensive customer relationship management (CRM) strategies. These strategies are striving to integrate the one to one marketing principle. It fosters approach to each person, member of a large customer base, as an individual with his or her needs, characteristics and specific behaviors. This approach, among organizations embracing CRM, has brought customer interaction channels on top of the business agenda. In addition to traditional brick and mortar offices and ever present sales representatives, modern technologies brought new interaction channels that are by their very nature, more convenient to customers and more profitable to the organization. Besides the Internet, contact centers are the most important means of interaction with large customer base.

The power of telephone marketing

Development of management disciplines within call centers and increase of their complexity had impact on widening the area of their

Pro-active calling activities are among contact center's most challenging tasks

applicability. Sharing knowledge among inexperienced agents, conversational scripts, intelligent call routing, education and quality assurance are just some of the challenges faced by management within call centers. However, pro-active calling activities have always been among their most challenging tasks. There are two different ways of such interaction: incoming (inbound) proactive activities and outgoing (outbound) calls.

An organization can proactively act upon incoming calls by anticipating needs of their customers by proposing products or services, in addition to fulfilling the original scope of the customer call. There are a number of processes, policies and technologies that support proactive proposals during incoming calls. Those will not be further discussed in this article. The following text will investigate the topic of outgoing telephone campaigns. Its multi-disciplinary and complex challenges have to balance contact center technologies with psychology, ethics, legislation, sales techniques and marketing know-how.

According to the recent data (2005) from Direct Marketing Association (DMA), in US, telephone marketing is ranked second with 47 billion dollars behind direct mail with 49.8 billion. These data are even more significant if one takes into account other studies sponsored by the same organization, which puts telephone marketing on the throne in terms of response rate with 5.78% and the rate of return on investment (ROI) with a significant 18.2%, higher than e-mail marketing with 16%. In year 2005, direct marketing will participate with as many as 10.3% in the United States’ GDP.

About 50% of today’s call centers in the United States use the functionality of outgoing telephone campaigns. About 45% of those use this functionality for telesales and telemarketing, and about 22% of them for market research.

Telephone marketing and privacy threats

By implementing call centers with outbound functionalities and campaign management capabilities, organizations gain control over a powerful tool that can bring significant business savings as well as realize substantial added value through sales and marketing campaigns. This is a bright side of the coin. Unfortunately, telephone campaigns have their dark side too. Conducting telephone campaigns which are inconsistent with consumer’s expectations, their cultural habits or the current needs around company’s offerings, can lead to a complete disaster. The consequences can range from a complete collapse of a specific campaign to many insulted and forever lost customers.

Only a doorstep is perceived as more private property than a private phone number. Knocking on the door of someone?s home by a sales representative or a call to a private phone number is the event that can create or destroy customer’s good opinion about an organization.

Business phone numbers, as well as offices, are completely differently positioned in our minds. In order to perform work, purchasing decision-makers will be happy to listen to persons who represent their providers. Business phones are used precisely for this – to support business activities. Outgoing telephone campaigns in business environments are mostly used to create sales leads, and could be characterized as a combination of market research and sales initiatives. Already in 1989, the direct marketing department in Oracle Corporation used to sell their products using combination of a call center and internally developed application for campaign management. This fact is even more interesting when taking into consideration that they where selling databases worth several hundreds thousands dollars. Many were skeptical at the time about the strategy of the department which was headed by Tom Siebel, later founder of Siebel Systems. The strategy was confirmed by almost double the sales from the previous year.

Approach to consumers by means of telephone campaigns is different in many aspects. The consumer is more sensitive to privacy issues, he is protected by law, and cultural constraints may be of critical importance, especially in multi-cultural environments.

Consumers are hunters, not prey. Although the marketing industry has been targeting customers for decades, trying to arouse need and awareness about a product or service through various forms of marketing communications, at the end the customer had the opportunity to choose among various options. Growing awareness on consumer’s rights, increased share of the educated individuals within a population and the increased customer care by organizations in deregulated and competitive markets, made the average consumer less open to the traditional marketing manipulations around attitudes and nonexistent needs. Modern consumer gradually realizes that he is the “boss.” Outgoing telephone campaigns today are more complex and challenging for marketers than ever before.

The “bdp” triangle – first rules, then calls

Proactive outbound telephone campaigns should be run when combination of conditions that border by the “bdp triangle” are fulfilled. Its corner points are marked by: benefit, debt and permission.

The "bdp Triangle" visualizes the rules to follow when triggering telesales campaigns

bENEFIT implies a reason to call that brings true value to the customer through the so-called win-win relationship. The person who just bought an apartment will be satisfied if he or she gets the call from a sales representative from a company that deals with arranging documentation for property registration. In addition to the true value for the customer, calls may be considered acceptable when referred to “public good” such as humanitarian work or survey for market or social research. It is important to keep in mind that an organization whose existence depends on selling their products or services on the market, should not afford to make “dummy” outgoing calls. Each disturbance can instantly contribute to the negative positioning of the company’s brand in customer’s mind.

dEBT in the triangle indicates situations in which the customer is indebted to the organization. An example would be delay in bill settlement. Friendly warning or a reminder will not be taken for bad. For debt collection even telephone machines are often being used. However, the preferred form of the “debt angle” is the one in which the customer “feels obliged” towards the organization because of the high level of satisfaction with the experienced products or services.

pERMISSION implies customer’s consent to be contacted. The permission may contain the desired time frame of a call, possible reason (content) and the desired (permitted) communication channel. Permission based marketing, opt-in marketing or consensual marketing are among the terms that mark the only excuse that you can use to choose the content that you will communicate to your customers, as well as the how you will do it. Permission given by a customer is a passport to overcoming all the limitations put through legislative, cultural or professional boundaries to customer relationship.

How to get a permission? Strategic imperative of modern businesses is their capability to communicate directly with customers. In such communication, customers should be able, through various means, to opt for communication channels and content. Also, a customer should be empowered to change his or her mind at any time, to change the preferred way of communication or the type of content that will be delivered.

Obviously, for successful outbound telephone campaigns several criteria should be fulfilled: calls should be triggered at times that match the timing of a need incurred, and should target periods that will not be perceived as a threat of privacy.

The recipe for a successful implementation of outbound campaigns is called Marketing Optimization (MO). MO comprises a number of technological and organizational means that enable automated creation and communication of content that is suitable for a particular consumer. Comprehensive CRM systems often support MO as its integral functionality, providing technological support for managing processes and business relevant data.

Proper implementation of outbound pro-active telephone calls successfully combines ethical and cultural norms with the legal framework and detailed customer information such as profitability, demographics, past behavior and the behavior of consumers with similar characteristics. An organization that successfully manages to juggle these challenges by orchestrating their people, processes and technology, will be gaining significant advantages through marketing of relationships and cooperation.

If you will use this text for publishing or academic pursposes, be so kind to cite the author and source: Alen Gojceta, Liderpress, 11/2005. Thank you!