Thursday, October 24, 2013

Getting to the Second Date

Everyone can probably agree…first dates are tough!  We’ve all felt the butterflies, and let’s face it – dread – anticipating a first date. The good news, though, is if the date goes well you usually have a pretty good feeling that a second date is likely.  Not so in the business world!  You can meet a prospective client and have a great conversation, even share some valuable ideas …and never hear from them again.  And it doesn’t mean that he/she’s just not that into you!  In business relationships, you have to proactively work to get to the second date.

This is the topic of an upcoming article we are contributing to CCH’s CPA Practice Management Forum (look for it in the December issue!).  Some highlights from the article:

  •  Being confident and charming when meeting people at networking events isn’t enough – following up is the key to the “second date.”  Follow-up emails and phone calls will help you move the sales cycle forward.
  • Sometimes you don’t get a response even when you’re proactive about following up – this is the time to mix in some more passive communications to keep your name in front of the prospect, illustrate your knowledge and expertise, and show the prospect you’re interested in building a relationship.
  •  Add value as you communicate with new prospects – tips, ideas, case studies – this is how you’ll spark their interest and solicit a response to move to the next step.
  • Keep the ball in your court by controlling the next step – schedule the next meeting, reach out with an invitation, even just ask permission to follow up in a month.  This helps ensure more “dates” in the future!
  • Schedule time for lead nurturing – enter events in your calendar to follow up with leads and when the reminders pop up, make the call or send the email.  Don’t dismiss the reminder until your action step is completed – this will keep you on track and earn you more of those elusive second dates!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Process not Project: Creating a Growth Culture

Many firms we talk struggle to determine the best business development approach.  Does it make sense to hire full-time sales people?  Can’t we expect our marketing director to make sales for us?  How will we compensate a full-time sales person?

Here are some ideas to keep in mind when embarking on the process of building a growth culture in your firm:
·         Marketing and Sales are the fundamental building blocks of a growth culture.  You need to address both of these functions in your firm to sustain consistent growth.
o   Marketing is defined as positioning your firm – telling your story to your target market and building your brand equity in the marketplace;
o   Sales is defined as getting face-to-face with clients and prospective clients to ask for their business;
o   Marketing without sales leads to expense with no/low return on investment; but sales without marketing leads to poor results and wasted time.
·         Within the basic building blocks, there are four elements of a growth culture:
o   Strategic marketing – determining target markets, focus services, goals, budgets, competitive positioning, etc.
o   Tactical marketing – implementation of marketing tactics and sales support activities
o   Sales people – determining who will see services for your firm and making sure they understand and accept the role
o   Sales management – tracking results, establishing accountability, motivating sales people, providing training, etc.

·       The characteristics of a successful marketing professional are quite different from those of an effective sales person. Most of the time, it doesn’t make sense to hire one person to handle both of these fundamental roles in your firm. You'll be frustrated. They'll be frustrated. Results will suffer. It's a lose-lose-lose situation.

·         Thinking of hiring full-time sales people? Ask yourself the following:
o   Do you have effective sales management to help the sales person succeed?
o   Do the partners agree on the role of the full-time sales person vs. the role of the partners regarding sales?
o   Do you have a defined compensation plan for the sales person approved by your partners?
o   Can you find someone with a proven sales record in the professional services (or at least business-to-business) industry?
o   Are you willing to measure results, hold the full-time sales person accountable for reaching goals, and measure your return on investment?
o   Have you made strategic marketing decisions and do you have tactical marketing resources to support full-time sales?

·         If your answer is no to these questions, your firm is likely to have a negative experience with full-time sales people.  It’s crucial to establish the growth culture elements before introducing full-time sales into your firm.

To learn more about these and the other critical elements of your firm's growth culture, contact us at 319.447.6400 today.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Seven Tips for Finding the Right Calling Partner

Telephone lead generation—calling those prospects with which you would most like to do business to schedule an introductory meeting—can be just the tactic to rev up your firm’s ROI on marketing activities. But getting partners to make the follow up calls, whether following up to a mailing or following up with e-marketing activities or recruiting to an event for your firm, can be difficult at best. Even if your firm has a full time business development professional, savvy marketers understand that those professionals’ time is often better spent face-to-face meeting with interested prospects than dialing from inside their offices.

Partnering with a firm with the right experience in telephone lead generation calls can be the perfect solution for those firms who are looking for a jump start to their growth efforts. Once you’re sold on the concept, the next step is to find the right outsourcing partner from among the hundreds of possibilities. Here are seven points to consider as you evaluate candidates:

1.       Make sure the firm has experience with business-to-business calling for professional service firms. Making phone calls to C-level executives and business owners requires a different approach than calling consumers—and a different skill level of caller. Companies that try to convince you that calling is calling may not make the best representatives of your firm.
2.      Ask how the callers are supervised and measured. Professional call centers will have systems and staff in place to make sure that certain performance levels are being met. If the firm can’t give you a specific answer for performance expectations (number of dials per hour/day, number of decision makers reached, appointment goals, etc) it could be an indication that calling is not a core service and that you should look elsewhere for a calling partner.
3.      Be leery of pay-per-lead programs. While the pay-per-lead model may sound like a good idea on its surface, when the focus of your call partner is to deliver a bounty of leads you (and your partners) could wind up wasting your time with a lot of unqualified prospects. Incentive programs and bonuses for performance are ok, and can be great motivators—but basing compensation purely on the quantity of leads is asking for trouble.
4.      Likewise, suspect any sort of guarantee of results. Like most marketing, telephone lead generation is part science, part art. The science is the process, benchmarks and measurability of the program. The art is the timing of the calls, the nuances of the prospects’ prior understanding of the topic and your firm’s brand awareness among the target market. There are so many combinations of factors affecting your results that a calling firm who guarantees your results is either not knowledgeable enough about the process or has a way to manipulate results which may not be in your best interest. Either way, if you hear a company guarantee results, you may want to direct your attention to other options.
5.      Expect deliverables beyond leads. The best telephone lead generation firms deliver more than just appointments (all though that is usually the highest priority). In addition, ask how you will receive list updates, if the callers identify longer term opportunities to be nurtured and what kind of documentation you receive for each call. Often, documented conversations with those prospects who were not interested in a meeting with your firm offer some of the best market intelligence about competitors, forces affecting the industry, buying cycles, etc. that money can buy. That information can be a goldmine for your marketing efforts.
6.       Work with a partner who has a broader understanding of marketing practices. First and foremost you must be confident that the calling firm understands telephone practices and how to generate interest in your firm. But beyond that, an understanding of how telephone lead generation fits into your firm’s overall marketing efforts can help you make good decisions about incorporating the tactic into your plan and leverage your overall investment in the calling.
7.       Demand open and honest communication. Like any good partnership, open and honest communication is imperative to the success of the relationship. The best calling firms have a plan for constant communication—before, during and after the active dialing. You should know exactly what kind of results you’re getting, understand any challenges early in the process, and have the opportunity to work with the callers to make changes if needed to improve results. If things aren’t going the way you’d planned, the calling firm should be straightforward about why and proactively offer ideas for how to deal with the results—up to and including stopping calls if needed.

Keep these seven tips in mind as you seek partners for your calling endeavor, and you’ll likely find the right fit for your firm and build a relationship to deliver positive ROI for years to come. Remember that not every effort will be a home run—or will deliver the same kind of benefit for your firm. The more you work together with a calling partner, the more you’ll learn, the smoother the process will become and the better your overall results will be over time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Make 2013 Your Year to Grow

New Year. New Goals. How will you find growth this year? There are lots of new tools out there to help you market your firm and grow your top line, but sometimes the best new tools are the old tools implemented in a different or better way.

Grow Your Client Relationships
Chances are you’ll be spending more time with clients this year. You have to pay attention to client service and retention if you want to grow successfully. And even if you don’t have annual work scheduled with clients, it’s a good time of year to check in with them.  Keeping just three things in mind during these client interactions will help you cement valuable relationships, identify ideas for cross-selling, and generate leads for new business.  Challenge yourself to implement three valuable activities every time you are going to see a client this year:

  • Have a client satisfaction conversation
  • Ask clients a few high gain questions to identify business needs 
  • Take advantage of positive feedback by asking for a referral or testimonials

Grow Your Client Base with New Business Leads
Direct marketing – communicating to your target market via snail mail or email and following up via phone– has long been one of the most effective ways to generate leads for new clients.  But as your competition gets more active and prospects are busier, it gets tougher and tougher to see strong results from direct marketing campaigns.  The best way to do that is to talk to the right targets about something highly relevant and timely, and offer to help in a way others can’t by positioning yourself as a specialist vs. a generalist.

Hint:  Smaller, more focused/targeted campaigns tend to produce higher results, fit better within tight marketing budgets, and produce a more positive return on your investment.  Follow these three rules for success:

  • Right Targets:  Who are your best clients?  To whom do you have the best story to tell?  What size companies, where are they located, in what specific industry?  There is nothing wrong with implementing a campaign to 50 – or even fewer – companies, if that’s truly the right audience for your messages.
  • Right Topic:  What is happening RIGHT NOW in your targets’ world?  Urgency adds relevancy to any topic, so think about recent and upcoming events in your marketplace to determine the best topic for your campaign.
  • Right Message:  What sets you apart from your competitors?  Not only does your message need to be relevant and timely, but you need to differentiate yourself from all the other offers your prospects receive to get their attention and earn the right to meet with them.

Fundamental ideas. Simple tools. Better results. Here’s to 2013!