Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tell Me What I Want to Hear

Lots of us listen to the radio during drive time. The commercials spew out with great regularity (unless you are a satellite radio customer). The message most of the time falls on deaf ears, or worse yet a change in channels. The commercial messaging has little effect on the listener until they need what is being advertised. This struck home for me when I had a clutch fail on me a couple of years ago on a car that was out of warranty. I was trying to determine what my options were and then I recalled a radio spot for clutch repair shop that I had heard at least 50 times, but had paid little attention to. I called the shop, received a price estimate, and then had my car towed to the shop for the arraigned repairs. I never mentioned to the manager that a big reason I had contacted and then selected his shop was because of the radio spots they ran. Maybe I am the reason the shop does not buy radio spots anymore.

What is the point? The point is that in Business-to-Consumer or Business-to-Business sales you can deliver your message as often as you want, but until conditions are such that the prospect you are talking to is really interested in buying, you are not going to be able to establish a dialog with the prospect. The entire sales process is predicated on the sales dialog. The dialog can involve mail, email, commercials, and phone calls that allow you to send messages to your potential market, and allows interested prospects to raise their hand that they are interested. That is the start; the rest of the dialog is about the prospect’s budget, needs, timing, evaluation and decision. The figurative raising of one’s hand is when the sales dialog really starts.

There is a very good article on “Dialogue Marketing”, published in November of 2005. The article touches on retail mostly and is now a couple of years old but the messaging is spot on for today dynamic sales environment. My only criticism of the article is that it addresses mostly the marketing and messaging part of the sales process, and does not address the transaction side of the acquisition process. However the article is excellent food for thought. One of the critical elements of the article I felt was the following quote I pulled from the article, “Companies that blast frequent, irrelevant messages dilute their brand equity. What customers want is great service and a consistently excellent experience across all channels.” How many of us know the above is true, even without any empirical evidence to support it. We all want to be treated with respect.

In the past when working with integrating sales and marketing groups I have always focused on building a team environment, this can be hard to accomplish in many organizations, but is important for success. Many sales organizations like to give marketing a list of what they need and then sit back for the delivery. Many marketing organizations tell sales what they are going to deliver and then take little other feedback. I call this “Tick the Boxes Go-To-Market”. What is required is a sales process that makes sense from a business process standpoint and the marketing materials and infrastructure to support that. A sales process that makes sense starts with the customer, what is needed to support their buying decision.

To acquire new customers determine what your current customer expectations were pre- and post- sale, design a process that addresses those requirements in an intelligent manner and then implement the changes to your organization with the buy-in of all concerned parties.

The Perfect Message at the Perfect Moment. Kalyanam, Kirthi; Zweben, Monte. In Harvard Business Review, Case No. R0511G. Published 11/01/2005, Harvard Business School Publishing, (6 pages).

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