Consider the following scenario that many marketers face. A new product is being introduced, and marketing managers launch both inbound and outbound marketing campaigns. They craft a good marketing strategy but target the wrong market.
Expectedly, the program fails, and the results are disappointing. Worse, a sizeable chunk of the marketing budget has been spent for nothing – a complete waste of company resources and time.
Creating and Nurturing Leads
Outbound campaigns such as phone calls, emails and advertising often result in hit-and-miss and random targeting, missing the greater majority of the target market altogether. Multichannel messaging in social media, blogs, and other online forums is a good marketing technique to find new leads. Likes and tweets on Facebook and Twitter, for example, are good starting points. If prospects follow you on Twitter, offer them a copy of your e-newsletter and then follow through with a good promotional deal.
A good lead generation strategy takes a targeted approach. Unlike advertising, it establishes a pipeline that can be visited and revisited until conversion is achieved. VARs must remember, however, that time is of the essence. Leads will stay forever in the pipeline if no efforts to nurture them happen.
Turning prospects into customers does not happen overnight. It is a painstaking process of educating them about the benefits of a product based on quality features. Therefore, marketers need to have ready answers to all the whys of customers, including how the benefits can give value to the product and how the product can solve their needs. Marketers must likewise be knowledgeable and conversant about their product to establish credibility and trust because, more often than not, people buy from people they know and trust. Offer irresistible deals and solid guarantees, and let them try before they buy.
Targeted lead-generation techniques come in many ways, and they can be done offline or online. Handshakes, phones, emails, and traditional promotional campaigns still work, but online presence is becoming the preferred venue because customers have increasingly turned to the Internet for their buying needs. Remember, leads are only as good as the conversions they lead to.
As a value added reseller (VAR), customer service is part of the value that you add to a customer. While it’s a cost of doing business, it can also turn into an opportunity to generate more business from your customers. Even though needing customer service can mean that your client is in a frustrating position, it also means that they have a need that wasn’t met. Focusing on that need when communicating with receptive clients can turn that contact into a sale. Here are three crucial techniques that will help make that happen:
Listen to the customer. When you’re communicating with a customer about an issue, pay attention to the cues that they give and the questions that they ask. For instance, when a customer contacts you about a problem with the sound quality of their VOIP system, your support team may work with them on QoS issues to ensure that the voice connection is getting enough bandwidth. However, this can also be an opportunity to cross-sell new telephony hardware like speakerphones or headsets– if there’s also a need for them. When your team knows what to listen for and knows what it can offer, you are more likely to be able to identify a need and offer a solution.
Delineate the value of your offering. Simply saying that you have another product isn’t enough. Your team needs to clearly define what the client will get for the additional expenditure. For instance, if a customer calls to add four lines, and you can sell them a package of 10 lines that costs the same as five lines bought a la carte, your representative can point out that the customer is positioning herself for future growth at no cost. As another example, a software upgrade isn’t an end: It’s a means to the end of a unified communications system that is easier to use and makes employees more productive.
Sell at the right time. There are times to upsell, and there are times to hold back. When a customer has a problem that needs immediate resolution or if the client is unhappy, they’re not going to be receptive to a sales message. Instead of requiring your team to use a script, empower them to use good judgment. That way, they can sell when they’re likely to succeed and help you maintain goodwill with all of your customers.
Many value-added resellers (VAR) of telecom and cloud services make the mistake of sending out B2B emails without considering the business impact. Only about 15 percent of email-marketing messages sent by firms with 10,000 to 10 million email-per-month volumes are customized to their recipient’s stage in the process of moving from prospect to repeat client. Companies that create effective email marketing messages should consider four different points before dispatching marketing messages:
Identifying problems in need of solutions. Understanding client needs allows companies to target their messages to themes that will resonate with recipients.
Providing useful information. Instead of just identifying the problem in the email, these companies go a step further and craft messages that provide real, tangible information. While making the present and future emails from that sender more likely to be read, it also establishes the sender as a knowledge leader and as a potentially valuable partner.
Leading off strong. Great messages aren’t effective if they don’t get read. As such, companies that leverage their email messages do a great deal of testing before sending out mass mailings. Small campaigns to test the effectiveness of subject lines is a good start, and some vendors also track variations in layout and appearance, days and times the messages are sent, and variations in the call-to-action paragraph for different results.
Converting the message. Getting a message read is meaningless if it doesn’t turn into concrete action. Furthermore, the company already has the customer’s email address, so there’s no need to recapture it. Whether the message has a call to action that leads the customer to convert, or a link to a set of questions that the customer can answer for a consultation or a white paper, the strategy is to get the client to respond, act, and move one step further up the sales continuum.
Given all of the positive press surrounding cloud technologies, it might seem like cloud-based communication services would sell themselves. However, like many types of sales, turning a prospect into a client still requires both a process and a good strategy. Here is a step-by-step model for successfully selling cloud communications technologies:
Translate cloud concepts to business language. Many cloud communications sales experts speak a language that is all their own. Seemingly simple terms like VOIP or unified communications can sound like gibberish, or, for a customer with a limited understanding of cloud-based communication services, those terms might all sound like different words for the same basic thing. Explaining the terminology used in the industry, showing which of its features are apropos to a given client, then converting those features to benefits so that clients can see how they will be better off with a cloud communications system are the keys to success.
Acknowledge the value of on-premise solutions. Many IT and telephony managers have a strong built-in preference for having and controlling their own systems. Approaching them with an approach that points out the shortcomings of their method while showing the clear benefits of cloud communications can create sales resistance. Success comes from acknowledging their preferences, then showing a better way. In other words, it’s not that on-premise is bad and cloud is good, it’s that on-premise is good, but cloud offers even more.
Discuss the ability to share cost responsibility. In an on-premise system, the company either pays all of the equipment cost up front or has lease payments. With a cloud-based system, much of the actual telephony equipment is owned by another company and billed for as an operating cost on a monthly basis. This spreads the cost over time and over two parties — the user and the provider.
Study the prospects. Most companies aren’t staffed with people that wake up one day thinking that they should, out of the blue, replace their phone systems. Instead, success comes from studying prospects and finding signs that they are thinking about telephony upgrades. At that point, they’re more likely to be receptive to an overture.
One traditional method of business-to-business sales is to learn a client’s needs, as he or she defines them, and then to focus on those needs throughout the sales process. The idea behind this principle is that by focusing on what the prospect says is necessary, the salesperson can minimize sales resistance and increase the chance of coming through a long and complicated sales process with a signature.
But existing needs can present two major sales challenges:
Frequently, the needs were identified with the help of a competing vendor and that vendor may be in the process of resolving them.
The needs were identified and studied, but a decision was made not to act on them. Otherwise, they’d probably already be in the process of being solved by a competitor. (See number 1.)
The opportunity for a new vendor entering the scene is to create a new set of needs. This can be done by making a prospect aware of issues that, for some reason, he or she is unable to see. Alternately, the sales person can find a solution to a seemingly unsolvable problem, or the salesperson can find a better solution to a problem that the prospect may think has already been satisfactorily handled.
This type of sales can be more confrontational and challenging, since it requires changing a prospect’s view of his or her own situation. It is also risky, since doing this is harder than simply selling a product that a prospect tells you he or she already wants to buy. However, uncovering unseen issues or creating new solutions creates opportunity for a vendor to present itself as being knowledgeable and innovative. It also opens up a new playing field that is away from any competitors. In the long run, organizations that can position themselves as innovative problem solvers can gain increased sales and customer loyalty.
In this day and age of market volatility and disruptive technology changes, value-added resellers (VARs) are all the more important to big service providers and vendors. While vendors are increasingly focusing their day-to-day core activities on developing and improving their products and services, they have less and less time for exploring new revenue growth markets, hence the need for committed marketing partners such as solid VAR relationships.
VARs know more about their customers’ businesses than do their customers.
The best VARs know every detail, every nicety, every refinement, and every angle of their customers’ businesses. They have access to reliable market research and latest market trends, but, most importantly, they come with firsthand experience through years of working, consulting, and dealing with customers. In short, they are the best intermediary between the vendor and the direct customer.
Direct buyers not only like them but trust them enough to buy from them. They have invested their time in getting to know their prospective customers and what they need in their businesses. By understanding their businesses, they come across as credible and trustworthy to decision makers of all types of businesses–whether those businesses are small, medium, or enterprise-sized. VARs constantly try to differentiate themselves from their competitors by genuinely knowing what they are talking about, and, thus, they build a reputation of not merely being sales persons but trusted advisers and consultants.
Vendor-VAR relationships are necessary partnerships in a shifting market.
In an ideal environment, vendor-VAR relationships are built around two-way feedback systems. Vendors can get valuable insights into what their target customers need and want through VARs with whom they have established solid relationships. However, while most VARs can really be depended upon, not all partnerships are perfect.
On the other hand, vendors must provide full support to their VAR partners. They must be as transparent as possible, letting their VARs know their priorities and aligning their competencies and business models with their VARs’ to make them feel that they are part of the big picture. Technical support, trainings, seminars, webinars, and providing all the resources and materials are basic necessities that vendors must provide to their VARs.
VARs are telecom agents operating their own businesses and dealing with multimillion dollar businesses. Planning jointly and establishing equitable commitment levels can help set the tone for a go-to-market strategy that can generate more leads and sales, creating a profitable proposition for both vendor and VAR.