This column this month is a continuation of the thought process from January’s “Hawks & Doves” discussion that drew a large number of comments. Hopefully, this will do the same since it is meant to be of a “Sales Tips” piece.
So, I’ll begin with a test, which even for us salesguys, should bring a quick answer: “What would you rather pay: $75/hour, $42/hour or $10?” Sounds like a simple question, and it is, but also the answer should be equally simple: "Is this a trick question because I think I'll take the door that says $10 per hour?"
Unfortunately, that's not the case in way too many sales situations, where in the very first step in the sales process, we ask our highly paid field sales hunters ($75/hour at 60 hours a week) or equally highly qualified inside sales hunters or farmers ($42/hour at the same 60 hours a week) to make cold calls and qualify various leads that have hit our website either through an out of the blue ping or a carefully crafted marketing campaign. It's like taking our star athletes and asking them to go out and mark the field or sweep up the parquet before the game.
At the top of every sales process (You do have a formal sales process, don't you?), the first step is always "Qualify". Above the sales process funnel sits all of the very hard work and money put into running marketing campaigns, but until these resulting leads are touched and qualified, they're simply lists of "UnQuals", and they typically all look and smell the same.
You can debate internally at your own company whose job it is to qualify or track down these leads, (We believe firmly that it's the job of Marketing, not Sales), but the hard fact is that someone needs to take each lead, do a bit of online research, make a decision if it fits with your targeted segmentation, and ultimately make a contact either by email or by picking up the phone. The first step in the Sales process-"Qualify"-has now taken place, and the simple question, before the experienced Hunter or Farmer salesperson takes the critical next step of "Discovery", is "Who does the job of Qualification?" We firmly do not believe that this step belongs to either a Hunter or a Farmer but to a Tracker or Scout whose only job is to qualify leads.
Back in the day, when selling was thought to be an art and based solely on relationships, we had the Hunter do this task because either they complained that they didn't have any leads whatsoever, so they had nothing to do, or for some stupid reason, we believed that by making cold calls, that process would toughen them up and make them a better hunter. In actuality, selling value, negotiating, providing testimonials and closing orders has little to do with making cold calls to qualify potential deals. In fact, it's a colossal waste of time and money and at $75 an hour which is what I want to pay for a experienced successful hunter with a market base, a 100% incentive plan, some travel and a competitive benefits package, it produces a very high cost of sale and a very ineffective sales process.
The same goes for the internal salesperson, whether they're a Hunter for new business or a Farmer for expanding already established accounts. True, Farmers are paid a bit less than field Hunters just because it's one of the laws of Sales, but their time is typically very highly productive, and our experience is that investing in a good internal salesperson or two is one of the most cost effective decisions that any sales manager can make.
So, where can you go to get Trackers or Scouts at $10 an hour? Very simply: Interns from our local colleges and universities. What you want to do is connect directly with a professor of Sales or Marketing at any of the well known institutions. If the university has a business school like BC, BU, Bentley or Babson or Northeastern, all the better. Stay away from the black hole of the university's Career Services department and go directly to the professors and ask them to see if any of their sophomore or junior students are interested in learning about sales and marketing at the grass roots level? Why sophomores or juniors? Simply because you want your intern to stay with you for more than a year. Have the professor qualify the student themselves, and, you're on your way.
At Tufts, where I'm a professor of Sales & Marketing in the entrepreneurship track, I've seen this process occur very successfully many times to the great benefit of both the student and the company. The benefit to the company is low cost and high dedication since the student is looking for solid references with which they can build their resume. The benefit to the student is that this process just may lead them to a career in sales or in marketing. My expectation is that 60% of my Tufts students will end up in some type of sales, business development or marketing job at some time in their careers, so there's no better an early stepping stone for them to take than to qualify leads since they will be able to live right at the pivotal intersection between sales and marketing.
And right now, with only three weeks into the semester is a great time to pick up the phone and track down that hungry intern. Try it. It works!
Kick around the concept in your next staff meeting and give me a call or send me an email with any comments or questions.
In the meantime, Good Selling! As one of our most highly organized CEOs, Ray Keneipp, at Current Analysis, down in lovely, snowy Virginia, always reminds his sales team every week-”We may think we’re starting the year, but we only have 47 weeks left”. Just another of those Simple Truths that we need to keep in mind