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A salesman’s nightmare – dealing with low leads

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A Salesman’s Nightmare – Dealing with low leads is an article that describes how a salesperson can deal with a situation where he or she is faced with low leads/enquiries. This article has been published in MBA Skool in 2013

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A salesman’s nightmare – dealing with low leads

  1. 1.           A  Sales-­‐person’s   Nightmare:             Dealing  with  low   leads!            Siddharth  Ravishankar                  Sandipan  Basu        
  2. 2. A Salesman’s Nightmare - Dealing with low leads! Every salesman’s nightmare is not losing orders but not having any to lose. In today’s highly dynamic and volatile market conditions, dealing with low leads is something every salesman ought to know. Before diving into the analysis, it is imperative to understand the reasons that lead to low lead generation. These reasons could be either internal to the organization or external. External reasons could be defined as a saturated market or a freeze in customer spending and investments. Both of which are out of the reach of a sales person. To tackle these situations an organization could either increase their solution offering in the existing market to target different segments or could enter into a new market altogether with the existing line of solution offerings. It is however the internal processes that can be controlled by a sales person, so lets dive deeper into trying to analyze what a sales person can do to increase leads or for that matter deal with the situation at hand. Through my experience of B2B sales, there were several things that I did during these tough times that worked for me. Below is a list of to do things that could possibly help turn the tide in one’s favor. Maintaining a Weekly Report This is a basic activity that a salesperson should follow. Low leads or high leads, it is extremely critical to maintain a report of your activities to be able to follow up on the actionables as well as effectively track progress on a case. This becomes more important in times of low leads and hence is important for a salesperson to streamline his entire process follow-ups. A weekly report is an ideal way to do this as it helps track the cases or customers met during the week and also helps remind one of the action planned. Also, many a times it becomes difficult for a single person to remember all the pending activities and such a report minimizes the chances of losing any details or lead. Many a times, we happen to meet new customers or customers that have a new requirement. This could be recorded in a separate section where we can mention the case details, current status and the action planned on this new enquiry. It is important to maintain a separate section to keep track of the prospective leads to avoid clutter with existing or ongoing cases. One of the major headaches for a salesperson is planning their week, whom to meet, when to meet, whom do you take along for the meeting, etc. This generally takes some time to plan. According to me, every minute spent by a salesperson in the office is time wasted, as he or she should be with a client at their office. To avoid this becoming a norm on a Monday morning, it is important to derive the plan for next week on the basis of the ‘Action Planned’ column. This would help us to follow-up each and every client and not miss out on opportunities due to negligence or silly mistakes and also help save time.
  3. 3. The last section is where we need to mention the help required by seniors or other departments in the organization to help seal a case. For example, if we set up a meeting with a senior person in the client’s office, it is always nice to take along a senior person from your organization to show seriousness in the case at hand and also to build longer lasting relations. A sample template for the weekly report could be as below: Categorizing Leads Categorizing leads or prioritizing them is a very important task for a salesperson, more so when we have a fewer number of leads. Doing so helps allocate time and resources to the important leads that have a higher probability of success. This categorization can be done on the basis of success probability or in simpler words, ‘chance of sales conversion’. We can divide our leads into 3 major categories, let us call them Category A, Category B and Category C.  Category A: 75 - 90% conversion probability  Category B: 50 - 70% conversion probability  Category C: Below 50% conversion probability This categorization will help in channelizing our sales efforts in an optimal manner. A sample format is as follows: S.No. Customers,Met Case,Details,, Current,status 1 A Project*W 2 B Project*X 3 C Project*Y 4 D Project*Z S.No. New,Leads,Generated Case,Details,, Current,status 1 P Project*M 2 Q Project*N 3 R Project*O 4 S Project*L S.No. Customers,to,meet Case,Details,, Current,status 1 A Project*W 2 P Project*M 3 C Project*Y 4 R Project*O S.No. 1 2 Action,planned WEEKLY,REPORT,FROM,DD/MM/YY,to,DD/MM/YY Action,planned * Any,support,required,from,HO/,Seniors Action,planned,/Remarks PLAN,FOR,NEXT,WEEK,J,DD/MM/YY,to,DD/MM/YY
  4. 4. This categorization is not only for representative purpose. There is a reason behind doing this. While we definitely have to book the Cat A cases, we also intend to convert the Cat B cases to Cat A cases and convert the Cat C cases to Cat B cases. The eventual aim is to have a larger number of Cat A cases, which will ensure a healthy sales order booking. Converting Cat C cases to Cat B cases is often the most difficult because these are generally cases of competitor clients or first time clients. Convincing them of your solution offering and capabilities is more difficult as the value in your offering needs to be put forward, a task easier said than done. Various efforts to appease these clients may be done by offering them knowledge sharing sessions or product presentations. Typical sales presentations wherein the focus is more on the price should be avoided. This would help us to be at the top of the mind of the customer and might lead to a prospective lead in the future. Typically one must have a greater number of cases in Cat A as compared to Cat C. Increase Cold Calling Cold calls are a very essential part of a sales persons daily job. In times of slim pickings in terms of low leads the sales person is less occupied with the proposals and meeting clients and hence has more time at hand. This time should be used to cold call potential clients. After due homework about a prospective client has been done, the most common way to move ahead is – ‘cold calling’. However, at times when one is faced with low number of leads, it is important to actually visit these clients in person. Most clients do not turn away sales persons without having a word and this cold call can be used to set up a meeting or appointment with the client. The key behind cold a call is to keep your ego aside; a salesperson with an ego could prove to be his biggest downfall. As part of the many tours I have made, I have had to visit refineries in the hope of meeting clients and often have had to wait at the gates of the refinery for hours together and almost every time I have been called in at the end of the day. So cold calling does work! categorization will help in channelizing our sales efforts in an optimal manner. A sample format is as follows: S.No. Case Name Case Details Category Competitors Actionables to book the offer 1 A CAT A 2 B CAT A 3 C CAT A 4 D CAT A 5 E CAT B 6 F CAT B 7 G CAT B 8 H CAT B 9 I CAT B 10 J CAT C 11 K CAT C 12 L CAT C 13 M CAT C 14 N CAT C 15 O CAT C Thus this sheet would give us the clear picture of our prospective clients who are in category B and C. Although, it should be made sure that we definitely get the business from category A clients, genuine efforts should be made to transfer the Category C clients to Category B or A. This would help our customer to have more number of clients in Category A, which would lead to better number of leads in the future. Various efforts to appease these clients may be done by offering them knowledge sharing sessions or product presentations. Typical sales presentations wherein the focus is more on the price should be avoided. This would help us to be at the top of the mind of the customer and might lead to a prospective lead in the future.
  5. 5. Mapping Clients To enhance the effectiveness of our follow-ups, it is imperative for a sales person to map the key decision makers in an organization. These details could be captured in the following format: Low leads also result in a sales person having time at hand to do a complete analysis on the client organization. This kind of analysis in identifying the key decision makers is of critical importance once the deal is in full swing. It helps you identify whom to meet and at which stage of the sales process do you meet him or her. Once the initial meetings with the various customers are done it is important to document the case details, their respective influential decision makers, plan of action and tentative sales closure time frame. Also, after mapping the key decision makers in an organization tracking cases becomes easier. We can identify case details and the influencers along with the time frame.           3) Map Organizations’ Key People: To enhance the effectiveness of our follow-ups, it is important for us to map  the  key  people  in  the  prospective  buyers’  organization. These details could be captured in the following format: Case Name Dept Name Post Contact A Business Development Mr. X GM Mr. P Sr Mgr Mrs. L Mgr Procurement Mr. A VP Mrs. B GM Mr.C Dy GM Finance Mr.S VP Mr. K Ass. VP Ms. L GM Ms.U Sr Mgr Mr. G Mgr Engineering Mr. F Ass. VP Mrs. D GM Mrs. P Mgr Ms. R GET 4) Increasing cold callings: After due homework about a prospective client has been done, the most common way to move ahead is – ‘cold  calling’.  However,  at  times  when  the  company  is   facing with low number of leads, it is important to actually go to these consumers office, meet the procurement manager or Business Development Manager and ask for an appointment. As the appointment is fixed, it is important to do the background research and present a compelling presentation about our offerings and how we have the capability to meet your needs. 5) This is the time when, we can go back to our old customers and ask for referrals. Moreover, we should also  track  the  movement  of  employees  in  our  trusted  clients’  organization. If we can track a High level official who has previously used our product and now has moved to different organization, we shall hold a very good chance of generating a new lead from there. Thus, I believe, following the above steps will not only make our entire sales process more organized but eventually will result in higher number of leads. S.No. Case Case)Details)(to$cover$ Application$and$Project$ Description) Place)of)Action)/)Influencers)(to$ get$a$better$idea$of$the$ geography$and$key$people$ involved) 3)Months <)6)Months) >)6)Months 1 Project)A 2 Project)B 3 Project)C 4 Project)D Timeframe)(Case)to)decide)
  6. 6. About the Authors: Siddharth Ravishankar is a student of SP Jain School of Global Management majoring in Master of Business Administration, specializing in Contemporary Marketing Management. He comes with a rich background of B2B Sales serving one of India’s premier engineering companies in Larsen & Toubro Limited. Email id: sidd.ravishankar@gmail.com Sandipan Basu is a student of SP Jain School of Global Management majoring in Master of Business Administration, specializing in Contemporary Marketing Management. He has diverse experience in the field of Operations & Maintenance, E-Learning, Marketing and Sales in one of India's leading Conglomerates - Reliance ADAG. Email id: sandipan.p.basu@gmail.com        

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