For many associations, technology has become quite the crutch in their ad sales process. However, the best way to increase sales in today’s economy is to use today’s technology with the disciplines and principles of yesterday.
By Nathan Jamail
Grab your Blackberry and check your appointments. While you’re at it, see if any of your clients have posted anything worthwhile on Facebook, tweet your new prospect, check your e-mail for any new appointment requests, and then grab lunch—what a day! More and more association sales professionals are relying on technology to drive sales and increase market share; unfortunately that is the first step to mediocrity.
Getting sales professionals to find vertical markets and make outbound prospecting calls as well as setting sales appointments with prospective buyers (in person) is still the best way to increase sales—period. All of the technology in the world cannot close more deals than getting in front of the decision maker, so put away those e-mail marketing techniques, fax-ready sales pitches, and automatic voicemail calling systems. It is no more difficult today than it was 20 years ago; we just have new excuses.
The gatekeeper now is voicemail with a delete button versus a receptionist and a pink message pad. The great handwritten letter to the decision maker and the trashcan has been replaced with e-mail systems that have auto junk mail programs. Prospective advertisers have always been too busy or happy with their current product or service to meet. The principles and disciplines of getting new sales are the same today as 20 years ago; the tools and skills needed to get the appointment are new.
Make the Call
What do nice letters, great e-mails, logo gifts, catchy tag lines, and marketing campaigns all have in common? Every sales person hopes that it will be the "new thing” that gets their phones to start ringing by prospective customers, but in short they are all just a another reason for a sales person not to make a prospecting call. No matter what marketing idea or event your association uses to attract prospective customers, your sales staff still must make the follow-up call. If you are going to use a technology-based tool (e-mail campaigns, voicemail systems, etc.), use it only as a tool to help the sales staff follow up with the prospective customer—not as an excuse to wait for customers to call you.
Social Media is not a Sales Plan
Social media is powerful, and there are many experts who believe and have shown that social media can really help an association become better known or take "word-of-mouth” to another level. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are some of the great social media forums, but they alone will not increase an association’s sales. Social media is an additional and inexpensive media outlet (and highly encouraged, for most associations), but if social media is the primary source for an association to attract new advertisers or sponsors or to sell its products and services, then you are likely to fail.
Social Media should work in conjunction with a marketing and prospecting plan that is based on network marketing, cold calling, vertical marketing, and other key prospecting activities. Prospecting is still the most difficult part of any association’s sales process, but it is not complicated. Prospecting is 90 percent discipline and 10 percent skill set. Association sales professionals should take time to learn how to maximize their social media, but they should not rely on it to make their sales.
In the old days, sales professionals were taught to follow their dollar. This means that sales professionals should look for future prospects where they spend money, including friends and family—the "original” social network. Just like then, as it is now, social networking is not the only way to grow business and should not be relied upon exclusively.
If increasing sales was only about coming up with some creative way for prospects to call us, then associations would not need professional sales people and the added expense of their salaries and commissions. If you want to increase sales in today’s economy, then use the technology of today with the disciplines and principles of yesterday. It has been said a million times and it is still true: Increasing sales is simple, but not easy. People are still buying; the question is whom are they going to buy from? Make the call!
Nathan Jamail is president of the Jamail Development Group and an author, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and corporate coach.