May 10, 2005
Secrets to Closing the Sale
By Barbara Bix and
There are many reasons for not closing a sale. In today's climate of information
and work overload, an increasingly common reason is that prospects don't think
of you when they are ready to buy. A critical challenge faced by any company
marketing in this environment is how to elevate its message above the clutter
and be top-of-mind when customer needs arise.
because it is almost impossible to predict when customer
needs will arise, and because your company's
salespeople can't be everywhere all of the time, this
may seem like an insurmountable challenge. The situation
is often complicated by the frequently tenuous relationship
between Marketing and Sales—specifically, Sales
not fully understanding or respecting what Marketing
does to help Sales.
The key to overcoming this situation is to develop
a system that helps meet all of these challenges. The
system should consist of strategically timed and appropriately
tailored communications campaigns for each of your
goals of the campaigns should be to deliver consistent
communications at regular intervals; elevate your
above other information that prospects are receiving;
and motivate recipients to "raise their hands" when
they are ready to purchase. The direct result would
be increased sales—and increased respect for
structured communication plans, often referred to
as drip campaigns,
require careful consideration
of each prospect's unique situation. Here are six areas
that you must address to develop an effective campaign
and ultimately "be there" when your prospect
is ready to buy.
1. Clarify whom you need to reach
The first decision point in your drip campaign is
to identify whom at the target company you must reach.
Typically, only one person has the final say in approving
purchases, but the evaluation process often involves
multiple decision makers.
Resources who may be called on include direct reports,
technical advisers, financial department employees,
procurement department employees and even industry
pundits. Since anyone who influences the decision can
delay or even prevent the sale, it is critical that
your message reach all the appropriate parties.
2. Understand their concerns
addition to identifying the client stakeholders who
the decision-making process, you must
also determine each individual's role and unique concerns.
Not surprisingly, we have found that one of the best
ways to learn more about what is important to buyers
when evaluating purchases is to ask them. Buyers often
value features or benefits that the seller might take
for granted—not the ones that seller is featuring
as new and exciting.
In addition, the various influencers in the purchasing
process may have different concerns, so you will need
to customize your messages to address each individual's
needs. For example, an email sent to technical advisors
might direct them to an IT whitepaper, whereas a communication
sent to CFOs may point them toward an industry analyst's
3. Figure out where your prospect gets his or her
Knowing which sources of information your prospects
and their key decision influencers rely on will help
direct your messaging. For example, how did your prospects
find out about some of the other products or services
that they purchased recently? To what trade associations
do they belong? What trade publications do they read
regularly? Answers to such questions will help you
decide which communication forums are best.
Surveying your prospects and previous clients can
also guide campaign planning. People tend to be poor
analysts; that is, they are often not accurate in forecasting
their own future behavior. However, they are great
reporters of actions that they have taken in the past.
Asking clients and prospects to respond to a short
survey on previous buying behavior can be enormously
4. Use the correct message frequency and volume
Once you have confirmed that you are selling to the
right individuals and using the most appropriate methods
to communicate with them, you should contact them at
regular intervals. The more often you interact with
your prospect and the more relevant the information
that you provide, the more effective your campaign
will be at rising above the clutter.
5. Simplify the message
simplicity, and brevity—regardless
of the method of communication—are critical to
ensure that your message is attended to by your prospect.
This is especially true with email. Current statistics
indicate that businesspeople spend an average of only
30 seconds reading and responding to an email, which
is not much time to absorb your message.
Focus on the information needed to capture your prospect's
attention, and then send no more or no less than that.
Otherwise, you run the risk of your message being ignored.
If you are not sure which of several messages will
have greater resonance, better to send several simple
messages than a complex one.
Don't worry about sending too many messages, because
people tend not to notice the ones that aren't germane
to them at the moment.
6. Make messages consistent
Because it takes an average of seven impressions to
make an impact, and because drip campaigns consist
of multiple interaction points, it is essential that
you give your prospects consistent information. There
is nothing more confusing to a prospect during the
purchase process than receiving conflicting or inconsistent
information from a potential vendor, and it can threaten
the likelihood of your being selected at purchase time.
* * *
Implementing these campaigns will not only help your
message reach the client at the correct time but also
extend the reach and improve the effectiveness of your
matter what size sales force you have, it is inefficient
and ineffective for them to be calling on prospects
that are not yet ready to buy. Using a system that
reaches out to your prospects on a regular basis will
help identify those who are ready to buy—because,
done correctly, it will trigger them to act on their
need. At that point, you can send your salesperson
in to respond to a known customer need, which should
make the sales call more effective. When salespeople
see the quantifiable positive influence of marketing
campaigns on sales calls, they will better respect
As you can see, developing an effective drip campaign
requires a great deal of prospect insight and planning.
But, when done properly, it can be one of the most
useful tools in your sales and marketing efforts.
Drip campaigns leverage your salespeople's time by
enabling them to close more business. Additionally,
drip campaigns provide more focus to your prospect
communication, which will result in less wasted time
and money, thus contributing to your bottom line.
While conducting a drip campaign won't ensure success
on every lead, it will better your chances on every
lead, because you will be more carefully identifying
and addressing your prospects' needs and increasing
your position in their mind when it comes time to purchase.