Support your Sales Team- a joined-up approach to business development

supportyoursalesteamWhether you have a dedicated field sales team (even a team of one!) or you are responsible for doing your own selling, it is an expensive business. Figures vary but £50-£60 per sales call is probably on the low side. Work it out if you wish, but salary + car + expenses soon mount up. They may be expensive but the sales team plays a vital role in your business development so it makes sense to make the most of them. I have believed for a long time that there are two elements to selling:

  1. Selling the Products/Services.
  2. Looking for people to sell to.

These two require quite different skills and typically someone who is good at one will not be so good at the other. Sales people are primarily selected for their ability to sell, but they are often expected to look for people to sell to as well – a job which they tend not to relish.

The 70:30 dilemma

A common result of this is the 70:30 dilemma: The Sales Director wants his/her sales staff to spend 70% of time targeting New Business and 30% with existing customers. The Sales Team spend 70% of their time with existing customers and only 30% targeting New Business. The numbers may vary but the principle is the same. Sales staff are at their best when they are selling, so supplying them with properly qualified leads gives them more time (and inclination!) to sell to interested people. To fully qualify a prospective customer, we need to know 2 things:

  1. Are we interested in the prospect as a potential customer. (i.e. Do they spend enough on the right sort of things?)
  2. Are they interested in us as a potential supplier? (i.e. Have we given them a reason to consider us?)

Point 1 without point 2 can mean we need to build our relationship with the prospect to a greater degree. Point 2 without point 1 raises the question: Even if they are interested in us, are we wasting our time as there might not be much in it for us?

The Approach

The key is to allow the sales team to focus on qualified opportunities and support them by distinguishing the job of qualifying those opportunities in the first place By having a clear process to identify and qualify opportunities, it can be easier to continue to track progress of opportunities after field sales get involved. People involved in sales tend to focus on the shorter term. If you aren’t careful, there is a risk your business can lose touch with a prospect when it is passed to the field sales team. If there is no short term sales potential, or initial potential doesn’t develop, most sales people are likely to shift their focus to the next opportunity. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but there need to be processes in the business to maintain and develop contact with these longer term opportunities. Although I have suggested that a sales person is not typically the best person to look for people to sell to, they can have very useful input. Being out in the marketplace, they will see opportunities during the course of their work. To be able to pass these into a structured business development system that they have confidence in can be a great motivator.

The joined-up process

To get the best of both worlds, you should aim for a joined-up process where a marketing team builds your knowledge of your target market contacts and develops awareness and understanding of your company, products and services across the market. This process of growing appreciation of your ‘brand’ creates a great platform from which your sales team can operate. As your market gets to know you better, when they have a need for your products/services they are ever more likely to contact you generating well qualified leads for the sales team. Equally, when the sales team find new prospects, if they aren’t ready to do business straight away, details can be fed back to the marketing team to ‘Keep in touch’ ready for when the need IS there.

Not just for big companies

Talking about Sales Teams and Marketing Teams may lead you to thinking this is all for bigger companies but actually, it is just as relevant if you are a sole trader doing everything. By recognising the different processes for Selling and Looking for people to sell to you can focus your attention more appropriately – even if you actually do everything yourself!

We can help you…

If you would like to discuss how a more joined-up process can benefit your sales and marketing, do get in touch. We are always happy to chat

Secure Web Pages (HTTPS://) – They're for E-commerce, aren't they?

SSL_for_your_websiteYou probably know that whenever you shop online you should always look for the little padlock HTTPS Padlock on the address bar. This shows (along with the URL starting HTTPS:// rather than more usual HTTP://) that the web page you are browsing is secure, it is encrypted using an SSL Certificate to prevent anyone intercepting information on the page – including any details you may type in. Up until recently, secure webpages using HTTPS:// have been the domain on e-commerce and other sites handling sensitive data such as credit card details but over the past months, Google have upped the ante by recognising that secure pages deliver a better, more reliable experience to site visitors. See this Google Blog Post for more details. As a consequence they have started giving preferred ranking to secure sites. To date, the impact of  HTTPS:// on rankings has been limited. High quality page content is still the most significant ranking factor but maybe it is time, particularly if you work in a very competitive field, to start thinking of adding encryption to your site – even if you don’t handle sensitive data.

What is SSL encryption?

SSL stands for ‘Secure Sockets Layer’ and is the world-standard security technology for creating an encrypted link between a server and a browser. Websites with SSL certificates ensure trust and respect from visitors, as SSL technology guarantees stringent security checks are in place to protect private information. In essence, SSL works in 2 ways:

  • Encrypting data – which means that hackers cannot see what a browser sends to and receives from a web server.
  • Authenticating your website – which means the SSL Certificate tells your browser “This website really is who it claims to be.” For example, when you visit, the SSL verifies the website you are at is actually PayPal, and not a hacker posing as

How do I add encryption to my site?

First you need to buy an SSL certificate. You can buy an SSL Certificate from numerous websites but it is probably sensible to buy your SSL through your hosting provider. They should provide the easiest setup. AS with most things ‘web’ there is a huge range of cost options. Although there are SSLs offered at less than £10 per year, you should normally expect to pay around £50-100 pa for a standard SSL up to £300-400pa for more comprehensive security (most relevant to e-commerce sites handling payment card details or other sensitive data) Setup normally takes a day or two. Your ISP should be able to advise for your particular site

Will it make it harder for people to use my site?

Short answer – No! The only difference in the browsing experience will be the SSL padlock, and maybe a warm feeling of safety!

When do I need to do it?

If you have an e-commerce site, or another site that handles sensitive data, you should have an SSL already. If you haven’t, I recommend you address the issue of site security immediately. It really isn’t fair to play fast and loose with your customers’ private data! For everyone else, I think it is more a case of being aware and planning SSL/HTTPS:// into future developments. If Google follows up on it’s initial steps and increases the impact of  site security on search rankings then implementing on your site may need to be pushed up the priority list.

What if I ignore SSL?

Assuming your site isn’t e-commerce etc., in the short term, not having SSL security is probably no big deal but there is no question that, as time goes on, there are ever more ‘nasties’ out on the internet and they won’t go away. I’m sorry to say that website security will increasingly be the de-facto necessity; Remember those halcyon days when everyone left their front door open and no-one bothered to lock their car! If you want to discuss the potential impact of SSL and HTTPS:// on your website, please get in touch

Developing a healthy Twitter strategy – Part 1 – Building your follower base

twit_target_squareTwitter is a great tool for getting your message out there, and not just for celebrities and big brands. Increasingly, Twitter is being used by SMEs as part of their brand development strategy. When looking at building a strategy, one of the first questions we would ask is: What is your objective? The easy answer to this question where Twitter is concerned, is “I want to get loads of followers”. But a bit like “I need to be at the top of Google”, this objective is a little short-sighted. Before I go on, lets look at a few stats: Of Twitter’s 1 billion users:

  • 81% have less than 50 followers
  • More than 500 followers and you are in the top 5%

The average number of followers is 208 (source ) Follow the “number of followers objective”,  and being “successful” on Twitter is pretty easy. 501 followers and you are in the top 5%! You just have to Google “Gain Twitter followers” and you will find plenty of people happy to help you reach that goal. But quite obviously this would be wasted effort. Gaining followers should only be part of your objective. In my view the real objective should be

“I want to engage with my marketplace, build a relationship with relevant contacts, and demonstrate that I add value”. 

On this basis, number of followers is only one measurement. Equally important should be quality of those followers and the level of engagement I have with them.

For the rest of this post, I am going to focus on the first of these – Quality of Followers. I will look at levels on engagement in a future article.

From a marketing perspective, the quality of your follower base should be judged on the following:

  1. Are they relevant to my business?
  2. Do they have something valuable to add to the discussion?

Are they Relevant?

If a contact is relevant, then normally this relevance should be 2 way, and as such, the ‘they follow me and I feel it is worth following them back’ (or visa versa) rule should apply. There will be people who follow you who are totally not relevant (People playing the  ‘I want hundreds or thousands of followers and hope most people will follow me’ game), and there will be people you follow who legitimately will not follow you back (National press, and the BBC, to name two) In general, if your follower base is relevant the follower/following ratio should tend towards 1:1. At this point it is worthwhile saying a little more about this key statistic; the ratio of Followers to Following. Sufficient to say:

  • A ratio of 1:1 (Followers=Following) is a good start, and shows that people respect your views and you are playing the game
  • A ratio of >1:1 (Followers>Following) This generally suggests that you have something to say that people  find valuable, and so should be seen as a positive position. That said, if the ratio moves significantly away from 1 (assuming you are not a major celeb) it could suggest that you are not engaging with your audience, and that those following you are not relevant enough or you to follow them back. A very high ratio  could also be seen as a little arrogant (They should follow me, but are not worthy of following)
  • A ratio of <1:1 (Followers<Following) This generally suggests you are trying too hard to get followers and people are not relevant and/or not seeing the value in your input, and so should be seen as a negative position.

As a rule of thumb, a ratio of between 1 and 2 is a good benchmark to use for your own account, and when choosing who to follow

Although I am not going to go into this in detail as there is already plenty out there on the subject (This post for example).

Do they have something valuable to add to the discussion?

So, in assessing the relevance of your followers, you are happy that they are relevant to your market and have a healthy Follower/Following ratio. The final point to consider is are they saying anything of value, or indeed anything at all (Almost 50% of Twitter’s 1 billion users have never sent a tweet!) Do they engage with their Twitter audience? Are they tweeting/retweeting, and is their input in turn being retweeted? Having great follower statistics is pointless unless they are communicating. 2 questions to ask about your follower activity:

  1. Is their content interesting?
  2. Is their content relevant?

And if the answer to these are “Yes” then a follow-up: Is their content consistent & sustained? If the answer is again yes, they are definitely worth following and are a great follower to have on your books. Following these “rules” should put you on the path to a healthy follower base. But this is only useful if you are engaging with them in a valuable and relevant way, but that is Part 2!

Coming Soon Building a healthy twitter strategy – Part 2 – Engaging with your audience

Bounce Rates Explained

bounceI would like to thank Mike Egerton at Host Von Schrader for bringing this article to our attention. It is a great explanation of the Analytics Bounce rate statistic, along with an analysis of what this means, and what you should expect. Bounce Rates Explained I think there are 2 great takeaways from this article:

  1. Although the aim is to get bounce rates as low as possible as this indicates that visitors are finding your site relevant and interesting – Beware of VERY  LOW (<10% bounce ) rates as these could be false readings caused by broken Analytic installations. Google Analytics is becoming more powerful, and as a result, more complex to implement correctly.
  2. A Good, healthy bounce rate is somewhere between 25% and 65%. Within this range is OK, but the Lower the better. Outside this range, and maybe you need to look closer into why this is.

In researching this post, it raised the subject of Google Analytics and the possibilities offered by implementing Universal Analytics, but that is a subject for another day!  

Joined-up Marketing – The Social Angle, Part 4 – LinkedIn Groups

getting_social_LI_250 In Part 3 of this series we explored the process of building your network of individual connections. With individual connections you are limited in that you can really only connect with your connections connections (if you see what I mean!) but what if you want to explore a new area or make contacts in a specific company where you have no way in through existing connections? This is where LinkedIn Groups come in. Used properly, Groups can be a powerful targeted marketing tool.

LinkedIn Groups

1. What is a LinkedIn Group?

Think of a LinkedIn group as a place where like minded people can hang out and discuss issues that matter to them. There are groups covering pretty much every discipline and subject you can think of. They also vary from the very broad (Digital Marketing) to very specific (Business Peak District – Open to anyone who does business in and around the Peak District National Park in the UK). In their broadest sense, they are discussion forums where people with a common interest can interact.

2. Are all groups good groups?

This is a difficult question to answer, but from a marketing perspective a good group is one where the people you wish to engage with congregate. Outside marketing, groups are also great places to discuss issue with peers from your industry. To assess whether a group will be good to join, the best place to start is the group statistics. These can be viewed by browsing to the group homepage, and clicking the ‘i’ icon in the top right corner: group_stats This will reveal a wide range of statistics relating to the group. Here are a few that are worth reviewing to decide whether its worth joining a group:

  1. Size and growth – Although size isn’t everything, and certainly some of the more specialist groups will have relatively few members, a group with a lot of members is likely to be more useful.
  2. Demographics – The stats will also tell you the type of people (job role, industry, location etc)- Obviously valuable information in assessing a groups relevance.
  3. Location – Check out where most of the members are located as this can be a key factor in how useful the group is. Some groups are international while some are region-specific.

The key issue here is having a clear understanding of why you are joining the group, and what type of people you are trying to engage with. Reviewing the stats can go a long way towards establishing which groups are for you. The final thing to consider is how active the group is. This will be largely related to the size of the group, but given that the main aim of joining a LinkedIn group is to engage with people. the more activity there is within the group the more opportunities there are to engage.

3. How do I join?

Joining is simple. Simply go to the group homepage and click the “join” button. On clicking the Join button, if the group is open to all you will instantly become a member. However many groups are closed, and in these groups you have to be approved as a member by the group owner. This can take anything from a few minutes to a few months depending on how active the owner is in managing the group. In either case, you will receive an email when you are accepted as a member.

4. Okay, I’m a member, now what?

The first thing to do once you are a member is to keep an eye on the discussions that are going on. You can do this by regularly logging onto LinkedIn and reviewing the discussions. Alternatively if you sign up to group emails, you will get new discussions emailed to you either as they happen or as a daily, or weekly, digest. If you have joined the right groups, you should start to see discussions where you have something to add; and away you go….

5. Remember: No selling!

There are a few things to remeber when engaging with LinkedIn groups, and the first and most important is NO SELLING. If all of your input is blatant promotion, you are going to annoy people very quickly! The key is to remember why you are here. “You are an expert in your field, and you want to pass on some of your expertise and opinion”. Interactions with LinkedIn groups should be about sharing your knowledge, and demonstrating your expertise in a helpful and informative way, and ultimately to raise you profile, and engage with people in your marketplace.

6. Engage with your connections

LinkedIn is all about building a network of connections, and Groups allow you to build this network outside the scope of your immediate contacts. Once you are in a group, you can invite other members to link with you directly, and the more engagement you have had with them within the group, the more likely they are to accept your invitation, so get out there, join a few groups and get involved in some discussions. As previously in this series, I deliberately haven’t gone into a lot of detail on ‘How?’ in the above. My aim was to give you some ideas and food for thought. If you want more detail on the hows or more insight into using LinkedIn, as always feel free to get in touch. Alternatively, a web search on any of the above will turn up many pages of advice!

Do you follow-up all your enquiries?

Opening the door to new enquiries
An experience I’ve had this week really made me think about why businesses do marketing and how they go about it. I decided I needed a new garage door and a quick Google showed me there were a lot of people to choose from, so where to start? I am a great fan of the FreeIndex directory which also gives customer reviews and on the site ( they offer a service to get 5 quotes from local businesses. The service is free to use for both the advertiser and the enquirer so a bit of a no-brainer all round! I thought this would be a good starting point in my search so I filled in the short form and hit submit. My enquiry was on its way to 5 local businesses. All I had to do was wait…..

Deciding to generate leads….

Driving enquiries and opportunities is at the heart of marketing – but it is vital that it is part of a joined-up process that sees enquiries being effectively followed-up through to a conclusion. Over the years I have seen many examples where businesses put emphasis on developing marketing collateral designed to generate leads and enquiries without really thinking the process through:

Too much emphasis on website design

Don’t get me wrong the look of a website is very important. It needs to look professional and to ‘fit’ your business but this is only part of the story. There are many websites out there that look great, but when you try to use them, they just don’t work properly, or you can’t find the content you need. We regularly hear web designers complain that they struggle to finish sites because they are waiting for content from their clients, but the designers all to often just sit and wait. they should be focussed on more than just creating a cutting-edge design, they need to make sure the content is available too. At the same time, a business can’t just hand over a web site project to a designer and expect it to happen. There needs to be a collaborative, joined-up approach to launch an effective website and even then, the business needs to think about how they will use the website as part of their ongoing business development.

Exhibitions – the start not the end

Deciding to exhibit can start a chain of events looking at logistics for the exhibition stand, what it is going to look like, having the brochures and equipment ready in time, agreeing who will man the stand etc, but all of this is about getting to the opening day and having a stand ready and people to man it. The opening day is seen as the end, but from a marketing viewpoint, shouldn’t it be the start?  A joined-up approach to exhibiting should focus on making the most of the exhibition days, making as many, relevant contacts as possible, and where those contacts show a current interest or requirement, making sure they are effectively followed-up through to a conclusion

Online lead systems

Pay per click, remarketing, banner advertising etc., are all great tools to generate enquiries on a ‘pay as you go’ basis but many business owners are wary as they have heard stories of bank accounts being emptied as a result of out-of-control online lead generation that simply doesn’t pay for itself. It isn’t enough to set up an online lead programme then sit back. If you are to make the most of it, your programme should be carefully monitored and managed to ensure that the right leads are coming in and they are being actioned through to a positive result. Taking this approach to business generation can be incredibly powerful, but only if you control it.

Back to the garage door….

I am sorry to report that I received a follow-up contact from just one company. This was disappointing for me as it meant I had to go back and do more research to get additional options. The company who did follow up, met with me,  took my details and gave me a quote for the work – all part of the business development process. Unfortunately for them their quote wasn’t competitive so they didn’t get the job. I wonder if they will follow the quote up? – but that’s another story! What never ceases to amaze me is that my enquiry went to four businesses who simply didn’t follow-up. This issue isn’t new – take a look at this post from a couple of years ago where we did an experiment looking at follow-up to enquiries.

 Avoiding the pitfalls

I’m afraid there is nothing new here!

Have a plan

A plan that sets out three things can prove invaluable:

  1. What you plan to do
  2. How you plan to do it
  3. Why you are doing it

Monitor and review

Your plan is nothing if you don’t use it. Take time to regularly review what you are doing. If everything is on track, great. If not, identify the issues and do something about them! Don’t be afraid to acknowledge weaknesses. By learning from them and addressing them you can make your marketing stronger and more effective. Regular review means, if you are going down the wrong track, you don’t go too far!

Stick at it

Lack of joined-up process can make people too ready to jump-ship at the first sign of a problem. As a result they can constantly be switching from one idea to the next. Unless they hit lucky, this is likely to mean one disappointment after another. A joined-up process gives you control to see a problem and decide if there is a solution. This is how good, effective marketing really works