By Paul Butler
In the world of answering service sales, the window of opportunity opens and closes very quickly. Never has the saying “timing is everything” been more true than in selling a service customers only think about when a problem arises. The percentages are very favorable to close a customer currently dissatisfied with their present service. The challenge is to be prepared to take advantage when the opportunity presents itself. Since none of us are able to see into, or predict when the window will open, it is imperative to develop a system that increases the number of times the customer contacts your company when they require a change.
Just as improbable as the ability of clairvoyance, is the existence of a “magic” formula that attracts customers to your company. To maintain a pattern of growth takes good people with both time and the available resources to sell prospects on the benefits of using your service. While not all companies can afford a dedicated sales staff, neither can they afford not to dedicate time to selling. If the person assigned to sell has multiple responsibilities, a prescribed portion of each day must be set aside to the task of adding new customers.
For the part-time sales person the importance of a plan of attack is magnified. To be a success in sales regardless of the amount of time available, you must stay…
F O C U S E D
Follow-up: Do what you commit to in the given time frame;
Organize: There are a limited number of hour search day … use them judiciously;
Communicate: This involves your mouth and ears… you can talk too much!
Understand: The better you know your product, the easier it is to convey to the prospect;
Sell: Don’t be satisfied with a good presentation. Nothing is gained until you ask for the order;
Educate: Use your knowledge and experience to implement a program that addresses the needs of the customer;
Distractions: Eliminate them! It is time to sell; do nothing but sell!
Not even the most seasoned professional can create a need for answering service. There are specific industries in which the need is inherent, but outside those specific few, prospecting is merely guess work. Because of the uniqueness of the industry, there exists a great potential for wasting time. That, coupled with the fact that in most instances sales is only one of numerous duties performed by certain individuals, having a detailed routine and sticking to it is essential. The sales person must create an environment conducive to selling. If it is not possible to retreat to an office, or to an area of isolation, make everyone aware of the selling schedule.
Sales is the first of many steps on the road to success. Everyone in the organization should have an appreciation of the importance of adding new customers. In the answering service industry, customer “churn” is inevitable. Many companies are forced to sell just to replace lost revenues. You must set sales goals to allow for incremental growth based on past performance. (If churn averages 2% of billed revenue, new sales need to exceed that number by an accepted amount as determined by management.)
There is a fine line to be walked in regards to bringing on new business without affecting the level of service expected by your present customer base. To keep things moving forward, remember to plan ahead and stay focused.
Paul Butler is the National Sales and Marketing Manager for A+ Network, Inc. in Nashville, TN. Mr. Butler can be reached at 615-291-7565 ; Fax 615-291-7555.
[From Connection Magazine, May 1996]