Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Last Stage in Your Selling Process - Farming

What's the essential business process you have to own in order to grow your business?   A selling system.  A documented, explainable process that keeps your pipeline full of suspects, prospects, proposals and closed orders.   In my experience fewer than 25% of businesses have one. For the rest, each month's revenue is a surprise -- some ok, most below target.   

Here’s an overview of a selling system.   Last month, we explored Proposal and Closing – the process that should happen only after you're nearly sure an order is at hand (not in hopes you can persuade a prospect to buy, based on your stellar proposal).

Today we’re talking about a stage that happens after a prospect says "not now" -- Farming.  If a prospect doesn’t buy, forget him, right? Wrong.

Not everyone buys on the first pass through your selling system. That doesn’t mean they won’t ever buy. If your prospecting and qualification processes are working right, you’ll have a list of prospects who may have the prerequisites for a sale – money, authority, and need – sometime in the future. They may really want what you have and just can’t afford it. They may really like what you have and just don’t need it right now.

That’s where your farming process pays off. Most companies don’t have this critical piece of their selling system working well, which means they spend the time and money creating lead flow, then miss a big piece of the return on that lead generation investment.

Real farmers cultivate, then harvest. That’s you want to do with your qualified leads who didn’t buy yet. You need a cultivation process that keeps your message in front of a prospect. You have no idea when they might have either the money or the need, so this process needs to be frequent enough that they don’t forget you. Most businesses think that’s perhaps once a month. Twice a month probably isn’t too often. Quarterly is not often enough.

What you want is your brand and your message in front of the prospect, somehow. In today’s world, the simplest and cheapest is an Email broadcast, usually of something like an E-newsletter. The key to that piece is that it’s not promotional -- rather, that it's informative and brings them ideas they can use. They’ll get the commercial message part by themselves. Stories and case studies help bring your message through while meeting the “informative and useful” test. For example, “Here’s what we did for a customer who needed…..”

There are other ways of cultivating prospects. You can call them. You can visit them. Both of those have limitations of time, distance and cost. It’s hard to call or visit hundreds or thousands of prospects a month. You can also mail them. I have a friend who swears by a paper newsletter, sent once a month. He says it’s hard to take an email newsletter to the bathroom (and he’s right).

This doesn’t have to be that hard. I have a business coaching client who dipped his toe into this water several years ago with a quarterly E-newsletter. He’s now up to every other month. His newsletter has almost no original content. What he does is write a short “message from the founder”, usually 5-6 sentences. Then he creates “teaser” paragraphs that hyperlink to articles in industry journals, newsletters, blogs and magazines. His newsletter really qualifies as a digest – something a busy prospect in his target market can use to keep himself current, without reading 5-6 trade magazines a month.

You’ll be amazed at how this works. It has changed my business. We send out an email newsletter each month, and every single month a prospect responds with a renewed interest, says it’s now the right time, or, in some cases just emails and says, “I think it’s time I joined your organization.” Can’t beat that – fish jumping into your boat!

Chief Executive Boards International members are experimenting with other ways of keeping their message in front of prospects.   LinkedIn discussion groups, blogs and other Emarketing strategies can become ways your prospects regularly hear about you.

Examine your Farming process. Does it touch all your prospects, at least once a month? Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have more questions about your prospect farming process. It’s your most important strategy to get the full value you paid for from the leads you’ve generated.

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Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International
Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it

1 comment:

  1. We recently added a new client who was on our newsletter list for 16 years! Their lifetime value to us is well over $70,000.

    If you're not doing a monthly newsletter you're missing out on sales and business.


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