(or why your marketing costs are too high)
By Scott Gordon, The Chief Revenue Officer
It’s safe to say I’ve interviewed, hired, and fired hundreds of salespeople over my career and worked alongside hundreds more. During those 20+ years of selling and managing sales teams, I’ve found that folks who pursue sales as their avocation fall into three distinct buckets:
The number one symptom of an order taker based sales culture is a stubbornly high cost of customer acquisition. This is where a company spends reams of money on things like Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, print, mailers, billboards, email lists, call center agents, etc. The primary beneficiary of this arrangement is the salesperson who, for very little effort, is provided with a calendar full of appointments to go out and close.
Unfortunately for the organization in question, each one of these appointments carries with it a high cost, so pressure to close (and requisite training and accountability) are of paramount importance to achieve a respectable ROI on marketing spend. These are the Glengarry leads and coffee is for closers!
My point isn’t – don’t market because it’s too expensive, but rather to work through a process of grooming order takers to become hunters because hunters provide you with your lowest cost business (especially if you pay a referral fee to referring clients), followed by farmers, and in dead last, order takers (who, as a rule, squander far more leads than they close).
The conundrum here is that hunters are a very rare breed. They are unfazed by rejection, driven to succeed, and love the thrill of the chase. Sadly, they are in very short supply and can basically work wherever they want because every V.P of Sales is fighting over them.
Farmers generally end up where they are in one of two ways:
My general approach to grooming farmers is to work through formalized customer referral programs where the order takers proactively drive the program. These programs can be set up in a number of fashions, but the key is that referrals become a sales driven activity, and there’s more to it than loading a ‘referral app’ on their iPhones.
Such a process will accomplish three goals:
As you begin to separate the wheat from the chaff, try to up the quality of your sales candidates during the interview process. While I personally listen for many cues during an interview, my #1, numero uno pet peeve/turnoff is when a candidate asks:
“How many leads will you provide me and where do you get them?”
I refuse to answer this question. Why? I know I have a serial order taker on my hands. I’d be best served ending the interview as quickly as possible to get to the next candidate. I’ll only hire a person who asks this question if I have leads coming out of my ears and am desperate to find a body to fill the vacancy. Otherwise, forget it! They are a dime a dozen and not worth the dime or your time.
Real salespeople don’t ask for leads because they know how to prospect. To them, leads are gravy and are probably inferior to the quality interactions they create on their own with their particular set of skills. Truly remarkable sales professionals won’t want your leads because the ones they generate are so much better – e.g. close at a higher rate with less effort.
Let’s get back to our farmers. Earlier I mentioned that these can be ‘grown’ from order takers, yet just like most order takers will never become farmers, the same is true of farmers becoming hunters.
However, there are top grading strategies that you can use to add a hunter element to a farmer’s activities. They are centered around these concepts:
From this progression of formalized sales activities and programs, it is possible to groom an order taker into a hunter, all the while lowering your customer acquisition costs as you go. You will shed the posers and order takers (further lowering carrying costs for under performers) and organically grow your business by leaps and bounds as you consistently top grade your sales talent.
And all those extra marketing dollars you’re spending today? Maybe you’ll get to keep a few more of those for yourself.