We may need to sell cheaper – but not any less: Maximizing today’s communication tools

As businesses keep evolving and finding ways to function more effectively and efficiently, I’m noticing continuous improvement in managing the cost of sales. The process itself has significant overhead, with some estimates as high as $600 to $800 per individual sales call at an average sized company. But, as we’re challenged with making our companies more efficient, we also must compete with on-line sources and new distribution channels. And that means developing ways to bring our product to market even sooner.

On second thought, sometimes it’s not really about bringing the product to market faster; it’s about bringing ourselves to market more efficiently and expeditiously. Consider the task of commuting, getting in the car and driving to an account. Unquestionably, the days of just stopping by simply don’t exist anymore. Not only is it just too expensive, but most clients don’t have a lot of unscheduled time, making unannounced visits downright annoying.

But when we do schedule appointments, we need to have a clear purpose and objective. And, even if we don’t communicate “face to face,” we can still do it “in person” using WebEx or other types of teleconferencing. Many of my clients have reduced their travel budgets by over 35% in the last year simply by initiating digital visits if they do not relate directly to a sale. Of course, you need to manage these platforms carefully and be hypersensitive to the needs and perceptions of your clients. But, even the most traditional client appreciates not only the need to better manage costs, but the convenience and resourcefulness that are inherent in teleconferencing.

Another on-line tool is, of course, email, but that’s if it’s used sparingly and if it’s to the point. One of email’s drawbacks is that issues don’t get resolved. Oftentimes an email’s purpose gets lost in email strings that go on endlessly. There’s never any closure because the email lacks a call to action. But, just like in any sales encounter, an email needs to include a request and/or resolution. Maybe state it within the subject line, or at least immediately in the first paragraph.

And, how is your company actually marketing your product or service? Today’s advertising budgets are a fraction of what they used to be. And, direct mail? Incredibly expensive. I don’t like dating myself, but I can remember postcard programs costing $0.12 and $0.13 apiece. Today the cost has tripled to around $0.35. Naturally, we can debate about direct mail’s effectives versus that of email solicitations. But the fact of the matter is every different marketing tactic has a purpose and a place at the right time for the right product or service. And it’s your job to find that balance by clearly defining your target/influencer and what message or opportunities will resonate with the people in that group.

Lastly, don’t forget to explore inexpensive and more efficient ways for you to be able to reach out to solid prospects. Maybe it’s going to meetings they go to, or providing free, helpful information. Or it’s using your company website to exploit the power of pull marketing—that’s getting your customers to come directly to you. There are a lot of website programs designed to pull in clients that are very likely to be interested in what you’re selling. And it’s also a fantastically efficient way to generate new leads.

So the next time you think about your marketing plans, think about what it’s going to cost, and if your strategies will help you achieve your goals more efficiently. And think about how you sell to your clients and the ways you can do that more efficiently as well. You may discover new tools and tactics that can to do things cheaper. But never ever do them any less.

That’s Q from the street.

Anthony Quaranta is the president of Q Group, Hauppauge, N.Y.

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