Magazine article Business Credit

Your Secret Sales Machine (It's Not What You Think)

Magazine article Business Credit

Your Secret Sales Machine (It's Not What You Think)

Article excerpt

It all began simply enough when a branch of Heartmann Woods (72 employees, two in sales) performed an audit of telephone calls.

This was part of a biennial cost containment drive. The audit revealed that while the two sales people made about 40 calls a day, the other 70 non-sales people were making 200 calls a day, 1,000 calls a week, 50,000 a year.

Nearly all those outgoing calls were to clients. The 70 non-sales people received just as many incoming calls from clients. That totaled 400 calls a day, 2,000 calls a week, 100,000 a year. Previously all these calls were viewed as interfering with the serene production of information. But this time a new thought occurred: Could those calls be an opportunity?

The 70 non-sales people understood at the gut level that when they connected with clients they reached people who wanted to talk, were willing, even eager, to make relationships. These clients were serious buyers and influentials-but did not think so. The 70 were inside the corporate defenses, inside the barriers to sales.

Every call, every conversation, contains the seed of a sale. A seed that extends the business relationship. A seed that identifies the influentials and the real buyers. A seed that uncovers new needs. Recognizing this opportunity, the 100,000 seeds now fell on fertile ground. A new secret sales machine had been born-with 70 "stealth marketers" at the wheel.

Within two years that 70 became 300.

The Concepts of the Stealth Marketers

As with all successful business concepts, stealth marketing is profoundly simple. Underlying it are just six ideas:

1. Every "non-sales" call has already bypassed the corporate sales defenses.

2. The best source of business is current clients.

3. Every person in a client organization is a buyer, whether they know it or not.

4. Every person in your organization is a salesman, whether they know it or not.

5. Every call is a sales call.

6. Sell is not a four-letter word.

The Hurdles

Stealth marketing requires:

* An environment of continuing sales to existing customers. Most companies fit into this category.

* A volume of customer contacts that exceeds official sales calls by a factor of five or better.

* A commitment by the CEO to have all members of staff participate in and feel responsible for company sales.

* A little ingenuity.

But when it came time to implement stealth marketing at Heartmann Woods, one difficulty could have stopped it cold: people were afraid to sell.

Though the company had been talking "sales" and "sales culture" for more than 15 years, most people still didn't like the idea. Their resistance showed mostly in body language and performance but it was often articulated in words like, "What? I'm not in sales!"

Fortunately, the CEO had embraced the idea and encouraged managers to become entrepreneurs. But to get stealth marketing through the all too human inertia and built-in prejudice against selling, something extraordinary had to happen.

How to Start the Secret Sales Machine

The process can begin simply enough. Here's how it worked at Heartmann Woods:

* Non-sales staff, section by section, reviewed and tallied up how many humanto-human connections they made.

* Non-sales staff listed their contacts and described how those contacts might buy for and influence their companies.

* The boss introduced the raw numbers that underlie the company's sales function-the first time most people had ever seen them. …

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