DM Basics Lead to Better Prospecting

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Many sales representatives spend too much energy trying to persuade a prospect to spend time listening to their sales pitch. Whether they are attempting to secure a face-to-face appointment or to reach the prospect on the phone, the process usually yields little results.


Worse yet, most prospects spend time trying to avoid listening to a sales pitch. So how can your company use direct mail to increase the volume of quality sales leads? Start with getting back to the basics.


The list. Where did you get your list of prospects? Have you been collecting business cards at conferences? From a published directory? In most companies, a large purchase decision is made by one person but is influenced by others. And in this volatile economy, individuals change jobs frequently. The best way to start with a clean, accurate list is to invest in outbound calling.


Hire a telemarketing firm to call each prospect name on your list and determine whether they are the decision maker. You don't need to speak with the prospect directly; it's a lot easier to get some basic information from an assistant. Ensure that their name, title and mailing address are correct. Ask whether others within that corporation would be part of the decision-making process. Follow up with those individuals to confirm spelling, titles and mailing addresses.


One financial services company that followed this strategy pared its sales force prospect list of more than 3,500 names to fewer than 900 targeted names in just 10 days. As a result, its direct mail effort pulled double-digit response rates of prospects who wanted an appointment with the sales rep.


The offer. Give a special reason for your prospect to sit up and take notice immediately. Is there a limited time offer? Is special pricing available only through this channel? Can some add-on benefit be bundled to enhance the offering?


One of the biggest mistakes most business-to-business marketers make is to ignore the inclusion of an offer. Or, they make the same offer in their direct mail piece as they do on their Web site or in their advertising. Part of the magic of direct marketing is the inclusion of an offer that is exclusive to the direct mail effort. A time limit on the offer compels the recipient to act quickly.


The creative. How do you get past those pesky gatekeepers in an organization? How do you ensure the mailroom doesn't toss your mail piece?


Consider your target audience: Do you really think a postcard or self-mailer will be positively received? Compelling, benefit-oriented headlines that help solve a business problem are a must. Understand the prospects' pain points and provide a solution.


If you're trying to sell a higher-priced product, do you really think a 50-cent direct mail piece will cut through the clutter, showcase your product and compel your reader to contact you? Unless you're inviting the recipient to a seminar, your investment just landed in the circular file.


Those #10 envelopes that the sender thinks are cleverly disguised as a personal letter usually fail because they used a bulk indicia, printed a teaser on the outer envelope or used an all-caps inkjet font - all dead giveaways.


Consider a three-dimensional effort. A weighty package, addressed to the recipient, is virtually guaranteed to get opened. Include an appropriate promotional product (forget the coffee mug; include something the prospect would find unique and useful) and add a compelling, time-sensitive offer with multiple ways to respond.


Multiple response channels are still a must. Don't try to force your prospect into a response method because it's more convenient or less costly for you. It's all about what is most convenient to the prospect. A campaign for one organization yielded 60 percent of all responses through the mail, and another 5 percent used a fax back reply device.


Ensure all of your channels are ready to receive prospect inquiries. Consider setting up an exclusive landing page and ask the prospect to supply the tracking code. Link that code to the outbound mail file, and when a prospect hits the landing page, trigger an e-mail to the associated sales rep to let them know a prospect raised his hand and needs follow-up.


Is your telemarketing staff prepared to answer the phone 24/7? One organization didn't realize its telemarketing staff would be closed over Thanksgiving, and inbound calls went unanswered for four days. If you offer a reply card, is there money in the post office meter? Another company let $1 million in new purchase orders sit on the floor of the post office because the staffer who managed the meter had been laid off a week earlier and no one else knew the routine.


Take the time to prepare your list to ensure it contains the most targeted names, give your prospects an offer they won't find anywhere else, package it in a creative way and provide your prospect with multiple response channels. You'll find response rates rise and your sales force is happier because they're working with more viable leads.


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