Com*mu*ni*ca*tion a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of words, symbols, signs or behavior.
It sounds simple, we all understand what it means, but are we living up to this definition at this time? In our world, where the phone, e-mail and fax are our primary means of doing business, are we missing opportunities to understand, communicate and sell to one another in a way that is beneficial to our list owners and mailers?
In an informal survey I conducted of 16 list managers across the industry, 12 felt their request to obtain test and continuation results were met with a lackluster response as to mailing and file performance as well as constructive feedback that would enable them to help that broker for future mailings.
Although brokers and managers do share a high level of camaraderie and the desire to achieve the same goals, these good intentions fall by the wayside when time is tight and the spirit is just not willing. Human nature being what it is, we can all understand this dilemma. However, the little bit of effort on everyone's part can go a long way in making both the broker — and his client — winners with solid response and a strong source of revenue-producing mail order buyers.
Benefits of open communication. Here are a few examples of the benefits derived from more open communication:
* Assisting the list manager by sharing results of a mailer's overall mailing. Detailing some of the winners and losers in the list arena will help the manager and the manager's team better select and segment lists for future mailings.
* Searching for gold in a large list that has a wide number of response sources, vast product mix, seasonal response variations or a large number of selects that can be narrowed down in order to test into a file more successfully.
* Identifying selects not currently available to the general mailer community that will be essential to the broker in order to get the file to perform more effectively.
* Ascertaining whether or not a file overlay would benefit the mailer community by adding demographic and lifestyle selects.
* Recommending various database aids, such as RFMplus and Z-24 which would boost response and open new sources of profitable names.
As a former list broker I can honestly sympathize with the lack of a 48-hour day and I can tell you, I have been on the bad side of a bad list recommendation. Problems like this can cause a pretty thick skin that can definitely block the bad ideas along with some of the good ones.
Managers are starting to realize in this highly competitive market that within the communication process a little thing called “listening” must take place if they are to take full advantage of the broker's time. As sales people, the belief is to make your pitch and keep going until you get a positive result. The problem with this approach is the positive feedback comes for the wrong reason — the broker agrees to look at the program or include it in the recommendation only to get off the phone. More than likely you will get voicemail more often than not in the future… and can you blame them?
Six basic rules to improve communication. By taking time to do the following will you find that brokers will want to take your call:
* First do your homework. What is the desired result of the sales call?
* Ask your lead question and then stop talking. Give the broker a chance to respond and give yourself a chance to understand the big picture — then dissect it and respond.
* Listen to what you are selling. Would you buy it? If not, more then likely neither will the broker. Are you going out on a limb? If yes, then let it be known. In general, many brokers are grateful for creative ideas that can help them look good. If you position your recommendation as a long shot, it gives your argument more credibility. Remember this is risky for both parties.
* Follow through. Send reminders and follow up information — the order will come through and the broker will be grateful.
* Know when it is a losing battle and regroup. There are some who will just never have the time for your message, that's OK. Get creative in your approach, send a fax, send a letter, send flowers with a datacard in them! Think creatively and get your message across — you'll enjoy it and so will the broker.
The main goal in understanding how to increase communication is the same between both broker and manager — to increase business for our respective clients as well as one another. Beyond communication, sales will continue to grow only with exceptional customer service and the dedication of a true sales professional. In an environment that is becoming more and more competitive, we must all work harder together to achieve our common goals — but we can still have fun doing it. Happy selling.