Thursday, January 3, 2008

The "Business"

So off I went into the big bad world of B 2 B sales with my hands behind my back and leading with my chin.

An office was located, a handful of computers purchased. The attempt to hire sales staff began. The blind were leading the blind and having been told that the ideal sales methodology was telesales and I could expect a conversion rate of 10% what could go wrong?

After three months my erstwhile sales staff had made no sales. We followed everything the experts in head office told us with religious fervor but to no avail! There was no holy grail, no light at the end of the tunnel.

My pleas to the franchise head office were met with “to find a good sales person you need to keep trying as your success rate will only be about one in seven”. One in seven! What about all the expertise the expert sales training? I recruited from websites, I advertised, I used recruitment companies. I employed staff who could sell other procucts couldn't sell this!

But the product was good. We had no direct competitor and it worked. So the product was good but we couldn't sell it. I thought that "a good product would sell itself". I was so wrong mediocre products will sell well with good marketing, sales and advertising whilst the best product in the world won't sell without.

Then about six months into the process we got a list of previous purchasers who had purchased the product previously but had not purhcased again because of the lack of a local agent and poor service.

So could we sell to a group who were in general unhappy with the product?

Yes we could! Unbelieveable, we had lists of cold calls to people who needed our product (in our opinion) and whom we couldn't sell to and we had people who were unhappy with the product and who we could sell!

What was the difference between these groups. Well a number of things:

  • They had purchased before

  • They were open to the product

  • They were "qualified"

  • They had a need for the product

  • But the list soon ran out and we were back to where we were before – cold calling with no success.

    We tried fax campaigns and had limited success usually bringing in more sales than the campaign cost. But we’ve got better at that – I’ll tell you more later!

    We tried advertising and had no appreciable return – but we’ve got better at that too!

    And mainly we tried continuing with what we had been told would work – cold calling, cold calling, cold calling. Thousands and thousands of calls and no significant success. But there was an upside we did generate lists of contacts. I didn’t know what to do with them but I do now!

    But let me tell you about the misery first.

    Month on month the business lost between €5k and €10k. Mainly in staff costs. The majority of your overhead walks out the door every evening at 5:00pm and if they are not selling, well you do the math.

    I went through sales people like a bull in a china shop. No sales out, no sales fired, no sales out, no sales fired, the mood was depressing, the staff were depressed, I was depressed, passersby ran past our door in case they contracted the pervasive depression.

    One in Seven to find a successful sales person – I think more like One in Seventy.

    Then the crowing glory, I was advised by the head office that I should look at outsourcing the sales out to a third party specialist sales company. They had the ideal company which successfully sold the product in another country because they could sell, when clearly through my own ineptitude I couldn’t.

    Stop I hear you cry don’t do it! But at this point I was so giddy and delusional with my continuing failure that I did it.

    Guess what 3 months later I had a €20k bill and less than €0.5k of sales. So much for the sales experts!

    So I needed to restructure everything or walk away.

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