Today, we are interviewing David Liow who is an excellent sales strategy practitioner and who was a former advisor and business partner to C-level Executives in creating strategic operational roadmaps, business process reengineering, organisational restructuring and change management that leads to financial and operational improvements.
He is the founder of SafeForKids Technology, a service dedicated to the safe transportation of children.
The importance of defining your sales strategy cannot be undermined.
David recommends doing this through asking targeted and answerable questions such as: “What do you want to achieve in pre-sales?” and "What is the current status of your pre-sales?”. Such questions are intended to troubleshoot current business goals in terms of quantity, quality, timeliness and cost.
This trouble shooting is essential to the process of setting up measurements and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) throughout the pre-sales and sales process.
David suggests that a general framework should be established when setting up KPIs for sales strategy.
He notes that it is important for an entrepreneur to set up databases themselves to measure KPIs and other metrics because as each business and business model is different, it is also important to tailor the measurements and KPIs to suit one's individual needs. In other words, there is no one size fits all solution and sales strategy should be customised for individual business needs.
David ’s approach is a three pronged approach when it comes to pre-sales and establishing an area of coverage for sales strategy. The three prongs have paved the way towards creating a framework for entrepreneurs to adhere to.
They are lead generation and management, pre-sales approach (traditional) and results and integration with sales strategy and results.
The three prongs can be broken down into broad categories of pre-sales and sales strategy, compartmentalising. This divides the process in order to help an entrepreneur manage the many aspects of sales as efficiently as possible.
Lead generation and management is the initiation of consumer interest and enquiry into the products and services offered by a business.
A lead is any person who has indicated interest in the company’s product or service in any way, shape or form. Leads are typically heard from a business or organisation following opening in communication.
Lead generation is thus the process of attracting and converting strangers and prospects into someone who has shown interest in your company’s product or service.
Within lead generation and management, there are five sub-categories to pay attention to: database and research, leads qualification criteria, customer relationship management, market penetration and data protection.
David emphasises the importance of defining lead qualification and criteria within lead generation. What types of leads are your company targeting? It is important to target the right person in order to not waste time and resources.
Therefore, further emphasising the importance of lead verification through the use of social media or other resources. This is to always ensure that one is targeting the right people during the sales process and is integral in framing one's sales strategy.
It can also be helpful to build relationships along the way despite the fact that the current people you are speaking to might not be decision makers. On the other hand, interacting with this chain of communicators might open new doors and opportunities for businesses.
This is considering that the path to speaking to these decision makers can often be littered with numerous gatekeepers.
When it comes to sourcing for leads, David explains that many businesses are often short-sighted and do not make full use of existing free resources hence why their lead generation campaigns are unsuccessful.
Resources from business media in magazines such as The Edge and CEO Morning in addition to radio channels such as BFM, David recommends that they can be great essential tools for the observant entrepreneur and could serve as potential channels to reach out to new clients.
Building up a database of these resources can be invaluable when it comes to getting organised and measuring where most of a company’s clients originate as well as which forms of communication work best.
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Bursa, which is the stock exchange of Malaysia, is another valuable resource when it comes to identifying potential.
Access to annual reports gives detailed information as to the hierarchy of the organisation as well as subsidiaries owned by businesses. The listed businesses hold much monetary influence over their smaller subsidiaries who could potentially serve as clients.
Looking at the hierarchy of the organisation, it also gives clues to entrepreneurs as to which are the right decision makers to approach in order to secure deals and partnership.
The companies listed with the Chamber of Commerce (MATRADE), David also cites to be another useful and yet often overlooked resource for lead generation and potential clients.
However, David also cites the importance of “doing your homework” when it comes to analysing different resources.
Bursa Malaysia’s companies for example, often list budgets for different users whilst companies within the Chamber of Commerce are often private companies, with little information disclosed about their budgets and spending. It can be difficult for a budding entrepreneur to figure out the ways in which such private companies operate and spend their budget.
Understanding and characterising businesses and their methods of spending money can be greatly beneficial. It increases the understanding as to which leads are worth pursuing and which are not. For example, MNCs with overseas headquarters versus privately owned companies in comparison to companies with many subsidiaries have different capital structures.
Correspondingly, the ways in which they spend their budget will also be different. In this way, a business's methods of research needs to be adapted when looking at different resources for lead generation.
If the leads and resources are exhausted, David also suggests to make use of paid company directories such as Onesource (recently renamed to Avention), an aggregated database of companies, executives, industries, and news/sales triggers.
As an aggregator, Avention licenses content from sixty global vendors including Reuters, Experian, Dun & Bradstreet, NetProspex, MarketLine, and Investext. Each record is tied to Avention's taxonomy covering companies, company linkage (i.e. parent/ sub/branch), executives (e.g. job function, job level), geographies, industries (e.g. SIC, NAICS, NACE, ISIC), and business topics.
Such resources although require monetary investment can be useful supporting tools in one's sales strategy.
Customer relationship management is an aspect within sales strategy that should not be overlooked. David mentions the abundance of sophisticated CRM management softwares that are on the market these days such as Sage and AgileCRM all of which have different functionalities tailored to different types of businesses.
David also mentions the importance of data protection within CRM and lead generation by approaching the issue from two angles as follows: i) infrastructure of the CRM and ii) accessibility to data.
The infrastructure of CRM is very important for an entrepreneur in order to be able to access customer information and numbers easily. It is quick to use and the information is at the top of your head as businesses run on maximising the number of clients.
Being familiar with and having easy access to these numbers can help facilitate not only the decision making process but also improve operational excellence and increase efficiency all around.
In addition to this, having a solid infrastructure and a database set up is of increasing importance as the business grows and scales up as it is needed to help coordinate and improve the functioning of a well-functioning team.
It increases transparency and can help improve functionality of employees as having a database necessarily decreases confusions that may arise regarding the status of the clients as well as pertinent information regarding important dates and meetings.
Regarding the access of the data, David emphasises the importance of data protection because he considers the database of clients regarding contact numbers, emails, name card collection and meeting notes to be one of the company’s most valuable assets.
This is also because following proper data protection procedures is also crucial to help prevent cybercrime by securing details, specifically banking, addresses and contact information are protected to prevent fraud. For instance, your clients or customers’ bank accounts being hacked into.
A breach in your data protection can be costly. And affected customers and staff, in some cases can pursue compensation against your business. You can also leave yourself open to legal implications and fines for failing to comply with data protection.
A Forbes Insights report stated that 46% of organisations suffered damage to their reputation and brand value as a result of a privacy breach from telemarketing resources.
Organisations that explicitly make it clear that protecting the privacy of their consumers is their primary goal and indicating transparency and consistency to achieve that goal followed privacy practices that demonstrate this care, will build emotional connections to their brand. This will positively affect and will improve brand value.
The second prong of the strategy is a pre-sales approach following a traditional model. Telemarketing is of course the most common method of traditional sales. Telemarketing is the direct marketing of goods or services to potential customers over the telephone or the Internet.
There are four common kinds of telemarketing: outbound calls, inbound calls, lead generation, and sales calls.
The advantages of cold calling within telemarketing are that they give the sales representative more control, the ability to verify as well as be able to build and retain relationships and handle constructive criticism.
Because feedback is instantaneous the telemarketing agent is able to read and interpret tone of voice which provide auditory clues as to how the business should proceed.
With telemarketing, David emphasises that it is all a game of numbers.
Measuring how many calls actually yield into meetings, number of call throughs to a decision maker, number of meetings booked, number of meetings held and number of meetings cancelled are the ultimate KPIs that accurately portray how well your marketing campaign is being carried out.
E-mails are another method of telemarketing that can utilise similar key performance indicators such as number of emails sent, different types of email approaches, number of responses (categorised according to yes, no and maybe).
The difficulty arises within emailing and digital marketing is because of the need to customise these approaches regularly. Emails need to capture the attention of the intended recipient in a creative way for a telemarketing campaign to be successful.
Strategies such as making it clear that you are not a spammer and that the email will in fact contain information that will add value to the organisation is very important to even getting your email looked through.
Personalisation and customisation may seem like a small step but adds a lot of value towards building a relationship with your targeted company.
When it comes to building relationships with your intended company through telemarketing, David also recommends continually improve and innovate your business strategies.
Getting creative with the use of calls can go a long way. Understanding the optimum timings at which these calls are being made can create unique opportunities e.g. Early mornings, lunch times and after work hours can create different scenarios and yield different results depending when you get to speak with different gatekeepers or decision makers that can lead to meetings and new conversions.
Continually using the same strategy can prove to become stale quickly as continual calls and emails despite no response can elicit the wrong response from your intended targets thus is it also important to know when to give customers some space to acknowledge and understand the previous sent messages.
Regarding the viability of traditional methods of pre-sales and sales, David commented that this is dependent on the value proposition of the business.
The rise of big data, deep machine learning and AI has raised the conversation of the viability of traditional marketing techniques such as telemarketing. Many predict that before long these processes will become automated and since digital marketing is the next normalised step to marketing rendering telemarketing obsolete.
David believes that telemarketing will still be relevant to businesses and companies that are selling a product or service with a high value proposition. Sales strategy will vary depending on this.
His logic follows that with products that have a low value proposition, not as much critical thinking or decision making goes into closing the deal thus digital marketing which is much more impersonal can work just as well.
But for products and services of high value proposition, multiple negotiations and discussions are needed in order to close the deal. The importance of human interaction in such negotiations and aspects cannot be undermined.
The third and final prong in David ’s approach would be results and the integration of such results with a sales team.
David encourages working closely with the sales team to ensure coordination on all sides. Weekly and monthly reviews are essential to ensuring KPIs are being met.
A playbook and sales diary should be accessible at all times to ensure transparency within the team. Whether using CRM or Excel on an hourly/instant basis, it will increase visibility of sales meetings and other important factors that require collaboration. Such a playbook and diary also reinforce the sales strategy given that these two go hand in hand.
Incentivising the team is also important which is why much of sales works on a commission basis. Because sales and marketing can often be repetitive and boring work, it is important to incentivise your team on a monetary basis to motivate your employees to achieve better and deliver quicker results.
David Liow’s Seminar and Slides