Systems Sales- An Alternative to Competing on Price

By | October 18, 2010

In this age marketing and digital technologies are setting the tone for a completely different type of selling process; where the service provider can be exclusive in the selling process.

In order to gain maximum effect about the “systems sales” selling process defined here, I recommend that you read the previous three posts first:  “The Hybrid Model”, “The Transformation Business Plan”  and “The Marketing & Promotions Plan” which make the following primary points:

  1. The senior marketing executive is looking for answers and our industry’s newest technologies and logistics create a highly favorable selling and services relationship with very little competition at present.
  2. In order for organizations to “cross the chasm” to sell at the senior marketing executive level it makes sense for the service provider to establish a business plan for transforming a part of the organization into this new selling direction.
  3. Getting your foot in the door with senior marketing executives will usually take a lot more than just a cold call; although cold calls once worked great for many of us!

There’s lots of room at the top since very few competitors are selling at this level. So let’s take a look at a typical systems sale in reverse order starting first with the proposed solution then working backwards to how the sale got there.  To illustrate, I’m using a recent example of a successful B-2-B insurance company that sells business liability insurance to companies of between 25-200 employees.

The solution:

Based on the fee based analysis conducted by the service provider with my assistance, there were 16 solution opportunities offered.  Four were selected for Phase I, one of which related to using the insurance company’s educational seminars as a progressive marketing model for acquiring new customers.  The following solution is easily reusable in a number of similar “acquisition attempt” circumstances – presented from the perspective of the service provider talking to the client:

The standard for best practices in marketing technologies and logistics includes the following:

  • Target selection & message specificity
  • In your initial outreach (whether it be mail, email, trade advertising, phone blitz, signage, etc.) you should allow the customer/prospect to express opinions as to their preferences and pressing needs
  • Driving them towards online (where they’d first prefer to be) gives you an opportunity to establish that dialogue with them
  • This online event includes multiple scenarios such as:
    • Seminar registration
    • The ability for the customer/prospect to state areas of highest interest
    • The ability for them to state preferences for future topics
    • The ability for you to develop a “proprietary database” that you can use for future outreach
    • The ability for you to observe trends based on what they are telling you
    • This online “conversation” would be high image quality with simple user interface practices
    • The “conversation” can then be “routed” to a number of channels such as:
      • Registered attendees
      • An alert to the account executive which may indicate the opportunity for an immediate or subsequent follow through
      • A customized kit response (do both- biz dev exec calls and custom kits typically result in higher conversion rates than just sales calls alone)
      • Time triggered response- meaning it goes into a queue for future response
      • And your proprietary database repository- subsequently you’ll market specifically to certain data segments you’ve acquired

 In order to execute on all of this we, the service provider work with you to determine:

  • Which target markets you want to appeal to
  • What general educational assets you have to offer
  • What specific educational assets you have to offer to different market segments
  • What types of information you’d want to know from them- for example
    • Present “status”
    • What’s on their mind, what are their preferences upcoming concerns, etc
    • Their awareness levels of new regulatory issues
    • Other proprietary information relevant to “insurance company” offerings that they’d select from a multiple choice list
    • Free form text blocs
  • Selection of outbound “product types” (mail, e-blast, etc)
  • Development of brand position, content message and imagery, final copy
    • Presume this to be developed in stages with continual feedback between us
  • Proprietary development templates were inserted here
  • Follow through workflow maps 
  • Measurement, observation, refinement- tweak for maximum yield

 The sale:

The sale started as an initial discovery call with two insurance company principals; the service provider having previously establishing their brand and promotions strategy so the table was set with the business owners at the appropriate level of expectation for this sales call. 

During this initial discovery call it was determined that the insurance provider was losing significant customers for the first time in their twenty year history and in recent years they had found with “new customer acquisition” their competition “had caught up to them”.  In reality this insurance provider actually stood head and shoulders above most of their competition in the area of business liability knowledge and professional follow on servicing of the client.

The service provider, recognizing that the client genuinely did have unique differentiators to offer, suggested a fee based “deep dive” into what the company offered, who they targeted and what their business acquisition and retention methodologies were.  The service provider also promised there was a high probability given the present state of marketing technologies and logistics that the insurance company stood to gain tremendously from the benefits these new “marketing services” could mean for their company.

After several months of fee-based workshops the service provider drew up a preliminary “marketing flight plan” based entirely on the technologies we all know and love so well.  (No excuses for the service provider community here as relates to “we’re not an agency”; this was all standard stuff here). 

In addition to the sixteen specific ideas proffered in the marketing flight plan, the range of discussions included:

  • Integrated cross media
  • Opportunities with social media
  • Automated marketing workflows
  • And a services support system that had the service provider leading the way and holding their hand[s] along the journey toward higher achievement with customer centric marketing

So the trick becomes- how do you do the discovery call… it’s simple (yeah right), read my previous posts and “reverse engineer” the challenges senior marketing executives face- these become some of the questions you ask along with specific questions relating to the particular industry vertical of course… and… (drum roll please) make sure your best sales executives are in on the hunt.

This is new territory, it takes some practice (Malcolm Gladwell might say 10,00 hours for mastery) but you’ve got to start somewhere or run the risk of becoming obsolete as was the case for the incumbent printers in this enterprise-level systems sale!

I’m happy to offer more details on this and as always welcome your feedback!

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