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June 1, 2003

5 Min Read
Selling is systematic, one customer at a time

Top Line’s sales system filters the raw inputs—leads, market intelligence, and corporate development—into priorities. Top priorities can then be directed to field sales for maximum efficiency. The metrics, or measurements, for the system include hit rates, conversion rates, and no-quote rates.

Marketing gets ignored while sales, the focus of all attention, generates business that can disappear on a whim. Sound like your sales and marketing process? Experts in managing these functions tell why it’s critical to develop a long-term strategy.

Marketing and sales functions are still an enigma in many molding and moldmaking companies. Although the world has changed drastically over the past decade, not much has changed about how these functions are perceived and carried out.

As much as the two functions depend on each other for success of growing business, each are separate in terms of job responsibility. Still, sales and marketing are generally lumped together as one job, particularly in small to midsized molding companies. John M. Coe, president of the Sales & Marketing Institute (Scottsdale, AZ), says, “In the classic marketing definition, sales have always remained a part of marketing, but in the real world, the sales in a company have almost always dominated marketing, holding the reins in the marketing-to-sales equation.”

That happens because marketing is the ambiguous function, with results being much harder to quantify than the sales function. Therefore, sales tends to get all the attention. The problem is that most companies sell the same way they’ve been selling for the past several decades.

“I know of no small to medium-sized custom producer, molder or otherwise, who deviates from the traditional manufacturer/sales rep/OEM model with house accounts thrown in,” says Michael Sheehan, strategic marketing director of Top Line Systems, a marketing and sales management firm in East Greenwich, RI and Cleveland, OH.

Landing the Big Fish
The big sales score is fool’s gold, says Sheehan. “It detracts from building a solid sales foundation and impedes a company’s long-term success,” he says. “A successful sales process, one that will support a company long-term, is built on a solid methodology.”

Many molders know that, at least in theory. Unfortunately, the sparkle of the huge, multimillion dollar molding deal often blinds them to the fact that a big deal can be their undoing. More than one custom molder has purchased new equipment, built molds, and established the infrastructure to take on a job that promises millions of parts annually, only to have the program collapse or be much less than originally planned.

Sheehan, whose company manages the sales and marketing management function for its clients, says that solid market development, including market research, is key to strategic sales and preventing these types of missteps. “The goal of market development is to define a company’s target markets and identify the prospects that purchase those services that are the heart of a company’s core capabilities,” he says.

What this does for sales is ensure that when they make a call, it will be to the right company that has the right business. The salesperson will maximize his/her time and that of the engineer or purchasing person. Why is this important? First, time is money. Coe, whose new book, The New Fundamentals of B2B Sales & Marketing, comes out this year, notes that sales representatives today are “selling to more functions and people who are now involved to either influence or decide on whether or not to buy.”

Salespeople for molders and moldmakers, for example, might be dealing with a variety of individuals at a potential customer, such as design engineering, tooling engineering, and purchasing. To some degree, each of these might be involved in the supplier decision.

With face-to-face sales getting more expensive (by some estimates upwards of $1000/call), it’s critical that salespeople know who they need to see and make it a point to meet everyone who might be involved in the process at a potential customer’s facility.

“The days of the road warrior, as it were, calling for an appointment, driving or flying to the prospect’s location, waiting in the lobby, and then being told the appointment cannot be kept because the person you arranged to meet has been called into a meeting and therefore won’t be able to see you today, are over,” says Coe. “Having an understanding of what’s happening to create this situation exemplifies the need for better approaches and solutions to bring sales and marketing closer together to overcome these challenges.”

Marketing’s Role
Sheehan says that market research is a key component of strategic marketing. “Studies can reveal buying and demographic patterns, customer expectations, vendor satisfaction, and assist in the establishment of progress metrics unique to the organization.” Research also helps shed light on niche markets and identify opportunities to create distinct competitive advantages, Sheehan adds.

Marketing development produces prospects and leads, but then these have to be filtered to assess the true opportunity that exists in each one. “The filtering process is a criteria-based matrix that assigns a value to each prospect and lead,” says Sheehan. “These then can be categorized as short-term (yes, they have an immediate need and we’ll send an RFQ), medium-term (nothing for 90 days), or no-quote/long-term opportunities.” (See chart.)

That information then has to be communicated to sales through a dynamic system of strict quotation and lead followup procedures. Many molding and moldmaking companies get plenty of RFQs, but then fail to do the proper followup to keep tabs on the job. Consequently, they never know whether or not the job was let, who won the bid and why, or why they lost the bid. All that information is critical to the sales effort of developing the right business with the right customers.

“The information system is key to sales management because it provides the means to measure and quantify sales efforts,” says Sheehan. “This leads to greater qualified lead-to-quotation and quotation-to-sale ratios, and allows the sales development process to be adjusted for maximum efficiency.”

Contact information
Top Line Systems LLC, Cleveland, OH
Michael Sheehan; (216) 226-6306
[email protected]

Sales & Marketing Institute
Scottsdale, AZ
John M. Coe; (480) 502-9170

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