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The Electronically Enhanced Sales Force

Sales forces are now commonly trained via DBS, by video and audio, floppy disks, and via online computers and a host of other multimedia methods. Obviously, the coordination of all these electronic media is critical. Here's how book representatives use electronic media to get more sales.

A big marketing problem in book publishing is the placement of appropriate books in the optimum quantities in stores when an author is interviewed on TV or radio. Each sales representative is instructed to notify his or her biggest customers by fax or E-mail of the author's tour schedule. For a store chain like B. Dalton which has many stores in many markets, it's the sales representative's job to get the chain to notify all the store managers well in advance in a city on the tour schedule. Next, the representative sends by fax or E-mail a signed letter announcing the news to every other book outlet in the tour city, typically three weeks before the media event. The representative follows up by phone both before and after the promotional events, at which times title inventories are checked and reorders obtained. If sales are particularly strong, the representative may make personal visits to important accounts.

Many sales representatives use a call-waiting service to take a second call, while placing the first account on hold. Remote call-forwarding makes it easy and cheap for customers and prospects to call from anywhere at local rates. Autodialing reduces time to only one or two digits to reach important customers. Voice mail or fax announcements are made to accounts in a city the salesperson plans to visit. On the way, the salesperson confirms appointments by cellular phone from a car and phones the office to listen to the latest voice mail.

The fax is used for many purposes. From letters to contract proposals to engineering drawings to copies of catalog pages or ads, salespeople use fax to keep in close touch with their customers and their boss.

Sales forces selling complex products are using a never-ending succession of briefcase, notebook, and hand-held computers that continually become smaller, lighter, faster, and more powerful. Faster, smaller, cheaper modems connect them to the office or other computer sites. Multisensor capabilities are proliferating. For instance, the IBM Audio-Visual Connection card allows a salesperson to develop a complete presentation using audio, visual, data, and text, compress it ten times, and send it by modem.

Computer programs are also becoming more responsive. Many salespeople dial into their company computer and feed in the details of a complex proposal. The computer then calculates the costs involved, adds the markup, and spits out the price to quote. A Pepperidge Farm delivery/salesperson uses a hand-held terminal to input what was delivered to the store and then prints an invoice. At the end of each business day, the salesperson connects her or his terminal to a modem and sends delivery information via the AT&T network to Pepperidge headquarters. From there, daily deliveries are transmitted to the billing department and an order for fresh products is transmitted to the appropriate baking facility.


Integrating Sales and Advertising, Telemarketers and the Sales Force

Printed material helps convince sales prospects; when a contract is forwarded, a phone call can then explain and help take away the fear of small-print clauses. The final closure can occur by phone, a personal sales call, or by an appointment at a sales office or an event. The selling process is intertwined with national and local advertising, trade shows and trade magazine ads, PR and promotions. All produce leads that salespeople close.

A chain of promotional efforts in a variety of media may prove most effective to consummate sales. At each step those less interested drop out. Those remaining may want more answers to different questions. Electronic media can be programmed to answer those questions when they're asked. For example, the following three-step approach can produce quick sales. Just combine any medium with an audiotext response channel and additional messages with the sales force as the final "closer." Anyone inquiring can be electronically referred to the appropriate salesperson.

In Chapters 8 and 9 we described how much more productive telemarketers and the sales force are when their efforts are coordinated. IBM uses telemarketers for "commodity" items that are accepted and frequently ordered and uses the sales force to launch new products. The telemarketers work on smaller transactions and the sales force on bigger ones.

The telemarketers get leads for the sales force for transactions needing demonstration. The sales force turns over to telemarketers the accepting and solicitation of repeat orders for computer supplies and certain peripheral products and software. Both efforts are integrated with advertising, trade shows, targeted direct mail, and public relations. Smaller companies often use commission representatives on bigger accounts in bigger cities, and telemarketers on smaller, out-of-the-way accounts. There can be more enhancement.

Richard Bencin, a top telemarketing expert, is a great believer in the integration of telemarketing, direct mail, video brochures, and a sales representative. He calls it "telefocus" marketing. Bencin says: "By priming the prospect with a video brochure in advance of a sales call, that prospect is mentally prepared for the sales representative's call."

The same effect may also be realized with a computer disk. Sometimes, by coordinating a succession of marketing contacts–a video or disk, phone and mail–the sales force's efforts may be greatly reduced or even dropped. Typically, the telemarketing component of the integrated campaign must be expanded and enhanced in other ways.


Integrating All Direct Marketing

Murray Roman pioneered the telemarketing medium and launched the first telephone marketing firm to make over 100 million calls. His son, Ernan Roman, pioneered integrated direct marketing (IDM), starting with telephone and direct mail. Ernan cites many examples, among which is the following, where IDM in many combinations for clients of Ernan Roman Direct Marketing (ERDM), and for others, pulled more results than when direct marketing media are used separately.

CitiCorp, for a home equity loan product and against a "mail only" control, tested an IDM combination of print, mail, plus inbound and outbound calls. The IDM test not only increased the number of new accounts by 15 percent but decreased marketing costs by 71 percent.

Direct mail can also be combined with telemarketing and audio conferencing. Dean Meyer Associates sell computer consultation and audioconferencing. Dean says:

We use direct mail to get leads but have never closed a single sponsor by direct mail. We close by phone. If we qualify an inquiry by phone, we send them a free tape of a previous conference as a demo and then phone back to close.

Ernan Roman reports how Hewlett-Packard (H-P), working with ERDM, implemented an IDM approach to improve lead quantity and quality. The goal was to get more CEOs, CFOs, and VPs of finance and MIS to attend any of the four sessions of an audio conference:

H-P used a 7-step IDM registration process developed by ERDM which included, on a time schedule, initial direct mail producing 800# and BRC response–outbound telemarketing, a confirmation letter and a briefing package–then two confirmation calls and a follow-up letter.

The registration rate was 163 percent of forecast; qualified leads were 222 percent of forecast; 12.5 percent of the mailed universe registered for the conferences; 61 percent of registrants attended with an average of 3.5 from each company. All stayed on the line the entire conference. The H-P sales force viewed the participants as high-quality leads of a senior level of decision maker previously inaccessible to them.


IDM-Enhanced TV

Direct marketers prefer two-minute TV commercials, but this time length can be difficult to place on the air during desirable times of the day. A 30-second direct-response commercial can be placed much more easily. Although 30-second spots typically can pull a phone inquiry, they can't usually complete a sale. One solution is to weave the rest of the sales message into the telephone script. When the prospect responds by calling the 800 number, a live salesperson can add sales points for about three minutes or so–time enough also to up-sell and cross-sell. Audiotext can also be the follow-up medium. For example, Weichert Realtors of Morristown, New Jersey, features a toll-free number. Once you provide a little interaction, including a down payment figure, the audiotext program calculates and states the monthly mortgage expense.

Electronic media have not and will not replace print. But electronic media are changing the ways in which print can be most profitably used. Integrating print with electronic media marketing leads to far better results than either one alone. Use print to get people to call an audiotext gateway, to fax response, to use EM kiosks, dial computer bulletin boards, or whatever other electronic media tool is appropriate. In certain business-to-business selling situations, the immediacy of the fax can be profitably combined by prominent mention within any size ad, even classifieds. The immediately returned fax delivery of one to several pages of additional sales material can clinch the sale while the prospect is hot.

The Literary Guild Magazine book club member magazine prominently features a 900 number. Members pay to hear a big-name author read short excerpts from his or her latest best-seller via a recorded message. Each 11-minute recorded message begins with a "hello" from 10 best-selling authors such as Judith Krantz, Danielle Steele, and Michael Korda, and reminds callers that they can participate in special offers not available in the magazine. The message also refers to promotions on various pages of the magazine. Members just press a button to make a purchase.

The recorded message changes every 21 days to coincide with new issues of the magazine. Callers must use a touchtone phone to participate. The system captures the caller's 11-digit account number, plus a 1-digit control to specify the magazine edition where a special promotion ran. The cost is 50 cents for one minute and 50 cents a minute thereafter. The average call is 3 minutes and 42 seconds. The Literary Guild phone program 900 conversion to sales averaged 10 to 15 percent during the first 21 days of the offer.

The Nexis division of Mead Data Central inserted 210,000 disks bound into Forbes magazine. Results have proven successful enough for both Nexis and Forbes to expand their programs. Chapter 16 explained how CitiCorp used integrated techniques to promote its business-to-business financial services. The best integrated marketing formula can require several attempts, but persistence pays off. You'll recall how CitiCorp slashed selling costs by 90 percent after first trying to combine direct mail with computer disk demonstrations and then online demonstrations combined with closure by telephone marketing instead of personal sales visits.


Catalog and Phone Combined

Lee Van Vechten, a top catalog and telemarketing authority, preaches:

Catalogs have, literally, one brief shot. Catalogs cannot talk. Telemarketing as a new-business tool often fails because of its expense. Telemarketing in conjunction with catalog mailings is often very successful because of its added credibility. Confidence has been established; there is a reason for the call.

Spiegel gets 93 percent of its catalog business by phone. The J. C. Penney catalog gets and makes over 100 million phone calls a year and does over 98 percent of its business by phone. J. C. Penney's catalog features its 800 number every several pages, often in big type. The Sears catalog gets over 95 percent of its business by phone.

As I've explained in previous chapters, electronic catalogs in various media thus far have often proven to be more useful as support media or supplemental promotion rather than as a primary selling tool. There are exceptions, of course, and these should be studied closely. Video catalogs can be appropriate to show action and for demonstrations. Floppy disk catalogs and marketplaces are best when presenting limited amounts of text and graphics and where frequent updating is helpful. Online catalogs and marketplaces are best for smaller amounts of description to be viewed or downloaded at one time and for last-minute updating of price, items, or inventory status. CD-ROM catalogs and marketplaces can contain more pictures, graphics, color, far more items, and much more text.

In general, video cocatalogs and floppy disk cocatalogs each work hand in hand with print catalogs to make both media more profitable. Even CD-ROM catalogs are usually supported by print. And some print catalogs are supplemented by audiotape.

When the QVC shopping TV network launched a print catalog, it used its on-air personalities as models in the QVC catalogs. In turn, QVC print catalogs feature TV program guides, previews of items for sale on QVC, and stories about show hosts. Response rates of 4 to 8 percent are reported.