An effective rainmaker can make it pour sales
The constant quest for most businesses, small, medium and large, lies in generating qualified sales leads. For the company marketing to a highly targeted base of hard-to-corral prospects, especially high-level executives at large corporations, the need becomes more pressing, the process more complex and the success more elusive.
Enter the rainmaker, the subject of sales mythology, part-man, part-god. Like the Loch Ness monster, such people are rarely evidenced, but sometimes considered as a solution of last resort when business is down or flat and "for some unknown reason, our message isn’t getting out to prospects and we’re not getting invited to the pitch."
In most cases, the hired-gun rainmaker fails to deliver. Why? The expectations are unrealistic; the time frame for the delivery of results is too immediate and short term; the company is not really committed to the process; or the incentive compensation basis is out of skew.
In spite of the difficulties and risks associated with the process, rainmaking can work if executed with strategic discipline and managed with professional care. Rainmaking can deliver the serious pre-sales meetings with senior management.
Successful rainmakers are familiar with the reconnoitering techniques that result in usable market intelligence. What are the projects on the horizon and what’s the timing for associated spending decisions? Will there be request for proposal competition? Have preliminary budgets been developed?
The professional rainmakers don’t close the sale. That’s not their job. Their responsibility is to profile the prospect, fill the information gaps and conduct a highly qualified pre-sell that establishes the foundation for a cost-effective and time efficient follow-up sales blitz.
The bottom line is: Good rainmakers know how to get in the door and make a strong pre-sell. Naturally, the stronger the pre-sell, the better the ultimate close rate.
Introducing Corporate Rain
Corporate Rain Inc., with headquarters in New York, is one of a handful of rainmaking consultancies servicing the corporate marketplace. The company, which boasts clients such as insurance giant AIG, Amadeus, Deloitte&Touche, E*Trade and Avaya Communications, employs 35 associates, both full-time employees and independent contractors who have had extensive experience in a corporate executive position.
These high-level sales cowboys work the phones on behalf of CRI’s clients, which run the gamut from medium to very large companies.
Because the biggest obstacle in getting to the prospect decision maker is making it through the gatekeeper, persistence coated in trust and lacquered in courtesy is a must. For that reason CRI associates are experienced, more than 35 years old, and carry significant business and corporate scar tissue, which allows them to exhibit executive judgment and demeanor. Most have chosen to exit the corporate rat race, yet still practice in their chosen field, executive sales.
CRI maintains that it averages a 10-20 percent pre-sell hit rate. CRI associates position themselves as staff members of the client they are representing, make repeated calls to targeted prospects, qualify the prospects according to client criteria, set up meetings for client top executives and glean detailed information from each prospect that will assist the client in tailor-making the pitch in each case.
The CRI process follows a logical course of action. The procedure commences with client-provided prospect lists normally culled from in-house contacts and files, selected listings from local area business journals, as well as prospects from national list brokers. CRI will offer to confirm the client-provided prospect lists by appending names, addresses and direct phone numbers of the appropriate decision makers. This cleaning up process helps to significantly drive up the appointment rate during the call cycle.
Each calling campaign is preceded by an introductory letter-mailing campaign, executed by the client, not CRI, at a suggested mailing rate of 80-100 letters per month. In this way the client controls the volume and rate of mailing. The client is also asked to appoint an internal administrative assistant to monitor response and resends. Mailing blitzes will sometimes be executed in support of trade shows and as an introduction to calls that are made seeking sales appointments during the shows.
CRI manages an up-to-the-minute prospect database. The monitoring system calls for immediate notification to the client as soon as an appointment has been set together with information like time, date, location, key prospects attending, as well as background data like prospect needs or issues, level of purchase interest and competitor involvement. Databases continue to be updated with new contacts and contact information, all of which is transmitted to the client on a regular, ongoing basis.
Evidently, the process works. According to Brad Smith, CRI executive vice president, "Amadeus is a classic example of how the system works and delivers." CRI executives met with key Amadeus players to plan strategic coordination, undergo pitch training for CRI associates, and learn company background and capabilities. In less than five months, CRI landed 70 meetings with key prospects and provided competitive feedback that helped Amadeus further fine tune its sales process.
Alf Nucifora is an Atlanta-based marketing consultant.