Ever heard a prospect say, "Send me your literature." As if to say, "I'm totally interested. Just send me your brochure so I can make an informed purchase decision." Yeah right! But still many salespeople interpret this as a buying signal, and send out a $10 to $30 marketing kit.
Nobody likes to say no. It's uncomfortable. It feels disrespectful. So prospects look for softer ways to turn away salespeople. They ask for brochures or proposals, because it's the logical next step in the sales cycle. It's a soft commitment, but doesn't really mean anything.
Proposals are a necessary evil in most sales cycles. Customers expect them, because they want a tangible description of what they will get, the terms of service and what it will cost. A brochure on the other hand is not necessary. You can give away a brochure without any commitment whatsoever: no meetings, no follow up, nothing. A prospect can request a brochure off of a cold call, and then never speak to the sales person again. What a colossal waste of money.
Put your brochures under lock and key
Make a company policy: no more brochures. Take them away from the sales force, and don't let anyone distribute them.
Brochures are sales crutches. Are your reps that gimpy they can't talk to prospects and customers on their own? Do they really need a glossy booklet to facilitate a conversation? I doubt it.
Take the crutches away. Let your salespeople stand on their own two feet, and ask the customer about their wants and needs. If the customer asks, "send me your literature," the rep can ask, "What kind of information are you specifically looking for?" That simple question takes the sales process in a totally new direction.
That being said, you will get push back. Just as prospects and customers don't like to say, no, salespeople don't like dealing with resistance. It's uncomfortable telling a prospect, "Sorry, we don't use brochures. There's plenty of information on our website. Is there something specific you're looking for?"
Focus on sales velocity
If for no other reason, get rid of your brochures because they slow down sales. Every time a salesperson sends out a brochure they inevitably slow down the sales process. First it takes two to three days for the marketing kit to arrive at the prospect's office. Then the sales rep follows up with a call a week later. Best case scenario the rep gets the prospect on the phone, and they schedule next steps. More likely though, they miss each other and play phone tag for another week or so.
Meanwhile, the competitor that didn't use a brochure has already qualified the prospect. They know if there is a real opportunity here, and if so they are scheduling presentations or delivering quotes. They achieve a significant lead in the sales process, and greatly increase their chances of winning the deal.
Oh yeah, quick caveat
If you ditch the brochures, your website has to rock. Your website has to say everything a brochure can and then ten times more.
Customers still need to validate their buying decisions. They are looking for proof beyond what the salesperson says. In the pre-Internet days, they might have used a brochure to evaluate the brand and get some cues on the health and stability of the company. Today, they go online. You can guarantee your customers will be visiting your site and using the information they find online to support their buying decision.
Treat your website like another salesperson. It should be able to do everything a sales- person will in an introductory call: articulate your value proposition, share testimonials and give plenty of product information. The prospect should feel comfortable with what they find online, and then get a richer more contextual perspective from the salesperson.
Give the brochures back to marketing
I'm not suggesting throwing away your brochures. You spent good money on them, and there is a time and a place for them. You still want to use them for tradeshows and events where you need a giveaway. But do not allow them to be distributed in the sales process.
Change your sales process and your sales training to operate without the crutches. Get your reps asking more questions, and being comfortable sending prospects to the website. One, it's a far more cost effective approach. Two, it forces your salespeople to really qualify a lead, and determine how best to sell to them. Three, and most important of all, eliminating the sales crutches makes the sales process faster.
About the Author:
Jeremy Miller is passionate about sales and business development. He is a regular contributor to a variety of publications, and interviewed monthly on TV on the latest hiring trends.