Improve Your Communication with Calls to Action

August 24, 2016

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter

When you think about a Call to Action (CTA), what comes to mind? Perhaps a print or banner ad that says “Click Here”? Or a TV commercial urging you to “Call Now”?

CTAs are often thought of only in relation to sales messages. But incorporating CTAs in each aspect of communication can significantly improve your results. This goes for all external communication, but also for internal and interpersonal communication.

For example, think about the last email you sent (to a colleague, customer, friend, whomever). Did you clearly communicate the response you hoped for or did you just send a message that might leave them wondering how to respond? Even adding a simple, “Let me know your thoughts” to a message can signal that person to act and engage with your communication.

Each piece of communication you use could benefit from a call to action; once you incorporate CTAs into your messages, you’ll likely see better results.

Beyond advertisements or commercials, add CTAs to:

  • E-blasts
  • Emails
  • Voicemail messages
  • Videos
  • Presentations
  • Press releases
  • Blog posts

Even some conversations can benefit from a call to action.

At the end of the day, all communication has a desired response. The easiest way to get the response is to simply ask for it!

Do you incorporate a call to action in your communications?

Manufacturers: Is Social Media Working for you in Reaching Contractors?

August 23, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

social media iconsSocial media has been around long enough that by now you should have an idea of whether or not it’s working for you. Is it? Do you really know? Do you really care?

I guess the first question we should ask ourselves is why are we doing it? Hopefully it’s not because everyone else is. The next question would be which of the many social media options out there are you focusing on?

Let’s explore the first question – Why are you doing it?

  • Are you really sold on it?
  • How much of your promotional budget is set aside for social?
  • Do you have a written strategy for social?
  • Do you have some way of defining and measuring success?

If you’re really sold on it, you’d have a written plan and a dedicated person responsible for its implementation and success.

How about the second question – What social media tools are you using?

  • Is Facebook and Twitter the right way to connect to your audience?
  • Are the photo sharing apps making sense for you?
  • What type of YouTube presence do you have?
  • Are you utilizing SlideShare?
  • Are you participating in appropriate LinkedIn groups?
  • Have you started a blog?

I have found that Facebook  and Twitter have little impact on reaching contractors. The best tools for results, in my opinion, are blogs, YouTube, SlideShare and LinkedIn. Here are some interesting factoids:

  • 80% of all B-to-B social media sales come from LinkedIn.
  • SlideShare receives 500% more traffic from business owners than Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube combined.
  • Google+ gets an average of 1.2 billion visits per month, compared to 800,000 for Facebook.

I’d be curious to find out from you what social programs are working for you.

Here are some links to posts that you may find interesting regarding social media:

SlideShare is probably the most overlooked social media tool to reach contractors

Social Media: does it affect marketing to the professional tradesman?

Why Manufacturers should personalize content for the professional tradesman.

Do you have a company LinkedIn page? You should.

How to use content to reach Contractors


Sustainable Pricing Starts with Your Sales Force

August 17, 2016

This post originally appeared on


Achieving significant pricing gains can feel like a long, hard-fought battle. This makes it all the more satisfying when the numbers start to roll in, validating your efforts and proving without a doubt that profitability is attainable.

The thought of losing those gains may keep you up at night. What safeguards can you put in place to protect the gains you’ve achieved and prevent your company from sliding back into past poor pricing habits?

It all starts with building a confident sales force.

1. Handling Customer Pushback

No one wants to pay higher prices, ever. If you recently increased prices or are planning to do so, at least some segment of customers won’t be happy with the change. Know that they will push back. After all, that’s what their purchasing staff gets paid to do. And that’s OK.

Just because they push back doesn’t mean you have to cave in.

A well-trained sales force will be able to hold their ground, resist the pushback and effectively explain to the customer exactly why the price change is necessary and unavoidable.

However, if your sales force is not well-trained—if they are not fully informed about the price change and equipped to discuss it—you’ll likely have some issues on your hands.

2. Communicating Value

Strong companies price according to value. They’re not worried about losing business to the competition because they know they deliver far more value than the competition could ever hope for.

A sales force that is confident in your value proposition can communicate this value effectively. But they need your help to find this confidence. Your sales team needs to be equipped for these conversations, both with hard numbers and high-level messaging.

Data. Quantify your value claims. Your proof might include value calculators, quality metrics, on-time delivery rates, gains on a customer satisfaction index or any host of other value benchmarks.

Message. Document exactly how to articulate the value your company provides so your salespeople know exactly how to make the case for higher prices.

If your sales force believes in your value proposition, and if they are trained to sell a price increase in a clear and thoughtful way, they will be able to ask for and receive the right price—and they’ll be able to stand firm when asked for a concession.

3. The Flip Side of Confidence

Of course, all of this implies that your company does, in fact, deliver value. It’s critical that your quality, service and overarching customer experience be excellent. When this happens, it’s only natural to expect to be paid for it.

But if your company struggles with value—if you’ve had quality or service issues in the past—your salespeople will have doubts.

And if they have doubts, they’ll be more likely to act out of fear when a customer pushes back. They’ll be too afraid to stand their ground on the price increase because they’ll be afraid to lose the business.

If this is the case, it’s time to tackle the issue before your profitability goes out the window.

4. Ongoing Commitment to Training

Ultimately, you’ll find that investing in the confidence of your sales team is one of the smartest decisions you can make. But this is not a one-time event.

Price negotiations happen every time a sales representative talks with a customer, whether or not you or they realize it.

Therefore, you must have ongoing training.

To engage effectively in these continual price conversations, your sales force needs constant reinforcement on the value your company delivers. They need continual updates on the data that support your claims. And they need the freshest messaging and communication materials that will equip them to make the strongest case for a price increase.

If your company does not change prices frequently, the need for this ongoing training becomes even more imperative.

5. Measuring Results and Identifying Opportunities

But slips will happen even in the best-trained companies. Putting a process in place for tracking key metrics can serve as an early warning system to identify potential price leak threats.

As you analyze your price and profitability KPIs, drill down into your data and look for outliers.

It can help to segment the metrics that you track:

  • By salesperson
  • By territory
  • By product line
  • By product manager

This may help you understand what is really happening out in the field. You may find, for example, that more concessions are taking place in the Northeast relative to the rest of the country.

Armed with this information, you can look more closely at what is going on in that region. Is there a competitive reason there that warrants the concessions? For instance, has a competitor introduced a new product line that is undercutting yours?

Or is the problem internal? Is the product manager doing a good job communicating value to the sales team? Is this an opportunity to provide the sales team with additional training and support?

Not all price concessions are bad, but all blind price concessions certainly are. Once you start tracking pricing metrics at the appropriate level, you can begin to make accurate judgments about where price concessions are warranted and where they’re not to determine sustainable pricing.

6. The Value of a Pricing Partner

Analytics is one area where the right pricing partner can pay dividends. By helping you establish a system to appropriately and accurately measure price and profitability, you gain a truly granular view of your pricing strategy.

As a result, you can confidently make the right decisions on how to manage prices—deciding, for example, to raise them by 5 percent in Region A, 3 percent in Region B, and hold prices steady in Region C.

You’ll also be able to track against that plan. This allows you to identify gaps and the cause behind the gap so that you can take steps to remedy the gap if needed.

As with all things in business, what gets measured gets improved. If you turn pricing into your most rewarding profit lever, you need the right system in place to implement, communicate and track price changes.

Anything less than that almost guarantees your price gains will be temporary at best.

Content Marketing Helps Drive Business Results

August 16, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

I think we all can agree that content marketing is playing a vital role in everyone’s overall marketing plan. Everyone wants lead generation and engagement, and to get both, you have to give them good content!

In a September 2015 study by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs, 76% of B2B marketers in North America said they expect to create more content in 2016 than they did in 2015.

Contractors and professional tradesman often don’t have time to read the latest trade publication or look at the magazines’ website on a regular basis and might miss your message. Chances are, unless you only make one product, their interest at any given time may be on another product.

When they do go looking for things, the first place most go to is the internet, and the chances are that they are looking for a solution just as much as they are looking for a specific product. That’s why search is so important in the big scheme of things, and what makes you go up in search – good meaningful content!

And here’s what they are looking for:

The challenge is how do you develop good content? The recognition of these difficulties is leading many B2B marketers to focus on outsourcing some of their work to specialists. Nearly three-quarters of B2B marketers in Ascend2’s survey either outsourced all of their content marketing work or used a combination of outsourcing and in-house resources.

You can certainly look for freelancers to fill the gap or you could look to an obvious source – your PR or marketing firm. They are familiar with your overall goals, your voice and what you do. The key is quality content, not quantity, and your outside professionals can help you keep the bar high.

Another Reason to Use Emails to Reach Contractors: Acquisition and Retention

August 10, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

B to B trends tend to follow retail ones and here’s one more. I’ve been a big proponent of using emails as the best way to reach the professional contractors and tradesman and here are further reasons to consider this tactic.

A recent study by email on acid reported that email marketing is going to remain a top priority for companies in 2016. Though we could have predicted this was the case, nearly three out of four companies (71.8 percent) say they are planning to spend more time on email production and more than four out of five (86.7 percent) report that they will increase email marketing budgets this year.

A great email doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have a good list to send it to. That’s why building your own list is so important. You want to have an opted-in list so you can be assured your message gets by the firewalls and junk mail boxes.

Warranty cards and trade show leads are a start, but we need to be more creative. Sales visits to jobsites are a good way to start a conversation.

So, in order to get them to give up their email, we better come up with some interesting and helpful stuff that will make them want to read our emails for future gems.

It’s not only what you have to say, but how you say it. Beyond being potential customers, these contractors can be your best friend by sharing it with their peer group. Remember, contractors need to know, like and trust you before any meaningful dialog will start.

Here are some tips to building a better list of contractors and tradesmen:

  • Think like a contractor  What are their pain points? Give them practical solutions. Always answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”
  • Talk like a human – Don’t use marketing or sales speak. Keep it conversational.
  • Give them a reason to sign up – Sneak peeks at new products, exclusive product demos.
  • Ask the contractor what they want help with – Get engagement from the audience you want to reach.
  • Don’t be afraid of humor – People like to smile and it shows more of your human side.
  • Reach out to contractors – On a regular basis, randomly pick several contractors and have a product manager call and pick their brains on possible new product ideas.

Be sure to read 5 tips on how to write effective email subject lines by Sandy Bucher, Media Engineer at Sonnhalter that will help you get them opened.

Emails are back and stronger than ever if we do them right. Remember, you’re not looking for a big list, but a good one.

6 CRM Best Practices

August 9, 2016

Today we have a guest post from Russ Hill, Founder and CEO of Ultimate Lead Systems. BestPracticesImage-300x171

With a couple of decades of experience helping companies with their B2B sales lead management and CRM programs, 6 Best Practices have revealed themselves that I would like to share. I’ve witnessed companies succeed and increase sales by diligently applying these practices. I’ve also seen organizations waste thousands of marketing dollars and lose thousands of dollars in sales opportunities by ignoring these practices. If you are serious about improving your sales and marketing ROI, these practices will lead you to some big wins.

1. Get your sales and marketing teams on the same page

First of all, Sales and Marketing need to re-think how they fundamentally interact. They frequently operate in their own “silos.” They need to learn how to support each other to release their inherent synergy to increase sales. Customers are rarely ready to sign a purchase order when reps first call. And reps are usually not present when the purchasing decision is made. Thus, today’s marketing programs need to nurture buyers throughout their buying process and notify the rep when a buyer is ready to engage. Marketers must send the right messages out at the right time that appeal to all of the buying influences. And the sales person must make multiple calls on the right people to further cultivate the relationship. It is a team selling approach. Everyone has a role and responsibility.

Industry research shows that buyers are 60% into their buying process before they engage your company or sales person, so it’s crucial to have sales and marketing working together.

2. Define and document roles for everyone using your CRM

CRM programs are tools for facilitating strategy, driving initiatives and measuring results. Each role has responsibilities along with goals and tasks. Many users will have access, but do they all understand each others respective roles? Roles typically include administrators, sales, marketing, email marketing, social media, html and graphic designers, analytics and management. Sales and Customer Service people are often charged with making or taking so many calls per day. Marketing people must manage and grow subscriber lists, execute targeted email campaigns, promote content on social media, drive web traffic, generate sales leads and more. Clearly defining all of the user roles and responsibilities, documenting processes and communicating it all to your team will provide everyone with deeper insight into how their role supports your organization. It will also help everyone better understand how you are leveraging the CRM and marketing tools to achieve company objectives and growth. Update your documentation frequently so everyone can stay on top of the latest processes and responsibilities, and make sure it is readily available via your intranet or network.

3. Send only “Qualified Leads” to your sales team and require follow-up

Today’s customers are likely to engage your company with multiple interactions via your different marketing channels before they are ready to talk with a sales rep. A sales person’s time is expensive and they are tasked with making productive calls and hitting sales goals. A sales lead sent to a rep that doesn’t pan out – is unqualified – undermines their confidence in the whole process and in the marketing team. It is paramount for sales and marketing to be on the same page when it comes to defining “what makes a lead a lead.”

Marketing must also understand the difference between an “inquiry” and a bonafide “sales lead” from the sales person’s perspective. They need to talk with sales and come to an agreement on what “qualified lead” means. Marketing is then challenged with generating sales leads that meet that profile. From the sales person’s viewpoint, the number of page views, click-throughs, emails received and opened is a lot of noise. Sales people want to know who has requested a sales call or requested a quote and is a bonafide prospect with life-time value. These qualified leads with details on needs and purchase plans should be passed on quickly to sales reps and accessed with easy-to-use tools for managing follow-up. The more leads they can close to sales, the more confidence they will have in marketing’s efforts. Sure there are always reps who “cherry pick” and look for business to fall into their laps. And some reps ignore leads no matter how much opportunity they may represent, so management must require follow-up. But good reps respond to quality leads and know how to effectively follow-up to cultivate opportunities and win sales. Research also shows that it takes an average of 5 calls to close the typical B2B sale, so reps need to put in the right effort and follow-up.

4. Keep your CRM data CLEAN!

Clean CRM data is the crucial for the success of your sales and marketing teams and for tracking success. Unfortunately, CRM programs are frequently “garbaged-up” making the job of everyone who touches the program more difficult.

Examples: Users enter duplicate accounts and contacts rather than looking to see if they already exist. Account and contact data isn’t kept up to date. Important data is inadvertently deleted. Call reports are not entered so contact history is not up-to-date. Order history is incomplete, etc.

CRM data quality assurance is everyone’s responsibility and that expectation must be made clear to all users from the outset and with regular reminders. It is the perfect environment for “garbage in, garbage out!” Quality data enables you to build effective business intelligence, improve customer service and drive more business. Here are a few things you can practice to maintain clean data:

  • Ensure the correct data is recorded at every entry point and for each user type. (Know all entry points and user interfaces in order to identify where problems are occurring.) Train your staff so that data quality expectations and the steps to assure quality are well known.
  • Maintain consistency in data values. (For example United States and USA, or state abbreviations vs. spellings.) Force data value selections by using drop-down lists where possible.
  • Avoid entry of duplicate accounts, leads and contacts. Always check for previous entries first.
  • Merge duplicate records. Establish program rules ensure that unique account numbers are not overwritten. Use built in dupe checking functionality for preventing duplicates or third party deduping tools. Maintain complete and up-to-date information on your records.

5. Train, Train and Train!

It is impossible to get everyone on the same page regarding your sales process, goals and expectations through a single memo or meeting. CRM programs are complex with many functions – many your team may never use. But they need to know the functions that enable them to fulfill their role. Pilots don’t become proficient after a single take-off and landing. Surgeons don’t master surgery with one operation. Likewise, your team and their CRM training. Training must be ongoing with the focus on important functions and with frequent review. There are no shortcuts. Memories are short. Mastery comes through repetition.

6. Measure Success

After all of the time, money and effort invested in your program, how do you measure CRM success? Consider the following:

  • How frequently do your users access your program?
  • Is your “qualified” lead volume increasing?
  • How quickly are your reps looking at and following up their leads?
  • What is your lead conversion rate?
  • Is it improving?
  • What kind of feedback are you getting from your users?
  • What suggestions are you getting for improvements?
  • Are you soliciting them?
  • Is your social media and other marketing activity actually delivering bonafide, new leads?
  • Is your sales team happy with the sales lead quality and quantity?
  • Are sales going up?

These are just some of the questions you may want to consider when exploring how to measure the success of your CRM and lead management programs.

When considering CRM Best Practices, ask yourself honestly and realistically: How good are you at applying best practices in order to improve your organization’s return on its marketing and sales efforts? Are your “best practices” leading your company to greater success?”

Russ Hill is the founder and President of Ultimate Lead Systems, Inc., a company specializing in sales lead management, CRM and support services.

SlideShare is Probably the Most Overlooked Social Media Tool to Reach Contractors

August 3, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Close to 70 million visitors a month, five times more traffic from business owners than Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. SlideShare was purchased by LinkedIn a few years ago which allows both platforms to work seamlessly together, which is good news for you.

Why should you consider using it? Contractors like visuals and are wanting to learn more of how or why to do things a certain way.

It’s a great way to market your business, and showcase your expertise as an industry leader. Not only can you put up Power Point presentations and white papers, you can upload videos by using SlideSharepro  and have a way to repurpose your webinars or online training options.

If you’re worried about sharing your information with the world, you can upload content that you can make available to select audiences (by invitation only).

The most important reason for using SlideShare is to generate leads. Peg Fitzpatrick wrote a great post on Social Media Examiner on ways to capitalize on getting leads.

She focuses on ways to collect emails from viewers, how to use links in slides, why you should add visual calls to action and lastly, why the description. It’s a good quick read.

Heidi Cohen outlines 10 actionable marketing tactics to get the most out of leads.

Here are some tips:

  • Are slide titles and text consistently placed and aligned?
  • Other than the title slide, are they numbered?
  • Does your presentation title appear at the top of each page?
  • Did you add your firm’s name, URL and contact info at the bottom of each page of your handouts?
  • Did you convert presentation files to Adobe Acrobat to preserve text formatting?
  • Did you check each link after uploading to make sure they work?
  • Did you create links between SlideShare and social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter?

Don’t miss out on this valuable tool that will help you not only become a thought leader, but generate leads at the same time, so make sure you put a good strong call to action in it.


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