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Is your sales milk run strategy turning sour?

You’ve heard the term “milk run” from your sales manager right? A milk run is really a territory assignment. The assignment requires the sales associate to visit “X” number of businesses in their territory every “X” number of days, weeks, or months. Usually, the milk run is a part of the sales associate’s monthly quota and may require them to make “X” number of calls, emails or social media posts. In addition to the face-to-face visits.  So what is wrong with a milk run? Why is this strategy turning sour? One word: Need.

Does not meet the customer’s need

The problem with a milk run is that it relies on the sales associate’s obligation to fulfill a sales quota, instead of fulfilling a customer’s requirement. Now, the sales associate might get lucky and show up at the same time the customer needs them or their product. However, what are the odds of that happening? Not very high. The most effective and efficient customer visits are when a sales associate is there because the customer needs them to be there. The customer is requesting them to come, not the other way around.

Wasted time

I remember a salesperson at a company where I worked who swore by the milk run strategy.  Now, before I go on telling you why a milk run turns sour, I have to say that there are sales people out there who work this strategy well.  “Ed” (not his real name) was one of them. He was Mr. Personality. He could turn on the charm and sell ice to an Eskimo. I am sure Ed would visit his customers every other Monday —whether his customer needed him to or not, and was well-received. Ed was a top sales producer in this organization and had been for decades. He had a milk run that generated over $1 million in sales every year, and Ed saw no reason to change. However, Ed is the exception, not the norm. Ed would be successful no matter what strategy he tried. Why? Because Ed had three key attributes on his side that all successful sales associates need: Personality, Persistence, and Knowledge of his customers. Ed was a top 5% producer for that company. The other 95% did not work the milk run as well. They tended to approach a milk run as a leisurely chat. It was not uncommon for them to discuss sports, hunting, the weather, whatever, for extended periods with their clients. Usually, these milk run visits were unannounced, and the customer may not have had the time to meet with the salesperson.  Not only are these visits a waste of time for the customer, but they are also a waste of time for the sales associate too. These visits may be seen as an unwelcome distraction by the customer.

Wasted money

One approach that I saw being used by sales associates who had quotas to meet was the “gift” approach. Since they did not know what the client needed, they did not want to show up at a client’s office unannounced and for no reason. So, they would bring a gift. A little token to show the client they cared. Of course, everyone knew the real reason for the visit, and this token of appreciation has no significant outcome or relevance to any customer need. So you ended up increasing the cost of the visit by adding a gift expense to the travel, entertainment, and gas expense.

Stop your milk run from turning sour

I am not saying that your sales team should not visit their customers. What I am saying is that there needs to be a good reason for the visit; one that is based on a customer need. So, how do you gain that insight if the customer is unable or unwilling to share information with you that may be crucial to reducing some pain points they have? The answer resides in having a well-developed marketing automation program with a targeted content marketing strategy, tied to a well-maintained CRM system. In essence, aligning your sales and marketing efforts to gain individual customer insights to assist sales associates during milk run visits with customers. Giving them the tools to provide relevant solutions their customers will see as valuable.

Start with the right foundation: A robust CRM

Customer Relationship Management/Marketing (CRM) is software that provides a method of identifying and creating a relationship with long-term customers through customer service techniques that track information about a given customer such as their activities and preferences. Customer feedback research is valuable intelligence for improved CRM. It is the foundation for understanding the needs, pain points, wants and requirements of your customers. With the right CRM, one that is implemented to gain insights on your customers, the next step should be more natural.

Follow with a strategic marketing automation program and content marketing strategy

Once you have the right data and insights on your customers, it is easy to segment the messaging, products, services,  pricing and delivery to those customers. You will know what is important to them, what they are most in need of, and when they want it. All this and more is gained from the data inside your CRM system. A well-targeted marketing automation program that sends targeted and customized information/messages/emails to your customers based on a defined action by them is the next step in nurturing the customer relationship and knowing when to visit the customer.

Align sales and marketing to share customer insights.

With the right information at their fingertips, your sales associates will know the best time to reach out to the customers on their milk run. They will have data to forecast when the customer is ready to reorder. What type of products the customer needs, and even project which new products in the future may be well-suited to the needs of the customer. Now, isn’t it better to go into a customer visit knowing that you can offer your customer information that will benefit their company? Instead of an unannounced visit to keep in touch, your sales team is now a valuable resource to your customer. 

So, how do I begin?

Create a solid marketing strategy

A marketing strategy based on informed research and analysis is a solid foundation from which to build a sales/marketing lead generation and customer retention program. We at BuzzShark dive deep to understand what motivates your prospects and customers, what elements of your brand can and should be brought to life, and how to coalesce all of this into award-winning and memorable experiences that reinforce your brand promise while growing your sales.

Purchase an all-in-one marketing platform (CRM, Inbound Marketing, E-mail Marketing, Marketing Automation)

Simply put, the right marketing platform helps companies nurture prospects with personalized, relevant content that helps convert them to customers and turn customers into brand loyal customers. An all-in-one marketing platform is well documented to generate over 20% more new revenue for companies and provide an excellent return on the investment required.

How can it help you?

An all-in-one marketing platform with a marketing automation feature gives you a 360-degree view of prospect activity. It does this by linking the information from your lead generation campaigns to your CRM (client relationship management) software. Marketing automation also lets you:

  • Identify hot leads versus colder leads.
  • Nurture colder leads to convert them to hot leads.
  • Turn hot leads into sales-ready opportunities and assign them to a sales pipeline.
  • Target customers at every stage of the buying cycle.
  • Make information-driven decisions and identify new opportunities for growth.
  • Align sales and marketing so they work seamlessly for your customers.
  • Give your sales team marketing approved resources and messages at every stage of the sales cycle.
Why should I consider a marketing automation platform?

Running a successful business is no easy job. You need to make sure your existing customers are happy with what you offer and, at the same time, attract new customers to generate revenue to expand your business further.

You also need to be flexible and always on the lookout for new and more effective ways to connect with your audience. It’s not just the product that needs to convince them. It’s also the story around it. Your brand. And how you communicate.

How often do you contact your audience? How do you craft your message? How does this message change as your relationship with them matures? These are the aspects that you need to consider if you want them to do business with you.

Want to take the guesswork out of your marketing campaigns? You need the right marketing platform. There are hundreds of marketing platforms out there that offer you the world. Yes, I know, they also come with a price tag to match! However, there are many out there that are very affordable.

I have worked with some of the leading marketing platforms out there. Although flexible, they tend to be somewhat complex. A small or medium size business may not have the time or internal resources to deal with those complexities.

No Business Should Go Without A Complete Marketing Automation Platform

The truth is, no business can do without an all-in-one, well-rounded marketing platform these days. One that can keep track of your customer and prospect interactions. That can send emails that get delivered. That offers webinar marketing solutions. That facilitates building, publishing and hosting high-converting landing pages. And that automates the customer journey based on data and behavior. But, most importantly, one that turns milk run visits into positive customer experiences.

GetResponse’s All-In-One Platform

For the past year, I have been working with the great team at GetResponse. I found them doing an extensive online search for affordable marketing automation systems. I looked at 30 of these systems before selecting GetResponse. Not only is their customer service top-notch, but their product comes with all the features you would expect from the most popular marketing automation systems. If you would like to find out more, this video gives you a tour of the platform:

Final note

If you would like expert advice on how to set up a fully-functioning CRM with a strategic marketing automation program and content marketing strategy, please fill out the form on this page to set up an appointment with one of our marketing automation experts.