Suspects or prospects?

Rising costs of salesmen s calls are forcing business to find new ways of identifying good potential customers. Can we become more effective in our soul-winning efforts by taking a page from their book?

Rex D. Edwards is an assistant editor of Ministry.

Perusing an old edition of Advertising Age (a national newspaper on marketing), my eye was captured by the title to an article, "Direct Mail Separates Suspects From Prospects!"

Two words in that title, suspects and prospects, enticed me to read on. "Want to make a salesman happy?" asked the author. "Give him a flock of signed cards which read, 'Please send me more information about..." He'll follow up those leads with vigor because he will know in advance the people he calls on will be prospects rather than suspects."

The article went on to say: "The difficult task of the marketing man today is to extract from his universe of potential prospects those who qualify for a full-fledged sales presentation now. In most fields of endeavor the cost of salesmen ferreting out qualified prospects is so prohibitive that it raises ultimate sales cost to a figure way beyond reason."

These two opening paragraphs were quite sufficient to stimulate in my mind an immediate reevaluation of the methods we employ in evangelism to separate "suspects" from "prospects." Indeed, we may not be in marketing, but surely we have an earnest interest in finding more effective ways to separate the curious spectator from the sincere searcher as we examine our "interests." The man who finds the formula to accomplish this will not only diminish the cost of evangelism but increase the number of baptisms.

The author of the article in Advertising Age had researched the cost for a salesman to make one call. "Back in the early 1950s," he wrote, "the average cost of a salesman's call was estimated to be $17.24. As of 1965, McGraw-Hill's laboratory of advertising performance pegged the average figure at $35.55 per call." What would the figure be for 1983 ? I shudder to imagine it!

Incidentally, these figures represent cost per call: not cost per sale. Obviously, the more suspects a salesman calls upon, without results, the higher the ultimate sales cost will be.

The article then exposed the formula for productive marketing: "Direct mail has the power to greatly reduce the ratio of suspects to prospects and thereby reduce the cost per order."

Direct mail is being successfully used to some extent by this church to separate the "suspect" from the "prospect." Cities and towns have been blanketed with radio and TV program cards advertising our religious broadcasts and offering numerous correspondence courses. Our magazines and books reserve space for inserts designed to afford the readers opportunity to respond. By judicious follow-up, many such "prospects" presently enjoy fellowship within the church.

MINISTRY is very interested in how you, as a pastor or evangelist, separate "suspect" from "prospect." At this unique time when 1,000 Days of Reaping enjoys top priority in the planning of our churches, we at MINISTRY would like to give space for your ideas. How do you employ direct mail in your evangelism? Send us samples with a brief explanation. Do you have other ways of separating "suspect" from "prospect" that you would like to share with your peers around the world?—R.D.E.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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Rex D. Edwards is an assistant editor of Ministry.

August 1983

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