This is a really nice article and I won’t even pretend that I discovered it. Happy to share the glory and enjoy yourself reading this.
I never mind staying late at the office, not only because I hate coming in early, but also because it gives me the opportunity to chat with some colleagues. We’ve all seen them. The quiet, industrious people who clean up our mess and set us up for success the next day. My friend Juan Palacios hails from El Salvador and I know that many of the hustling yuppies who routinely ignore him, would benefit from the depth of his knowledge and business savy. He’s the proud owner of a new home and a thriving business which is constantly growing, even in this economy. His words have a curious urgency and his advice is excellent.
“Me entiendes Pablo?..” he always says with a smile.
“Por supuesto Don Palacios” I answer.
It’s a valuable transaction in which I help him understand English and some of our stranger American practices, while he provides me with fresh perspectives on the challenges I face daily. As with all such relationships it takes work and dedicated effort. It’s often difficult to push past the barriers of language, custom, and preconceptions, but we manage…we communicate. I’m afraid that I don’t see a lot of successful communication out there currently…time to wake up people!
In the past our ancestors had to venture forth in search of new markets and new connections. They made enormous investments in time, money, and resources to get the job done. Often when poor preparation and bad decisions threatened their goals, they resorted to appalling tactics in their attempts to achieve them. Unfortunately, little has changed…globalization, the internet, and social media offer a plethora of tools and venues to facilitate the process. There are an ever increasing number of pitches, messages, i.e. “ships” sailing forth on cyber-seas, but with declining results. There’s ultimately only one central challenge- to quickly, concisely communicate the value proposition (and / or measurable ROI) of your solution to the right person, at the right time, and in the right way. Recently, I’ve noticed some formidable obstacles to meeting this challenge and I like to refer to them collectively as la tirania de las ideas preconcebidas or the tyranny of preconceptions.
“It doesn’t work for us…” said the CEO when referring to social media. Not swimming in leads…low Klout score…??? Social media is not some form of a checklist in which you just have to cover all the bases, but something that has to become part of your organization’s DNA…Like my relationship with Juan, it takes planning, dedication, and hard work. Define your goals, develop a plan to reach them, and pick the right vehicle(s).
“We gotta get in front of more people and we need more activity” claimed the VP of Sales. Following the traditional path is very comforting, customs always are, but you can’t expect to continue doing the same things and expect different outcomes. I ‘m very surprised that an executive from a growing technology solutions company seems fixated on the traditional Inside Sales / Outside Sales model. How can you expect continued growth when you don’t have any data on the average cost of sale? As another mentor of mine said “leading Sales organizations realize that accurate data improves efficiency and is the cure for bad results…”
“Do they even have money ?” responded the Chief Sales Officer of a European multinational to my enthusiasm over a simple RFP from the Central Bank of Venezuela. I was dumbfounded over this blatant display of ethnocentrism…preconceived notions…prejudice. Everyone likes the idea of global markets in theory, but in practice we’re still back in the days of Columbus. Business, indeed, opportunities are where you find them. You don’t have to commit to completely localizing your website or hiring a lot of multilingual staff. Ask yourself if your solution(s) would be useful and / or address the pains of organizations in different geographic areas. Then enlist the assistance of some experts who have the subject matter expertise to best represent you and your organization. The world’s as big or as small as you make it…leads, prospects, and business are literally all around you!
Can you dig it?
I really love to dance, but I don’t seem to find time to hit the floor as much as I’d like to these days. It’s funny that when I was younger I wasn’t very good. Then I hit a late growth spurt, learned some new moves, found some good partners, and things started to make sense. I stopped seeing the dance floor as something to be endured and instead made it my own. I overcame the fear of embarrassment and things suddenly fell into place. I got right with the rhythm.
I’ve been thinking about rhythm and dancing alot lately. ( Of course I’ve always been accused of believing that we can solve all the world’s problems if we throw a good shindig.) I’ve been mulling over the fact that every organization has a characteristic rhythm in place. This rhythm is initiated by the CEO and senior management, but driven by every member of the company. Everyone makes a contribution…everybody’s got their own step in the dance. Now with the turning of the leaves this rhythm’s changed again. We appear to be busier in some ways, but most of us are languishing in the typical fall malaise.
The simple truth is that we’ve begun treating 2012 as a foregone conclusion. “Let’s focus on closing what’s in the pipeline!” or “No one does business after Halloween…”
Vamos my people! Let’s kick it up a notch and turn that dial “up to eleven!” I’m going old school and calling you out! Stop waiting on everyone else and kick a beat:
Are you in sync with your partner?
- Call an impromptu, informal Pipeline Review meeting with a colleague you don’t know very well or who you haven’t collaborated with recently. You’ll both benefit from fresh perspectives and unique approaches to the Sales Steps.
- Call / email every single prospect in your pipeline directly. Step up and make the “go” or “no go” determination as soon as possible and then communicate it up the chain. Your initiative will serve you well young grasshopper and distinguish you from the herd!
- Stack the deck for 2013 hermano! Follow the (or create a new) Lead Generation process and schedule some new stuff. Don’t let conversations end with some vague next steps and get those prospects on your calendar. Use (or create a new) Lead Nurturing process to keep them informed and interested until the new year.
Learn some new moves brother!
- How does that guy get President’s Club (top producer) every year?
- What are all those options available in your organization’s CRM software that you never bothered to learn about?
- What’s the latest buzz in the procurement world? How about reviewing your organization’s RFP / RFQ / RFI process and template(s)?
Face your fears Luke…
- In which part of the Sales Process are you weakest? Can’t generate leads? Can’t close? Proposals indecipherable? Don’t use the demos effectively?
- Don’t be afraid to borrow what works for others. Use phrases, demos, techniques etc. from successful people but spin them your way.
- Own it! Accept responsibility! Give explanations, not excuses!
It’s time for you to get right with the rhythm.
Keep on dancing people! Baila chicos!
The sun painted sparkling shadows through the clear fall air, bathing the afternoon in riotous red, yellow, and faded green. The carpet of fallen leaves beneath my feet crackled and I climbed the old wooden platform. A lonely whistle pierced the silence…the platform jumped, rattled, and shook as the train pulled around the bend. The braking hiss, the smell of ashes, dancing veils of steam…the working man winked at me as he said “all aboard!”
It’s been a while since I last rode the rails, but the images linger with me. Nothing represents power, potential, and progress like a steam train. I know it’s 2012 and we’re firmly in the “digital age”, but trains are somehow more gritty, earthy, and real. Real men getting their hands dirty and getting it done. Let’s ride the rails that built a nation, it’s time to talk about lead generation.
There are many theories, practices, and processes around lead generation. No one in any organization is exactly sure who, i.e. which department or group, actually owns this function. Is it Marketing or Sales? Is it more cost effective to outsource it? In recent years I’ve watched the lead generation function become devalued to the point where many companies subscribe to the “volume” theory. This theory holds that finding the correct or best person (title or role) to sell to in an organization is largely a numbers game. Therefore, if you have enough people pounding the phones, sending out mass mailers, or attending tradeshows, your organization will eventually find the right people and deliver the right message. This theory comes from a very reputable source…who also believed that the sun revolved around the earth…
I believe the first step is to make sure that everyone, and I mean everyone, in your organization has the the same definition for what is a “lead.” You should be able to ask anyone and get the same (or a very similar) answer back. I touched on this previously in discussing the challenge of Sales and Marketing alignment, but agreeing on the elusive lead definition should include every department / group / function in your organization. Brian Carroll, in his B2B Lead Blog, gives an excellent outline for creating this Universal Lead Definition and getting everyone on board. Ok! Let’s fuel the fire!
- Cold Calling- In many companies this is usually the responsibility of an Inside Sales team or department. I’ve helped create and been a member of a number of these teams with varying levels of success. The vital role of Inside Sales will be discussed at length in future blog posts, but it’s clear that Cold Calling will always be part of the Sales process. Whoever is calling needs to have a direct, concise message (and value proposition) that they are able to articulate in a few sentences to the right person / title / role- the infamous elevator or thirty second pitch. The caller needs to engage with the prospect, rather than reading from a prepared script, and site relevant examples of products and/or services delivered to organizations in the same vertical. The caller should also make sure to cover the various qualifying steps and always have a specific objective in mind, e.g. close for another discussion, rather than trying to “sell” the prospect on this first encounter. Quantity vs. quality is always a concern. The caller should do enough research to be familiar with the prospect and their company, but not spend alot of time trying to understand the entire organizational structure initially. It’s important to remember to actually converse and communicate with the prospect and to practice some active listening. B2B calling is how things get done! If the prospect doesn’t want to speak with you it’s because you are speaking to the wrong person / title / role, haven’t prepared adequately, or your messaging is unclear. Also, always ask for a referral!
- Tradeshows / Events / Seminars- Let’s be honest…these events are exciting, interesting, and usually alot of fun. Who doesn’t like to be in a room (or an auditorium) full of people walking and talking about what you’ve been living and breathing on a full time basis? There are always opportunities to engage with industry experts, checkout the competition, and pitch to some prospects. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get alot of business cards, but very difficult to qualify the prospects with so much activity going on around you. You probably have your big guns (your executives) at the event, but it can also be difficult to get them in front of the right people (decision makers). I have found that in most cases- less is more. You can be more effective by researching and creating a list of target prospects before the actual event and trying to schedule face time onsite. This will allow you to muster all your resources and apply them in the most effective manner. This will yield much better results than delivering the same bland pitch to people who stop by your booth hoping to win an iPad.
- Webinars (Web Conferencing)- I like to think of webinars as distinct from other Social Media tools because they’ve been around longer and I’ve had alot of success leverging them for lead generation. Webinars are excellent because they are convenient in terms of time and very inexpensive to prepare / execute. I’ve generated numerous conversations just by calling prospects to invite them to attend and following up with them to ask- “How was it? Useful? Why? Why not?” In addition, offering to share webinar slide decks with prospects is a great way to schedule conference calls or discussions. If you’re new to an organization, ask for the lists of people who registered for a webinar in the last two years and give them a quick call. Even if a different person answers the phone, it’s very likely that they’ll be interested as well.
I realize that I’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to lead generation. El tiempo vuela however and this train’s leaving the station. I hope you get your whole team on board, fuel the fire, turn up the boiler, sound that whistle, and head out towards the horizon. We’re almost halfway through Q1 of 2012! Time to ride the rails!
Happy hunting and buen viaje,
I can remember watching this movie on TBS with my dad as a little boy. We’d sit on the the floor, drinking endless cans of Coke, in the sweltering heat of a summer evening in Atlanta. Mom would roll her eyes and go off to bed, leaving Pop and me alone. The house would creak as it settled and the night was quiet, except for our occasional outbursts of laughter over the antics of Blondie (The Good), Angel Eyes (The Bad), and Tuco (The Ugly). I always backed Blondie, but Pop loved Tuco. I could never understand why, until he told me once- “Tuco’s real boy…nothin’ comes easy to him. He has to fight for everything he gets…just like people like us…” Well, it’s been an interesting year! Let’s see if we can sift the ashes and find some final insights we can take with us into 2012.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, some things are looking up for 2012. Unemployment is at it’s lowest level in nine months and the US economy is outperforming almost every other region. The media seems determined to keep preaching doom and gloom, but it’s clear that the recovery’s gaining traction. US companies are lean and mean. There’s also been a subtle, slight increase in business and consumer confidence in the last few months.
There are some formidable challenges looming on the horizon. The Eurozone debt crisis will definitely hit us hard (i.e. no more crowds of German tourists outside the Apple Stores), lack of bipartisan political compromise here at home, and global political / social / ethnic unrest will have a significant impact as well- Arab spring, immigration, etc.
I must admit that I’ve painted a cursory and rather high-level picture of things in general, but let’s dig down and see what all this means for people like us.
The buzz on the street, even if people are too afraid to mention it , is that everyone is overworked. People are incredibly grateful to be employed and therefore in most cases have been doing the jobs of two or even three people. Trust me…this will change and organizations who don’t get it will see their most valuable intellectual capital walking out that door. Turn it around! You’ve packed three years of work experience into one! Don’t forget to document it, both on your resume and on every social media outlet available. You should be as detailed as possible, including project dates / times / deliverables etc. When things start to move and you get an opportunity, you’ll be ready, not only to jump into the job market, but also to hold your current employer accountable. Stop reacting and start acting by:
- You know your Marketing budget isn’t going to increase and that you’re going to be asked to do more with less…again. Why not investigate innovative, new approaches, such as performance marketing, which can not only strengthen customer relationships, but also provide in-depth analytics and lead generation. These services are usually provided through a revenue sharing model, so it won’t take a bite out of the bottom line.
- Missing your Sales quotas for 2011 should make it clear that it’s time for archaic, “hallowed” practices to change! As we discussed in previous blog entries, embrace both existing and new resources, i.e. strive for more direct collaboration with your colleagues in other parts of the company and learn to use social media.
- It’s time for Management to step-up and set the tone for 2012. An excellent first step might be to identify why their organization didn’t reach its goals in 2011. A Win – Loss study conducted by a non-biased third-party consulting firm will give any management team the insight they need to avoid previous missteps! I even know a reputable consulting firm…
It’s never easy for people like us, but things are looking up! Happy holidays! I’m cooking up something already!
It’s abundantly clear that the subject which has garnered the most attention recently is Social Media or it’s latest incarnation- Social CRM. Let’s delve a little deeper into this area and explore the impact that it definitely will have on you, your professional role, and your organization.
I have always been a complete skeptic when it comes to the potential benefits of Social CRM for business. As my favorite rapper used to say “don’t believe the Hype, it’s a sequel…” or in business vernacular- don’t waste your time looking at these new tools because something new always comes along! Yet, there are a number of ways that a coordinated, planned, and executed Social CRM practice can benefit your organization in the year to come:
- Collaboration-Allowing various departments / teams within an organization to jointly monitor their performance and to literally adapt to changes in the market, their company, and their customers very rapidly.
- Sales-Social CRM not only provides additional areas to exploit for lead generation, but also helps the salesperson to track prospects through different organizations. It also gives the salesperson additional insights into the prospect or company he is pursuing which can shorten the sales cycle and lead to better customer satisfaction.
- Marketing- Lead generation campaigns will never be the same now with real-time social media updates which can drive attendance to virtual (and real world) events.
New tools require new methods and there are a number of dangers from the expanded capabilities and reach presented by Social CRM:
- Control- Once you introduce social media and a Social CRM practice into your organization there is no going back people. You are constantly accountable for branding and reputation management. There is no longer the “illusion of control” over a company’s image, reputation, or future which many senior executives seem to cling to…
- ROI-It is often more difficult to measure the return on investment for Social CRM. In fact it’s most likely that there will not be any immediate ROI! Social media takes a lot of daily work! It’s often worse to begin the process and abandon it, than never to attempt it at all…It will definitely require participation from all departments and levels in the organization to be successful.
- Revelations-Everyone mentions the dangers of the release of information outside the company, but few realize that there will be increased visibility into the company’s processes, procedures, and personnel! Be aware of the implications of these new insights and embrace the change.
Change is never easy! It always comes with a cost…the most painful of which are usually unexpected. Who would ever have anticipated the enormous impact of Cloud CRM or even that organizations / individuals would allow a third party to manage their most valuable data?
Disruptive…yes! But that’s often a good thing!
What a great movie! What a great scene! Alec Baldwin laying down the law. But for those of us in Sales, it’s not really that funny. The conclusions that most people draw from this scene are actually…completely false. Yet it does strike a chord with many of us- it’s time to close…
I’ve sat through some of the most painful meetings at the end of a quarter or the end of the year. The folks in senior management have threatened, reasoned, rationalized, and even pleaded for their salespeople to make things happen. Their most common question is “why not now?” and most salespeople answer…”budget cuts, challenging conditions…” We’ll leave the details of forecasting and pipeline vitals for future posts, but for now I’d like to focus on what brother Alec calls his “ABCs” or “always, be, closing”
Anyone who’s been involved in Sales knows that it’s a lengthy process with alot of preparation, many steps (or phases), and a long timeline. Even though I don’t have as much experience as many “closers”, I will share the simple questions I was taught to determine if, how, when, and why a purchase would take place. It’s not important in which order they’re answered, only that they’re answered honestly:
- Need- Why would the prospect want your product, service, solution? Is it mission critical for their business, i.e. will they shut down tomorrow without it, or is it nice to have? Ninety nine percent of what’s sold falls in the latter category, so you better move on to the next questions…
- Time-frame- When are they going to pull the trigger, ring the bell, or “sign on the line that is dotted…?” This is the most difficult question for most salespeople and/or senior management because it relates to forecasting and also accountability. It should be addressed earlier rather than later and any dates given should be treated with extreme skepticism. I remember a former boss, Mike, who drove home the importance of this question to me. He’d stare at me with his merciless Irish-eyes and say “you promised me $35K…I rolled it up to the Board! Get out your checkbook Pablo…”
- Authority- Who are you speaking with and selling to? Does this person have the “juice” to make it happen? All too often salespeople do a great job of selling…to the wrong person. I was taught to ask this question in many ways…repeatedly- “who else needs to be involved in making this decision with you..???’ Hey! Let’s get them involved now!
- Money- I purposely avoided saying the word “budget” here because it makes me grind my teeth and get the shakes. This is one of the toughest questions to ask, confirm, and believe. I’ve seen alot of prospects be “mistaken” about where their budget(s) were for the year. It’s here that a salesperson needs to get creative and add measurable value to the potential engagement / sale, not panic and start discounting. They’re no easy solutions for this question, but that’s why we’re in Sales…
- Willingness- Many sales engagements end in..”no decision”. The prospect gradually grows colder and eventually stops communicating. The opportunity sits on the pipeline until senior management forces it off. I say you’ve got to be direct- Are they buying…now? Why not next quarter or next year? Have all the other questions be answered? Pick up that coffee and start closing people! Happy Hunting!
In many organizations there’s confusion around the Marketing Department’s actual role. “I see alot of activity, but I don’t see them producing any results…” lamented one C-Level Executive to me recently. “They host great events which our clients really enjoy attending, but I can’t grasp how they deliver real, concrete value to the bottom line…” he concluded.
This is unfortunately a commonly held opinion in many medium to large organizations and it’s especially troubling when the large annual Marketing budgets are taken into account. “We need them to generate leads which result in new business!” exclaimed a Senior Sales Director at a recent networking event. “Sales can make sure the clients are happy!”
Things are even more confusing in smaller organizations in which everyone “wears multiple hats” or is expected to make contributions in many different areas of the company and budget numbers are tight by necessity. “Do we even need to allocate a significant amount to Marketing? Shouldn’t Sales handle this as a routine part of doing business?” said one CEO / Founder.
Across the Great Divide the tone is similar, but the perspective completely different. I have spoken with many savvy Marketing Professionals who are completely perplexed. A colleague confided to me that Marketing “runs multiple lead generation campaigns which produce measurable results. Yet when we pass the fruits of our labors on to Sales…well nothing happens. The Sales people complain that the leads aren’t good and I don’t believe they make a real, consistent effort to follow up on them!”
Ah! Yes! So it goes…The results are countless meetings, “new and improved” Marketing plans, a lot of time and money wasted, and continuous rounds of “office politics”. Everyone likes to make a great show of group solidarity at the quarterly / annual meetings, but anyone with any level of professional experience knows that’s just not the case. Inevitable? Unavoidable? “Us vs. Them?” Let’s break it down as my daddy used to say:
Communication Rocks the Nation! (or at least can shake-up your organization in positive ways)
Sales and Marketing are supposed to work closely together. Yet often they are as far apart as possible, both physically and culturally, in a company. “The Sales people are disruptive, always on the phone, and joking around. I can’t get anything done when they’re around” says Marketing. “Why are the Marketing people in meetings all the time? They spend all their time creating charts and graphs? What do they do?” says Sales.
I believe that this Great Divide must be bridged and therefore Sales and Marketing should be working closely together…in every sense of the word. Marketing should be able to listen to Sale’s calls and recognize directly which messaging actually works. There should also be an informal atmosphere of collaboration. I know you’re tired of hearing this word, but it works. In addition Sales must also commit to a greater level of accountability in which they will not only make every effort to use what Marketing produces, but also give honest visibility into their pipelines.
At the end of the day everyone suffers if the Great Divide isn’t bridged successfully. I think that people can get lost in the idea of “playing the hero” and trying to make themselves and their department look good. In the end…everyone loses. So climb out of those trenches and take a walk down the hall. Ask your colleagues what they’re working on and share your work with them as well. Here it is again:
Get it together…get together people! Happy hunting and Happy Halloween!
Have you ever created and lead a Sales Team directly? Not from the lofty height of C-Level, but day after day in the trenches with your people? If so here’s a quick post for you the Sales Manager. In my experience there are four trends that are very common for most sales teams:
Your sales executive schedules an initial call with a prospect and it goes extremely well. You have a rather high-level discussion with the prospect and there’s definitely a lot of interest in your solution. You discuss some possible next steps and things seem promising. Unfortunately that’s as far as it goes…the prospect gradually drops out of sight and eventually you make the sales executive take them off their forecast…poof! They’ve vanished!
You’ve finally secured senior management support for additional resources for your sales team, i.e. more marketing dollars for events, new lead sources, inside sales reps etc. You plan and execute a new lead generation strategy and it produces…well…nothing! You solicit feedback from your sales executives and discover that they never got the hot new leads or that they we not viable or “real”. Often there isn’t even a common understanding / definition of a lead and different departments have completely distinct ideas about “what is a lead…” Communication breakdown.
The new quarter starts off after weeks of planning, training, and discussions with your team. They’ve been tasked with creating a pipeline of prospects and opportunities in excess of five times (5X) their quota. You have weekly reviews of all opportunities and everything looks good until shortly before the quarter’s end when your sales executives begin to move their “hot” opportunities to the next quarter. What’s even more troubling is that the sales executives can’t usually give you any specific reasons why they had difficulty forecasting. Now you have to be accountable to senior management while your team says…maybe tomorrow…
You’re spending a lot of time putting together sales activity reports for senior management. You have a CRM which you’ve used for years and the sales team constantly complains that it “takes them too much time to update it.” After making a business case to senior management, you get a new CRM solution with all the extras…the sales executives are now too busy to learn how to use it correctly. In addition, your “top” salesperson leaves unexpectedly…he takes all the relevant information about your clients / opportunities / prospects with him because he never put it into either CRM solution. Now senior management is asking for…information.
If you’re a Sales Manager and you’ve faced these challenges, share your experiences with us!
Best regards and happy hunting,
You’ve made the first step by looking us up. CONGRATULATIONS!
Why do we think it is time for Sales Management Consulting? Because the landscape is changing at the speed of light and it is almost impossible for one person to stay on top of it all. Systems (BI, CRM, Reporting, ERP, HR, etc.), Tools (SEM, SMM, SEO, really everything social…) and their influence on our daily routine, as well as our customers expectations “I tweeted about that 2.5 hours ago, didn’t you read it?” are demanding a new breed of sales experts.
What is all that worth? What am I doing right and where am I failing and how can I change that? These are questions, we are hearing over and over again. Thanks to our broad experience and an amazing team we can answer most of the above.
If you are serious about getting help to increase your revenue and ultimately be able to do more with less send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org