Slave to the Rhythm

“Life is like dancing. If we have a big floor, many people will dance. Some will get angry when the rhythm changes. But life is changing all the time.”  – Miguel Angel Ruiz

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…”

Keep on Steppin’!

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!

Best regards,
Paul Williams

Slave to the rhythm?

All Aboard the Lead Engine!

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,

Paul Williams

COO

Across the Great Divide – Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing

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:

  1. Communication
  2. Collaboration
  3. Accountability

Get it together…get together people!  Happy hunting and Happy Halloween!

Paul Williams

COO