Sustainable Sales? Really?

Really.

Really, because any strategy that does not consider the long-term implications is not sustainable and therefore will not lead to success.

Apart from this economical perspective, there is also an evergrowing need to understand the ecological effects of the business and the social impact we are having, internally as well as externally.

We can’t live in a bubble anymore, we must act consciously and with consideration. Not to mention respectfully and respect begins from within. It means that we should sell things we love and not just anything. It means that we should give our very best and in order to be able to do so, we must balance our life and our work.

The next few years will see a focus on the individual with ever increasing awareness for its surroundings. Customers will be empowered furthermore. Online ratings, discussions, polls, etc. in combination with the abundant availability of information will require entirely new business models and therefore all aspects of a sustainable approach need to be understood.

To help you, we’ve redesigned some of our Rapid-Review into a Maturity Assessment and offer you a first glance below.

Sales Assessment Picture 2

“Can You Dig It?” or Me Entiendes

Me Entiendes

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!

Emerging markets? China? Again?

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?

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