Tuesday, September 28, 2010
The little things will get you there
I sometimes hear people express frustration at working an entire day on “little things” and not feeling successful.
But where do you think success comes from? It comes from the little things. There’s no escaping the fact that measureable success (no matter how you define it) doesn’t just happen, doesn’t emerge out of a mind-blowing hour of work, or a day doing supernatural things.
Success happens by doing a ton of the little things, doing them right, and doing them in the right order based on a predetermined path and pre-identified set of objectives and success metrics.
If you know where you’re going, and know how to get there, the path to success is all the little things.
Some days that’s hard to feel good about, because you don’t always feel or see the success every day. Some days are full of just the little things that, on their own, feel too tactical and not entirely meaningful.
But without paying attention to and executing on those little things, you will not be successful.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
What's your take on 2011? Your feedback please...
The survey will take about five minutes to complete and can be found at www.ontargetsurvey.com. Survey results will be shared with everyone invited to participate in it. Please feel free to forward this invite to others in you organization that might like to participate.
Thanks in advance for your thoughtful input!
Friday, September 17, 2010
Understanding the buyer ecosystem (and why it's important)
There rarely is a single buyer, for anything. One person may sign the contract, or write the check, or pluck down their credit card. But there are always others involved.
Complex products often involve plenty of direct buyers. Multiple stakeholders who need to review & approve the purchase. Decision-makers, budget-holders, implementers.
But even when there’s a single decision-point in the organization (or in a consumer sale), there are typically plenty more influences in the buying ecosystem. There are other users, influencers who may have used the product or service before who are consulted, friends or peers in similar situations or positions. All of these have sway, directly or indirectly, in not only the purchase decision, but the speed at which it can happen.
As a seller, you have to understand the entire buyer ecosystem. You need to have a strategy for addressing and/or influencing each factor. You need to understand the relative influence different players have, where they sit in the hierarchy and process by which the primary buyer makes a decision.
The better you know the full buying process, and every influence therein, the better you’re able to increase close rates, accelerate sales velocity, and sustain a product strategy (independent of the sales process) that addresses what your customers truly need.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
The danger of overthinking it
We all care too much about our brands. We’re obsessed with our products & services – how we talk about them, how we describe them, what we name them. And that’s usually a good thing.
But we also have to be mindful of the gap between how much we care, and how much our clients care.
For example, many companies spent a ton of time fretting over brand strategy, architecture and naming issues. They spend meetings and email strings and hours talking & thinking about what to name a new product or feature. But does the customer care? Or is it just the same to them if you call it what it is (or what it does) and get out of the way of their success?
The more you put yourselves in the shoes of your customers, or better yet stay close enough to them that you hear exactly what they’re thinking on a daily basis, the more you’ll know where that point is between what they care about, and what you care about.
And if you avoid going past that point of diminishing returns more often, you’ll make things far simpler for your customers and yourself.
Customer renewals start before the first sale
Does your company start the customer renewal process a month or two before the contract term ends? You might be surprised how many B2B sellers operate this way.
But even if proactive renewals begin close to the end of an initial term, what comes up from the customer in that process should be far from a surprise. At this point, you should know exactly how they’re doing, whether they’re happy, how well they’re using the product or service, and how likely they are to renew and/or continue.
Before they even become a customer, there should be a mutually agreed-upon picture of what success looks like. You need to know how the customer will evaluate success, and how they’ll likely make a renewal decision, before day one.
If you know that, you can be proactive with monitoring their account and providing help along the way to ensure they’re on a path to success, satisfaction and renewal. If something starts going wrong, you want to know that and address it right away – while there’s still plenty of time to right the ship, get them on the path both of you want, and make your continued partnership in dispensable to their success.
There are many ways to operationalize this. But the concept of starting renewals early is important.
How does your organization do this today? What simple things could you start doing to increase both mutual understanding of success with your customer, plus better monitor that satisfaction early in the relationship?
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
How to give away an iPad at a trade show
I’m at a trade show this week with a client, and about 10 booths are giving away iPads. Not a surprise. Most are doing the standard drawing – put a business card in the bowl and we’ll pick someone who won at the end.
The team at Market Leader is giving away iPads as well, but with a twist. Every attendee has a key on a lanyard in their registration bags. At the Market Leader booth, there’s a clear box with an iPad in it. If your key unlocks the box, the iPad is yours.
There is a HUGE difference between “enter to win” and “this key might make you an instant winner.” And Market Leader has the booth traffic and show buzz to prove it.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Trends, fads and motivation (why B2B is easier than B2C)
I often think that selling and marketing B2B products and services is far easier than doing the same in a consumer market. This is, of course, a relative statement. In any context, successful selling takes hard work, and what works is constantly changing.
But in a B2B market – no matter what the audience or industry or target – the motivation is often the same. Make money, save money, reduce cost, reduce risk.
In the consumer market, motivations change frequently and often unpredictably. Trends and fads drive far more of what’s working, and what’s selling, right now. The fickle nature of consumer buyers, and the unpredictable nature of the size and duration of the dynamic markets they create, makes it all the more difficult to build a business at the right time, in the right place, to make money.
B2B markets and motivations may change too, but not as quickly. And more often, short-term strategic motivations for B2B organizations (go green, go paperless, go virtual) are all tied back to the higher-level motivations that revolve around money and risk.
Put another way, B2B motivations are more often rational and predictable. Consumer motivations may revolve around a similar set of ulterior motives (money, recognition, love, etc.), but the means by which consumers go after these goals don’t always follow a straight line.
I’d love to hear those of you with deep consumer experience debate the other side of this.
Friday, September 10, 2010
The importance of birthdays (and other excuses) in B2B sales
Social media has made it far easier to remember things about each other. How many times did your broader circle of friends remember your birthday before Facebook?
A simple “happy birthday” on your Wall makes you feel good, and is another touch between you and someone you care about.
So why don’t we take advantage of these opportunities more in B2B selling? I’m not talking just about birthdays. Sometimes there are particular milestones that are important to the company (anniversaries, launch dates, etc.). Or something as simple as your prospect or customer’s alma mater winning a big game over the weekend.
Most people don’t take the time to remember these things, let alone act on them. And by “act”, I mean something as simple and fast as a 15-second email. It makes a big difference, it stands out, it shows you care, and it’s an important building block in the process of building long-term value with a buyer and their company.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Strategy vs Execution
Strategy without execution is another form of wasting time. If you plan to do something, but don’t do it, what’s the point? Many companies and marketers, however, do a lot of this. Lots of planning, lots of meetings, lots of PowerPoint presentation, but no action.
It’s fine to not execute everything you plan for. In fact, that’s a required part of the process. You have to plan and create a strategy, sometimes, to know whether execution is even worth it. But you should also make sure, despite investing time in a good plan & strategy, that you always have a bias for action and velocity towards getting something done to measure, optimize, and drive results. Plans don’t execute themselves.
Execution without strategy isn’t a whole lot better. It’s basically guessing. Too often marketers today confuse having a “bias for action” with moving straight to execution on a new idea. Sometimes it works, but most of the time it doesn’t. Why? Because you didn’t take the time to know what success should look like, understand whether your execution is the best way to get there, and be thoughtful about how you’ll not only execute, but measure the revenue-generating results that come out of that work.
This doesn’t mean spending forever building a strategy. It just means having a plan and roadmap before the train leaves the station.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Does your sales team leave voicemails?
I think voicemails are important, but they only work if you have something interesting to say! The voicemail you leave needs to be customer-focused, benefit-driven, with a strong sense of urgency and call to action to drive a response. Read and participate in the rest of the discussion here.
Script the first few seconds of every sales call
Don't misunderstand me. A successful salesperson still needs to be in control of the conversation, needs to know what they want to say, and what outcome they want from the call. But putting a word-for-word script for a back-and-forth conversation isn't going to be authentic, isn't going to address what the prospect is telling you, and isn't going to help you build rapport, trust and interest from a smart, qualified buyer.
What IS important, however, is to script the first few seconds of the call. There's no reason you can't have the specific words nailed down for how you want to begin the call, create immediate interest, and earn the right to continue.
Especially when talking to a new prospect, this set-up is everything. If you don't take control right away, the prospect will lead you somewhere else. If you don't create immediate interest and value, your chances of engaging the prospect in a conversation that goes somewhere diminishes greatly.
Here are some specific things to keep in mind:
- Don't ask how they're doing. This is a default start to a call for many ("how's it going today?"), but can take you in a number of directions and tangents you don't want to go. Keep control of that direction.
- Do ask if they have a moment. It's OK and polite to ask if they have a moment to speak. You aren't going to take 30 minutes unless they give you permission, but you do want to make sure they weren't interrupted.
- Make a statement about benefits and outcomes. Demonstrate that you are offering a positive outcome or achievement of a core objective, not selling a product or solution. If that benefit or outcome meets a priority of theirs, they may continue to listen.
- Ask if they're the person responsible for achieving this outcome. If they are, you know you have a match and can continue. If they aren't, you can ask who would be responsible and end the conversation.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
Why early adopters won't help you sell more
In every new market – with new products in new categories that solve a new or previously-unsolved problem – there’s a group of early adopters. These are the customers that already get it, that are predisposed to try something new, and are the quickest to buy.
The early adopters are passionate about what you’re doing, they give you a lot of feedback, and they’re vocal about what they want to see you do next with the product.
Problem is, early adopters don’t necessarily reflect the rest of the market. They might make up the bulk of your earliest customers, but it’s dangerous to build your long-term product strategy, marketing plan and messaging framework based on their direct feedback.
The next group of customers – the post-early adopters, those that won’t dive in right away but will slowly warm to what you’re selling as the market matures, as they see others using it, and as their understanding of the product and solution evolves – are going to think about you in a different way. They’re going to think about the problem a different way, think about the outcome they’re seeking in a different way.
The product you’re selling may or may not need to evolve significantly to reach this new and much larger audience. But the way you approach them, the way you resonate with their current situation and describe a positive future that your solution can bridge to, that needs to be different.
Many companies build their product strategy and marketing plans based on feedback from their early adopters. They take feedback and priorities from that early audience as indicators of what the broader market thinks. That’s dangerous thinking. Unless you understand both the early adopters and the broader market – and especially understand how they act, think and buy differently – tapping into that broader sales and growth opportunity will be far harder than it needs to be.