Tuesday, November 30, 2010

 

Present it for the first time, every time

I know you’ve given the pitch a thousand times before.  I know you’ve shared the same customer scenarios, the same case studies, the same value propositions countless times.

But for the prospect in front of you (or on the phone, or on the Webinar), it’s their first time hearing it from you.  They have a problem, or a need, or an obstacle they’re looking to overcome.  You might just be the solution that delivers the outcome and/or success they so desperately seek and need.

They deserve everything you’ve got.  Your ability to reach that prospect is not just in the words you use and visuals you present, but in the way you present it. 

If you’re presenting in person, it’s everything about you – body language, energy, facial expressions, even your breathing.  If you’re on the phone, prospects can still tell when you care and when you don’t.  They can tell when you’re excited and when you’re just going through the script one more time.

This holds true whether you’re doing complex B2B sales or working in retail.  It’s true for spokespeople on a media tour, and company executives on a pre-IPO investor road show.

Think about the last time you went to the theater or a concert.  More often than not, you’re seeing those performers give it their all, performing as if it’s opening night.  And you can also tell, every once in a while, when they’re just playing through the set list.

It’s not easy, it takes focus and discipline, but it’s a best practice of successful people everywhere. 


 

Are you this happy with 2010, and more optimistic about 2011?

Over 70 percent of business leaders are encouraged by their organization's ability to adapt to business challenges faced in 2010, and an even higher percentage (80 percent) are optimistic about their 2011 outlook.

Surprised? Does this reflect how your company is feeling about the past year as well as the year ahead?

These sentiments were part of a survey we recently completed with OnTarget Consulting & Research, polling 100 Puget Sound area business leaders and executives on their feelings about 2010, their thoughts on 2011, and where they see their organizations specifically focusing to grow in the coming year.

Other findings reflected optimism about customer loyalty, but less satisfaction with new customer sales.

You can find a complete copy of the Key Findings & Recommendations report at www.heinzmarketing.com/2011survey.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

 

Black Friday for B2B?

I’m not going to begrudge anybody for taking the four-day weekend off.  But this weekend likely represents a significant sales & marketing opportunity in some B2B segments.

A report by Mashable last night showed that the majority of us are checking work email during holidays.  I’d imagine that volume is significantly higher on a day like Black Friday, with overall inbound email significantly lower than the average workday.  Would your message have a better likelihood of getting read this weekend?

You might not have any luck closing business or getting contracts signed the day after Thanksgiving, but what about getting commitment to attend a Webinar?  What about finally getting that appointment scheduled? 

The better you understand your customer, the more likely you’ll be able to identify whether and how they’ll be interested in speaking with you this weekend.  If your customer or prospect works in retail or e-commerce, you better believe they’re working (if from home) over the busy shopping weekend.  Real estate agents & brokers will be back at it this weekend as well (and likely sitting in empty open houses on Sunday, bored, and willing to take a call).

In many cases, expecting prospects to take your call on a holiday weekend might not be realistic.  But weekends like this might be your most productive with some well-placed, well-intentioned email. 

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

 

This is the wrong week to start thanking your customers & employees

Thanking your customers and employees this week is at best a cliché, and at worst hollow and counterproductive.

The littany of emails, blog posts and other messages expressing thanks to customers, team and employees has already begun, and will continue through the Thanksgiving holiday.  Many of these messages are indeed heart-felt and genuine. 

But the messages that mean the most this week to their recipients are, ironically, the messages that are least necessary.  Companies who treat their employees and customers well all year and regularly express thanks for their work, business and loyalty are reaping the rewards of higher customer retention, greater employee loyalty, and a halo of positive brand awareness and word-of-mouth.

On the flip side, if an organization doesn't prioritize its customer and employees, doesn't regularly thank them for their service and loyalty in word and deed throughout the year…that same message of thanks right now, this week, will more likely be seen for the marketing ploy it is.

Thanksgiving isn't a day.  It isn't an email to customers.  It isn't a pre-written message from the CEO. 

Genuine appreciation and thanks is built into your organization's DNA.  It's something you live every day.  It's built into your product, your service approach, your daily interactions.  It's something that comes natural, is a habit, and is encouraged and rewarded all year long.

In those environments, a note this week isn't even necessary.

 

 


Monday, November 22, 2010

 

Can your organization answer these seven strategy questions?

I highly recommend Robert Simons's book Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution. It's worth the full read, but at minimum take time to read a summary of the seven questions on the HBS blog (full book summary here).

Here are the seven questions the book asks you to address and answer in your organization:

  1. Who is your primary customer?
  2. How do your core values prioritize shareholders, employees and customers?
  3. What critical performance variables are you tracking?
  4. What strategic boundaries have you set?
  5. How are you generating creative tension?
  6. How committed are your employees to helping each other?
  7. What strategic uncertainties keep you awake at night?

 

Your customers aren't taking the next 45 days off

I can’t believe how many B2B sellers are “ramping down” their marketing activities between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.  There appears to be a general, and clearly unmeasured, assumption that customers and prospects aren’t around, aren’t paying attention, or are too distracted by other things, to be bothered in the next 40 days.

In fact, the opposite is usually true, and sometimes for the same reasons.  This is one of the best times of the year to speak with your customers, and reach new prospects.

Because so many other sellers ramp down their outbound activity this time of year, your customers and prospects are less inundated with calls and offers from others.  Your call is far more likely to get through.

Most internal organizations actually start cancelling meetings as well, with the assumption that folks aren’t going to be around.  With fewer meetings, your customers and prospects are more likely to be at their desk and available to take your call (or read your email, or whatever).

With a client in the HR space a couple years ago, we found that webinar registration increased 20%, and attendance rates increased 30%, in the weeks surrounding the end-of-year holidays.

How many of your customers are on a calendar fiscal year?  How many are either planning their budgets for next year right now (and likely doing so last-minute right before the holidays) or are looking at a surplus of remaining budget they need to allocate somewhere before they lose it on January 1?

This isn’t France, and it isn’t August.  Let’s enjoy some football and turkey, then get back to work.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

 

How to get "lost" prospects to re-engage

Jill Konrath, in addition to writing highly-recommended books, publishes a regular newsletter that's become one of my favorites. This morning she featured an article by Eric Slife with best practices on getting dormant prospects to re-engage.

With permission, here's Eric's piece from Jill's newsletter:

Getting Prospects Re-Engaged
By Eric Slife

You finish your presentation, and your prospect states, "Everything looks great. I'll call you in a couple of days to move forward." Several days pass, a week, then a month. They don't return you calls, and you have no idea why. Sound familiar?

I'm not sure what's more frustrating; not getting the business, or not knowing why. Here are some easy tips to reconnect with your prospect.

1. Establish Guidelines - At the very outset, establish guidelines for the relationship you are about to enter.

"Mr. or Miss Prospect, thanks for agreeing to meet with me today. I have some questions I'd like to ask you today, and I'm sure you probably have some questions you want to ask me. Before we get started, I just want you to know, it's okay to tell me "No."

Sometimes, a client chooses to go a different direction, but they feel uncomfortable telling me. If at any point while working together, you determine my product or service isn't the right fit, will you please let me know?

2. Voicemail with Email - I don't expect people to return my voicemail. However, within my voicemail, I'll inform them I'm sending an email, because for many busy individuals it's easier to respond. In my email I will write,

"Mr. or Miss Prospect, upon our last discussion, you requested I follow up with you at this date and time regarding... I've tried several times to call you, but unfortunately, we haven't been able to connect. I'm beginning to feel like I'm becoming a pest. Please let me if your situation has changed, so I know how and when to best follow up."

Because many people aren't comfortable telling you "no" over the phone or in person, this approach gives the prospect a way out of the situation, and you can move on. Often, you find they have been slammed or you get some additional information as to why the delay.

3. Disengage Caller ID - Call your phone company and ask how to disengage your caller id. This way your prospect can no longer screen your calls.

4. Did I Do Something Wrong? - You might leave a message for your prospect that says, "
"Mr. or Miss Prospect you asked me to follow up on... I've tried to reach out several times, but I never heard back from you. Did I do something that offended or upset you?"

5. Copy Referrer on Email - If you were referred by another individual, copy them on your email. This is especially useful if you were referred by a superior. Don't throw your contact under the bus, but apply a little pressure.

6. Discard Proposals - Finally, always be willing to walk away. I want to do business with adults, not children. If someone requests to call them back, but then never returns my calls or email when I'm following their directions, those aren't the customers I'm looking for. However, I'll provide one final opportunity.

"Mr. or Miss Prospect, you requested I contact you on... I've tried several times, but I never heard back from you. The price (or proposal) was good for 30 days, so unfortunately I have to discard your file."

Put a time limit on all your proposals. This creates a sense of urgency, and it doesn't lock you into a price for an extended period of time.

About The Author
Eric Slife is President of Sales Training Central. From cold calling to closing, we provide comprehensive, affordable online sales training and sales management programs that can be customized for both individuals and sales teams.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

 

What does success look like?

I feel like a broken record sometimes, because I ask this question a lot.  But in a variety of contexts, I’m surprised at how often people aren’t able to articulate a good answer.

This doesn’t just apply to marketing campaigns and sales channels.  Everything we do has a purpose, an end-goal.  Sometimes that goal is easier to define and quantify, but you should at minimum be able to describe the result, the feeling, the outcome you want – that will make you, your company, your investors, your family, or your customers happy.

As you’re thinking about 2011 planning this time of year especially, answer this question first.  What does success look like?  What outcome will we celebrate vigorously when we achieve it?   Start with that definition of success, and map everything else back to that.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

 

Dedicating time to think before you do

It’s difficult for knowledge workers to sit down and bang out great work.  If you need to write a marketing plan, draft a press release, write a sales script, or anything else that takes significant brain power, the last think you should do is start by staring at a blank page on your screen.

It’s too much at once.  It’s intimidating.  Plus your brain will implore you to focus instead on something easier, something distracting, something else – anything but what you should be focused on. 

Check your email, your RSS feeds, get up and walk around the office.  These are all distractions that keep you from focusing on what’s most important, and ensure it takes far longer to get work done than it actually should take.

Recently I’m fighting these distractions with something basic, and completely offline.  If I need to produce something that requires significant forethought and organization, I put pen to paper first.  Oftentimes, this means writing or typing the topic or project at the top of a piece of paper, printing it out, and taking it away from my desk. 

I’ll print out 3-4 of these at a time and go somewhere without distraction.  The kitchen table, your back porch, even a good bar where you can turn off the phone, ignore distractions that are no longer vying for your attention, and get stuff done.

You’ll be surprised how quickly your ideas coalesce on paper into something valuable, something organized, something that quickly develops into exactly what you’d been trying to do in the first place.

Keep writing, keep brainstorming on paper, and when you do get back to your computer to type you’ll have put enough thought and organization behind the idea or project that it’ll be far easier to ignore distractions, stay focused, and just get it done.

Dedicating time to think about what you need to do before you actually do it is the key to getting more done faster, and doing it better.


 

34 ways to drive revenue at an empty ballpark

With another 15 weeks until spring training begins, and approximately 20 weeks before big-league ballparks come to life with the sounds of baseball, most major and minor-league ballparks will sit dormant for the majority of the winter.

And although weather conditions in many parts of the country limit what can be done outside, there are dozens of ways baseball teams & their facilities can drive revenue when their teams aren't playing.

I've had this conversation with a few teams over the past couple weeks, and below is the start of a list of revenue opportunities these teams have - in the coming months before spring as well as during road trips within the season. Think of this as the first 34 ways. I bet 15-20 minutes of brainstorming inside baseball organizations could easily double this.

Facilities

Parking Lot

Monday, November 15, 2010

 

Are marketing budgets irrelevant?

I could easily make the argument that finite marketing budgets exist for lazy marketers.  That CFOs want them in place because they don’t trust their marketing executives to make good decisions.  That, if marketers were 100% aligned with the organization’s financial objectives, they wouldn’t be necessary.

If the bank had a sale on one-dollar bills, and was selling them for the rest of this week at 90 cents each, would you give yourself a budget for how many you could buy?  Sounds a little silly, doesn’t it?

So if you find that certain marketing activities are generating a profit for your organization, why would you limit how much of it you could do?  Why would you constrain your own growth and earning potential?

This, of course, isn’t as easy to execute as I’m making it sound.  But think about how your organization creates and manages budgets.  Is it based on finding and maximizing the opportunity against profitable channels?  Or is there an arbitrary constraint created independent of the success of growth potential you’ve discovered?

As a marketer, at minimum your job during the fiscal year is to clearly and quantifiably identify where there’s additional and significant, profitable growth potential outside of your current budgetary boundaries.  If you’ve found opportunity and aren’t capitalizing on the entire potential simply because of a budget figure put in place weeks or months prior, make a case for the incremental dollars.  Because if you’re right, no CFO is going to see that budget request as additional cost center. 

If you’re right, it’s simply a short-term loan on additional revenue and profit.


Friday, November 12, 2010

 

Make Friday afternoons your most productive time of the week

It’s far too easy to start the weekend early.  Even if you’re still in the office until five (or later) on Friday afternoon, it’s easy to mentally leave early.  No meetings, more time on Facebook, check email without focusing on the important stuff, etc.

The biggest problem with this behavior (and I’m as guilty as anybody) is that it bleeds important work into to the weekend.  There’s stuff you could have been doing, and instead of doing it right away you work on it Saturday morning.  Or try to get caught up Sunday night before the new work week.  At minimum, it stays on your mind and nags at you when you could be focusing on family or other activities/hobbies that refresh you for the busy week ahead.

What would happen if Friday afternoons, from 3-5, became your most productive time of the week?  What if you closed the door, poured yourself a glass of wine or Scotch, and focused in on 1-2 important projects?  Get them done before 5:00, and they’re off your plate (and your mind) for the next two days.

Better yet, carve out some of that time to plan for the following week.  What’s on your schedule, what are your priorities, what are the 2-3 things you need to focus on first-thing Monday morning?  Come up with your game plan Friday afternoon (you may be surprised how quickly you can do it), and the entire weekend (including Sunday night) could be yours again.


 

McAndrews' Management Maxims

Listening to Brian McAndrews from Madrona Venture Group give his management advice from decades of work at General Mills, ABC, Disney, aQuantive and Microsoft. His management maxims are below. Hard to disagree with these in any business, and worth sharing.

1. Set clear objectives, hold accountable, get out the way
2. Micromanagement does not scale
3. It is far more important to be respected than liked
4. Give employees the right to be wrong
5. No jerks
6. Have a bias for action
7. Live (or die) by your company values

Thursday, November 11, 2010

 

10 B2B Metrics Worth Your Commitment

As part of the Focus Progressive B2B Marketing Interactive Summit next month, I’ll be presenting my top ten recommended B2B metrics.  Of course there are dozens of metrics worth following but a select few are particularly important to help sales & marketing executives measure, optimize and improve sales & revenue output.

Registration is free, and there are several great sessions during the day.  Join us on Thursday, December 2nd, starting at 8:00 a.m. Pacific time.  Attendees are also entered in a drawing for an iPad!

Here’s the gist from Focus:

How you adapt to and harness the opportunities in the changing B2B marketing environment could make all the difference between success and failure. Join Focus Experts in this half-day event to make sure you’re ahead of the curve. It will cover everything from the importance of branding to implementing lead-management strategies and improving sales/marketing alignment.

This event is intended B2B marketing leaders interested in the latest methods and technologies to create an optimized, accountable, and revenue-impacting marketing force.  Boost your skills and effectiveness as you track-change, learn new methods, and deepen your understanding of the latest developments, tools and best practices in B2B marketing.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

 

Are you attending events for the wrong reasons?

Most service providers I know attend events to get new business.  I stopped doing that years ago.

I still attend plenty of events, but I no longer have an expectation of getting leads or direct business.  I don’t even choose events for that reason anymore.

At this point, my main objectives at the right events are to 1) network with peers to find out what they’re up to and what’s new outside of my daily circles; 2) engage with and build my partner network for referrals and word-of-mouth for what we’re doing; 3) learn from speakers and other experts to increase my own knowledge and abilities; and 4) give back to others by sharing what I can based on my own experience and ideas.

I find this approach typically increases the indirect new business opportunities we capture in and around well-chosen events.

If your market is like mine, you could attend such events 4-5 times a week, so you still need to be incredibly selective.  But there’s a ton of value for you and your business (not to mention those who can learn from you) beyond just qualified leads.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

 

Why are you doing it? Turning requests into results

If someone asks you to do something, do you do it?  Depends on who’s asking, I guess.  But even if that person asking is your boss, or a client, or a superior or some kind, it’s still your responsibility to ensure what they’re asking for is really what they want.

I am not encouraging you to play the role of contrarian with every request.   Just make sure there’s clear understanding about not just what’s been asked for, but what that request is meant to accomplish. 

What’s the desired end result?  What does success look like?  Will the specific request achieve that result? 

Your boss, partner or client may have already done a translation in their head about what they need to achieve a certain result.  But what if they’re wrong?  What if you have a better tactical solution to achieve that outcome? 

The easiest way to do this is to simply ensure clarity on the final expected or desired result.  If that result maps to the work requested, great.  If you have better insight into what will more quickly, efficiently or cost-effectively achieve that result, it’s your job to make the course correction and deliver the result.

 

 

 


Friday, November 05, 2010

 

The six things every great leader does

The more I read about and try to learn from our civilization’s great leaders, the more I realize how much many of them have in common.  Yes, many of these individuals are incredibly brilliant.  Some have had life advantages others of us don’t or haven’t. 

But most of them are also (intentionally or not) doing the same things to create, cultivate and sustain the leadership and success they’ve achieved.  Here’s at least six things I believe great leaders do:

Read.  I defy you to find a great leader who isn’t, in some way, a scholar.  Who doesn’t surround himself or herself with books, knowledge and opinions that give them greater perspective, vision, insight and ability.  Leaders are never done learning, and consistently devote time from their busy schedules to devour even more information.

Write.  Not every leader is prolific in this regard.  Some write books, some articles or blogs.  Even those who haven’t been known for public distribution of their work seem to have left behind a legacy of journaling or letter writing as an expression of what they’re thinking, and how they’re evolving that thought to the betterment of themselves, their companies and their societies.

Think.  The act of writing is but one of many expressions of what usually starts as a new idea or original thought.  But no matter what the form or function, great leaders spend a lot of time thinking.   In today’s always-connected world, this is perhaps harder than ever.  Having the discipline to isolate ourselves and focus on new thinking is not easy.  But it’s the lifeblood of innovation.

Empower.  Great leaders know the key to success is to create a movement, influence others, and empower them to join with you in a common cause or objective.  Unsuccessful leaders who don’t know how to empower take the lazy man’s approach – micromanagement. 

Delegate.  A cousin of empowerment, but with direction.  Although I expect great leaders wouldn’t call this delegation, but rather inspiration.  Delegation implies work has been asked of another. Inspiration implies that the other has taken work up as his or her own cause based on their own free will.  Inspiration, then, would be a far greater force for leaders to create, multiple and harness.

Work.  Hard.  There are no shortcuts, no overnight successes.  Leaders aren’t lucky.  They aren’t chosen.  They get to where they are intentionally, through the accumulation of millions of baby steps, long nights, focus, determination…and sweat.

What am I missing?  What would you replace?

 

 

 

 

 


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