Thursday, February 24, 2011


How to market your marketing organization

Does your marketing organization have a brand?  Do you have a reputation within the company?

If I asked the sales team what they thought marketing did, what would they say?  If we asked your executive team how to describe marketing’s contribution to the business, how would they answer?

If you lead or are part of a marketing team, you have direct control over how they answer.  It’s not that different than how the external market thinks about your business, product or service.  You can give lip service to what you want them to think all day long, but they’re going to react to and believe what they see, hear, assume, expect and/or experience.

If the sales team thinks your leads suck, then that’s their reality.  That’s your brand.  You can live with it or fix it.  If the CFO thinks you’re mostly about collateral and press releases, or in other words cost center stuff, then that’s her reality (like it or not). 

If you want your marketing organization to be seen and thought of as a profit center, you need to do more than talk about it.  You need to make sure your priorities, your team, your actions are all focused on driving revenue.

Nobody likes spending time on internal politics, but it’s a reality in even small companies.  Your ability to achieve, execute and drive revenue for your organization as a marketer is directly related to how successfully you’ve marketed the marketing team’s role and contribution to revenue-producing priorities & objectives.

Having the right internal brand won’t automatically make your results better, but it will clear hurdles and make the path far easier.


Three tips for creating new marketing collateral

Is it me, or has the term "marketing collateral" become synonymous with "one page PDF"?  This format may feel like a fast and easy way to get the work done and off to your sales counterparts, but does it work?  Are they influencing and engaging your customer in a way that drives consideration and purchase behavior?

Collateral effectiveness isn't about the format alone, but you do want to ensure what you're producing is having an impact.  Here are three recommendations to help keep you on target.

1. Make it about the customer, not you.  This means focusing on customer success stories, usage scenarios, outcomes.  Feature case studies & best practice summaries from existing customers, and before/after statistical examples of what you've enabled.  Help your prospect envision themselves achieving that same success.  This is the kind of collateral that people will read and benefit from.

2. Make it interactive.  Don't just rely on those PDFs.  Would the message be better communicated as a video?  Or Webinar?  Or an interactive ROI calculator?  What format could more effectively deliver your message?

3. Actively retire the old stuff.  Every business I know has a problem with collateral creep.  You make new stuff but keep the old.  What if you created a rule that said every time you create something new, you had to "retire" an older piece that was no longer relevant?  What if you forced yourself to have no more than 4-5 pieces at any given time?  Would it force you to be more focused, more relevant, and possibly generate more updates to keep up with what's working?  And wouldn't that help drive greater value from the collateral anyway?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


You don't need more leads (you just need more sales)

If your sales aren't high enough, the solution isn't necessarily more leads.  If the sales problem is elsewhere, driving more leads will at best only exacerbate the problem, and at worst could cost you significantly more money without moving the sales needle one bit.

Leads are sexy, and easy to understand.  If I get more leads, I'll probably close more sales.  That's probably true, but it could be the lazy way to fix a problem elsewhere in your sales funnel.

If you want more sales, don't start at the top of the funnel.  Start at the bottom, and work your way back up.  Why are deals at the negotiation stage failing to convert?  Why are some qualified opportunities not getting far enough down the purchase path?  Why are good leads - those with a need and budget - failing to become qualified opportunities?

The fastest way to increase sales is to increase conversion of those closest to becoming a sale.  Review every stage back up in the direction of newly-created leads.  If you find everything is working just fine and you actually do need new leads, then go get them.  But nine times out of ten we do this, we don't get that far before building a long list of optimization opportunities that drive more sales, faster.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Three important sales metrics you're probably not tracking today

It’s easy to evaluate your sales team based on pipeline size, closed business, performance against quota.  But there are other metrics you probably have access to already that can help you improve individual and overall sales performance.  Here are three of my favorites.

First-Month Customer Satisfaction.  One month in, most customers haven’t yet realized the value of the product or service.  But they should already have developed an opinion of how well what they’re now experiencing matched the expectations set by the sales rep.  If your sales team is selling right – setting the right expectations, selling on outcomes & benefits instead of features – the customer should know exactly what they’re getting into and have a solid satisfaction level even in the first couple weeks. 

Average Selling Price vs. Team Average or Expectations.  Simply put, is the average deal size from each rep living up to expectations?  Is an individual rep performing better or worse than the team average?  This is an important and often overlooked metric, especially in markets where small deals take just as much work to close as large deals.  Your reps may feel good about closing the small guys, or feel good about closing the “back up” sale of a smaller product to a bigger customer, but is that where their (and your) time is best spent?  Make sure your reps are going after big-enough deals.

Current vs. Previous Territory Performance.  Sales teams too often ignore historical performance.  They don’t use the precedents set in previous selling periods or by previous sales teams to predict or expect future performance.  Let’s say you have an experience rep working a new territory or vertical industry.  Is their performance dramatically different than what you saw from that territory previously?  There may be good reasons – you may be saturated, or inventory could be low.  But if you’re seeing significantly lower performance vs. what was previously achieved, it could be a sign that potential sales are somehow being left on the table.

Friday, February 18, 2011


The problem with sales scripts

I’m willing to bet your sales team doesn’t use the sales scripts you gave them.  If you bothered to document the word-for-word transcript of how you’d like their calls to go, it was a waste of time.

Good salespeople don’t work from scripts, because they know that they simply don’t work.  If you’re reading from a script, you’re not listening.  If you’re using a script, you’re not customizing the pitch to what your prospect cares about.  If you’re using a script all day long, you’ve already made the assumption that every prospect is exactly alike.

Many of your prospects approach their problems in a different way.  They have different perspectives, different needs.  All a script does is water that down for everyone.  Worse, it commoditizes what you’re selling (and commoditization usually means you’ll end up competing on price).

Scripts work for voicemail messages.  They can work for your initial elevator pitch as well – those first few seconds you use to earn the right to continue the conversation.  But from there, you have to listen.  You have to adjust to what the prospects says, and wants.

This doesn’t mean you go into a sales call unprepared.  Have a crisp set of benefit-oriented key messages, a set of questions you’ll use to discover what’s really important to your prospect, and a set of desired outcomes for the conversation. 

Know what you have, why it’s important & valuable, and what you want from the prospect at the end of the call.  Let that outline guide you.

Sales scripts feel safe.  They’re coveted by managers who don’t trust (or don’t train) their salespeople.  But just because it feels safe doesn’t mean it’s going to work.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Where's your next great idea?

Guest post by Gerhard Gschwandtner

Gerhard is the founder of Selling Power magazine and host of the Sales 2.0 Conference. Join him at the upcoming
Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, on March 7-8. Use code hmktgs2c and get a special $300 discount on registration.

Over the course of three decades, I’ve interviewed some of the most successful leaders and experts in sales, business, sports, entertainment, and politics, including Mary Kay Ash, Marc Benioff, Michael Dell, George Foreman, Seth Godin, Jay Leno, Bill Marriott, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and Colin Powell. And as host of four industry conferences (the Sales 2.0 Conference and the Sales Leadership Conference) throughout the year, I have the privilege of being in almost constant contact with successful sales and marketing executives from top-level companies.

What I’ve noticed about high achievers is that they all live in pursuit of their next great idea. They have a vision for leadership and constantly look for insights that can take them to the next level.

We live in a culture obsessed with efficiency, in which we fill every waking moment with work. But sometimes it’s our time away from work that allows us to do the best thinking. Thinking produces ideas, and ideas produce progress. If history serves as a guide, we can easily recognize that the five billion people on this planet owe all technological progress to a few thousand people who have gone before us and produced thoughts that turned out to be better for everybody: Einstein's theory of relativity; Edison's light bulb; Alexander Graham Bell's telephone.

When National Cash Register Company founder John Henry Patterson tried to improve his organization's productivity, he concluded that productive work is a result of productive thinking. To encourage thinking in his company, before staff meetings Patterson wrote the word "think" on flip charts. Since he noticed people's positive responses to the word, he had signs printed with the simple message, "Think." One hundred years ago, these signs appeared in NCR offices worldwide. Patterson's sales manager, Thomas J. Watson, didn't forget the memorable word when he left the National Cash Register Company to found IBM. Today, thousands of IBM executives are still exhorted to "think."

Harvey Firestone once said, "Thought, not money, is the real business capital." Firestone's entire business was founded on the idea of producing a tire that would add safety and speed to Henry Ford's model T.

One great idea can change millions of lives. Where will your next great idea come from?

Friday, February 11, 2011


Inside sales professionals in Seattle - join us!

If you're involved with, work with, or manage inside sales, you won't want to miss the first meeting of the new Seattle chapter for the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) in March.

The AA-ISP is the only organization of its kind dedicated to advancing the profession of inside sales. This first meeting is a great opportunity to not just learn more about the organization, but network with other inside sales professionals from throughout the Seattle area.

You don't need to be a member to attend this meeting, and it's free! Registration is available here. Please invite friends, colleagues and any others interested in being involved in this new group of local inside sales professionals:

When: Wednesday, March 16th, 2011, 7:30 - 9:00 a.m.
Where: Columbia Tower Club, 701 Fifth Avenue, 75th floor, Seattle, WA


Register here!

Please also join the Seattle chapter LinkedIn Group here.


Three questions all content must answer

I think we all generally understand and accept that content needs to do something. It needs to speak to and influence an intended audience else it's really a waste of everyone's time. This applies to a wide range of content in a variety of formats - Web pages, white papers, blog posts, videos on YouTube, etc.

But it strikes me that, although content can be audience-centric, it's not always complete. Well-designed content is built by answering three questions:

What do I want people to see, hear and/or learn?
What do I want people to think?
What do I want people to do?

Notice the progression of audience understanding and action here: Awareness, interpretation, response.

That doesn't always mean a direct response call to action. But if your audience reads or experiences your content and moves on without any change in perception or behavior, I'd argue something was missing and your content didn't work.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


The most important part of event marketing

I’m writing this from my office, and occasionally staring across the room at the still-full messenger bag I brought back from Dreamforce in early December.  It’s been more than two months since that conference, and yet there the bag sits.  Unopened.  Forgotten.  Full of collateral, sales sheets, white papers, who knows what else.

The conference itself was fantastic.  Great speakers, great networking, many interesting exhibitors.  I followed up with a few I had particular interest in, but quickly forgot about the rest as I settled back into my regular routine.

Any of us who attend trade shows or events develop temporary Attention Deficit Disorder.  It’s impossible to avoid.  Hundreds of booths vying for your attention, in between meeting after meeting.  Then you hit the party circuit, get a couple hours of sleep, and do it again.

There’s no way you can remember everybody, everything.  All that money spent by sponsors and exhibitors to get your attention.  And it worked.  At least it worked two months ago.

I have a bag full of collateral from I don’t know how many vendors.  A stack of business cards from vendors who told me they’d follow up.

All that time, energy and money to engage me at the show.  And how many have followed up?  Not many.  Not enough.

The most important part of event marketing happens after the event.  You’ve made your impression.  Now, after the dust has settled, make sure you capitalize and convert.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011


Four reasons you will lose a sale to "no decision"

It’s bad enough when you lose a potential new customer to a competitor.  In every market this reality is inevitable, for reasons we can and often cannot control.

But your bigger priority and opportunity is likely with deals you lose because no decision was made at all.  If the prospect has been qualified and ultimately decides to do nothing, there’s room for immediate improvement to increase conversion of these deals starting tomorrow.

Here are four reasons I hear most often why deals are lost to “no decision”, and how you can start to address them in your sales organization.

You haven’t created (or established) enough value.  It’s a nice to have but not a need to have.  The prospect may know what it is, but not clearly understand how it can measurably impact their business.  This value translation is both related to the business and the individual.  Does the buyer understand how using your product or service will make them look good?  Do they understand the path you’re providing to a promotion, a raise, recognition, other things they directly value? 

And how well did you research and understand what the customer values up front in the sales process?  Too often we leave value translation up to the prospect, either by not sharing enough about outcomes we can create or by assuming the outcomes we’re presenting are what the prospect actually values.

It’s not a big enough priority for your prospect.  If you get this answer at the end of the sales process, you didn’t qualify the deal well enough.  The vast majority of your qualified prospects will fall into the “not ready to buy” category.  They like what you have, they want to do it, they’ll talk to you for a long time – but at the end of the day, it’s not where their time or budget is going to be spent.  At least right now. 

Many of these deals may actually mature later – based on changing organizational priorities or some other compelling event that makes it a higher, more urgent need.  But you need to determine priority in the qualification process up front.  If you do nothing else, make sure this reason for losing a sale is eliminated from your sales organization quickly.

The cost of changing is greater than the perceived benefit.  Change creates work.  It creates friction.  It requires decisions that often aren’t fast or easy for an organization to make.  Organizations change all the time, of course, but they do so because of a shared understanding and urgency around achieving a perceived future benefit.

No matter what you’re selling, there’s a hard and soft cost to changing.  Learning a new product, switching from an old one, getting multiple divisions aligned around implementation and execution.   This is a lot of hard work that sales organizations don’t often recognize and appreciate well enough.  And if you don’t have alignment at the customer level of the common desired end-goal, executing on that change may not be something they want to deal with.

The risk of staying the same is lower than the risk in doing something different.  I don’t want to change if I don’t have to.  If I don’t need to.  If there’s a chance you might not do what you say you’re going to do.  If I don’t understand the true, calculated risk of not making a change.  Does your prospect understand the likely future if they stay the same?  Have you helped them calculate the likely future pain of continuing on the same path? 

This objection is a two-edged sword.  Either you haven’t reduced the risk enough of going with your product or service, or you haven’t increased the perceived risk of staying the same.  Or both.  Either way, if the balance isn’t in your favor, you lose.  To nothing.


Monday, February 07, 2011


Five critical steps to building a sales team from scratch

The opportunity to build a sales team from scratch happens more often than you might think.  Yes, it’s a critical step for any new organization where sales has never formally existed before.  But mature organizations create new sales teams all the time – to sell new products, to launch into new markets or industries, to add inside support to an existing field sales team, etc.

Whether you’re truly starting from scratch or creating a new team inside an existing sales org, here are five critical steps you should work through before any outbound activity begins.

Clarity of Success Metrics.  How will the organization overall define success for this sales team?  What do those metrics look like 30 days from now, three months from now, 6-12 months from now?  Make sure you know explicitly how your leadership team is going to evaluate success.  At a more direct level, know how you’re going to measure success of the sales team itself as it ramps up.  How will you know it’s on a path for success after the first week?  What measures will you use to ensure the right momentum on a daily and weekly basis with each rep?  Define these up front, and let them guide how you build and execute the rest of your plan.

Customer Insight.  Successful sales teams don’t develop their best practices in a bubble.  Partner with your marketing team to develop a clear understanding of your customer’s needs, pain points and desired outcomes.  The sales process you develop for the new sales team should directly map to the way your customer wants to buy – including messaging, materials, channels, offers, etc.  The more you understand the customer, their behavior and purchase tendencies, the more likely the sales process will write itself for you.   

The Right Channel(s).  What kind of sales team are you hiring, anyway?  Do you need a field team or inside team?  Or both?  Too often, sales managers jump into hiring before understanding the right approach.  Your customer insight, as well as observation of how the rest of your industry or market sells, should give you clues to the right approach as well.

Defined Process.  Before the first call is made, the first email sent, the first leads generated, map the entire sales process.  Start with how your customer buyers, and map that down to a series of lead development and opportunity management stages.  Know exactly what it means for a prospect be at each stage, and define specific roles for both sales & marketing at each stage to help get the prospect to the next step closer to the closed deal.  Then, codify this process in a way that the entire sales team can easily follow, replicate and document their progress in your CRM system.  I guarantee you’ll make adjustments to this process as you get rolling, but having it all mapped out up front will help you not only measure and act on what’s happening in the marketplace, but will also make your sales team far more efficient from the get-go.

Training & Onboarding.  Don’t skimp on this.  It’s tempting to hire world-class salespeople and let them loose as quickly as possible.  But unless they understand your customer intimately, unless they know exactly how you want them to sell, unless they know how you will define their success and how you want them to document their activity, they’ll be spinning their wheels from day one. 

Successful selling requires that you apply a consistent, proven process to a buyer who wants and needs to be treated as a unique opportunity.  The best sales teams in the world do both, and it starts with the above steps from day one.



Friday, February 04, 2011


Is context more important than permission in email marketing?

I get a lot of junk mail at home.  Some of it, though unsolicited, is actually valuable.  If an advertiser was smart enough to map my interests with their products or services, I’m more likely to take a quick look.  I didn’t ask ESPN to send me that baseball-themed catalog, for example.  But I still read through it and picked up a new t-shirt for the season ahead.

Email’s not really that different.  A clogged inbox is annoying, sure.  I didn’t give everybody a double opt-in.  But if you’re dumb enough to spam me about stuff I have no demonstrated interest in, you probably don’t care about your relationship with me (or your reputation) anyway.

If you do care about both our relationship and your reputation, you learn enough about me to send me something targeted.  Something meaningful.  Something you know I’ll look twice at before it’s deleted.  Heck, I might even open, click and engage.

Permission in marketing is still an important and coveted asset.  It’s the foundation of long-term relationships.  But what about context?  What about exploring the potential of a relationship with a customer who doesn’t yet know you, but that you still treat with respect?

If I have a targeted email list, and a targeted and relevant offer, is that still spam?  Or is it opportunity knocking?

I know my perspective, from the marketer’s side, is biased.  But I’m a consumer, too.  And I read some of my spam.

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