Thursday, June 30, 2011


Would they miss you if you were gone?

How would your customers answer this question? What specifically would they miss if you were gone tomorrow?

Perhaps something you offer is unique. If they can’t get that product or service anywhere else, what would your customers really miss? What benefit or outcome are they buying?

But let’s say you’re a commodity. You can create just as much differentiation and loss through superior service, ease of use, less down time and so on.

What your customers miss may not be tangible. It might be a feeling. An emotion. A diversion. Intangible, but definable.

Think hard about how you might answer this question. If you’re feeling bold, ask some customers directly for their feedback. Make sure the answer you get back is consistently highlighted in the way you market and sell.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Eight more ways to get sales reps back above quota

Based on an earlier post featuring best practices to help sales reps get back above quota, we had a lively discussion on the topic at the American Association for Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) Seattle chapter meeting earlier this month. Below are eight more best practices that came out of that meeting.

Create a friendly (but spirited) competition between reps
Salespeople are competitive by nature. They want to win. Put them into a friendly competition against each other for daily, weekly or monthly sales activity. One of my favorite times to do this is March, when a March Madness-style tournament can really get the competitive juices flowing.

Make sure your comp plan requires consistent performance
Does your commission plan make it easy for reps to coast after a solid month? How could you restructure the plan to ensure consistent performance is rewarded? For example, can reps sustain some kind of commission multiplier if they stay above quota month after month?

Check for personal issues
Tread lightly here, but oftentimes sales performance has nothing to do with the market, their pipelines, or even their sales skills. Sometimes your rep may be distracted by something well outside of the office. This can be complicated to uncover and even more difficult to address. But simply isolating an outside variable as a cause for poor performance can be a good starting point.

Create a longer-period contest contingent on quota hitting
Most sales contests are contained within a specific selling period (week, month or quarter), but there’s no reason you can’t have a bigger prize contingent on maintaining or exceeding quota for multiple selling periods. Make the prize commensurate with the performance to keep your reps motivated and focused.

Go back to basics (Attitude, Focus, Activity & Skills)
Josh Hartnett from Datasphere talks often about the four basics of sales performance (especially for inside sales): Attitude, Focus, Activity and Skills. When his reps show declining numbers, he focuses on these specific and fundamental skills and often finds at least a couple things that can adjusted to get the rep back on track.

Watch the video tape (be like Pujols)
Earlier this baseball season, baseball’s best player wasn’t hitting very well. He wasn’t sure why. To help get himself back on track, Albert Pujols watched videotape of himself when he was on a hitting streak the previous season. By watching tape of himself during a period of peak performance, he was able to identify a couple technical issues with his current swing. After a couple days, he was back on track. This works for sales professionals too. Create and keep recordings of some of your reps’ best work, and play them again when they’re underperforming to rediscover what works.

Put them on a plan
A performance plan doesn’t mean a rep is about to lose his or her job. It simply means their recent performance is sub-standard, and outlines specific steps the rep is expected to take to get back on track. Use this step wisely with reps who need a little extra motivation, or need to know you’re very serious about getting their numbers back above quota.

Did you add too much process?
If multiple reps across your team record declining performance at the same time, look for systematic reasons. If you implemented a new CRM system, for example, there may be a learning curve that takes away valuable selling time. Look for other process or bureaucratic symptoms that may be taking reps away from critical selling activities.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Five reasons to walk away from a sale

You've qualified the deal, you've got a decision maker engaged, there's budget to move forward. All signs are positive.

Then something happens. The prospect goes dark. Or you start to get a funny feeling that things aren't right.

No matter how motivated or focused you are on closing business and accelerating revenue, sometimes it's best for you and the business to just walk away. Here are five situations in which walking away will save you time, headache and money.

1. You will lose money
Sometimes a deal with acceptable margins for your business gets negotiated down to a position where you just can't make money. And at the end of the day, you're not in the sales business or the revenue business. Your company is in it to make a profit. Make sure you have a clear sense for the level at which it's better to walk away than take a loss just to get the client.

That goes well beyond the initial sale as well. Do you have a sense for the lifetime cost of servicing that customer? Will the cost of service exceed the revenue you expect to receive? Could a good sale today become an unprofitable and unhappy relationship (on both sides) down the road?

2. Your values do not align
Your customers represent you. They are an extension of your business and your brand. How they use your product or service, and to what effect, will reflect on you too. Sometimes at the beginning of the sales process you know the basics about the prospect - enough to qualify that they're the right kind of company to buy what you're selling.

But sometimes you learn more - about what they do, how they treat their own customers, and how they conduct business. Misalignment now is only going to fester and get worse. and if you're at all nervous about the prospect's own sense of values, there's a higher likelihood that the end of the relationship won't go well either. Seller beware.

3. They are not prepared to execute
This is a hard one to gauge. I'm pretty sure the gym I belong to didn't worry too much about how often I'd actually come in. A car dealer won’t mind if you buy a sports car and leave it in the garage. But in many businesses (especially B2B services and SaaS), active usage is critical to achieving the lifetime value you expect from new customers.

Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses especially will build a revenue model that assumes a certain lifetime of recurring revenue from new customers. Although that same model likely assumes its fair share of churn, a new sale to a customer that clearly isn’t set up to execute and succeed (due to lack of resources, internal alignment or a number of factors) is a near guarantee to churn quickly. What’s worse, they may blame their lack of success on you, even if they never completed implementation.

4. They have a bad history of paying
A quick check of a prospect’s credit score can save you a lot of time, hassle and money. If they appear highly qualified, make a quick decision to buy, but are late or worse on their payments, you could be in a situation that’s not a whole lot better than not having completed the sale in the first place.

Happy customers are one thing. Reference accounts are even better. But if they’re not paying their bills, you won’t be able to take advantage of those testimonials for very long.

5. The deal keeps getting delayed
At a certain point, if your prospect is unable or unwilling to make a decision or commitment, you need to walk away. Oftentimes this is a sign that a deal wasn’t properly qualified to begin with. If there isn’t urgency on the buyer’s end, if there isn’t a compelling event or alignment around solving an immediate problem, then it’s a nice to have. And nice to have objectives don’t get approved and funded in today’s environment.

But no matter the reason, deals that continue to fester are costing you valuable time – time you could be spending pursuing or closing other business. If the prospect has changed his or her mind, if there’s an organizational change that’s slowing things up, put the onus on the prospect’s end to show signs of short-term interest and move on. Give yourself a reminder in a couple months to check in, and/or put the prospect back on a marketing nurture campaign to more actively stay in touch. But don’t be afraid to walk away. Sometimes that’s the fastest path to the sale.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Is your business ready for the holidays?

I hope you're working on your end-of-year holiday strategy right now.

Because your business likely falls into one of two categories. The holidays represent either a very busy time or a traditionally slow time. And you need to be proactively prepared for both.

If your business is busy during the holidays, you want to be prepared. You want to make sure the same customers come back again this year. You want to plan for, right now, the strategies and tactics you're going to use to win new customers. And, with both groups, earn a larger share of wallet this holiday season.

If your business is traditionally slow during the holidays, this should be the year you buck that trend. How will you prepare? How can you fill your pipeline with prospective customers who can close during the holiday months? How can you take advantage of end-of-year budget surpluses to make it easier for prospects to buy?

It's warm now, but it'll be football season soon. Then fall. Then holidays. Get ready.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


The fish aren't going to jump into your boat

With the amount of time, resources and budget devoted to lead generation at B2B organizations nationwide, combined with the pressure sellers are facing to hit their numbers in a continued challenging market, these survey results are scary.

In a nutshell, and Omniture submitted themselves as a lead through the Web sites of 700 companies. Here's a sample of what they found:
These weren't white paper downloads or Webinar registrations. These were requests for information. These, at minimum, should be considered warm leads by most organizations.

And yet, less than five percent heard anything back after 24 hours. And almost half of the leads never received a response at all.

These figures clearly don't take into account pre-planned variances in how companies handle, score and possibly automate lead response. But not even an email response a day later? No response at all for half of those leads?

Please tell me this isn't you.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Are you working, or just checking email?

Checking email isn't work.

Ninety percent of the time, checking email is just looking for work.

I'm guessing you don't need more work. I'm also guessing, right now, you have a pretty good idea of what work you should focus on.

Do the work. Or stop working. Either is a far more productive use of time than staring at your inbox.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


The five stages of lead qualification

Everybody wants qualified leads. The right person, at the right company, ready to buy with money to spend.

Those may be the leads you want, and the leads that close, but you'll go crazy (and possibly broke) trying to generate exclusively leads that look like this. A better way, that not only yields the most sales-ready leads now but also a growing pipeline of opportunities down the road, is to keep the funnel wide, wide open at the very top and narrow/filter through a series of qualification stages before the right leads get to a sales rep.

Below are five basic stages of lead qualification. Some companies get far more sophisticated, but for most readers this framework could very quickly segment and operationalize your existing and new leads into the right buckets, make the best use of your sales team's time, and significantly subsidize lead generation budgets in the months ahead.

Stage 1: Names
This is the most basic level, with virtually no filter. This might not even require lead capture through a registration form. It can include names captured via a trade show drawing, newsletter sign-ups, those who registered for a white paper with little more than a name and email address (even if it's a personal address like Gmail or Hotmail).

It can also be a qualified list you purchase or aggregate, but for the purpose of this framework let's assume each of these names have done something to proactively give you their contact information (no matter how sparse).

There's no direct action with this list until another, simple layer of qualification.

Stage 2: In-Profile Leads
These individuals still haven't expressed any interest in your product or service. But you can start to narrow your list based on basic criteria to determine which of your compiled names even have a chance of becoming a customer.

This step assumes you already have defined what a qualified prospect looks like. On the surface, that means the right company and the right individual, based on title or role. This step can also include filtering by particularly important company characteristics that can be identified externally - things like whether the company has a particular public initiative (going carbon-neutral, for example) or whether they have customer login capabilities (if you're selling online transaction or security capabilities, for example).

The vast majority of good leads at this stage are qualified but not ready to buy. That means they're in-profile, the right company and/or individual, but they haven't exhibited any specific interest or buying signals. Yet. Hence the next stage:

Stage 3: Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)*
Now we start to get into the jargon and acronyms you may hear in a variety of lead scoring and marketing automation circles. At this stage, the right-profiled prospect has exhibited some level of interest or early buying behavior.

It can be site traffic patterns you're watching via a service such as Optify or Hubspot. It can be a demo request following a couple months of webinar registrations. Tools from Optify and Marketo, for example, can also help you score leads based on site visit frequency, type of content they check out, duration of visits, and a variety of other weighted activities.

The more advanced marketing automation systems can automatically pass to sales the leads that pass a certain lead score threshold. But you can also do this manually.

Many companies pass these leads directly on to the sales team, but the leads haven't necessarily indicated they're ready to buy. They've only exhibited certain activities that tell us they could be close. Hence, some companies have instituted phone-based lead qualifiers to take MQLs and further qualify them for potential sales activity.

Stage 4: Sales-Accepted Leads (SALs)*
Leads that pass the above stage with a high-enough lead score go to the phone-based lead qualifiers. Their job is to get the prospect on the phone and ask the questions that prospect behavior and tracking can't easily capture. This includes company and/or individual priorities and pain points, specific prioritization and/or timing to solve the problem, and interest (based on those answers) in learning more about a possible solution.

Some of these leads will now be qualified and ready to buy. Some will be qualified and have a need, but the timing isn't right (for a variety of reasons). Some may have been incorrectly scored and need to go back to marketing (i.e. back to stage 3).

Stage 5: Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)*
These prospects are qualified and ready to buy. They have a timeline, they have identified or have access to budget. They are the decision maker and/or have the decision-maker actively engaged and on the same page re: prioritization and timing. They also likely have a "compelling event" in the company or industry that's driving urgency.

For many organizations, these leads are immediate Opportunities. They're active deals in the pipeline with an expected or estimated close date.

If you're an organization that currently pushes all leads directly to sales, moving from a two-step process to a five-step process may be a bit intimidating. If so, start slow. Add just one additional stage first (only send sales the in-profile leads, for example). Then add another when you feel ready.

*These terms first appeared in 2006, when SiriusDecisions published their report titled "Demand Creation: Five Metrics that Matter"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Who do you let into your network?

I was told recently that the point of social networks was to have the biggest list of contacts or followers possible, so that (and I'm now quoting directly) "you can ask people for things when you need something."

First of all, volume isn't important. Quality is far more relevant. On Twitter, for example, I follow people I want to learn from, people I care about, businesses that have something interesting to say. I don't follow someone simply because they'll follow me back and inflate both of our numbers.

If your tweet stream hasn't made me click on something, retweet something, respond to something or otherwise think about something in a new/different way, you're just cluttering my information superhighway. We should all have such filters on the information we allow to reach us on a regular basis.

In LinkedIn, I only follow people I can personally vouch for. My sniff test is simple - if someone asked me for a recommendation for someone in my LinkedIn network, I'd better have a good answer. Even if it's just a first impression from a conference, I can form and communicate an opinion.

Thom Singer told me last month he has a simple test for accepting social network invitations. If he's shared a coffee, meal or beer with you, you're in. If he doesn't know you that well, you're not yet in. I like the clarity and simplicity of that definition.

And what about those who invite you to join their network and you don't know them? You can ignore the request, or you could have a pre-written but polite response telling them you only accept invitations from those you know, and that you'd like to hear more about them and their business/interests before moving forward. Spammers will ignore this (which is good), and legitimate invitations will follow-up on your request (also good).

Your network, like it or not, is a direct reflection on you. Your brand will continue to be impacted by those you associate with. People will assume that your connections are a part of you, who you are, what you believe.

So what rules will you choose to follow? Who will you let in?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Six ways to drive more sales from LinkedIn

I get asked about this a lot (and addressed it briefly in an earlier post here). Here are six more quick tips (mostly relevant to B2B sellers) for building relationships and finding prospects on LinkedIn.

1. Read the Daily Digest every day
First of all, make sure you get it delivered every day (not everyone has this turned on, and it's prone to hit your spam filter if you're not careful). Then take the time to read it. I guarantee you'll find someone you care about, who you haven't talked to in awhile, has an update. Great excuse to reach back out. You'll also find prospects who just released something, or just changed something in their profile. Great excuse to send a note of congratulations, offer a new contextual suggestion, etc. Be the guy or gal who reaches out first, and takes notice of the little things. People appreciate that.

2. Join & participate in groups
Groups on LinkedIn aren't for selling. But there's a group for everything up there. It's a long tail of interests to mine for ideas, customer pain points, and prospects who are early in the buying cycle. Instead of selling, use this opportunity to create value. Answer questions. Post interesting and relevant articles. Start to generate visibility and awareness for yourself and your organization in the group as a trusted resource of information.

3. Keep your profile up to date
Describe your expertise. Use benefit and outcome-oriented keywords and statements to describe your company and what you do. Feature recommendations (more on that later). Add modules to auto-integrate content from your blog, Slideshare account, Twitter feed and more. Make your profile content-rich and relevant. The more relevant, the more people will be attracted to you (and find you in searches). And the more updates (without going overboard), the more often you'll show up in the Daily Digest emails for others.

4. Ask and answer questions
The best way to maximize eyeballs and impact from LinkedIn Answers is to ask the questions instead of just answering. What kind of questions should you field? Look at your consultative selling questions for inspiration. What questions relate to your prospect's current priorities? Or likely problems and pain points? What questions can you ask that attract prospective customers and get them already talking about what they're doing and what they need?

5. Give recommendations
What goes around comes around. Make a habit of giving people who deserve it a recommendation on LinkedIn and you're likely to get a few back too. This is a great way to "do good" for those in your network without asking for or expecting anything in return. But believe me, it will be appreciated and remembered.

6. Ask for specific referrals & introductions
Most companies and salespeople ask their contacts generally for referrals. But your response rate will go up significantly if you ask for specific referrals. Browse through the network of those you want to get help from, and if your relationship is strong enough, ask for introductions to the 1-3 people you specifically want to meet. The more specific you are, the easier it is for someone to comply.

What would you add (or subtract) from this list?

Monday, June 20, 2011


How top salespeople are using social media

Most sales organizations treat social media as a threat, a distraction from selling time, and a set of sites that should be blocked inside the corporate firewall.

But many of today's most successful salespeople are using social media strategically to build deeper relationships with prospects and referral partners, find new prospects earlier in their buying process, and accelerating their own path towards credibility and trust with prospects they don't even yet know.

Here are five specific ways top salespeople are using social media today to find and close more business.

1. Getting new introductions from their existing network
It's so easy, on sites from LinkedIn to Facebook and more, to see who your existing "friends" and connections already know. On LinkedIn, for example, you can quickly search for contacts you want to meet based on which of them are already connected to people in your existing network.

This is one of the best ways to get referrals and introductions, not by asking your network to "keep you in mind" but, instead, periodically asking for specific introductions. By getting specific, your conversion rate goes up and you're talking to the people you specifically want to meet and sell to.

2. Getting new introductions from others in your organization
Your existing organization - the sales team, yes, but I'm thinking the rest of the company too - is a gold mine of potential introductions. Especially founders, long-time employees and others who have spent a long time in your industry. They know people, people know them, and they're more likely to help you make connections and new introductions.

There are some interesting new tools that facilitate this by creating what is essentially an internal version of LinkedIn, but you can manage that yourself by simply using filters on your primary LinkedIn account to search your colleague's networks for new prospects.

3. Watch for buying signals across the social Web
One of the greatest opportunities for salespeople via social media is to see into the buying cycle far earlier than we've typically had access to. Before social media, we could deepen our understanding of the buyer and use outbound marketing to connect with a particular need, try and find resonance with a buying signal, etc. But that, at best, was a fishing expedition most of the time.

Now, if you know the buying signals and pain/problem keywords your prospects typically exhibit before they're ready to buy, you can watch for those discussions and keywords across the social Web. Do a couple keyword searches on Twitter, for example, and you'll be surprised how many people, in real-time, are talking about their existing challenges, their frustrations with competitive products and more.

4. Build deeper, early relationships with new prospects
Here's exactly how you do it (at least with Twitter, but other social channels can likely be done in a similar fashion). Build a list of the prospects in your territory or market. Companies and the individuals who work there. With the help of an admin or an outsourcing service like eLance, go and collect the Twitter handles of each company and as many of the individuals as you can find.

Using your own Twitter account, follow those companies and individuals. Then, using a tool such as HootSuite, set up a separate column where you can specifically watch activity from those prospects. This makes it easier and faster to engage with them on a regular basis. Answer their questions. Share a resource. Retweet their articles. In other words, use their attention to this social channel to build value by interacting where they are already spending their time and looking for information.

5. Directly share information, become an expert, and generate a following
You are an expert. You understand your market, your customer's problems, and the information they need to be more successful. You read the trade publications and regularly (possibly daily) find articles that your prospects and customers should read.

Through your own social channels, you can become a go-to resource for current and prospective customers. If you're filtering information that's specifically interesting to them, they'll gravitate towards you. And when they follow you and their peers see that as well, you'll increase access and introductions to even more new prospects.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


What non-selling activities do sales pros spend (or waste) time on?

I thought this was a great question on this past week. Worth reading through some of the thoughtful responses. I honed in on six things (two good, two neutral, two bad):

The Good

The most successful sales reps invest time in building their personal networks, and getting introductions to new people in their territories or markets from people they or their colleagues already know. They also consistently take time to provide value to their network and prospective customers, even if it's not related directly to a sale. The rep who shares an interesting article or random referral is more likely to win trust and business from their network and prospect pipeline.

Hard to underestimate the value in devoting time to this. For many organizations, training and learning is a daily activity. Some of it happens with your manager, some among peers, some by reading good content online and from third-party experts. But the best reps invest in their own ongoing improvement.

The Neutral

Recording Activities
There's no getting around database work for sales reps, but some reps spend way too much time doing this (and some organizations add way too much manual, repetitive process to reps so that they're taking way too much time between sales calls). On the other hand, comprehensive and accurate data is critical to understanding what's going on in the market, how reps are performing and how/where to help them improve, etc.

Face time with prospects is huge, and increasingly undervalued today. But there's something tangible in shaking someone's hand, sharing a beer, looking someone in the eye and accelerating the value and ROI of the relationship. It also shows that you care enough to take the time to come see them vs. doing a phone call or Web conference. On the other side of the coin, how many reps waste time in security lines, waiting for delayed flights, and worse? Travel is a worthy investment, but can also be a waste of time. Sometimes in the same week.

The Bad

Victory Laps
Inside reps in particular often have a (bad) habit of getting up, refreshing their coffee, chatting with friends across the sales floor way too often. Don't get me wrong, nobody can hit the phones for hours on end. But too many breaks will kill your rhythm and significantly cut into productive time and opportunity creation.

Following up with bad leads
If reps are calling on leads that aren't qualified, that's a waste of time. If they haven't qualified interest and intent up front but continue to pursue the opportunity, that's a waste of time. If reps fail to ask the hard questions up front and are surprised when they get a "no" at the end of a long call or sales cycle, that's also a waste of time.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Just pick one and get started, already...

A great personal organizational system or to-do list isn't going to get the work done. It's still, after all, just a list of work - not actual work done.

Problem is, even for well-organized and successful people, lists can be counter-productive. They can be intimidating, and actually cause paralysis instead of productivity.

The cause? Too many options, and/or lack of conviction on what really to do next. Lists either aren't built in priority order, or the individual doesn't really believe in that ranking. If you find yourself staring at a to-do list and not taking action, it's because you're not really sure what to do first. Add to that the other distractions not on that list that might be easier, more fun or just a stall tactic (email, voicemail, Facebook) and you spend more time stalling than doing.

The only cure to this is to just get started. Start with a good list of what to do. Make it as prioritized as possible. But when it comes to doing work, force yourself to just get started. Picking something, making progress and getting it done, is far better than spending more time fiddling with the order of things.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Five keys to dramatic sales performance improvement

World class sales organizations consistently deliver results for a variety of reasons, but the following five focus areas are perhaps the most fundamental drivers of sales performance and success:

1. Explicit goals & expectations
This requires solid leadership, accurate but aggressive goal-setting and consistently clear communication throughout the sales organization. Group and individual goals should be clear, and communicated based on not only annual and monthly/quarterly sales goals, but weekly and daily expectations from sellers and managers alike.

2. The right compensation plan
The best sales professionals are driven by their ability to make money, and the best companies leverage this as a means of narrowly directing motivation, activity and results. The right compensation plan isn't always the easiest to create or manage, but ease of use for your accounting team isn't the goal. The more reps you have making C-level money, the better.

3. Effective, regular & constructive sales coaching
Sales coaching needs to be fundamental and institutional. This is more than just occasional skill-building sessions. World-class sales organizations engage in coaching on a daily basis. It happens at an individual and group level, and focuses far more time on reinforcing positive behavior than correcting negative actions.

4. Actively managed CRM and sales automation tools
Successful sales systems help the entire sales organization (sellers, managers and executives) do more in less time. It automates repetitive tasks, provides crystal-clarity and vision into what's happening at all levels, and is constantly improved upon based on changes to the market as well as new buyer behavior or sales process enhancements that can be automated and scaled not necessarily a larger sales force but an increasing sales output.

5. Qualified leads
Not white paper downloads. Not a downloaded or compiled list of companies in the right industry. Qualified leads means the right company, the right decision maker, with a demonstrated short-term interest in learning more or making a decision. All leads that meet only a portion of the above criteria should be nurtured by a marketing organization until they demonstrate (explicitly by request or implicitly by their actions) that they're ready to move forward.

What's missing from this list? What would you add to the focus areas above that have been key to success in your sales organization?

Thursday, June 16, 2011


A much better daily metric for managing inside sales

For inside sales teams, two traditional daily measures of productivity have been dials and talk time. Most inside sales teams watch the dial figure closely in particular, and have daily expectations or quotas for outbound calls.

When you think about it, that measure is not only arbitrary but misleading and potentially counterproductive. If I'm focused on dial volume, I'm not having substantive conversations with people I reach. I'm also more likely to hound prospects to the point of harassment. Not an ideal way to start a relationship.

Some inside sales organizations have combined dials and talk time into a far better metric to track on a daily or weekly basis - number of five-minute phone calls.

If you're on the phone for five minutes or more, it's likely a substantive call. You've engaged a prospect, and they've stuck around long enough to hear more about what you have to say. If that assumption holds true, I can likely built a predictable model based on how many five-minute phone calls are likely to turn into qualified leads and new opportunities.

For sales qualifiers (i.e. inside sales teams that qualify new leads for pass-along to account executives), this is a particularly valuable metric. But even for those who own the relationship to close, a prospect you catch off-guard isn't likely going to have time for an in-depth conversation or demo right then and there. A 5-10 minute call lets you ask some qualifying questions, gauge interest, and schedule next steps.

Hat tip to Josh for this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Find the pain, then identify the pain killer

Here's a shortcut to developing effective messaging to influence your prospects.

Your product or service is intended to create a successful outcome. We talk a lot about painting a picture of success for your prospects. What will their life look like six months from now? How do they envision their business, their personal objectives? Prospects will be drawn to that positive future.

But achieving that positive future still isn't a priority for many buyers, especially if there's little perceived pain in their world today.

Your job is to identify that pain. Communicate that pain. Quantify the impact of not making a change or not taking advantage of an opportunity. If the detail of that pain isn't compelling to your prospect, move on. You're not talking to a qualified prospect.

But if you can isolate and enumerate the pain, you can also describe the pain killer. The pain killer is not your product or service, not yet. Your product or service delivers an outcome, and that outcome is the pain killer.

You don't want to be a vitamin. Vitamins sound good, and they help people, but most people don't take vitamins. We aren't as preventative as we'd like to be. Most of us take pain killers. We address the problem after it's occurred.

Help your prospect identify the pain and the pain killer, and you've simultaneously positioned yourself as both an expert as well as someone who likely has built (or at least represents) a solution that can act as the pain killer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


3 Keys to Business Success: Leads, Limits and Leverage

What if the secret to growing your business was just three simple things? Would that help you focus? Would that make it easier to prioritize your time, your resources, your next to-do?

I could argue that customer and sales growth boils down to three things: Leads, Limits and Leverage.

It's true that you can never have enough leads. But not every lead is equal. Most aren't qualified, and even fewer are ready to buy.

Still, you need to work every day to generate leads. Work your network, meet new people, widen the top of your funnel as much as possible. The top of your funnel doesn't have to be qualified. Prospective customer, partner, friend of partner, influencer of prospect - all of these individuals have a place at the top of your funnel.

The trick, then, is to segment your follow-up, qualification and next steps based on role, interest and urgency. That's a topic for a whole other book, let alone blog post. But suffice it to say, continued lead generation is the lifeblood of most successful businesses.

You have limited time, budget and resources. And, frankly, even if you have unlimited time and resources there are a bunch of good ideas that just aren't worth pursuing.

You need to constantly prioritize and triage. This includes measuring and testing new ideas, but also employing a healthy amount of discipline for how quickly you scale, how effectively you measure impact and ROI, and how well you balance often-competing priorities that, together, are required to scale your business.

Of course, as you triage opportunities, you'll discover there are many things that require limited resources but can scale significantly or indefinitely. Which leads to the third key to business success...

What can you do once, that will continue to produce dividends? How scalable are components of your business, product, sales and marketing such that your required investment as results grow is non-linear and exponential?

This includes adding the appropriate systems & processes to your business once you identify the channels, efforts, offers and other execution that consistently drives results. It includes working with partners who can implement on your behalf. It includes having the right staff work on the right priorities at the right time, based on their abilities, skill level, pay level, etc.

Not everything provides scale and leverage, at least not up front. You don't want to design a test for scalability until you know it's going to work. But as you add to and improve the overall systems that, together, make up your business, each of them needs to combine high-production and high-leverageability.

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