Monday, January 24, 2011
How saying no can help you get to yes
What happens when you say no? More often than not, in a business context, you end up getting what you want. It's a wonder more of us don't use no more often.
Of course, reality isn't that easy. We all want to please, make our customers happy, get the job done. If we keep saying yes, we'll close the deal. Right?
Not necessarily. This isn't a call to start turning down every request that comes across your desk. But saying no can actually open more doors than you think. Telling a prospect no can actually establish a level of trust that may not have previously existed. If you say no to a prospect request, you're being honest about what you can and cannot do. You're not overpromising on something you might not be able to deliver. You're establishing that you have your own objectives and limitations in the deal, which has its own way of accelerating trust and respect from the other side of the table.
No also tells the prospect that you're not desperate for the deal. You're willing to walk away. The right prospect - an individual or company who legitimately can gain from your product or service - isn't going to turn you away because of something you said no to during the negotiations. They're not making a purchase decision based on a contract. Prospects, whether they concede it or not, respect this.
Perhaps most importantly, when you say no, you're declining something you don't want to give. Subtle but important point. If the prospect is upset that you wouldn't give, that's OK. You said no not because you wanted to upset the prospect, but because you didn't want to give in on something important to you. Their request was beyond what you were comfortable committing or promising. Had you said yes, wouldn't that have put you in a more uncomfortable spot?
Saying yes too often, when it's against how you want to do business, can push you farther and farther away from the path you want to follow. It can distract the organization, bring less-than-ideal customers on board, and increase both client and employee dissatisfaction as that relationship unfolds.
Saying no, when you mean it and when it's right for your side of the table, helps mitigate these problems. And with the right customers - those who needs what you're selling, respect you as an organization, and will ultimately be among your best long-term customers - saying no is an effective means of getting to both the immediate and long-term yes.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
When are your customers reading their email?
I’m writing this on a Sunday night. It’s not yet the workweek, but I’m catching up on a few things and getting organized for my Monday nonetheless.
Do you do this? Do your customers and prospects do this? If they do, would tonight be a great time to hit them with an email?
It’s not yet Monday morning, they’re not yet being bombarded by fire drills and urgent requests. They’re probably catching up on a few things with a glass of wine close-by.
The magical “Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.” email marketing day & time isn’t what it used to be. But if it was ever really effective, it was still a lazy way of emailing all your prospects at the same time. The better you understand the rhythm of their week, the more likely you are to reach them at the right time to improve your response rates.
Want to reach real estate agents? Email them Sunday afternoon. Many are working, sitting at open houses, bored.
Want to reach pastors? Avoid Fridays and Mondays, the typical days they take off after working on Sunday.
Want to reach executives during the workweek? Try hitting them at 5:10 p.m. They’re likely done with their meeting schedule, and back at their office catching up. At their desk, watching their screen, looking directly at the email notification with your name on it that just popped up in the corner.
Of course, that assumes you hit them at 5:10 p.m. local time, which requires splitting your list by time zone.
More work to email this way, yes. More likely to increase readership and response, absolutely.
Take another look at how effective the timing of your email marketing is. Because how many emails are you really reading on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.?
Thursday, January 13, 2011
The newbies are teaching us
I’m at a content marketing conference today. Not a new topic, but its role and influence in effective marketing strategy is increasingly rapidly, especially where companies are tying and measuring the impact content has on increasing revenue, acceleration sales cycles, and making acquisition efforts far more cost-effective.
The most innovative, successful people here haven’t necessarily been doing marketing for decades. They’re innovating because they don’t know better. Their lack of experience is helping them tackle this problem from an entirely new perspective.
The same is happening in all facets of sales & marketing right now. Just because you learned sales from IBM 30 years ago, or have been doing PR forever, that doesn’t mean you know how to do it better than anybody else today. Our buyers are changing, the channels are changing, the very nature of how we create and communicate messages to our targets is changing.
Veteran marketers are changing with it, for sure. But smart people with little to no experience are doing just as much to teach us what’s driving influence, behavior and sales.
Find the people around you who are making it work, growing their business, successfully engaging and converting customers. Learn from their mistakes, and from what they’re stumbling upon that can help your own business grow.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Three tips for giving successful sales presentations
1. Establish & confirm expectations up front. There's nothing worse than a sales rep diving into a presentation without setting the stage, and ensuring the prospect is there for the same reason. Make sure you're both clear on what you want to discuss, and what you want out of the presentation.
2. Get them talking early. Don't talk for 90 percent of the time and give them a couple minutes at the end to ask questions. Get them talking early - about their objectives, their needs, their current pain. Get them engaged in the presentation early, and it'll make them feel a part of discovering the solution.
3. Show, don't tell. Don't just describe what you can do it. Show it! Give examples of success stories from other clients, demonstrate the path from solution to outcome. Help your prospect visualize success.
What are your three?
What trains are in your prospect's station?
Your prospect didn’t wake up thinking about you. You didn’t keep them up at night. They aren’t sitting at their desk right now worrying about you.
Instead, they’re thinking about their objectives. Their problems. The numbers they need to hit at the end of the month, quarter or year. More specifically, they’re trying to execute on a plan to achieve those results and they spend a lot of time trying to make that plan work.
What keeps them up at night are the obstacles to achieving that success. The roadblocks that keep their chosen strategies from working. That’s what they’re thinking about right now.
Think of these priorities as trains in your prospect’s station. Your prospects spend their day making sure those trains get out on time. They are only thinking about those trains. If you don’t offer something that fits on one of those trains, or helps get them out on time, then your prospect doesn’t have time to listen to you.
Many salespeople focus on their product without understanding the prospect’s priorities. What you sell may be very interesting, and the prospect may think it’s interesting as well. But if it’s not related to the trains in the station right now, they’re not going to buy.
There are lots of things we think are cool, but that sit on our back burner indefinitely. Lots of products and services that we think could help us, but that are much farther down our priority list.
Your prospect has no more than 2-4 trains in their station. They may have many more things on their plate, but those 2-4 trains are the only trains that they’re willing to spend time and energy on in the near-term.
This is the difference between qualified and ready-to-buy, and qualified but not-yet-ready-to-buy. Your ideal train might come later. Just make sure you aren’t wasting your time on a prospect that isn’t going to buy.
I share this analogy all the time but hadn’t yet written about it. In fairness, I heard this analogy from someone else years ago but I can’t remember who that was (if it was you, please let me know and I’ll give you full credit here).
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
On being indispensable (instead of sticky)
I’ve always had a problem with the word “sticky” as it relates to product or go-to-market strategy. Sticky, from a customer point of view, is a negative. It’s something that you can’t get off.
I prefer the word indispensable. That’s a customer-centric word. It implies that the customer can’t live without what you’re doing for them. It implies they don’t want to be without the benefits you provide, the outcomes you enable.
It implies a level of value that by definition will increase the mutual lifetime value of the relationship.
There are some things that may be both sticky and indispensable. But people don’t talk about those things. They don’t go viral, they don’t spread.
Think about the difference between sticky and indispensable in your business, in your product strategy, in your marketing. How are you creating something that people can’t live without, and want to tell others about as well?
Monday, January 10, 2011
Is your marketing department a profit center?
In most organizations, sales & marketing are looked upon very differently. In a nutshell, sales is what makes money for the organization, and marketing spends money. Marketing may very well be spending money to make money, but it’s still seen as a cost center. Sales, of course, is all about making money and is very much a part of the profit center equation.
One of the biggest challenges for marketers is to demonstrate that their work is in fact a part of the profit center. Marketers must draw a direct line, a direct correlation, between their activity and new sales, increased customer loyalty, greater lifetime value, and overall revenue preservation and growth.
The levels of fiscal responsibility being expected from marketing organizations is only going to continue to increase. The opportunity for marketers to increase their contribution to the organization, and expand their place at the table with sales and other revenue-generating parts of the organization, is getting bigger.
I’ve thought about this more often the past couple weeks in particular as I’ve been asked to review marketing plans that lack the kind of fiscal responsibility and tie to revenue I’d expect as a CEO or CFO. In fact, many of these marketing plans focus more on justifying volume of activity than they do impact on revenue and new sales.
These same marketers get upset when their budgets are cut. They don’t understand why they CFO doesn’t understand the more aggressive trade show plan.
But your CFO doesn’t care about trade shows. She doesn’t care about how many press releases you get out this quarter, or how consistent all of the sales collateral will look when you’re done with it.
Not everything in your marketing plan is direct response; it’s not all directly tied to new sales or retained customers. But if you’re not at minimum filtering your marketing plan on what’s going to somehow contribute to revenue preservation or growth, I don’t know how you can justify the spend. And without that justification, if I was your CFO, I’d probably want to cut it as well.
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Our three words for 2011
Results. Everything we do is about delivering results - every day, for ourselves and for our clients. We pride ourselves in having a bias for action, for focusing on strategic execution, and for measuring everything. The results we want are typically sales or revenue in nature, but there's a measure and expected outcome for everything we do.
Innovation. This started as "ideas", but we thought innovation better reflected where we wanted to really focus. We innovate constantly in terms of how we work, how we deliver results for clients, and how we approach new challenges, new markets, new opportunities. We're thinking creatively every day about our clients problems - introducing different perspectives, new concepts to test, new ideas. We want to achieve a balance between focused execution on what we know will deliver results, and constant innovation of new theses that will accelerate those results moving forward.
Growth. We expect our clients to grow due to our work for and with them. We expect our business to grow as we focus on execution (for our clients and ourselves). We expect each team members to grow personally and professionally to achieve what they desire for themselves, their careers and their families. We're restless, and want more.
What would your three words for 2011 be?
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Doing business with your out-of-office messages
I've essentially turned my OOF messages into mini-newsletters, another way to create an impression with the people around me. (I stole this idea from Andy Sernovitz. Can't remember the specific context, but he was the inspiration - follow his blog for inspiration daily).
I bet you could do the same for your business. At minimum, when you're traveling, put something a little more interesting into your out-of-office messages. It will take you less than a minute, and it'll stand out.
Better yet, think about how you might use this functionality in Outlook on a more regular basis.
For example, why wouldn't your customer service team have this feature on all the time? It could remind customers where they might be able to get an answer more quickly, point out new ways of getting their questions answered, even announce new features or upsell opportunities.
PR and investor relations folks could have something similar on anytime they're away from their desks for an extended period of time.
Think about your role, the people who contact you most often, and what you want them to know about you. What you want to say to them, if you knew they were listening right now.
Because that out-of-office message comes back right away, and you know they're at their desks, reading email, because they just sent you one. How will you leverage that opportunity?
Here's a sample from last month:
Thanks very much for your email. I'm traveling to the Holiday Bowl (Go Dawgs!) and back on New Years Eve. Response to email and voicemail may be slower than usual. If this is urgent or an emergency, try my cell phone at 425-894-3387. Otherwise, I'll get back to you as soon as I can.
In the meantime, some light reading:
10 productive ways to work in the last days of the year
6 things to do instead of working today
Eight cocktails to try in the New Year
How to talk about your competitors
Hot stove baseball marketing ideas
Seven bad habits of highly unsuccessful sales people