Monday, September 26, 2011

 

Six best practices for your first week on the job

Whether it's the first week at a new job or a new consulting gig, there are several simple things you can do that will not only make a great early impression, but accelerate your path towards productivity and success.

Here are six:

1. Ask lots of questions

Know who you'll be meeting with, and think about questions you have in advance. Use this time to ensure you understand their expectations of your role, their own priorities and challenges, and how you can help each other succeed.

2. Take lots of notes
Don't do it in a notebook. Take notes on pieces of copy paper that are easier to sort, scan and refer back to later. These notes taken in your first week will include some of your most important discovery, records of your team's priorities, background on existing projects, etc. The more and better notes you take, the more likely you can answer your own questions as you use that input to accelerate your own work production (and integration with the team) moving forward.

3. Follow up with people afterward, and thank them for their time
Email is probably the best forum for this (hand-written thank you notes might be a bit much). Follow up not only with a thank you, but with links or attachments representing content you may have discussed or promised, work related or otherwise. Use this follow-up to ask additional questions or to get clarification as well.

4. Ask to speak with customers
You'll hear lots of opinions as you get to know the company and market, but the most important opinions will come from your new customers. If you can't get direct access, at least ask for primary research that may have been recently collected - interview transcripts, focus group summaries, etc.

5. Ask for competitive information
It's not enough to know who your competitors are, and how your sales team reacts to questions about them. Somewhere in your organization, hopefully, there's a product manager or planner who has deeper intelligence about what your customers have done, what they've built, and what they're up to next.

6. Write down all of your ideas, but don't share them all (yet)
It's likely that existing employees could get defensive if you start enthusiastically sharing every idea you have right away. Don't be the new guy with all the answers, which implicitly may assume the existing organization and team hasn't thought about it, tried it, etc. Instead, keep a running list of ideas. Organize them by function or channel or audience. When the time is right (and you better understand both existing players as well as what's been done), start bringing those ideas to the forefront. Focus on those that represent quick home runs for the organization and yourself, with direct impact on primary objectives.

Friday, September 23, 2011

 

How to build a social sales engagement platform (for free)

No matter your market, you have customers and prospects using social media. What if you could find and engage them, far earlier in the buying process, in just a few minutes a day?

What if you launched a custom social sales listening and engagement platform for every sales rep in your organization, helping the accelerate relationships and meet/engage with more of the right prospects more often?

Getting started is surprisingly simple. I recommend getting started with two simple steps - one proactive, and one reactive.

Proactive (target lists in HootSuite)
If you know exactly who you're trying to sell to (companies and/or individuals), find their Twitter handles and start following them via your own Twitter account. Then sort them into lists (you can make these lists private in Twitter) and load those lists into separate columns in HootSuite.

By doing this, you will have (all in one screen) access to all Twitter updates from your target prospects. Especially if you're working in a defined territory with a finite number of prospects, this is a great way to be the proverbial "fly on the wall."

Much of the conversation you observe won't have anything to do with what you're trying to sell, but that's good too. You'll learn what else makes them tick, what they're thinking about and worrying about. You'll also observe the early buying signals (needs, pain, desired outcomes) that will help you engage in a more consultative way.

Reactive (TwitHawk)
Let's say you can't keep up with the more than 200 billion tweets generated each day. Let's say you really only care about when people tweet about a specific topic, or use a specific phrase in their tweets.

TwitHawk is perfect for capturing that for you. Think of TwitHawk as Google Alerts for Twitter. You set up as many searches as you want, filtering based on keyword(s) and geography, if desired. Then TwitHawk finds search results for you daily, plus allows you to semi-automate and throttle out responses to get and keep you engaged with prospects you may not have known about before.

If you have a geographic territory and want a daily feed of new prospects expressing interest and/or need, TwitHawk should quickly become part of your daily routine.

Of course, there are fantastic tools out there that go deeper and cost a lot more. But you can get the above two steps set up in about 20 minutes, and they work.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

 

The two things missing from most sales training programs

Most sales training programs - whether for new or existing reps - focus on sales skills, improving adherence to an existing sales process, or some other largely internally-focused elements. This is important, and many companies do a more than fine job preparing their sales reps to hit the ground running, successfully build their pipelines, and delight their customers and prospects.

But there are two focus areas I find missing in too many sales training programs. If they're missing from yours, you're missing a big opportunities to make your reps smarter and more successful.

Voice of the Customer
Who are they? What do they care about? What keeps them up at night? What's it like to walk a mile (or live through a day) in their shoes?

It's one thing to have a couple slides outlining your customer targets. It's quite another thing to help your reps immerse themselves in what your prospects face day to day. To effectively sell a solution, you have to first understand the prospect's needs and pain, as well as their intended objectives and outcomes.

Some of the best ways I've seen this executed in sales training is to have a live customer (either live or via video) share direct insights on their priorities and challenges, or to have an in-house employee who used to work as a prospect share the same thing live.

Competitive Intelligence
You're not selling alone, or in a vacuum. Your prospects are hearing from your competitors too, and/or have their own assumptions about how you stand up to them. Too often, competitive training for sales reps is an afterthought. Or, if it is proactively addressed in new rep sales training, it's not updated nearly often enough.

New competitors join the fray. Existing competitors update their products. Whenever that happens, the people on the front lines for your company need to know first. They're going to start fielding questions about those competitive changes in near real-time. How should they react? How does your product stand up? Why are you still confident your product or service will deliver better results for the prospect?

Too often as well, competitive intelligence training is defensive or arrogant. Your product or service may be great, but your competitors aren't idiots. They've built products that earn and keep customers. Treat them with respect, ensure your reps treat them with respect as well, but know exactly how to sell against them.



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

 

Bad recipes, great drip marketing (a case study in irrelevance)

Sally Gregg is a great Realtor. She sold us our first home ten years ago this December, and I still think about her every month.

She helps me do that, of course, with monthly recipe postcards like the example shown here (an actual postcard from last month).

She's used the same recipe postcard service this entire time. Several years ago, my wife and I tried a couple of the recipes. Awful, really bad stuff.

But you know what? I'm not going to hire Sally to cook for me, nor am I going to buy her cookbook. She was a damn good Realtor. Took my wife and I on as clients when we were buying a home far cheaper than she's used to selling. And despite that, she treated us as if we were her most important clients. Several years later, when we were considering a remodel, she came and spent a couple hours with us evaluating the pros and cons, knowing full well we likely weren't going to sell soon.

I've sent a lot of prospective customers Sally's way. I've even failed to give her names to people I know would be pain-in-the-butt clients.

I'm doing this not because of her recipes. But her postcards are monthly reminders of how good a Realtor she was.

Sometimes your drip content doesn't have to be relevant, or contextual, or directly related to what you do or enable. That's all good too, but sometimes it simply needs to be a reminder of who you are, what you do, and the value you once provided (and can provide again).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

 

Three quick examples that prove nurture marketing works

The idea that most of your prospects aren't ready to buy, and that you can increase your sales conversion yield with that list by staying in touch with value over time, sounds good. But unless you've seen or experienced the effect of that theory, it's often too easy to just push to close as many prospects, right now, as possible.

But if you can effectively separate out the qualified and ready-to-buy prospects to close now, while simultaneously building value and preference with the much-larger list of everyone else, you'll close considerable business over time with minimal incremental work.

Here are three very quick anecdotes that prove it works.

1. "These leads are dead" becomes a 2X sales result six months later
We started working with a company a few years ago, and to start they handed us a database of 60,000 leads "of dubious origin" (their words). The sales team hated this list, was tired of calling it, and said these leads were either unqualified or just pain dead.

Without a lot of fanfare or marketing automation tools, we started creating and delivering value-added content to this list - newsletters, webinars, white paper offers, lots of content that focused on addressing and answering questions the audience had, well beyond what we were selling.

Long story short, six months later, 45 percent of the company's sales had come from that "dead" list. The list continued to deliver sales in subsequent months as well.

2. Right time, right place becomes biggest deal of the year
That same program and list generated the largest single deal of the year for the company. A prospect on the 60,000 "dead" lead list received an invitation to an upcoming webinar. He didn't attend the webinar, nor did he register. He simply replied to the email invitation, telling the sales rep that he just got out of a meeting and "finally" got the green light to move forward with the project he'd been pitching for more than a year.

The prospect was qualified, educated and wasn't shopping around. That deal, the biggest of the year for the sales organization, closed in less than half the typical sales cycle length.

3. Easiest deal I've ever closed took more than two years of hard work
Less than two weeks ago, I got a call from the CEO of a fast-growing technology company on the East Coast. We had met at a conference two years ago. At the time, I did what I usually do with people I meet at events - followed up immediately after, invited her to join my newsletter list, put her into my nurture marketing systems, and pretty much moved on.

Ten days ago, she called. Her business is exploding, and she wanted help organizing and accelerating her marketing efforts. Less than a week later, she was a recurring-revenue client for our business.

On one hand, that's one of the fastest deals we've closed and the least amount of work I've put into a pitch. On the other hand, I worked that deal hard for two years. The CEO had been reading my newsletter, following my blog, and knew I could help her with exactly what she needed done.

Three stories aren't definitive. But I could go on. Would love to hear more, similar stories from your experiences in the comments below.

Monday, September 19, 2011

 

Eight (other) ways your prospects are judging you

It would be great if prospects evaluated your proposal purely on its merits - what it is, what it does, what it could enable or unlock or solve for their business. But none of us work and make decisions that narrowly. We want to have confidence in the business we're buying from, as well as feel good about the individual we're directly working with.

Your prospects are judging you, just as much if not more than they're judging what you're selling. How you come across to them, passively and via online channels that take mere seconds to uncover, is incredibly important. And it's more than just the first Google search.

If you're lucky, prospects find and judge these channels after they're already engaged with you, so you at least have the opportunity to combat or debunk something they didn't like. Unfortunately, you're likely losing a lot more business from prospects who see a warning sign and never call you in the first place.

The following list is far from exhaustive, but is a good place to start in identifying potential weak points in your current public face. Some of these may seem intuitive, but I wouldn't raise them if they weren't still such a big problem for businesses and individual sellers.
What's missing from this list? What warning signs do you often find (online or offline) that turn you away from prospective vendors or partners?

Friday, September 16, 2011

 

How to identify and create more dynamic content

Great content is built with three things in mind - what they want you to know, what they want you to think, and what they want you to do.

Dynamic content does all three of these things, with a focus on the third component - driving action.

Dynamic content should stir your emotions, and make you want to do something. This isn't just direct-response we're talking about. Dynamic content can make you forward an article to 10 friends, change the way you think and/or act, and impact long-term behavior - both yours and those around you.

Dynamic content, in short, makes you want to do something about it.

Look through the content you've created recently, and the content on your plate in the near future. What is its purpose? What do you want from the audience? How can you adjust the topic, the tone, the approach or the message so your readers do more than just read and think.

Get them to act.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

 

The five things you should do every day

It's incredibly easy to get sucked into the day, every day. You can get lost in email, lost in meetings, lost in your RSS feed or social networks. You can feel busy, pulled in a thousand directions, and yet not make forward progress for yourself, your team or your business.

The trick, of course, is to go into the day with a plan, with priorities, and stay focused on what's most important. You have to be both focused and disciplined to get the most important work done and ignore distractions (both external and internal) that will derail you.

As part of your daily routine, I recommend ensuring the following five things become core to how you build value, deliver external results, and improve yourself for future success.

Learn
Devote time to learning from others - live, online, in books and magazines, via podcasts and Webinars. Scan the email newsletters you receive (and have them auto-filtered into a special folder as to not distract from core work in your primary inbox). However you do it, devote time each day to making yourself better and smarter.

Build
In other words, create something. Make something new that will attract more people to you, and help you make more money. This isn't just for software developers and manufacturers. This is for those who write white papers, design email templates, build new landing pages, and test new sales scripts. No matter your role, the more you build, the more likely you'll have something that furthers your objectives and sales targets.

Network
It would be easy to combine this with the "Learn" objective above, because a huge part of meeting new people and staying in touch is what you learn from them, in a variety of ways and contexts. Network in a way that helps you meet new people every day - online and offline - and provide immediate value back to them in the process.

Sell
Your product, your services, your abilities, your ideas. Selling doesn't always require the exchange of money. Have a great new idea but need your manager's approval to move forward? Sell it. Need an extra round of funding for your start-up to finish that new product? Sell it. Need to drive higher response for your next lead generation Webinar? Sell.

Do
This is the catch-all, and it's easy to think of almost anything as "doing". But checking your email doesn't count. Setting up another meeting doesn't count either. Define your "doing" based on external impact. What are you doing that has real, directional impact on your business, your customers, your own personal and professional aspirations? Define that narrowly, specifically, and start doing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

 

How to get your sales reps to ask better questions

Most B2B sales organizations have migrated to some form of consultative or SPIN selling these days. But even though your sales reps may be asking more questions, what separates good from great sales teams is often the ability to ask the right questions, better questions that more quickly and effectively drive interest, urgency and mobility towards a mutually-successful outcome.

There are many ways to get your reps asking better questions. Here are four:

1. Script needs & pain by role and/or target
Too often in sales we customize our questions based on our product, or their industry. And sometimes, you've done enough homework to know what the company itself is going through too. But the more you understand each individual player in the transaction - their role, their needs, their pain - the better you'll be able to customize your questions specifically to them. Here's a template to get you started.

2. Train consultative & diagnostic skills
Lots of sales organizations talk about consultative selling, but few take the time to not only teach their reps what that means but further translate that theory into specific, practical questions and tools for your specific sale. It's relatively easy to take a particular consultative approach (take SPIN, for example) and quickly outline examples of how to put that in action. Here's a specific example using SPIN, which quickly outlines each of the four stages followed by sample questions for a particular service sale.

3. Practice

Get in the habit of role playing regularly - between manager and rep, peer to peer, and in front of team meetings on occasion as well. If you make these events constructive, reward those who work hard and do well, and share best practices across the team, you'll reinforce the right behavior plus leverage those sessions to identify and spread even better ideas and questions that reps and managers continually come up with on their own.

4. Listen first, and listen more often

Finally, when you do get back in front of your prospect, focus less on asking questions and more on listening. The more your prospect talks, the more you'll learn and the better you'll be able to sell. Don't fall into the trap of asking a first, great question, getting a good answer, then launching into your pitch. You're likely not done with that first question. Ask more questions, better questions, pointed and directional questions, so that the prospect (with their answers) explains back to you what they need, why they need it, and how you might solve or achieve that for them.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

 

Different buyers, different needs, different stories

If you're selling into an organization with multiple decision-makers and/or influencers, you'll need to customize the story you're telling for each recipient.

What you're selling stays the same, what it does stays the same as well. But each individual involved in the buying process likely cares about slightly different things. The CFO, for example, is going to bring a different world view to the relationship than the CIO, or CMO, or VP of Sales.

To sell effectively in this increasingly-complex environment, you need to customize your story not just for the organization and it's vertical industry, but for each individual as well.

Do this once (either for your product overall or by unique vertical into which your selling) and the messaging will likely work again and again, especially if you operationalize it into sales scripts, marketing content, etc.

Embedded below is a template to get you started. You'll see that it starts with prospective customers in a given vertical (or any grouping that makes sense for you), then gets down to individual roles in the organization.

First you map out what they care about - their priorities, needs, and pain independent of your sale. You can then convert that fundamental, individual understanding into messages that more directly and successfully combine their needs with your potential.

Give it a shot (if you know your customer, I bet it's faster to complete than you think) and let me know what you think.


Monday, September 12, 2011

 

Are B2B and B2C really that different?

I often wonder if we'd be more successful at B2B marketing if we thought of it more like B2C. In the end, we're selling to people, not businesses. People make the decisions, based on a mix of personal interests, professional aspirations, politics, etc.

Yes, there's value for the business and the end-customers in a B2B decision. But that's still driven by personalities, individual needs, human translations of a business concept or potential outcome.

And it goes both ways. Nobody likes to get an email from a company. We'd prefer to get an email from a person AT that company. Open rates in emails between the two instances prove this again and again. But in so many cases, we still pretend that a building is selling something to another building. Doesn't always work too well that way.

The business pays the bill, but it's people who buy.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

 

Why do B2B marketers ignore your birthday?

Birthdays have been marketing opportunities for a very long time. I remember getting an annual coupon for a free ice cream cone from Baskin Robbins on my birthday, and I looked forward to that almost as much as my mom’s birthday cake (which she made with mayonnaise, which is a whole other story).

Every year on my birthday, I geek out a bit by paying attention to who either noticed or remembered, and is using the date to give me something (in exchange for buying something, of course). I’ve lost track of how many businesses know my birthday via some kind of registration form. And if you follow me on Facebook, it’s right there on my profile page as well. So birthdays today aren’t really a secret.

What’s surprising to me, however, is how few B2B companies leverage birthdays to market and sell. Yes, it’s easier and perhaps more obvious to give birthday celebrants a free ice cream cone or appetizer or latte. I’ll probably bring my family, buy more stuff, etc.

But if you’re courting my B2B business, wouldn’t it be cool if you just remembered? For those engaged in B2B social media programs, where your brand has however many followers on Facebook, wouldn’t it be cool to send individual followers a simple “we remember, and celebrate with you” message?

It’s not going to close a deal on that day. It’s not really related to what they’re buying, either. But it’s part of the relationship-building process. It shows you care. And it comes from a company I want to do business with, a company that remembers and prioritizes the little things to delight their customers.

Friday, September 09, 2011

 

Life is short, work with people you enjoy

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman at Google and a pioneer in the cloud computing world, talked for an hour last week at Dreamforce. He covered a lot of topics - from technology to politics to job growth - but the one piece of advice that stuck with me the most was when he talked about why he chose to go to work at Google.

Schmidt said when he took the job he knew very little about Google, but was highly impressed with the people. And that's what he cared about and wanted the most. He then said (roughly quoting), "I'm old enough now that I think I can say this: Life is short, work with people you enjoy."

Not everyone in the world has this choice. Too many in the US right now would be happy just to have a job, let alone be picky about who they work with and for. But if you're lucky enough to have that choice, choosing based on people and cultural fit is about as important as it gets.

Who are the people you want to go to war with? Who are the people who share your values and priorities, who you know will think and make decisions based on principles that you share and value as well? Who are the people you trust when things get complicated, stressful and difficult?

This goes for your team, boss, partners, investors and customers too.




Thursday, September 08, 2011

 

How to start and win arguments online

What if you see something online and disagree? What if you need to defend your position - personally or professionally - when others think differently, no matter the forum?

To successfully manage your brand & reputation online, plus drive new qualified awareness and interest, you're going to have to argue. But if you do it respectfully, you'll look good, successfully get your point across, and win more followers in the process. Here are some tips.

Do your homework
You need to not only understand the issue well, but also (and possibly more importantly) understand where the other side is coming from. What's motivating their position? What are the underlying priorities and objectives that either got them there or has them stuck there? What are the strengths & weaknesses of their argument? Having at least a high-level understanding of these dynamics will help you craft your own answer, and quite possibly address (and resolve) their issues or conflicts at the same time.

Bring data
Nobody's going to look good in a he-said-she-said, my-opinion-vs-yours argument. Someone's got to prove they're right, and it might as well be you. If you want to take a strong, public position, bring proof. Bring data, examples, anything that shows you know your stuff and have validation behind you.

Sit on your answer overnight (and/or have someone else read it)
Knee-jerk responses have a tendency to embed a little too much passion, too much conjecture, and too many holes for the other side to exploit. When possible, take your time to craft a solid response, sit on it overnight to make sure you feel the same way in the morning, and find a trusted partner or colleague who knows and/or shares your opinion to review your message with a critical eye.

Keep it professional
Take the high road, even (or especially) when the other side goes on the personal attack. When you respond in kind, the argument not only has little chance of getting back on track, but you'll both lose credibility with other readers or participants.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

 

What's the ROI of your mother?

You can't measure everything. You just can't.

I'm a numbers guy. I like ROI, I like cause and effect, I like demonstrating results and weening out the weak or failed initiatives. But not everything is cut and dry like that.

Gary Vaynerchuk gets asked to quantify the value of social media all the time. A few months ago, after one too many questions about the "ROI of social media", he responded with, "OK, then what's the ROI of your mother?"

She raised you right, fed you, gave you life lessons and values. How do you quantify that?

How do you justify the company holiday party? A customer holiday party? Spending a little extra to hire a magician to walk around and entertain your guests?

Not everything is going to be black and white, or as measurable as we want. Sometimes it's just right. The numbers guy in me hates that ambiguity, but that's just the way it is.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

 

How to revive dormant newsletter subscribers

With any email, newsletter or nurture campaign, there's going to be a sizeable portion of your list that just doesn't respond. They don't click, they rarely if ever open. So how do you get them to become more active again? The answer is more complicated than just a set of reactivation tactics.

First off, make sure they're dormant and not dead. And make sure you regularly clear out the dead.

Very few newsletter or nurture marketing managers actively clean their databases of regular hard-bounce addresses. If an email hasn't been delivered to a particular address for several sends in a row (meaning you get a hard-bounce back from the recipient's server), it's best to take that email out of future sends. Too many hard bounces will tell Internet service providers that you're a possible spammer, and can get the rest of your emails blocked.

Also, don't assume that dormant means no value is being delivered. Just because I didn't click doesn't mean I don't want the next issue. Just because I didn't engage this time doesn't mean I didn't appreciate a heads-up on whatever the content was. What if I was just too busy today? What if I really want that sweater but don't have any money until next payday?

Depending on the nature and objective of your email campaign, the quantity and quality of impressions you generate by putting another permission-based email in someone's inbox may be enough. At least for now. I assume that you, too, get plenty of email newsletters and don't read them all. Don't click on them all. Probably don't even open them all. But you definitely want to keep getting them, and there's a branded, contiguous relationship that still exists there. A healthy portion of your "dormant" subscribers are getting the same value from you today.

Of course, for those recipients who truly aren't paying as much attention, there are a few tactical things you can try as well.

First, consider changing the domain, IP address or even email service provider from which you're sending. These changes can make the email appear different to the hosting server, and can either help with deliverability or get that email out of the spam filter where it's been languishing for several issues now.

Also play with how the email appears to the recipient when first received in their inbox. Is the "from" name and address inviting? Are you using the same subject line over and over vs. highlighting some content that drives more opens?

Consider these and other more active/aggressive tactics to a segment of your list that you think might be dormant. If active subscribers already have you on their safe sender list, there's no reason to switch up the domain or IP address on them. But by testing these and other tactics on a subgroup of potentially dormant subscribers, you may find a mix of strategies and tactics that increase engagement and performance of the entire list in short order.

Monday, September 05, 2011

 

How to (finally) measure ROI from social media

Social media is not a direct-response channel. I think we can all agree on that. But it absolutely is part of the sales funnel for your business. It's where you can build and foster relationships with unlimited prospects, partners and influencers at very little cost, adding value on a daily basis until a percentage of those individuals and organizations are ready to move forward - either into a conversation or an active buying cycle.

Establishing a quantitative value for social media as a component of the sales funnel has been difficult, largely because we rely on disparate systems to establish causality. That may be changing with updated features in Salesforce.com launching in October 2011. For the first time, you'll be able to see integrated social media accounts and interaction activity right in your core sales management platform.

Here's why that's so important.

Let's say you have 80,000 leads in Salesforce.com. You know 40,000 of them have Twitter accounts. Of those, you also know that 6,000 are following your Twitter account, and you know exactly which of those 6,000 have responded or interacted with you in that channel.

When that lead makes it way through the funnel - to an open opportunity and eventually a closed deal - you can now establish the source of origination and primary causality of pipeline movement back to the social media activity.

Social media may not be a direct-response lead channel, but with this level of integration you can evaluate it's effectiveness and ROI as an eventual sales producer in an apples-to-apples format with email, direct mail, events, etc. And if prospects have been impacted by multiple campaigns and channels (and most likely have), you can still measure and weight the primary causality factors all in a single platform.

That's powerful stuff, and will help many organizations finally bridge the gap between their focus on leads & sales, and the importance of investing in long-term social and content-based relationships well before customers are ready to buy.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

 

Will a pending price increase drive urgency to buy?

Yes, for some, but it's a double-edged sword.

You can use pending price increases as a carrot. If you have prospects on the fence, locking in a lower price could get them over the hump. But if they were on the fence to begin with, they probably had already made up their mind to buy.

Price increases, of course, are very different from price discounts. Too many companies put their products and services "on sale" far too often, hoping it will generate more sales. But if your prospects get used to your frequent sales intended to drive urgency and activity, they'll end up having the exact opposite effect.

Offering a lower price will not inherently change the prospect's need for what you're selling. It won't change how they've prioritized the solution or its outcome in their organization. Get some buyers to commit who may or may not actually need or want your service, and you're setting yourself up for more expensive customer relationships, difficult deployments, higher churn, etc.

The best way to leverage pending price increases is with late-stage opportunities. Isolate the prospects who already have a need, already have urgency based on the inherent value and expected outcome of what you can provide, and get them to commit more quickly before the price goes up.

Friday, September 02, 2011

 

How to more accurately measure trade show ROI

I'm a broken record about defining what success looks like up-front for any sales or marketing effort, and trade shows are no different. But trade shows, especially for B2B sellers, are more complicated because very little happens (or at least is monetized) right away.

To more completely and accurately measure the business value and sales impact of your next trade show, define and measure success at three critical post-event milestones.

1. Immediately after the show
When you walk back into the office, what can you measure? How will you immediately know if the show was a success? Your likely measures for this include leads (or names) captured, meetings held, briefings or demos completed, etc. Define these measures up front and drive your strategy and execution accordingly.

2. 30 days after the show
A month after the event, you should have at minimum qualified all of the leads you captured and placed them in the appropriate stage in your pipeline. Many of the leads may go right into a nurture track. Some will require further qualification, and others may be actively engaged on a short path to purchase. But ideally, after a few weeks of working the immediate product of the event, you have a sense for what pipeline expectations should be in the next few months.

3. Six months after the show
Depending on your average sales cycle length, this is the milestone at which you should start to expect closed business, booked sales and revenue recognition directly from the event. There will still be leads you're nurturing, but six months should be enough time to see closed business and a solid pipeline of expected new sales in the subsequent six-month period.

Ideally, you establish goals for these three milestones not only before the event, but before you commit the resources in the first place. Because if the goals don't add up to enough business to justify the event, save your time and money for something else.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

 

Are you inspired by people like you, or people better than you?

We all look to others for inspiration. For ideas to emulate. To improve our personal and professional performance. But we go about that differently.

Some of us look to those who are already well ahead of us. We look up, so to speak, at their performance and level of success and try to figure out what made that happen, and how we could walk in a similar oath.

Others look for people more like them. Similar people, perhaps more believable people. In this case, there's a sense that achieving what they've achieved is more realistic, more attainable.

If you're a small business, do you look to enterprise organizations for best practices? Are you inspired by what they've achieved? Or do you easily get intimidated and discouraged by the gap between you, and the likely resources required (and available) on their part to execute?

Or, as a small business, do you look to other organizations about your size. Run by people you can relate to. Doing little things, smarter things, better things that feel more attainable and achievable.

There's probably not a right answer to this, nor do you have to choose. But inspiration without action and follow-up isn't going to get you anywhere.

 

Things to do (and not do) with your next trade show booth

At least year's Dreamforce, I picked up a number of best and worst practices from participating exhibitors (summarized here). This year's event is even bigger, with more vendors doing smart and dumb things (intentionally and otherwise). Here are some of the things I've picked up in the past couple days.

Good Ideas

Bad Ideas

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