Posts Tagged ‘sales process’

Crossing the Real Chasm for Buyers

May 21st, 2013

A couple of leading questions that I think will frame the discussion. What is the difference between:

1. Pain versus Problem?

2. Solutioning versus Decisioning?

3. Solution Adoption versus Buyer Adoption?

4. Solution Delivery versus Problem Solving?

5. Peer-Influenced versus Vendor-Driven Decision Support?

If you can’t diagnose the REAL underlying problem that is the causation of the symptomatic pain that buyers are experiencing – think strategic, cross-functional business problem that the SVP has to really make a serious, involved decision to solve versus the departmental complaints that give you an indication something is broken – then it is really hard to facilitate the complex decisions they need to make to solve the problem.

If you are not solving the problem, you are really looking for pain to match to your solution’s value proposition. May solve the real underlying problem, or not. Solutioning is not problem solving. Buyers are looking at adoption as “what do I need to solve a painful problem?” while vendors look at adoption as “What do I need to do to get a buyer to buy my technology solution?” The disconnect creates a huge risk for the buyer which grows exponentially with the number of depts/people involved with decision, complexity of the technology, complexity of the implementation, cost of the solution, and the length of the project. Add in the need to get people trained and using the system fully to see the value and you wonder why buyers are hesitant to move forward, fear the unknown, and feel like most projects fail to meet their expectations? Continue reading “Crossing the Real Chasm for Buyers” »

Am I Truly a Problem Solver? Or am I Just Creating Pain? 5 Ways to Tell for Both Sales and Marketing

April 11th, 2013

Over the last few weeks, I have had numerous conversations with sales and marketing executives about solving problems. About ½ tell me that diagnosing problems is what they have always done. “Nothing new here, move along!”

My standard response is “maybe”. Good problem consultants are able to help people diagnose what underlying problem is the cause of symptomatic pain. Good enterprise consultative sales people know how to help organizations get to consensus as to what problem is really causing the various ills across the organization. True.

BUT, are you truly diagnosing their ills or are you guiding them to your solution? What is the difference? A good doctor is supposed to truly listen to the symptoms and diagnose the patient in front of them. They are not supposed to represent a drug company and just prescribe the “wonder” drug for everything.

  • Ever seen an IT project that completed just as the vendor promised, addressing some of the pains, but not solve the customer’s problems and creating a whole host of other pains?
  • Ever see a customer demo, go away for 6 months, and then come back and ask for a demo again? Same solution, but obviously they were still trying to figure out their underlying problem and whether the solution would address their ills.
  • Ever see a sale where they had multiple problems, only one of which you could solve?
  • Ever jointly sell with a strategic partner to create a larger solution?
  • Ever see similar size companies in the same industry have completely different needs, different buying process, and even different decision maker?

Continue reading “Am I Truly a Problem Solver? Or am I Just Creating Pain? 5 Ways to Tell for Both Sales and Marketing” »

Is Your Business Over-Automated?

October 6th, 2010

I have never heard anyone tell me that a business is over-automated, but I think it should be a term and concept that should enter into the business lexicon ASAP. I would define over-automation as the mechanical, impersonal, and crappy customer experience that I get when I have to engage with a large enterprise with lots of customers and too many bright people thinking about the bottom line.

I will pick on Blockbuster for a minute. Blockbuster, in its heyday, was a powerhouse in the movie business that is, as of this week, in bankruptcy. As a customer, you could tell that the company designed their customer experiences to maximize profitability; hence the late fee model that made more money than the original rental fees.

On paper, this is a great idea. In execution, it pissed off a lot of customers and, I would contend, led to the gap in trust that opened the door for Netflix. I really like the visceral experience of browsing isles looking at the sea of titles and seeing which one stands out. I like doing the same in bookstores. Online doesn

Corporate Social Media Roadmap

June 16th, 2009

One of my contacts on Twitter posted a reply back that “Social Media is a Fad”. I have been thinking about that for the last couple of days. There is a tremendous amount of momentum around leveraging social media for business. This isn’t the first time that I have heard this in the last several months, but I guess perception is reality.

So, to that end, I have outlined a social media roadmap for those who are trying to “figure out” if the hype will lead to something real. I have been around enough to have seen this conversation a few times; websites, ecommerce, web applications, and now social media. This simple roadmap is targeted to those who want to do something, but are having a hard time presenting a business case, especially in this economy.

Social Media “Crawl”

  • Make sure your team has a complete profile on Linkedin -It would be nice if they were on Plaxo, Facebook, Twitter, etc.; but make sure that the profiles are complete and up-to-date; including past roles. For a lot of potential buyers, awareness of your company comes through an employee’s profile. Make sure they have a good impression.
  • Make sure that everyone has the same basic description- For the company, links to the various pages on the website (including one to careers). Also, make sure there is consistency in the company name (ie. Abbreviations, LLC on the end, Website name, etc)
  • Create a social media policy for employees- There is a fine line between personal and private. Social media can blur that line, especially on Facebook with pictures. Make sure that policy also includes connections to partners, vendors, customers, and other employees. I am not recommending that you curtail their ability to interact with online relationships, but make sure there is protection for the company.

Social Media “Walk”

  • Inventory Corporate Online Relationship Networks – You will be amazed at who your team is connected and no one else knew it. “I needed someone who could do this” or “We need an introduction to X”.
  • Identify who or which companies are missing – a key to successful networking is getting outside your own network. A lot of times it is the 3rd degree relationships that can produce the greatest opportunities.
  • Run a networking program for employees – Sales people and Executives generally know how to network, but the vast majority of employees don’t. But, they represent the vast majority or potential introductions as they had lives and experiences prior to joining the company.
  • Build an Online Relationship Campaign- This isn’t going out and collecting 25,000 random twitter followers, but building online relationships (across multiple social media sites) with the key influencers, bloggers, buyers, vendors, and participants in your industry. If the saying is “Sell where the customer is…” ; you need to start a program of connecting to them online.
  • Start an enterprise blog on your website- designate a team approach to creating an online thought leadership center for your company. Tie your blog updates to your social media participation. I update my Linkedin, Twitter, & Facebook every time I create a new post. It provides content and value for your connections; at the same time, creates a call to action for your website.
  • Cross Pollinate Your Traditional Marketing Database with your Social Media Contacts- I add all of the new contacts that I meet into my Linkedin and other social media accounts. Social CRM is becoming the new “hot” thing as companies are trying to manage the multiple (potential) customer communication channels.
  • Multi-Channel Marketing now Includes Social Media- I have been integrating my social media contacts into an email campaign list that I send my weekly blog digest. I have gotten a tremendous boost to my blog traffic by integrating email, social media, and traditional networking. A multi-channel, integrated approach allows you to reach the potential customer where and how they want to communicate. Especially with our busy schedule and email overload, don’t assume because they did not repsond that they are not interested. They may not have really “seen” the message.
  • Be Respectful- don’t SPAM your social contacts with random messages. Make sure that what you send them provides value to your network. They may not want to buy, but they will respect your attempt at providing value to the relationship and credentialing your thought leadership.

Social Media “Run”

  • Building your own online community into your corporate website – Use social media components to create a more compelling interaction on your website. Also, this provides great search engine optimization, thought leadership, differentiation, lead qualification, customer experience management, etc.
  • Build public, semi-private, and private group areas in your community- Provide value without a login through public groups, but encourage them to sign up (membership) to see a lot more. The private group areas are then used to continue the sales pursuit and provide individualized customer support.
  • Integrate your community with your marketing and sales activities- By integrating your online community, you provide a call-to-action for your outbound sales and marketing efforts. Also, this allows you to leverage your corporate website more effectively during the transition from marketing awareness and interest to sales process and lead management.
  • Integrate your community with Social Networking sites- Google, Facebook, and Linkedin all have member APIs that allow someone to use their membership in third-party communities. This removes one major obstacle for people to participate; the dreaded sign-up.
  • Integrate your community with your Enterprise Systems- Integrating your existing content and data with your online community is important because it allows you to leverage the investment in your existing CRM, ECM, etc. systems more effectively.
  • Leverage Web Analytics and Lead Scoring -An online community provides a trememdous amount of interaction data that can be measured, scored, and utlized for lead qualification.

Social Media “Sprint”

  • Integrate your business processes with your online community – Customizing the interactions of the community for your business processes; customer experience management, sales support, Call-center, project delivery, supply chain, partner management, etc. This means that different audiences interact within the community, but have personalized experiences based upon their roles and goals. I serve up a different forecasting dashboard in the Product Management Group versus the Sales Group.
  • Reimagining your Information Architecture- Some of the leading organizations are rethinking the traditional ideas around organizational Intellectual Property. They are begining to build flexible information architectures whereby the “community” is really the presentation layer for their corporate systems. They build interfaces as “application mashups”. Your access to information and applications is based upon just-in-time rights management. If I am working on a project, I get invited to the project group that has all of the project history, notes, documents, and applications that I need to interact with the project team. This also then is extended outside the organization to partners and customers. The enterprise is no longer a “castle” with a moat and a drawbridge, but a modern city with buildings, doors, locks, security systems, etc. This allows for more effecient business scalability.

At the end of the day, I don’t see social media as a fad. I think the hype factor will dimish along with the effectiveness some of the early adopters have been able to drive, but I see online social interaction as the next logical step in the evolution of the web and business.

Sales Gone Bad, Blame it on the Customers

June 10th, 2009

You hired a new sales person and for unexplained reason, they cannot perform. They had all of the references, met quota since the dawn of time, etc. When you ask them about it, they blame it on the customers not buying in this economy. Having run both sales and marketing in previous recessions, I know how bad conditions are for revenue generation in this market. Unemployment in some states is now double what it was just a couple of years ago. Some industries sales are off 25% or more.

It is a tough market, but… with unemployment at 10%, that still means 90% of people are employed. Sales are off 25%, that means you still have a base of 75%. Numbers mean a lot, but only to justify the point of the moment. Good companies grow even during recesssions and I grew sales 280% over one year in the last recession. You have to work harder, smarter, hire good people, and be more innovative.

So, back to your sales person. Not working out as expected? Explainable as a bad hire, yes.

3rd or 4th sales person who came in like a rock star and left like a roadie? No, probably something else is too blame.

Chances are that you have a marketing problem masquerading as a sales problem. Not just a marketing communications problem, but chances are the sales people are having to do too much conceptual selling too early in the sales process. It shows up in presentations and meetings. What should be a 2-3 minute concept overview turns into a half hour explanation. Good sales people are natural story tellers, but if they don’t feel comfortable, don’t tell the same story each time, or look wooden; you probably have a marketing (messaging) problem.

Marketing’s role is to communicate the concept, support the sales process, and make it repeatable. Sales people in large organizations who take roles with smaller companies, which don’t have the sales support infrastructure, have a hard time transitioning to the new environment. I call it comfort with ambiguity. It is a lot harder to sell without the references, brand, collateral, and case studies.

Also, smaller organizations require sales teams to build the activity structure that large sales organization provide to their sales teams in the form of reports, quotas, and direct management. It takes a lot of self-discipline to build the structure on your own. Some larger organizational sales people do that instinctively and will work through the transition, but others need a more established sales support structure and tools to make them successful.

Marketing can only fix half the support issues (messaging and tools), but will not fix the self-discpline issue. A good marketer will come in and review your marketing collateral and listen to the “story”. Chances are that the value proposition is “fuzzy” and the audience is not well defined. By reviewing the product offering, the marketer can reset the value proposition of the offering and map it to the audience. If the core is correct, building marketing materials to tell the “story” becomes an exercise in building the visual elements that assist in communicating the concept.

A key to success is interviewing potential and existing customers. You have to speak their language and speak to their motivations.

Finally, a good marketer will adjust the marketing materials to support and accelerate each stage of the sales process. One key challenge in any sale is the “porpoise effect.” You gain momentum during a sales call, but lose it in the interim between contacts. This usually results in the sales person reselling the solution multiple times because the stakeholder gets busy and isn’t able to remember the value proposition. Good sales support from marketing allows the sales person to focus on the heavy lifting around the relationship; providing the support tools to do the communication of the concept, value proposition, and credential the organization.