Hello, I’m an Outsourced Sales Representitive

A few days ago I was sent what appeared to be a form letter via LinkedIn that included the following … “If you’re looking for fresh and insightful thinking for how to drive results, to compliment or spur your company’s efforts to take on the new challenges of an ever evolving marketplace, you may have some interest in connecting with [us]” and our empty run-on sentence.

After reading this lead-in, I looked up the company and was astonished to find they were a major player. Based on the person attempting to make the connection, there was some evidence that they had outsourced lead generation. They abdicated brand responsibility to a third party and possibly never read the contact emails the provider sent out. I thought, this is a business in need of a fresh perspective itself.

Best Practices Outsourcing Lead Generation

  • Work with a company that can demonstrate results.
  • Work with them to develop a playbook for lead gen activities.
  • Establish goals and message testing criteria.
  • Review every rewrite of outbound communications.

People buy from people who they trust and with whom they share context. People buy from people, not companies. If the business plans to outsource lead gen, make sure the partner is socially oriented and focused on the goal of qualified introductions. Flooding LinkedIn and other channels with an empty message is akin to cold calling prospects from a purchased list.


NFL Branding – Lessons from the Field

Perhaps NFL owners have never stopped to consider that Refs are part of the brand promise. They are part of what delights a customer. Yes, on occasion they frustrate the customer with a bad call. But the NFL has just seen what happens when a brand promise fails. What football fans witnessed in the past two weeks, plays out almost everyday in corporate America. Let me explain. NFL is the supplier of the the product or service. The Team is the product or service. The Refs are the customer support team. A brand’s promise may begin in marketing, but without a committed and capable customer support team, the brand fails. There are other places in the value chain the promise can fail – when a sales person makes a commitment that cannot be delivered on a solution sale.

The takeaway here is simple – Companies like Zappos know that there are several places where customer expectation meets brand promise, and I’m willing to bet you that they measure everyone of them to ensure that the customer is always delighted. Because a delighted customer is a loyal customer.

You have five seconds on facebook. Go!

Ready. Set. Go! Brands need to think like people, not brands. While scanning a news feed today, I found something unexpected. OWN, Oprah Winfrey Network posted an article and instead of providing a bit of the content, they posted the Terms of Use for the comment system. This was a rookie mistake but it illustrates the challenges brands have today in making a point. The content excerpt better support the title of the article with a decent hook or the visitor will just move on to the next one. Clients/Readers scan and graze. They engage when they find something that engages and fits their world view.

Write like your buyer/reader speaks and thinks and get more clicks.

Here is the content that appeared beneath a recent OWN posting on facebook: OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network To Find OWN on Your TV visit: www.Oprah.com/FindOWN By commenting you consent to Harpo and OWN’s use of your name, profile photo, and post in connection with the television program “Oprah’s Lifeclass” and derivative programming as exhibited in any and all media in perpetu…

I Love My Brand and So Will My Buyer

When it comes to brands everyone has an opinion including me. I have one simple rule when it comes to branding; It’s about the buyer. No matter how much a business might like the look of something, it needs to consider who pays the bill, signs the check or makes the donation. It’s these decision makers and influencers with whom brand builders need to concern themselves and right now, that is a tall order. As a new crop of younger people with a different perspective enter the workforce, brands will need to cover a wide-ranging audience with differing concerns. One of the biggest challenges will be the gap between generation C (wanting the next fresh thing), and older more affluent buyers with narrow world views.



Mobile Service Apps Biggest Challenge

Pardon this rant, but it seems that in some cases, the dot-com boom is back in mobile apps with a twist. The ideas have merit, but the thinking falls short of the last byte, the end point on the provider side.

Recently we have been asked to look at several service apps designed to connect those with a need to those with a service. To put it simply, the last byte like the last mile seems to be the biggest challenge for these apps. Many of them require employers to hand hourly employees in high turnover positions a $500 smartphone. Stand back from this situation for a moment and consider the challenge. What smart business person is going to expose themselves and their company to the kind of risk that can come about as a result to misusing a smartphone? This is a battle of wills between the app developer and the business owner.

At the other end of the spectrum is the disconnect. Literately. No API. Most small business software platforms lack an API that exposes scheduling or inventory levels. So how can a small business extend its reach with the same efficiency as an enterprise.

Like we saw in 2000,  a crop of overly optimistic companies are building really cool applications that and this time they hold real promise. The only issue is they are missing the last byte. In one case, the human factor and the other a external dependency both of which are out of the control of the developer.

If small businesses are to take advantage of mobile, the industry needs a simple-to-use granular security control for smartphones and software developers need to embrace secure APIs. Both of these issues are far outside the control of the mobile app start up with a great idea.

Social Business Requires a Raise

Social media and social business require spending time looking at analytics and that means time sitting a desk. Mashable posted a great article on the 5 Essential Spreadsheets for Social Media Analytics with links to the worksheets and that got me to thinking that I might share a simple secret to keeping your back in shape and getting things done faster. Stand at you desk. I spend 50% of my day standing and 50% perched on a stool at an IKEA Gallant desk that has been raised to 41 1/2″. It’s the perfect height for me to type and also handles a drafting stool with the seat height adjusted to 32 inches.

Since finding a standing desk is an undertaking, my first thought was to raise my existing desk. To do that I simply extend the T-Legs to full height and then set each foot on an extension to reach 41 1/2″. Looking for something stable and inexpensive (since this was an experiment), I opted for galvanized flower pots from IKEA that stand 9 3/4″ tall. They were perfect to test the rig and help me to find the optimum height. My next step is to take the legs to a welder in the area and have them cut each and extend it about 11″.

Have you raised your desk? Share your design.

Steve Jobs Sales & Marketing

While reading a series of what the WSJ considers some of Steve Jobs’ best quotes, one stuck me as being brilliant and applicable to almost any part of an organization even though it fell under design.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

This and a keen understanding of how an Ideal Client or customer thinks is the essence of what makes great teams tick.  They look at things from a different perspective with a broad lens. Here are five things every smart business needs to know and own:

  1. People buy from people, not companies
  2. People are convinced to buy from those with whom they share context
  3. People buy from those who have their best interests in mind

Is your business truly connected to the Client or Customer? Given that most buyers come to the table today 70% of the way through the sales process, it’s pretty clear something needs to change. Until your business is clear about what we call the Buyer’s Journey, sales will remain frustrated, marketing will continue to send the wrong message, and very little of what support does can be used to support sales.

Sales Are Slow, Send Help. The Death of a Salesmen in 2011.

In 2011, the death of a salesmen is playing out in a new way. Over on the B2C side, Brian Solis and others point out that the funnel is dead. Yet on the B2B side something more subtle is happening. Context-based selling is emerging as the killer app for prospects.

In the information age when a prospect wanted to solve a problem, they called a company and spoke to a salesperson who managed the experience, controlled the flow of information and granted access to subject matter experts. Back then, sales people were concerned about giving away free consulting or educating a prospect only to have them buy from a competitor. In other words, they might have been creating friction on the prospect’s side of the sale. The path to find the salesperson might have been a referral or other more traditional means of communication. All that began to change when Amazon brought self-service in the form of self-service research, vetting and recommendation to the prospect. Amazon made selecting a book, song or these days even a product simple. What happened to the salesperson? Good question.

The idea that people just like me are smarter than an expert has been around for sometime. James Surowiecki, in his book, “The Wisdom of Crowds” makes a very clear case as to why we prefer people like us over professionals. This subtle influencing of society has filtered into the B2B space and manifests itself in a way that has moved the traditional sales person from the top of the process to the bottom. Buyers as it turns out, want to speak to someone who has experienced a product or solution and it not on the seller/vendors reference list.  People, as it turns out want an in-context conversation with someone who shares their worldview and in the case of B2B, they want to speak with a person who had a problem, not a person who is compensated to sell a solution.

We’ve confirmed this by surveying sales coaches and sales people in Maryland and Northern Virgina. Sixty-eight percent of our sample found buyers have fewer questions when they call and want quotes quickly.

So how can your business address this situation? I’ll provide the solution in my nest post, “The Virtual Sales Person”.

Why marketing and sales efforts fall short – a story about a party guest

The Unwanted Party Guest

Imagine you are at a party and person walks up and introduces themselves to you. Once you have told them what you do, they launch into a long-winded story about why they are so great. You are trapped. After an hour you’ve had enough. Suddenly the sales guy (as you have come to know him) says, “But enough about me, let’s hear you talk about me”. Herein lies the problem with most marketing and sales organizations. They focus on what they think is important.

Thinking About the Buyer Creates Opportunities

The best way to increase opportunities to sell, is to consider every touch a step on the Buyer’s Journey. Before a business can understand the Buyer’s Journey, it needs to make sure it understands the market. To do that, asking a few questions always helps:

  • Are we helping our prospect solve a problem that will make a difference in their operation?
  • Are they aware of the problem?
  • Is the pain they experience of a high enough priority that they are willing to spend resources to fix it?
  • When we talk to prospects, are we using their lexicon or ours?
  • When we market, are we touting features and ignoring benefits and outcomes?

Ask your sales and marketing teams these questions one-on-one and see who answers the questions from a buyer’s perspective. The answers will surprise you, especially if you outsource your on and offline presence (web site, social media presence and other forms of marketing).

It’s 1am, is your CEO is using Social Media?

It’s 1am, do you know where your CEO is? Tomorrow s/he will sign a four million dollar agreement. Other than the price tag, your CEO has a concern, the subject matter is elusive and s/he needs information from a trusted source quickly. But there is a catch, the source needs to be anonymous.

Why Consult Social Media?

We know that based on research from authors like Jonah Lehrer  “How We Decide” that CEOs often have difficulty with high-dollar decisions. This fact is amplified when the subject matter is less familiar.  Human nature suggests that when the stakes are high, we keep reservations to ourselves and are guarded when it comes to consulting those close to us. So where will our CEO turn for an answer? Passive social media. Our CEO is not going to tweet the question, s/he will go searching for the answer. Just by entering a phrase into any number of search engines, opinions will be presented from several networks, blogs, and sites. And now with Google indexing more relevant micro-posts, even tweets will appear as results.

B2B & The Golden Opportunity

There are a few B2B players that know how to employ social media as a means of influencing decision makers. IBM, AMEX Open, Microsoft, Cisco, & Archer to name a few. What are they thinking? They are thinking about advancing a sale. Advancing a sale relies on buyer-side thinking – If I were making this purchase, what actions might I take? What questions might I ask? To whom or where might I pose those questions? Their thinking puts them everywhere the CEO might turn for an answer. In other words, when the sale is at 90% probability of close, these companies have executed a plan that make sure the decision maker is comfortable by encouraging transparency.

B2B Social Media Maturity – Closing the Sale and More

On the continuum of social media adoption, businesses with less mature sales organizations have relegated social media to marketing where it is used as a lead generation tactic. As a business progresses along the adoption curve, sales begins to use the tool as a means of supporting the buyer’s decision making process. The most mature firms use social media as a means of listening to customers and providing rapid responses to questions and concerns. Even though it is a consumer brand, Nike has well-defined social media strategy and a state-of-the-art response center.

It all comes down to being where your prospect or customer needs your to be, to support or reinforce the question “Am I about to, or did I make the right decision”.

Where is you business on the continuum?