Inbound and Down

For many sales and marketing leaders – Inbound marketing is the next big thing in lead generation.After all, the modern marketer will tell you that content drives relevance, relevance drives eyeballs, and eyeballs drive friends, fans, and followers.

A quick Twtpoll from Joel Harrison at B2B Marketing asks your opinion on Inbound Marketing: http://twtpoll.com/fd2tyj  and I encourage you to participate. From the early results – I am not the only one who feels that inbound marketing alone has left us unfulfilled in terms of cracking the lead generation code. I have a couple of ideas as to why that is the case:

I look at my own company as an example – writing thought leadership is time consuming. After all, every minute I spend writing a blog or commenting on someone else’s is a minute I could spend elsewhere. I could hire someone to do it – but I haven’t found anyone who understands the difference between theory and application. And then we are left with the ultimate question – now that I have friends, fans, and followers – how do I turn them to advocates, mavens, and customers?

Take your current opt-in list for marketing automation; the newsletter sign-ups that have been piling up year after year.  Lists such as these are the quintessential inbound lead nurturing target.  I recommend taking the intelligence we can obtain about these two disparate groups, our opt-in list and our social followers, and merge the two for better campaigning.

As example – someone that follows you, is part of the industry you service, a title that makes decisions on your solution and is part of your newsletter campaign campaign deserves a bit more attention in your next marketing drip.  Someone with these characteristics that isn’t on your campaign needs to be invited to do so.

I invite you to learn more about how social123 can help by looking into our socialdata+

Take the Guesswork out of Social Influence

With Klout making a lot of news for its employment policies recently – it is nice to see that social influence ratings are getting closer look.  I love Klout – my score is 41 which makes me a “networker” in their Style grid.  My score and others’ can help me find people that will communicate my service and value proposition so that my brand awareness is raised.  I can build a nice network of social chatter by targeting my most influential social networkers.  The marketing officer in me absolutely loves this capability.

As a sales officer however, I am looking for people that can buy my solution, not kick the can down the road so that someone else will buy it.  From a sales perspective – I need not only social influence but specific actions taken and I need to know exactly what is being said on social media relative to the product I am selling.  In other words, I need to score individuals based on their social actions, social attributes, and keywords that are important to me.

Actions: I want to know if my prospects have done anything specific with my company’s social media outlets.  As example, if my customer or prospect becomes a fan of my company on Facebook or LinkedIn  – that’s important to me. So would the knowledge of retweeting something my company or I put out, follows either of us on twitter, or connects with me on LinkedIn.

Attributes:  I would also want to know the online reputation of my prospects – similar to Kout – but I would want to make that relative to what I sell.  For example, if you are a company that sells to CFO’s, then you wouldn’t rely much on social attributes.  However, if you are in the daily deals space – then this would mean much more to you.

Mentions:  There are over 1 Billion subscribers to social networking sites on this planet. Most of what they communicate has no relevance to me. However, there are certain keywords that are amazingly important to me such as my company, my product, my industry, or my competitors. More or less it would be any Adword that you purchase from Google for paid search. If it is worth paying per click, then it is worth knowing if your customers or prospects are talking about it on social media.

Social123 has taken the concept of scoring the social actions, attributes and mentions of individuals to create SocialPoints+.  Our process allows the searcher to associate a point value to the various social criteria that generates a customized and relevant SocialPoints+ score.

 

Social Lead Generation

By now, most forward-thinking sales and marketing organizations are taking full advantage of enablement tools that provide real competitive advantage in their space. The B2B model is rather well defined with the core engine of CRM housing customer / prospect data, an e-mail aggregator pushing compelling messaging to drive traffic to the corporate website, then scoring that traffic to triage direct sales efforts.
Up until now, this market intelligence has proven to optimize business development efforts; not only had to create a lower cost per lead but a more qualified one as well. We know that buyers want to “self-educate” so we provide a content-rich website to help towards that end. Marketers have created a rather wide net with this model. However, that process is limited to the universe of individuals either contacted via the e-mail aggregator or find their way to the website through SEO or PPC efforts.
What about the buyer who consults their social network before they ever search Google? After all, today’s buyer not only wants to self-educate, they want recommendations and advice from credible sources. That is the essence of the “like” button and the comment section. That is why the modern buyer doesn’t first go to Google, they go to Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for initial research.
Smart marketers are using social monitoring tools to fill the void that social networks have created. By using the very same Google Ad words that provide traffic on a pay per click basis, social monitors can be used to provide insight though various social media outlets in the same manner. These monitors provide real-time feedback in the form of sales leads, customer complaints, competitive intelligence, and unique industry insight where none existed before.
In a recent Forrester survey, 72% of respondents said social media helps them get answers to questions, 68% said it helps them find information they need to be successful, and 62% said it lets people know what kind of help is available. And large majorities of respondents said social media has a positive impact on brand reputation (86%), innovation (80%), and customer service (78%).
Social monitoring is the missing layer of market intelligence. It isn’t enough to have a Facebook fan page or send out press releases via a corporate Twitter account. The savvy marketer must also monitor social media with the same diligence we direct traffic with search engine optimization techniques and paid search.

Death of a Salesman…..Updated

Slate has written an excellent article entitled, Death of a Salesman. Of Lots of Them, Actually. The main theme of the article is that sales people are becoming “disintermediated” by the internet. The author uses examples of how auto salespeople, travel agents, and stock brokers have lost their jobs to sites like AutoTrader, Expedia, and eTrade. There is no arguing that B2C sales careers have been severely crippled by the information age but what about B2B? Truly.

(Updated: Here is some reaction from the article!)

Steve Woods, CTO of Eloqua and author of Digital Body Language, argues that a B2B salesperson’s biggest competition is Google. I have to agree. Salespeople don’t get involved in the buying process until the prospect has thoroughly educated him or herself about our service. Our competitive differentiation, client case studies, even online demonstrations are available for the world to see on our website. Every piece of information we as salespeople once thought so sacred in the sales process has been reduced to a click of a mouse. If you are saying the same thing to your prospect that can be found online then you have added no value to the sales process.

To avoid the same fate as Willie Loman, we have to tailor our message specifically to the buyer. We have to give them something they can’t find online. Luckily, the information superhighway is a two way street.

  • The first step is to get out in front of the buyer by knowing when and where they were on your website. Most marketing automation companies will give this business intelligence as part of their offering. Were executives on your site or just functionaries? The pages they selected will give you the insight into their concerns.
  • The second step is to do a thorough search of the buyers. Search LinkedIn to see how long the buyers have been working in their present positions and where they worked before. Oftentimes we can get a glimpse of predisposition by understanding the landscape of previous employers.
  • The last step is to research the company itself. Try a Google news search on the company to see if there are any triggering events that prompted the call. Hoovers will give a brief overview of the company and the competitive landscape for free. Think competitive advantage in terms of how you can give it to your prospect – not against your own competition.

With these bits of information you can begin creating a talk track around specific intelligence that will compliment what the prospect already has learned about your solution.

Hungry Sellers

I created a new group on LinkedIn called Hungry Sellers http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=3256714

I came up with the idea because I am being asked what MORE could our team do create demand for our organization. The challenge is simple – get more qualified appointments to spark an evaluation for our services. Then I thought what better way to get a warm introduction inside of potential client that from a peer sales person.  What potential sales person wouldn’t make the connection if there were reciprocity. Then the ball started rolling down hill. Why not open up this idea to all Hungry Sellers? After all, if you are as hungry as I am, you would try any ethical approach possible to win business.

Therefore I created a LinkedIn Group for likeminded salespeople to put their networking and creativity to the test. Let’s give an example.

Say that Harry sells hardware for a Fortune 1000 company. Let’s say that Lynda sells staffing services for a regional player.  Harry needs an appointment with the VP of IT at Lynda’s company but hasn’t had any success. Lynda could use a warm introduction to the hiring manager of Harry’s company. Lynda connects with Harry because they are both members of Hungry Sellers.  Lynda will introduce Harry to her contact and Harry will do the same at his. Voila – both get an appointment where none possible before. In this case, it’s not what you know but who you know.

 Think it hard to pull this feat? In this economy, we are all in sales and if you tell the decision-maker in your company that you are receiving an appointment in-kind, that should do the trick. If that still doesn’t work, start playing the org chart game until you hit someone in your organization that cares about revenue. If that still doesn’t work, I would be seriously worried about the direction of the company I work for.

I have seen this work on many occasions so I decided to create the group. Be careful though, only hungry sellers can pull this off.

Creating Demand – Why Senior Sales People Won’t do it (updated.)

frustratedIn this economy – we are finding that marketing alone is not enough to secure a healthy pipeline of business. In response, senior sales people are asked to go from reacting to demand to generating it on their own. With this new dynamic, I think the hardest thing for sales management to understand is that their BIG GAME Hunters are unprepared and unwilling to handle this new responsibility.

Without any direction outside of a mandate to gain more evaluations – senior sales people do what they do best. They think their industry knowledge, tenure, and high compensation requires them to craft lengthy and well researched correspondence to targeted executives. (Imagine the laborious process of researching, writing and rewriting the perfectly tailored e-mail and phone script?) The problem with this approach is that when these lengthy, targeted pieces of correspondence go unanswered – senior sales people get frustrated. They begin to take on the mentality that they are closers and setting appointments only prevents them from do what they are paid so handsomely to do. In truth – highly compensated / senior sales people rose to their station because they are very productive and demand creation activity that doesn’t generate demand is just……unproductive.

What we need to understand is that our buyers are very busy and even if we craft the perfect pitch to an individual, it could be the wrong time, the wrong person, or even the wrong median. Demand Creation in today’s hectic and busy world requires a different outlook and process. We need to switch from a hunting approach to a farming mentality.

A successful demand creation process allows senior sales people to use their tenure, experience, and status for demand creation – but instead of spending this time focusing on an individual – they focus on a group of individuals. This process takes the same amount of time as traditional targeted demand creation efforts but is wildly more productive because it generates results.

I wrote this e-book to help create demand for the senior sales people who just won’t do it.

P.I.C.T. Profile

We have to earn the right to be seen as a peer. Today’s buyer is skeptical of big-promising / know-nothing sales people that just want 20 minutes on their calendar. To be seen as a peer we need to know our buyer as well as can be expected without having met him in person. My team achieves this by creating a PICT profile; Person, Industry, Company, and Title.

Person: The old cliché is that companies don’t buy, people do. We want to know our buyers on a personal level to gain insight into who they are, what motivates them, where have they been.

LinkedIn is the perfect tool to understand how someone wants the world to see them. I ask my reps to (at the very least) know where their buyer went to school, where else have they worked and how long they have worked at their current job. If the buyer is a savvy LinkedIn user then he is part of LinkedIn groups, shares the books he has read, gives and receives recommendations, and links with other professionals. What a treasure trove of information to begin a conversation!

 Industry: Our buyers expect us to know macro-economic trends in their industry and First Research is a great tool to help us put it all into context. We want to know how governmental regulation, foreign competition, energy costs, and technological advancements impact our buyers.

Every company is subjected to their industry trends and having an understanding of them brings instant credibility to your first call. Being able to articulate how your solution can positively impact those trends sparks an instant evaluation.

Company:  Rick Page at the Complex Sale taught me that companies really only have 5 enterprise-wide issues they care about. Revenue is the byproduct of these issues.

  1. Competitive Differentiation
  2. Customer Acquisition and Retention
  3. Growth
  4. Governmental Regulation
  5. Good Press

When we are researching a first call we want to be not only armed with this information about our prospect but how our solution could potentially impact any of these 5 areas. I tell my team that this is what separates tellers from sellers. Our buyers can get our product portfolio, financials, and customer case studies off of the web.  Conversely, we can get the information we need to have a great first call from the web as well.

Title: Inherent in a value proposition is a keen understanding of the pains of the non-technical buyers and a linkage of our solution to solving those pains. Many organizations make the mistake of having one generic value proposition – when in fact the value proposition must be tailored to the individual with whom we are having the appointment.

Creating Demand in 8 Steps

“Clyde, you have three pistols and you only have one arm. Well I just don’t want to be killed for lack of shootin’ back.”  That quote is from Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, where a one-armed deputy prepared to fight it out with a well-known gunslinger. 

I like that quote because it epitomizes my philosophy on demand generation.  I want to try everything I can to get in front of my buyers. After all, an unrequited solicitation isn’t a no – and interpreting it that way is like getting killed for lack of shootin back.

My team is no different from most sales teams. We have a finite number of prospects for our B2B solution and a CRM tool to help manage our activity. We can’t depend upon marketing to give us leads so we have to create our own. We have different levels of skills and enthusiasm when it comes to creating demand but like most, we have a deep reservation in picking up the phone and calling a stranger.  To overcome this obstacle I banged the war drums for cold calling with both stick and carrot. However our reports revealed a less than 1% return on traditional cold calling activity.

Our next approach was to stop cold calling all together and perform strictly targeted solicitations. We researched the hell out of a few select companies and wrote perfectly tailored correspondence – with an even worse result. All the energy and effort to craft these letters fell on deaf ears and left my sales team disillusioned.  We needed something new, effective, and could reverse the tide of apathy around demand creation.  

Our thought process was to understand the limitations of cold calling and targeted solicitation then try to build a system around their inadequacies.

  • Wrong Approach
  • Wrong Median
  • Wrong Message
  • Wrong Person
  • Wrong Time

Wrong Approach: There was a study from PWC that found a CFO receives an average of 57 solicitations a day. With all the e-mail automation tools and inside sales teams that have sprung up over the past decade, I bet that number is more like 100. So our challenge is to get above the noise. You could have the perfect solution for the perfect buyer at the perfect time, but if you are caught in a spam filter or the buyer never gets the message – what good does that do?

Our remedy is to ensure our message gets above the noise by a multi-touch campaign style prospecting effort.  Our friends in B2C marketing learned one and done marketing is just as effective as none and done long ago. They tell us we need to be simple, short, and persistent if we want to capture our buyer’s attention.  My goal is to “touch” our prospect eight times over the course of a three week campaign. That way we can feel somewhat comfortable he or she understands that we are trying to get their attention.

We also want to avoid the one-off targeted solicitation that will be written and re-written only to be ignored like a piece of spam. Our approach invests the same amount of time it takes to wordsmith a letter to one individual but we write correspondence to a group of individuals that have something in common.  For instance, instead of writing a specific letter to the CFO of one of our top prospects, we write a letter than would benefit any CFO. We then select 30 to 50 CFO’s from our CRM that will be the target of our campaign.

Wrong Median: There are numerous ways to contact today’s buyers. We can call them directly like most of the English speaking work will do. We can e-mail them; even put a read receipt so they know we mean business.  We can work with the executive assistant who is paid to keep us at bay. We can use snail mail that will sit in a pile of like solicitations in its own version of purgatory. Or, we can do all of them knowing that the whole, in some cases, is greater than the sum of its parts.

We know that busy executives actually do have a preferred method of communication. We just don’t know what it is yet.  Our campaigns start with a piece of snail mail – except we bypass mail purgatory by sending it in a FedEx or UPS envelope. These absolved pieces of literature are guaranteed to be opened and set the campaign off on the right note because you earned the buyer’s attention. Next, we follow up with a series of e-mails referencing the package. The next touch is a dial directly to the prospect, working with the executive assistant. Touch four is an e-mail, five a voicemail, six an e-mail, seven voicemail, and touch eight transitions the prospect to lead nurturing.

We use an e-mail aggregator called BuzzBuilder that sends the e-mails directly from the rep’s address, helping to build name recognition. We set the four e-mail touches up at the beginning of the campaign and notify the reps via Outlook when that e-mail will hit their prospect. We schedule two hour dialing sessions the day after the e-mails drop. What were cold calls are now much warmer with correspondence sent ahead of time, giving less phone reluctance.  BuzzBuilder will let us know who has opened the e-mail or forwarded it to a colleague. This helps triage the effort for the dialing sessions. There is much less pressure on these dials because we are only asking for a voicemail to help solidify the multi-touch campaign.  .

Wrong Message:  One of the fatal flaws in demand creation is that our message just isn’t compelling. Think, why would your decision maker want to see you because you are in town or you have free time? Where is the value in “checking in?” Along those same lines – cold callers make the mistake that their company’s credentials are going to get them in the door. Again, I fail to see how you rank in Gartner’s magic quadrant, product differentiation, or when your company was founded will compel someone to call you back. Those superlatives are only effective if there is an active evaluation – we are just trying to spark one.

To grab a decision-makers attention, you need to first change jobs. Put yourself in their position and forget every last thing you know about your robust product suite.  What are the top things that your stakeholders care about? If you don’t know – look it up. The CFO is a key stakeholder in our sale so they are often the target of our campaigns. If I wanted to understand and reference their top concerns I can Google CFO top concerns.  An article from CFO magazine comes up that states the Top 10.

Not all pains are created equally. If we want to gain traction in our accounts we need to take the most strategic pains and link out solution to help solve them.  For our demand creation campaign – we have to be generic enough to appeal to our entire targeted list but strategic enough in our messaging to attract their attention.  I wrote this blog about keeping messaging P.I.T.H.Y

We also want to evolve our messaging over the course of the campaign.  Again, take the CFO Magazine article that lists the top 10 concerns of the CFO.  Our strategy is to take 3 of those concerns to reference and link to solving over the course of the 8 touch campaign.  If one of those pains doesn’t resonate – then perhaps one of the remaining three will.

Wrong Time: The reason we selected 8 touches was found that was about the right number of times to guarantee you got the attention of your buyer. However, when we first started doing this, we tried to collapse the process into one week. We learned from multiple out of office auto responders or executive assistants telling us that our prospect was out of pocket for the week – we were not taking full advantage of the system.  

We chose to spread the multi-touch campaign over the course of three weeks to make us feel as though we were going to reach our prospect at a time of convenience. After all, we ask for a specific date to meet in our solicitation and it is just too easy for the recipient to ignore the e-mail if they know they can’t make that date.  That process will happen three different times with three different dates over a three week period. Our goal is for a more well-thought out decision to meet with us on a permission basis.

Our final solicitation (or touch 8) states that we have made multiple attempts to reach the prospect and the lack of response must be either one of two things. They were either not concerned about the pains we can help solve or they just don’t have time to discuss them. This is usually gets the best response with an apology from the buyer for being difficult to reach with a time they can meet.

Wrong Person:  Just like pains, not all organizations are created equally.  The CFO is a key stakeholder in our sale but so is the controller, the CIO, the VP of HR, and the HR Director.  When it comes to creating demand however, we let the law of gravity dictate how we navigate our prospects.  We equate it to the ease of pushing a bolder down a hill. Start at the top and get sponsorship all the way down the org chart until we find the eventual business owner of our solution.  By starting low and trying to cultivate an evaluation, you are doing the equivalent of trying to push a bolder up hill.  

To wrap it up in a nice little bow – our demand creation methodology looks like the below over the course of three weeks. We have seen results as good as 10% and as bad as 1%. We know for this to be effective, the reps have to make touch 3, 5, and 7. Otherwise, they will be treated as a spammer.

  1. Snail Mail Touch – In a Fed Ex envelope to ensure it gets to the recipient. Reference top 3 pains
  2. E-mail Touch – Referencing the letter and Pain 1
  3. Executive Assistant Touch – Referencing Letter, E-mail, and Pain 1
  4. E-mail Touch – Pain 2, second date to meet
  5. Voice Mail Touch – Pain 2, second date to meet
  6. E-mail Touch – Pain 3, third date to meet
  7. Voice Mail Touch – Pain 3, third date to meet
  8. Transitioning E-mail Touch

This process takes six hours out of three weeks of work to make the dials. Even then, phone reluctance is hard to overcome but the results should convince the biggest skeptic.

The New Untouchables

Thomas FriedmanThomas Friedman of the New York Times writes a very insightful column about the new untouchables in American Business. As unemployment soars around 10% and damned good sales people are looking for jobs – I found this quote to be quite prophetic, “In a world in which more and more average work can be done by a computer, robot or talented foreigner faster, cheaper “and just as well,” vanilla doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s all about what chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cherry you can put on top.” For Friedman – the New Untouchables have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work.

I thought about how the same concept applies to the noble vocation of selling. The Sales 2.0 story is well chronicled. New research shows that new corporate projects start with a Google search instead of a call to a vendor. Buyers are educating themselves on our solutions, via the web and social networking, and are less receptive to the “cold call.” Corporate websites are optimized and stacked with unique differentiation, third-party research, podcasts, and recorded demos. You can even get a video message from the CEO. Marketing employs savvy e-mail campaigns, targeted messaging, compelling hooks, blogs, webinars, micro-sites, and e-books to pique the buyer’s interest. Tools like Eloqua empower Marketing with results about the effectiveness of their campaigns and highlight individuals who show the right buying propensities.

I heard a statistic recently stating that selling used to be 30% marketing and 70% sales. With the new 2.0 shift in the buyer/seller paradigm – that percentage is now reversed. Sales leaders seem to be adjusting their go-to market strategy with this paradigm shift accordingly. Marketing’s role is going deeper into the sales cycle to the point of handling the entire transaction over the web in some cases. Value-added re-sellers and strategic partnerships are seen as a more effective alternative than inside sales forces. Outside sales forces have been pushed inside with web-conferencing and online demonstrations as cheaper vehicles for selling. Outside sales forces have been moved to named account representatives to hyper-focus on the most productive clients. Key account retention is now the responsibility of senior leadership with advisory councils and strategic liaisons. As one CEO recently told me – the days of the $100,000 doughnut-toter vanished in the wake of the recent recession.

Over the past two years, successful sales leaders survived doing more with less. These pioneers will only build on the lessons they learned – not return to unproductive habits of the past. Furthermore, as Software as a Service evolves into every aspect of business, it becomes less complicated for the buyer to understand, purchase, and even trial. The barrier of entry is just that much lower.

With this insight – it is no wonder that sales people are experiencing a “jobless recovery.” The question then is how do modern sales people make themselves untouchable? I think the answer is to adjust and evolve. Today’s buyer wants to buy from a peer. We must embrace the new technologies and lack of control we once had in the buying process.
If our buyers are searching for information on our solution on the web – then be on the web – in the form of blogs, webinars, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If our buyers can learn more about us online, then we should learn more about them. The information highway is a two-way street. Become an industry expert by reading the same whitepapers and joining the same social networks they do. Twitter is an amazing tool to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry. Set up an account and listen to what thought leaders are saying – for free! Finally, remember that your biggest competition is no longer tangible, it is Google. If you can’t offer value over and above what a buyer can find online, then you are “touchable.” Be untouchable, be connected, be a resource.

A Brave New World: Responding to Shifts in the Selling/Buying Model

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Last week, The Complex Sale, Pedowitz Group, Eloqua, and Oracle hosted a luncheon designed to brief sales and marketing executives on how their worlds were changing.  It was a great turn out with even better insight into how buyers are changing their habits. At no time in history has Sales and Marketing seen as radical a shift in buying behaviors as in the last five years.  With tools like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, information is now quite literally at our buyer’s fingertips.

Organizations are having trouble adapting to this change.  The concept of the new “Sales 2.0” world has created more questions than answers as to how Sales and Marketing can leverage new technologies to drive messaging and sales effectiveness. 
 
Today, buyer “self education” renders Sales and Marketing blind to buyers’ interests, propensities, and levels of engagement in our typical Sales and Marketing plans.  Buyers are less likely to engage with sales teams or to read our messaging.  Instead, buyers leverage Webinars, Online Meetings, and interactive web sites and control the sales process themselves.

Steve Woods, author of Digital Body Language and CTO of Eloqua states, “a sales person’s biggest competition for an executive’s time is now Google.”  If we as sales people cannot bring more value to the conversation than what is available online, then we are not going to capture an executive’s time or imagination.

Rick Page, author of Hope is Not a Strategy and founder of The Complex Sale states, “lead generation used to be about a hammer, now it is about a hook.” The hammer was the telephone with endless cold calls beating executives into appointments by attrition.  The hook is an opportunity for the executive to learn something insightful about their own business, industry, or competition.

Debbie Qaquish, Chief Revenue Officer at the Pedowitz Group states, “Marketing is earning its way on sales incentives trips by first, collaborating with sales to create the definition of a lead and secondly, providing insight into buyer activity on the company website that will triage the sellers call efforts.

The session ended with the obvious question – what hasn’t changed in selling?

The evaluation process is still logical and rational where the decision making process is emotional and political.  By avoiding the three foot rule (being within three feet of the prospect) and handling the sale over the web and phone, sellers risk becoming a victim of the crucible concept. Sellers need to know the competitive and political landscape, source of urgency, and enterprise level issues to when complex deals.

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