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.

My shot at Implementing Sales 2.0

I have been asked to attend a Six Sigma Event around the new Oracle On Demand CRM we are implementing at my company. We aren’t going live until the fall (if then) but my company seems to be doing the right thing by actually inviting sales to the table for the scoping process. As many who follow this blog know – I am advocate of the Sales 2.0 concept; perhaps even a zealot.

Oracle On-Demand as a few cool tools that I am excited to learn more about, such as the Social CRM applications around sharing and scoring content. Most of my experience, however, with CRM implementation comes from When I worked at the Complex Sale, Inc., we had an application for opportunity management located on the App Exchange. That made the implementation process quite literally seamless. White Springs, the company that makes The Complex Sale’s App, also has pre-built integration with Oracle as well.

Oracle lists their feature partners on their website.

Inside View: I am very excited about offering my opinions on integrating the Inside View applications to our CRM instance. As stated on previous blogs, we employ a third party to set appointments from the West Group. They do a great job and allow us to focus on selling rather than prospecting. However, when we do get the appointment set – we need to be as prepared as possible. I tell my team they need to research five aspects of their prospect to be best prepared for a first call.

1. Industry
2. Company
3. Individual
4. Title
5. Geography

Inside View gives this data, pre-packaged on a company by company basis, embedded inside of the account tab inside of the CRM. It sours the blogs for triggering events, LinkedIn for the prospects themselves, and provides in-depth data on the company. It is a one stop shop for first call preparation – inside of the CRM.

Kadient: One of the first things I did as a new sales manager was to institute a Best Practices Sales Cycle for my team. This is the process of collaborating and documenting the client-facing milestones and tasks needed to successfully move a prospect to signature. I put the deliverable of this process on an excel spreadsheet. All my reps are expected to have a specific BPSC spreadsheet for every opportunity they have to show progress. The byproduct of this process is a common sales process, expectation, and vernacular.
The cells that comprise the BPSC spreadsheet are linked to other tabs inside of the excel document. These additional tabs share greater detail, links to other information, and templates.

Kadient takes this idea and integrates it inside of the CRM where quite frankly it should be. Kadient will attach the BPSC or playbook to the opportunity record where the rep can go for direction specific to the type of opportunity. The functionality gives a rep sales messaging that’s battle tested, competitive information, or PPT templates that have won business. Better yet, from a sales manager’s perspective, I can get a better line of sight into the deals I am forecasting and trends for training purposes.
I will keep you posted on my success in getting these tools integrated in the Oracle On-Demand.

Create More Demand – Keep it P.I.T.H.Y.


I’ve received a significant amount of response regarding my thoughts on why Senior Sales People won’t create their own Demand.  After all, if they won’t who will and what impact will this have of revenue production? The obvious answer is that successful sales organizations have to change how they structure themselves to reflect this new reality. It’s the classic stick vs. carrot argument; either make them do it or do it for them.

I have a client that has a one-to-one ratio of inside sales “demand creators” for the outside senior sales people.  Needless to say this division of labor works out well for the outside guys – however they have much more quota responsibility. I have another client that has the entire demand creation process automated through an e-mail aggregator and dialing responsibilities with ConnectandSell.  Those are great examples of carrots.  When it comes to sticks, I have a client that has created MBO’s and compensation around demand creation productivity.  

No matter how your organization chooses to go to market, if you use a multi-touch / multi-media approach to campaign, keep your messaging pithy. You will want all of your correspondence to be pithy or short, concise, and to the point. You will also want to use P.I.T.H.Y. as an acronym:

P. Pain solving

I.  Introductory

T.  Time Specific

H. Highly Strategic

Y. You 

Pain solving: When creating messaging for demand creation, we must first think of the person who we are selling to and the most pressing issues that individual faces.  We want to uncover where and why they are feeling this pressure  without any regard to what we sell. This is how we create empathy in our messaging and link our solution to solving these pains. Buyers want to hear from individuals who communicate with them in a langauge they understand. This is peer to peer selling.  

Introductory: As Jake Atwood, CEO of Ovation Selling once told me, when creating demand keep the purpose of the call the purpose of the call. What he means is that successful demand creation separates the activity of selling the solution from selling the appointment.  Our entire goal for demand creation messaging is to secure a short meeting to sell them on an evaluation of our solution.  Therefore, we are positioning ourselves for a first call – not to purchase our service.

Time Specific: When reaching out to busy executives for a first call, always give them two or more times when you would like to meet. This takes the guesswork out of their participation and fixates their attention to WHEN they will meet with you, not IF they will meet with you.  This isn’t a new concept to most of us because it has withstood the test of time.

Highly Strategic:  Empirically, we know our buyers are inundated with requests for an audience and do not have enough time to entertain every solicitation they receive. Therefore and just as we do, they triage their efforts in getting back to their suitors. Put yourself in their position; how would you decide to best utilize your time? Your messaging should be around the highest level of impact your solution can have on an organization. What sounds better; eliminating manual process or better client retention? What about best of breed vs. providing a competitive advantage?

You:  As in not you. The biggest mistake I see made in demand creation is when sellers leave their list of superlatives on a voicemail or e-mail.  Busy executives are looking for empathic solutions to their problems and original ideas from outsiders.  They do not and should not link your awards, financials, and even competitive differentiators to solving these pains.  Put yourself in their position; they are not evaluating your solution so why would talking about your company spark any interest?

In conclusion, even those this posting is not, keep your correspondence for demand creation P.I.T.H.Y.

Caution: Whales in the Swimming Pool

no swimmingIt is right around this time of year when I start to get very anxious. The summer is winding down, my alma mater begins their football season, and our buyers are awakening from the summer doldrums. As sellers, our sense of urgency increases because the end of the year is within sight – and the same is true of our buyers.

Or is it?  Follow this link to read my thoughts on forecast accuracy.

Try this little exercise. Pull up the pipeline you have been working diligently to build over the first 9 months of the year. Sort it by revenue from highest to lowest. If you are like most sales professionals, you will find there is a correlation between the size of the deal and the proximity of the close date to December 31st. In other words – the largest deals are generally the ones the furthest pushed out. This is natural and stands to reason. After all, these deals aren’t fully scoped therefore we don’t want them gaining the attention of the powers that be. However, we still want the recognition that there is a whale or two swimming in our pool. Since we don’t know when this deal is going to close – we assume that the buyers will have the same source of urgency that we have and that it will eventually close by the end of the year.

We as salespeople need to realize that this, in fact, is not the case. Many of us have the high hopes that 2009 will be very different from 2008 and buyers will finally come off of their wallets. But just as Rick Page has taught us – Hope is Not a Strategy.

Three items we need to consider when we are thinking about these whales at the end of our pipeline for 2009 . Start doing these things now so you can be assured you are well positioned to close out the year strong:

1)    The global recession has made buyers much more cautious and conservative with their earnings. Therefore cost justification models are not enough to close a complex sale. CFO’s have been piling up proposals with ROI’s attached for two years.

To Combat this, Find the Powerful People: Align with the individual who can and will walk your proposal into the CFO’s office and say, “I need this signed because it is critical to the success of our business.”

2)   Our sense of urgency to close by the end of year is motivated by our internal pressures to make quota. Our buyers do not share this motivation.

Uncover their Source of Urgency: Find out what does motivate the decision-makers to buy and by what date they need this solution. If Jan 1 comes and goes without our solution in place – what are the negative ramifications to the organization?

3)   Many buyers have little knowledge about evaluating our solution and our implementation timeframes. Therefore by the time they get around to evaluating your solution it could be too late to have it up and running by the start of the year.

Closing Strategy: Through a position of empathy and experience, share with your buyer your normal evaluation, approval, and implementation process in the form of a timeline. Back it out from the source of urgency date for go-live and let them know the steps needed to start by that date.

Try this process to help feed the whales swimming at the end of your pipeline.

What Closes the Deal? Sense vs. Source of Urgency


Isn’t it great when a month ends on a Friday? You get a chance to wrap up both the month and the week in the same day. If you are like most sales people you also get a chance to lean on your prospects just that much more to get the deal in. After all, that’s our source of urgency, making our number by the end of the month. We find ourselves much more motivated (as does the procurement department) because there are negative ramifications if we fail to deliver.

Let’s take that idea and turn it on its head. Do you think our prospects have a source of urgency? Do you think there are negative ramifications for our prospects if they don’t get a solution in place by a certain time? The answer is an unequivocal…..yes! Companies are a lot like individuals in that they won’t make a change until they absolutely have to. For sellers to know if they are in a qualified deal – they need to know why the buyers “have to” make a change.

Many sellers confuse the  “want to” or sense of urgency with the ” have to” source of urgency. A sense of urgency is more often than not tied to our value proposition. As an example:

  • Automating manual processes
  • Better reporting
  • Lowering total cost of ownership
  • Scalability / Flexibility
  • Mitigate Risk
  • Best of breed / Best practice
  • Consolidation
  • Streamline / Ease of use

All companies can benefit from the above and many have a sense of urgency to get them done. A source if urgency however has a date by which these benefits must be implemented because the company (and more importantly a specific individual) will feel a tangible effect if they do not. Examples of sources of urgency are as follows:

  • New facility / market / clientele
  • New executive strategy
  • Capital purchase
  • Board directive
  • Compliance effective date
  • Product launch
  • Merger / Acquisition
  • Negative Press / Federal Investigation
  • Quarterly / Annual Report

Therefore, to better understand if our prospects are going to buy from us we need to know why they will buy from us. Until then, we will continue to be befuddled by their lack of motivation even though we have a perfectly rational value proposition. Start tying your value proposition AND your forecast to a source of urgency. Then you will see your prospects leaning on you to get the deal done and the end of the month will be just another day on the calendar.

%d bloggers like this: