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.

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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 Three Best Sales Books You Need to Read

I have been asked what the best books on selling are on more than one occasion. Obviously I am predisposed to Rick Page’s Hope Is Not A Strategy, seeing that I worked for the man for over two years. That notwithstanding, it is perhaps the only primer you need on strategizing a multi-vendor, multi-decision maker, big ticket sale. Rick takes the concept of strategic selling from B2B to P2P or peer to peer. Not only should you understand the pains of the company – but the individual decision makers – then tailor your message to solving those pains on a one-off basis. Genius really – but Rick’s book strictly covers deal strategy. You can compliment it very well with these books – I humbly submit:

Selling to Big Companies: Jill Konrath. I love this book. Jill does an extraordinary job of getting you in the mind of the buyer. Your buyer is busy, he doesn’t return solicitations, and he doesn’t care about your solution. Trust me; now that I am literally on the other side of the desk I experience these truisms every day. What I care about, and your buyer as well, is how you can help me take one thing off of my plate and give me one more hour with my kids. How can you learn what’s on my plate, “use the news.” Jill introduces the concept of triggering event selling, meaning we can get a glimpse of what will entice our prospects to buy by linking into their press releases. Although written in 2005, read this book to get a primer on modern day demand creation. Schiffman, Boylan and Parinello write books that can help you get the appointment, but Jill’s book will help you get the deal.

SPIN Selling: Neil Rackham. This book introduces the tactic of probing for pain in that we first need to diagnose before we prescribe. Neil was hired in the 70’s to find the one common trait that all successful sales people had at Xerox. What he found was the sales people that were most successful listened two times more than those who were not. The SPIN Selling technique was introduced to replicate the art of listening. Situation, Problem, Implication, Need. We must first understand our buyer’s environment, the problems within that environment, the impact those problems cause and what is needed to solve those problems. Bosworth’s Solution Selling and Customer Centric Selling basically take the pain-based selling concept and retool it with additional steps. However, SPIN has four steps – the only four steps you need to probe for pain.

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.

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

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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.

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