Before Proposing – ALWAYS Ask for a Meeting

Here is a little pre-Thanksgiving humor for my sales compatriots out there courtesy of Scott Adams.  If you’ve ever been in this sales situation, you’ll get a kick out of the Dilbert strip above.  Scott has a great site by the way, where you can buy relevant strips for your marketing efforts.

So what’s the lesson here? I have given up on responding to vague and/or rushed RFPs, and I would recommend you do the same.  If the prospective client is not willing to sit down with you and work through some basic questions that will allow you to craft a response both more accurate and relevant to them, you’re probably column-fodder on their spreadsheet anyway.

I can’t tell you how many times early in my career I took valuable time (in some cases all night) responding to a long RFP for which I knew in the pit of my stomach we had no prayer of winning.

Now, asking for the “pre-proposal discovery meeting” has become a valuable step in qualifying the opportunity before burning the resources to craft a solution and response.

Don’t let your Pointy Haired Boss make you work all day Thursday unless you have had your meeting.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Marketing, Sales

2010 = Rearview Mirror – How To Start on 2011…

 According to Chad White, research director at Responsys and author of the Retail Email Blog, as of Oct. 29, 57% of top online retailers had begun their holiday email marketing campaigns.

The holidays are upon us.  Retailers are in full swing.  People are making final Thanksgiving preparations with their guests. 

If you are in B2B marketing or sales, and you don’t have active opportunities rolling deep into your sales funnel by now – you’re too late for 2010. 

Whether or not you hit the mark this year,  you need to be building your base for 2011.  In B2B sales and marketing, this the time of year to book your last deals and focus on building a foundation for January and beyond.

So what do I recommend?

1.  Lock down schedules.  For any business that you book between now and yearend, time will get tighter by the week to get things done for the executives, legal departments, and other parties to your deals.  Get your calendars locked with confirmed calendar responses so your time remains sacrosanct.

2. Say “Thank You.”   Press the flesh.  Take this opportunity to say thank you to your good clients and even your solid prospects for the good business and future business.  Schedule some time for coffee or lunch to cath up and discuss next year.  Buying is an emotional decision, This does make a difference.

3.  Execute holiday campaigns flawlessly and ferociously.  While it may seem counter-intuitive, messages arriving during this time can have a higher hit-rate because your clients in B2B businesses have the same lull now.  Their in boxes are quieter over the next 2 months, and they are in the office more.

4.  Plan your marketing calendar for Q1 and Q2 2011.  Do it now, so you can spend your time January on execution , not dallying with a plan.

5.  Clean House.  Use this time between the holidays to catch up, clean up, and focus. Toss old files, clean out (and back up) your hard-drive.  Do all the things you never have the time to get to during normal business months.

That’s All, Folks!   On to 2011!

Social Media

Social Monetization and Social Ubiquity

…That is Denise E. Zimmerman, president and chief strategy officer at NetPlus Marketing Inc. with one of the most eloquent synthesis I have heard bundling the important trends happening in social media today.

Many of us are processing social media’s evolution through the tools that we are using: blogs, twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. but seldom stepping back and viewing the forest for the trees.  It is a very valuable exercise.

Denise shares her vision of these “ubertrends” in her recent article published today in iMedia Connection, “Social media trends to watch for 2011.”  

Social Monetization, she says,  is the use of social apps that drive revenue and ROI.  Social Ubiquity is the proliferation and convergence of the social web.

These two ubertrends and the subtrends that comprise them are driving much of what we’re living through in social media today.

This article is a great read and frames some of the issues of the day (including privacy) in a larger context.  You should definitely give it a try.

Marketing, Sales

Throw Away Your Sales Funnel

In the past five years, as the internet explosion spilled over from technology  hobbyists into full use by the general public, and finally adoption by the business world, it added velocity to a trend that I would argue was already underway  – the death of sales.

Sounds ominous (and a bit like a play starring Dustin Hoffman) but it’s true. The traditional sales approach is dead.

As a career sales rep and process wonk who for many years has practiced and studied both sales and marketing processes, I have analyzed my fair share of process models. For many decades, the conventional thinking in this area focused on affecting or acting on the customer, “selling them,” “generating demand,” ” qualifying them,” etc.

Your buyers have rendered this approach irrelevant. The consumer is now in charge of both the initiation and pace of the sales and marketing processes. No room in this post to argue that fact, so if you’re struggling with it, just take a leap of faith and read on.

Organizations that understand this new buyer-driven reality can capitalize on the new model and thrive, but not with the same old funnel.

You have to abandon the traditional sales funnel (generate leads, qualify opportunity, propose, close) and adopt one that manages the new reality.

The ways in which authors and analysts are depicting the traditional sales and marketing funnel model is also changing (finally). I ran across one particular funnel that really impressed me. I think it is dead-on.

Ardath Albee, an emarketing expert and author you should check out immediately, has conceived a funnel that truly addresses today’s sales and marketing realities. I have included an image of it in this post.

You’ll first notice that it is a horizontal funnel. This is brilliant way to visually depict that the process is not one of seller throwing buyer into a hopper to be squeezed and refined as if by gravity into a sale, but one of myriad, opt-in choices that the prospective buyer must be attracted to in the marketplace. It fully acknowledges that content and value attract buyers.

The model then goes on to show a largely buyer-driven process (acknowledging that business buyers rarely act alone but rather in committees or teams). Only then do we see some traditional selling tenants kick in, and even they are more collaborative in nature.

You should definitely check this model out. Here is a link to Ardath’s blog entry for more information.

By the way, Ardath also wrote a book called “eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale” which explains her philosophy on creating the unique and nurturing content that will attract your buyers to the front end of this funnel.  I’m currently reading it and will post more on this topic in later posts.