Marketing, Sales

Want Bulletproof Customer Connections? Flip Your Triangles


Here is a selling concept that is arguably a fundamental, but it’s a fundamental that is too often missed…

The “One and Done” Account Relationship.

“So what,” you might say, “One relationship is all that I need to get my contract signed!” That may be true. But it’s very short-sighted. I guarantee that in today’s dynamic business environment, one relationship will not keep that account for you – much less keep it growing.

We all know that our connections at an account must be deep, and constantly refreshed. But sometimes we forget that they also must be – Plentiful.

Picture two triangles bonded by one point a the apex. Only the tips of these triangles are holding them together.  Our one point of connection equals our one relationship – you and your key contact. No matter how strong this one relationship, how strong do you think it will be the account level?  Not strong enough! Even if that relationship is the Chairman of the Board or the CEO, there will be changes in careers, dynamics in responsibility, relocations, re-orgs, spin-offs, changing priorities, and on and on. Here’s another challenge to your one-point connection…Imagine that your top competitor comes to town and decides to buy the business and co-opt your contact by building momentum with other buyers in the account? News flash…Your single connection is toast.

Relationships point

 

Now, picture the same two triangles, only this time they are bonded by many points along their bases. Our many points of connection equal our many relationships.  You, your President, your COO, your Marketing Director, your VP of Distribution, your Customer Service Manager, etc. – all connected through you to their peers at your Account.  Now, no matter what happens to one or two of them, the bond is strong. Imagine that same competitor coming to town in this scenario.  Even if they get an opportunity, they will simply bounce right off. It’s unbreakable. It’s…Bulletproof.  

Relationships 2

 

Challenge: Think through your Account list right now.  How many of your key accounts are linked by only one connection?  More than half? Don’t feel bad.  That sums up my informal poll over the last 25 years.

There are plenty of great books out there for building deeper and more abundant client relationships. Here is a quick Amazon search with some great recently published books on the subject.

But here’s the thing – regardless of your methods to build those relationships, you should not be wondering what to do on Monday morning.  Plot your course and expand those connections…Flip Your Triangles!

Collaboration, Marketing, Sales, Social Media

Powering Mass Collaboration with Salesforce Communities


salesforceportalsVcommunities

My firm works with our clients to deliver world-customer service and collaboration solutions on salesforce.com. Many of our clients cite interoperability with front-office systems (sales, marketing, customer support, and others) as a priority outcome of their collaboration initiatives. For those who are contemplating, or have already invested in the Salesforce platform,Salesforce Communities offers a powerful solution.

Driven by CEO Marc Benioff’s relentless vision for social business and mobile innovation on the platform, Salesforce Communities has evolved over the past few years from a simple chat application to a robust collaboration platform, fully mobile responsive. These changes have transformed Salesforce into a recognized leader in enterprise social collaboration with some distinct advantages in certain areas:

100% Data Driven: Salesforce is always in sync and interoperable with production data on accounts, contacts, opportunities, campaigns, and more – right out of the box, with no need for a traditional data integration effort.

“Lead with Mobile” Philosophy: Salesforce has extended the full functionality of the Salesforce platform, enabling you to automatically leverage your knowledge workers in the field to dramatically increase the freshness and accuracy of data. This built-in mobility also allows you to spend more of your implementation effort on functionality and outcomes vs. development of a “mobile version” of your social applications.

Mass Collaboration on “One Version of the Truth”: You can include customers, employees, and partners directly and securely into your front office processes on one, central database. Having this system of record dramatically improves data leveraged in the user experience. The various components of Salesforce Communities – such as Chatter, Chatter Answers, Knowledge, Cases and even Visual Workflow all leverage a consistent data set within your community.

Connect and Extend: When the need arises to integrate to core systems outside the front office, the Salesforce platform is among the most secure, and extensible on the market. The freedom to further enrich the customer/partner/employee experience by syndicating data from other enterprise systems is another way that Salesforce Communities can increase system-use efficiency and enterprise collaboration.

Measure to Manage: The Salesforce platform embeds powerful analytics to make fact-based decisions on the iterative evolution of your social business. You can share reports, and now Salesforce dashboards with Salesforce Communities users to measure and guide behaviors for community activation, adoption, and ongoing optimization.

Link to the Broader Public Conversation: Salesforce allows you to participate in the conversations that happen outside of your four walls as well, with social listening and outreach tools such as Exact Target Marketing Cloud and Radian6 Social listening and strategy are a core offering of 7Summits. We can now integrate these enabling technologies to complement your Salesforce system for real-time open social feedback on your collaboration efforts.

Mass collaboration and social business solutions can be a powerful factor in driving your business outcomes and aligning your front-office operations.

If your enterprise technology playbook includes Salesforce, 7Summits can help you take those outcomes to the next level.  Feel free to contact me to continue the conversation: (Twitter) @tim_kocher

Marketing, Social Media

The Big Question on Social…Can It Move The Needle? (Spoiler Alert…YES)


The NeedleI’m often asked various forms of the question “What can ‘social business’ actually deliver in terms tangible benefits?”It’s a fair question, for a relatively new set of processes and tools for the vast majority of companies today, social collaboration can sometimes seem like alchemy.

One way to provide some answers is to quote statistics that have emerged from the industry as it matures. For example,McKinsey estimates that through added value and productivity, social could add $1.3 trillion to the economy.

But perhaps a more valuable (or at least more tangible) insights can be gained by real-world examples of organizations that are doing it right. One solid example is a client of my firm, 7Summits, who was entered for a 2014 Forrester Groundswell Award, Penn Foster. Penn Foster is the nation’s leader in distance education, offering more than 105 accredited and career-focused degree, diploma and certificate programs. The school is also a Training Partner to over 1,000 corporations and 400 schools and institutions, and has over 25,000 graduates each year. For a full description of their recent initiative and it’s impact, please see this post on the 7Summits Blog.

Here is how Penn Foster answers the big question:

  • 200% increase in user adoption
  • Over 60,000 registered users within the first year of adoption
  • 30% reduction in email interactions for 2013
  • Cost per interaction has improved by 45%
  • Increased engagement with students and unprecedented access to personal insights that help tailor communication

That’s the sound of the needle moving!

Marketing, Sales

The Economics of Attention: Why Your Prospects Aren’t Listening to You (via Andy Paul)


Information overload, conceptual imageI just read an outstanding post from the author of “Zero Time Selling,” Andy Paul.

In it, Andy explains the theory of economist Herbert Simon from Carnegie-Mellon University.

Simon wrote: ”…in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”

Due to the absolute overload of the digital information age, your prospects are completely barraged and consumed with messages each and every minute of the day.

The key message?  Andy says this – “Selling with Maximum Impact in the Least Time requires planning. Each interaction with a prospect has to create value for them. Whether it is a phone call, email, text, video chat or sales call, planning for the next prospect interaction has to answer the question: what information does the prospect need from us today, or what questions do they need answered today, to move to the next step in their buying process?

Great food for thought as you decide what sales and marketing messages you chose to engage in with your clients and prospects this week.

While you’re at it, be sure to read Andy Paul’s book “Zero-Time Selling.”  It’s a must read for practical ideas to apply the principle of Return on Time Invested (ROTI). Meaning, what is the prospect’s return on time invested talking with you?!

Marketing, Sales, Social Media

The Value of “The Human Interface”


face to faceIt’s an unfortunate paradox, but one that is harder and harder to ignore.  The more energy we all pour into our computers, social media, and mobile interfaces, the less time we spend on our person-to-person, human interface.  There are many articles highlighting this dynamic – that social media is ironically making us less social human beings. A great Facebook-focused article on this topic can be found here in The Atlantic.

But you don’t need to do comprehensive research for this information, the anecdotal evidence is all around us – kids texting from across a school bus aisle, adults arguing via Facebook posts, even teens impersonating other teens using “text spoofing” and other electronic interfaces.

The Workplace version of this story took on a new reality last week.  Here is what happened, according to Tech Crunch:

While at a Python programming conference, a developer who used to work for a company called Playhaven apparently made a joke about “big” dongles and “forking someone’s repo.”

Adria Richards, a developer evangelist sitting in front of them, called them out on Twitter and in a blog post for making the conference environment unwelcoming toward women

A huge, nasty online exchange erupted on the social media universe, and ultimately, both the programmer and Adria lost their jobs.  Very serious.  Very sad.

What if instead Adria had simply turned around and told the programmer that she found his comments offensive?  It’s easy to imagine that with face-to-face communication, this conflict could have been resolved much more effectively.

So, what does this have to do with sales and marketing?  A lot, I think.

I believe that we as Sales and Marketing Professionals have also lost some practice with direct human communication.  We use voicemail, email, text, and even social media to carry out much of the communication that was once almost exclusively face-to-face with our customers.  Have there been efficiency improvements, absolutely.  But, I can’t help but wonder how much more effective some of our critical conversations would be if we delivered them on the human interface.

Marketing, Sales, Social Media

Sales People – Play Your *Position (*It’s Changed)


Parents who have watched their children growing up playing soccer can appreciate this.  It’s the phenomenon I call “swarm-ball” where the young kids cluster around the ball, eyes fixed on it, and move as a swarm up and down the field, flitting around to the brink of exhaustion.

Years go by.  Then, something magical happens.  All the coaching sinks in and like a light-switch, the players lock into the concept of playing their position.  Suddenly all the lost energy becomes focused and efficient.  Players are making passes, assists, and goals more often with less exertion and more accuracy.

Sales people have a position to play in a selling process too – and it’s changed.  Radically.

In recent years, as the internet has exploded and buyers are more educated than ever, sales people can no longer afford to just “chase the ball.”  Buyers don’t like it.  They won’t tell you – they just won’t buy from you.

It boils down to this, you are no longer the source of information on your product or service.  Whether they have it or not, clients will come to you feeling as though they have all the knowledge about their purchase (want proof of this trend? Ask your Doctor if Web MD has caused her any frustration in this area with the medically “brilliant” patients she now must deal with).  Clients do their homework first.  We all do this when we buy. 

My respected friend, Ardath Albee (follow her on Twitter immediately if you don’t yet – http://twitter.com/#!/ardath421 )  is a thought-leader in content marketing.  This is the art and science of generating interest, attention, value, and engagement (that leads to YOU and the active selling position you play).   Here is Ardath’s new concept of a sales funnel:

The bottom line is that you as a sales person no longer work the entire funnel.  You and your organization need to need to put good, valuable content out there to capture the interest, gain the attention of, communicate value to, and Engage potential buyers.  This is where your position kicks in.  At this point is where you can make a huge difference as a sales person.  You can have more qualified sales conversations, and close more sales, if you play your position

Don’t to shoe-horn your clients into being “sold” on your product.  Instead, play your position by leveraging content marketing techniques to engage clients in the front end of the funnel while you bring value to buyers in key conversations and their decisions to buy. Be the best possible player you can be from “engagement” onward in this funnel and you will score more goals!

Marketing, Sales, Social Media

Your Client Is Like Santa Claus…


I could not resist looking through the red and white lens for this week’s post.  There are a lot of analogies to be drawn here.  I’ll skip the most obvious (we should all be thankful to our clients for the gift of business they give us…) and get to some of the other comparisons:

…He sees you when your sleepin’… You may think you’re getting away with it when you are dogging it at work in a sales role.  You may even pull one over on your boss.  But, your clients will notice.  In a world where product differentiation provides only the slimmest advantage, responsiveness and even proactivity remain your key strategic differentiators.  If you slow down, your clients will sense it. There is a great book on this concept called “Selling the Invisible,” by Harry Beckwith.  Read it.

..He knows when you’re awake
…If you are a solution-maker for your client, you will get their attention.  If not, you’re toast. You need to work on these relationships in earnest.  What have you done for your client that is truly different or better than anyone else?  What has your firm done to stand out as leaders in your industry? What are you doing to show that you’re awake?

He knows if you’ve been bad or good…It used to be that your customer would need to try your product/service and let you succeed or fail a few times before learning if you were bad or good.  What’s changed?  The internet and  Social media are the new norm.  You don’t go car shopping without knowing the VIN#, invoice price, and full specifications of the car your buying, and your client doesn’t buy from you without knowing your offerings as well or better than you know your own.  They now also know what your other customers think about you– BEFORE they even contact you.  Better be on your toes!

I hope your year is winding down to a successful end this week.  The next 10 days are a good time to reflect on 2010 and prepare for an even better 2011. 

…So be good for goodness sake!  Happy Holidays

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!

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.

Marketing, Social Media

What’s your Digital Lung Power?


It’s an interesting way to think about the effectiveness and reach of your presence online.  How loudly can you be heard ?  Are you just a whisper – not connected through anything but an stale, partly filled-out profile on LinkedIn?  Or, are you a force to be heard – connected not only through LinkedIn, but perhaps a blog, TwitterFacebook, and the many other outlets available  in your industry or areas of interest to richly share your thoughts online? 

Want to do a quick exam of your digital lungs?  Just type your name into www.google.com and see what comes back.  

Then you should take some steps to ensure the patient isn’t barely breathing.

Marketing, Sales, Social Media

Are You Content Marketing?


If you are marketing today and not doing so through organized publicity of your intellectual capital through Content Marketing, you’re missing the boat!

Before you jump in, there are a few things you need to know:

  1. It’s a LOT HARDER THAN YOU THINK!   This takes planning, organizational alignment, rigorous scheduling, and new processes to start,  and – most importantly –  discipline to maintain.
  2. It’s a LOT SIMPLER THAN YOU THINK!  The tools available to support your efforts in this area were simply inconceivable only a few years ago.  Now they enable you to do this complex job more efficiently and effectively.
  3. It’s about WILL POWER!  Focus and tenacity are the hurdles here.  If you have them, you can be winning with content marketing in very short order.

What are the benefits?  “Brand Stickiness,” “Google Juice,” – whatever you want to call it, will bring recognition>leads>business!

The graph displayed here is an image from an excellent research piece done by Roy Young of  Marketing Profs and Joe Pulizzi of  Junta 42 “(B2B Content Marketing, 2010 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends” [download here] that will give you an overview of the major components of a content marketing effort, along with some very useful statistics.

Some highlights:

  • Nine out of 10 B2B marketers are using content marketing to grow their businesses.
  • Enthusiasm for content marketing is high; however, marketers are still unsure about the effectiveness and impact
  • Content marketing deployment is high across industries, with no single industry reporting below 78% adoption
  • Web traffic is the most widely used success metric (56%) followed by direct sales (49%)
  • On average, B2B marketers allocate approximately 26% of their total budgets to content marketing initiatives
  • The largest challenge is “producing the kind of content that engages prospects and customers” (36% of respondents
  • Social media and article posting are the most popular tactics and are currently used by 79% and 78% of B2B marketers

Get this paper and digest it today!

Marketing

A Call For Expertise in Preparation


If you’ve read this blog you know I’m a huge fan of Seth Godin.  His posts really make marketers think about the job we’re doing.   It’s probably the best blog out there for marketing professionals, and Seth is very economical with his words.

Yesterday he posed a particularly provocative thought on preparation.  The challenge is to think about the level of effort and expertise you are applying to your preparation.  Basically, are you a pusher or a leaner?

He argues there are three levels of preparation: “Beginner,” “Novice,” and “Expert.”  Basic premise:  Most of us languish in the novice stage and never push hard enough to reach expertise.

As sales and marketing professionals, we can take this to heart in many areas:  Go-To-Market Planning, Pre-Meeting Planning, Product Development, Websites and other marketing efforts.  Do you ever find yourself phoning it in?  Why start if you’re not going for something brilliant?

Social Media

If We All Had These Core Values…


While reading another fantastic blog post by Jeff Bullas  (who if you don’t follow on Twitter you must – as he highlights and summarizes some of the most interesting concepts in social media marketing today)   I ran across this summary of the 10 core values driving the online shoe retailer Zappos.  Jeff’s focus was linking these values to  ways in which social media reinforces the culture and the success of Zappos, and it’s a great post. 

I’m still just processing this list (for the first time) on a simpler level.  I am simply struck at how different these values are from most of the generic, boring, homogenized core values in corporate America.   While reading them I asked myself (and urge you to do the same) how much better would my (or any) company be if we focused on these unique values?

Have a look and let me know your thoughts.  Here is a link and the list:  

  • Deliver WOW Through Service
  • Embrace and Drive Change
  • Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  • Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  • Pursue Growth and Learning
  • Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  • Do More With Less
  • Be Passionate and Determined
  • Be Humble
  • Sales

    The Two-Year Sales Cycle That Proves Nurturing Works


    Yesterday, I had the satisfaction of closing a sale on which I’d been working for over two years.  I can’t describe the feeling better than to say this is why you get into sales!

    A two-year sales cycle is crazy!” you say?  I would submit that it is more the norm these days when you look at the total life of a deal.  As you can imagine this represented the culmination of many, many touch points with my client.

    In their outstanding book “Professional Services Marketing,” the partners at Wellesley Hills Group espouse the concept of “Nurturing.”  I could not agree more.  As mentioned in the book, the “long sales cycle” equals the months and even years that it takes to foster a strong relationship while the client builds to a point where they have a real initiative and funding and are thus in active buying mode. The concept is that the “short sales cycle,” once the client is able to buy, is much shorter – perhaps only several weeks. 

    But you need to focus on the nurturing that puts you in a position on the long-cycles so when that buyer is ready, you are a trusted source for solutions and the obvious choice.

    What are you doing to stay in front of your highest priority customers monthly, or even weekly, to nurture your way to more sales?

    Marketing, Sales

    Ah, The Dog Days of Summer!


    Been a while  between posts  –  I just returned from some vacation.  The prep time before and digging out after have been significant, as always.   But, should be back on track for posting now…

    It’s great to unplug and step away from the daily grind and see the forest for the trees though.  When you realize what you’re working for – it makes it so much easier get back and hit it.  It was a great time off with my wife and kids: hiking, swimming, fishing.  My son caught his first Musky…thought he won the Superbowl!

    One of my take-aways this time was that I really love what I do.  Not everyone can say that.  There is a real vocational dimension to helping people with their most important projects that motivates me to do the best for my clients. 

    Also, although some people automatically think technology is extremely cool and fun (guilty) it is also continuing to change the game for everyone, so you need to pay attention. 

    On that note, I was reviewing some of my favorite blog reads while away and I think this one from Seth Godin wins.  It’s a concise summary about the transition from the production > information > “information about information” economy and gets you thinking about all the opportunities yet to be seized…  

    Better get back to work!

    Marketing, Sales

    Voicemail or eMail?…The Answer is Yes!


    Let’s face it.  Most of us are in meetings (even if some are virtual – phone/web) most of the day. 

    Reaching someone live between the hours of 8am-5pm in today’s business world has become a near impossibility.

    Just for fun let’s say you do get someone to pick up the phone.  Odds are, you have just distracted that person from a task they believe to  be a priority over whatever it is that you have called about.  Just think of your own experience.  How long does it take you to pick up an inbound call when you do not recognize the caller ID?  Don’t hold your breath, right?

    It is for this reason I now almost always leave BOTH a voicemail and email message when contacting a client or partner, particularly if this subject is important to them.

    Try for a live discussion via phone first, of course.  When you get their voicemail, leave a brief message and tell them that you will also send an email if that is a more convenient mode of communication for them.  Then, send the email with “My Voicemail” included in the subject.

    But don’t take my word for it.  Marketing firm CCSI has this to say in their recent blog post…”Lead generation strategies that put e-mail and direct mail before telemarketing may be putting the cart before the horse and missing out on the optimal impact of each vehicle….”  The gist of their post?  Leave a voicemail before sending email.

    Doing both has increased my response ratio significantly.

    Marketing

    …No More Strangers


    Seth Godin’s blog post today is worth echoing…in it he proposes a hierarchy of relationships and reminds us that it takes an exorbitant amount of energy to acquire and transform a “stranger” into a customer who is a “true fan,” –  as in, it’s not worth it. 

    We all know the route of penetrating and extending from existing clients is much more efficient and successful, but sometimes we just can’t resist the temptation to burn energy and resources trying for that elusive stranger.

    Instead, Seth says, consider the option to “…absolutely delight and overwhelm”  [you true fans].

    Great perspective!

    Marketing, Social Media

    Social Media David v. Goliath…


    This is an excellent example of fighting a PR conflict using social media.  Who looks like the cool victim here and who looks like the big, cold corporation?  Method will even let YOU DECIDE!  Check out the microsite they stood up which includes the video above. 

    Talk about making lemonade from lemons – AND they simultaneously take on a giant competitor and reinforce their brand story!  Smart!