1. Got “content” challenges? Apply the problem-cause model

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      Serious practitioners of content marketing inevitably face significant content challenges. But sales professionals do as well — especially to conduct effective change conversations with customers. Surveys, as well as client discussions about top content challenges, reveal the operational nature of the underlying causes of many of content related problems. Operational Issues However, I seldom see content strategy guidelines address operational issues. This is a major shortcoming of current thinking. Content strategy and planning for content marketing is a different and complex task for most newcomers. But if you look at the challenges early practitioners have faced, you will want to figure this out quickly. One of the most useful models we use we call the “problem-cause model”. Like many powerful ideas, this idea is simple. But work with it and you will experience important insights that will help with your content strategy and execution. Problem-Cause Model Explained In this...
  2. Selling to On-Demand Buyers

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    Most of us are well aware the world of B2B buying has gone through fundamental shifts in the last five to ten years. Why hasn’t the way we sell fundamentally changed as well? We all feel the perception from buyers that, to them, all vendors and their products look pretty much the same (undifferentiated value). We know too well the difficulty of identifying and engaging new prospects in sales conversations (generating leads). Our CRM monitored sales process reveals protracted buying timeframes (longer sales cycles and higher costs). I am amazed that for many senior executives I meet, a deeper appreciation of the implications of this transformation hasn’t occurred and isn’t translating into different strategies . If you are a CEO, CFO or VP of Sales with over twenty years of experience, you come from an era of thinking about B2B marketing as famously described by John Wanamaker: “Half the money...
  3. 35 Days to Great First Sales Meetings

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      35 Days to First Conversation — do the math For prospects who actively engage your content, assuming a two day lag in viewing, here is a possible sequence to your first call appointment (elapse time not work days) (“your mileage may vary”): Day 1 – send initial invitation touch with vmail call Day 3 – prospect views email content Day 5 – send Touch #2 automatically, no call Day 7 – prospect views content Day 14 – send Touch #3 mail, vmail call Day 16 – prospect views content Day 23 – send Touch #4 mail, vmail call Day 25 – prospect views content Days 25, 26, 27 – email & call to request introduction conversation Day 35 – have first introduction call For a detailed, comprehensive explanation of each step, download this document.  
  4. What “Job” Do You Want Content to Do?

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      Marketing professionals who are trying to understand the principle behind content marketing can take a lesson from Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School and his “jobs-to-be-done” marketing ideas. This core Christensen idea is presented in the HBS Working Knowledge article, Milkshake Marketing. The article describes a fascinating study his team conducted on behalf of a fast food chain that wanted to improve milkshake sales. The company initially applied a typical market research approach before it engaged “one of Christensen’s fellow researchers, who approached the situation by trying to deduce the ‘job’ that customers were ‘hiring’ a milkshake to do.”   Parallels Between Product Design and Content Strategy Consider this comparison between product design and content strategy. Both product design and content share similar problems. Product design challenges are revealed in the low success rate of new product introductions. Marketing content issues are revealed in the low usefulness to marketing campaigns, sales...
  5. Lead Nurturing and the Inside Sales / Telesales Role

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    We are working with several clients to help them improve their lead nurturing program to deliver a higher volume and quality of sales ready leads to the outside sales team. We have found a tendency on the part of Inside Sales to conduct their work from what I would term a traditional mindset. In many cases they are actively prospecting for new leads from an unqualified list. They may be qualifying, using a BANT process, opportunities that have been created through marketing programs — something one of my partners refers to as “waterboarding to BANT.” Or, they are actively trying to set appointments for sales reps. Telemarketing Study Results This assessment was verified in a recent article about a study of the top objectives and budget areas for telemarketing organizations. “The most popular objective for telemarketing, according to the research, is ‘generating new leads’, selected by 76 per cent of...
  6. Additional Thoughts on 10 Rainmaker Selling Principles

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    As we all plan for a new year and for changes that will make a difference, a good place to start is with core selling principles and practices. Mike Schultz gives us a useful checklist in his recent blog 10 Rainmaker Principles and Keys to Sales Motivation, which I highly recommend. Given my commitment to focusing on “being the best“ I found this list especially helpful. Like all good points this post stimulated additional thoughts that I’d like to share. Principle #1 — Play to win-win. One of the challenges many of us have given our years of experience is to view principles like this through a mindset of “yes, this is a good one, I understand.” I will be challenging my organization to re-think and re-apply this principle in ways that break through our “thinking as usual.” We will re-define what it means to deliver in the best interests of clients and prospects — specifically and in...
  7. Another Case for Marketing and Sales Collaboration

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    We have to be careful not to take words too literally. Consider the idea that marketing delivers sales ready leads to sales. By doing this, marketing has moved the buyer X% (30% -70%?) of the way through the sales process, right? Well, maybe, but maybe not. Let’s look at what has to happen with that “lead” on the sales side. (Reminder, we’re talking complex not transaction oriented sales here.) In most B2B sales processes 4-15 stakeholders are engaged. (A top technology company selling a multimillion dollar solution has 30-50 people on their People Map). When we say marketing has delivered a sales ready lead, do we mean the 4-15 stakeholders to a specific opportunity, or a single individual? Obviously, waiting for marketing to get an entire buying team to sales ready status introduces serious risk factors of being late to apply the critical sales professional resource. After all, people progress individually...
  8. Twitter — What do you read at breakfast?

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      I’m often asked, “how do you use Twitter for your selling activities?” Twitter is a primary resource for me to listen, learn and conduct research. I find great ideas, articles and people through Twitter. I curate important and long-life content as an essential, almost daily practice. My rule is, if it’s a good article and worth sharing, it’s worth sharing many times over time. I curate to Microsoft OneNote to support this practice. Listening “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.”— Clay Shirky Using Twitter to listen to topic specific conversations is a skill we really need to develop. I don’t have time to listen to everything. By selecting and cultivating people who share my interests, I leverage their research, insights, ideas and conversations. I pick up themes, topics and keywords that help me further my listening, but in an efficient way. I acquire articles, quotations, research and facts I...
  9. Focus On Your Sales Conversations

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    Scott Santucci of Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Group has an important blog post regarding your sales conversations. (The Key To Sales Enablement Success Is To Focus On The Conversation) “A B2B sale is really the synthesis of many discrete conversations, and value is best communicated when they are focused on a common goal: solving the client’s problem. What most organizations fail to address is how complex a task it is to corral many discrete conversations into a consistent value communications strategy. To make matters even more complex, most companies have solutions that can address multiple different problems, so this set of questions must be answered for each opportunity. We all know that good conversations are dynamic, reciprocal and most effective where there is trust between the people involved in the dialog. To accomplish this, the salesperson must communicate information that is: Relevant: to the specific circumstances and realities of a given company In...
  10. Second Voice Vignettes for Telesales and Prospecting

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    As a sales professional, telephone selling is a key element of my sales job, especially in the critical, initial stages of prospecting and engaging new customers. For many sales people this is a frustrating, time consuming, low probability of success activity. Here’s an approach that significantly improves your odds, provides value to your prospects, gives you important feedback and, for now, will clearly differentiate you from other sales people. I’ve been thinking about the binary nature of sales prospecting and cultivating initial customer relationships. Consider, with most sales calls: We either connect, or don’t Leave a voicemail, or not Send an email, or not The prospect answers, or doesn’t Is willing to talk, or not Is interested, or not Is willing to meet, or not Is the right person or not, etc. Of course, the odds of a favorable outcome for each option don’t favor us. But what if there...
  11. How long is your sales process?

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    One of the early questions I ask prospective customers with a complex, B2B sale is, “how long is your sales process?” The answer is almost always, “it depends, it can be three to eighteen months depending …” In the past few years we’ve all gained a stronger appreciation for the idea of the customer’s buying process.  Sharon Drew Morgan’s contribution with Buying Facilitation(R) helps us. Ardath Albee’s buyer journey gives us a clear understanding. Automated lead nurturing has forced us to think through the buyer’s journey and how to support it with relevant, compelling content. Sales professionals know the sales process applies to qualified and interested opportunities. Sales participates in the active consideration phase of the customer’s buying journey. Two primary factors determine the sellers sales process: How long it takes to assess an active buyer’s needs, engage all buyer stakeholders, influence buying criteria, configure a solution, deliver a successful proposal and complete...
  12. On Sales Enablement

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    As I listen to the sales enablement conversation, it sounds like sales enablement is a euphemism for training, skill development and knowledge sharing. The conversation is heavily influenced by system vendors. These systems improve access to content that delivers selling knowledge and customer collateral. Reminds me of the old expression, “when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” Clearly improving skill and knowledge are part of what drives sales productivity. But I’m hearing two critical elements that have been missing from the conversation starting to emerge. Leads Are Part of Sales Enablement As a sales professional, I think one of the most important elements that enable sales to be more productive is a steady supply of qualified opportunities. Good leads vs. access to content? Give me leads every day. It is now clear that an automated lead management program is a “must have” for B2B...
  13. Avitage POV on Marketing and Sales Communication

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    My company, Avitage, has recently updated our point-of-view. Over fifteen years the core vision has not changed: to enable front line business communicators to assemble and deliver buyer relevant and useful content, tailored to each audience — even an audience of one. We even learned how to do this with video! But the delivery methods have certainly evolved, expanding the need for, and value of, our approach. Enabling sales to meet revenue, growth and profitability targets is the responsibility of marketing and sales working in a collaborative effort. How you sell is a primary differentiator and opportunity to create value for customers. These efforts should also be aligned around the common process of the customer’s buying journey, and the objective of facilitating a faster buying process. A Communication Requirement Seeing these objectives through a communications lens is an important distinction. Communication is a function of: Messages — knowing what to...
  14. How I Blew a Sales Layup

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    A layup is the easiest shot in basketball, if you’re not able to dunk. But it’s not unusual for a player to miss a layup. Why is that? Most likely because they overlook fundamentals and fail to concentrate. We recently had a sale not close — neither lost nor won, just won’t close. The customer has a significant and recognized need, high interest in our service, and our sales person has known and worked with the company previously. There was significant and acknowledged potential value from the service. The deal was a “no brainer.” So what happened? We followed most, but not all elements of our sales process. As we performed our opportunity review post mortem I remembered something we had overlooked. We had neglected to perform an Opportunity Flight Check prior to submitting our proposal. Our colleague, Rob Scanlon (www.privatesalescoach.com) has developed a unique and insightful program that assesses sales opportunity risk and...
  15. (Inside) Sales Needs Visual Support for Key Conversations

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    In the B2B complex sale, more selling is occurring over the telephone than ever before. This ups the ante for effective visual support that makes it easier and faster to communicate important points. But visual support also helps customers convey those points to colleagues, usually without sales rep assistance. Whether part of a formal inside selling function, or as direct sales people working in the early stages of the customer engagement process, phone meetings and conference calls are the norm, not the exception. Phone-based sellers can dramatically impact their customers and their sales effectiveness by delivering visual support to voice conversations either just before the call through email, or with live web meeting technology. For a decade we’ve heard from companies like Webex and Citrix that web meetings can give sales people a better way to conduct sales meetings without travelling to meet with customers. Well, maybe, but I find myself...

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