Reverse Prospecting: Your Buyer’s Looking For You

 

Reverse

Understanding your buyer’s journey is the first step to delivering explosive growth results.  The age of the buyer has arrived and the seller no longer is in control.  Buyers today are prospecting more than sales people.  How?  By scouring the internet and leveraging social channels to learn and make decisions.  In fact, if you’re the seller, you’ve become the passenger on this purchasing trip.  So make yourself comfortable, stay observant, and most of all have fun on the trip.

Your buyers know more about what they need than ever before.  There was a time (and it goes further and further back each day) when the buyer had to rely on a sales person to identify his problem and present a solution…the seller’s solution.  Not any more.  Have a runny nose and sore lower back?  A quick trip to the website WebMD can provide you with information on what may be going on with you.  You need to put in a new garbage disposal?  There are hundreds of how-to videos on YouTube that provide step-by-step instructions that take a job that previously required a plumber and turned it into a DIY project.

We have all become addicted to information.  In fact, more than 80% of 18 – 44 year olds say the first thing they do in the morning, immediately after opening their eyes, is to check their phones.  Information.  We want lots of it, all the time.

Buyers have this access to information and are using it more and more.  They Google, Facebook, YouTube, Tweet, and ask their LinkedIn groups for information, recommendations, and ideas.  If you’re a seller without a social selling strategy you’re already trailing the pack.  And if you think your product or service is too complex to promote via social channels think again.  General Electric has hundreds of videos on YouTube on MRI equipment, jet turbines, and lighting.  Toll Brothers, a national builder of custom homes, provides a website that allows someone to design and build their dream home and see it!  Buyers are not just using the internet to shop for shoes, sweaters, or books.

Having a social presence isn’t enough. You can’t set up a Facebook or LinkedIn page and check off the box and say its done.  You have to be active…engaged.  You have to create content, share content, weigh in on content others have shared.  This is where your buyers are looking for you.  Your paradigm must shift.  Buyers are now conducting a form of reverse prospecting.  They’re looking for you…you just don’t know it.  So if you’re a seller, and you’re not visible in the areas your buyers are looking for you, you simply won’t be found.

So get started.  Take it slow.  Don’t try to boil the ocean in a day.  A retweet here, a LinkedIn post there, a blog here, are all activities to get you on the road to being found by your buyer.

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The 3 Deadly Sins of a Marketer

A Marketers primary job is to understand their customer.  What drives their buying behaviors, their decisions, their choices.  It’s the marketer who is responsible for gaining this knowledge and use it to create the companys go-to-market strategy.  Here are 3 things that can crush a marketers effectiveness in creating a successful strategy.

  1. Not challenging the status quo.  For marketers joining a new team be wary of the famous “won’t work”, “tried that before”, or “our product is different”.   Thomas Edison made over 1,000 attempts before the first successful light bulb.  Edison said, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times.  The light bulb was an invention of 1,000 steps.”  Your job as a marketer is to challenge the status quo in order to find the message that best resonates with your buyer.  For those marketers who have been in their current roles for a while change this up to bring a level of freshness back to the office.  Read a book, talk to a collegaue, do something that provides you with an opportunity to propose trying something new.
  2. Lack of curiousity.  Marketers are part sales person, part researcher, part engineer, part visionary, part data analyst.  Given the breadth of your role the most important question you’ll have in your arsenal is “why”.  Ask it often and ask it everywhere.  As tools such as A/B testing become more mainstream asking why can be positioned as a quantitative inquiry and one that is backed by data.  If you’re working in an enviornment where “why” may be a bit too challenging then reposition your intention as a test, a study, a pilot.  No matter what you call it, it stills answers the question “why”.
  3. Failing to learn new things.  Change is fast, faster than ever.  Whether it’s marketing automation, Google’s new Penguin algorithm or dynamic content, your job tomorrow will be different from the job you leave today.  Keeping up with all these changes requires a personal investment of your time and energy.  Reading, webinars, conferences are all ways to keep up to speed on what’s changing and evolving in the world of digital marketing and media.  Twitter is a great source of valuable content if you follow the right people and companies.  Set a specific time every day for your reading.  Building a routine around your personal education is a critical success factor in taking control of your professional development.

Start Innovating: The One Question to Start the Discussion

Question

Is your business stuck in a rut? Are sales slow, stagnant, or even declining? Is your product commoditized or becoming irrelevant? How should you move forward?

The answer for most companies is obvious…innovate. The problem is not in the what, but in the how. Innovation is a challenge for even the very best and impossible for the newbies to the game of innovation.

Mature companies that produce known products or deliver staple-like services are the most prone to the innovation dilemma. They’ve done what they’ve done for so long that the mere test of time suggests they know what the markets need and what their buyers want. Arrogance and complacency drive their strategies and plans, and often times they are able to putter along treading water, buying time for “things to change”. They are not change leaders but change followers.

Here’s a simple question you can ask those you work with to get an innovation discussion going: What would Amazon or Google do? If Jeff Bezos owned this company, or Sergey Brin, what would they do to change things?

It’s quite possible the owner or other executives will balk and provide sarcastic responses like, “he’d probably dump the business”, or “if we had Amazon’s brand recognition we’d be in the clear”, or even “they’ve got millions to spend to do whatever they want we don’t.” Try to keep them focused. Remind them that each of these companies began as a dream and then moved into the realm of small business. They didn’t start out as the financial behemoths they are today. Each time their businesses got comfortable they broke them and started working on something new…consciously. If you had to break your business today how would you do it and what would you focus on next?

Innovation is not easy. It’s scary, unpredictable, uncertain, risky, and can be terrifying. To not innovate can actually lead to all of the same emotions. So if that’s true isn’t it better to be in control than to be controlled.

Ask that question today.

Is a Leader a Solo Act?

alone

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an article on Bill McDermott, the CEO of SAP. The article profiled McDermott’s rise within SAP and the fact that this German company will now be at the hands of an American CEO for the first time in its history.

McDermott has placed his beliefs front and center, stating that SAP must move quickly and innovate. “There is no speed limit on innovation” McDermott told a crowd at a recent event. But herein lies a fundamental problem that challenges  the “believability” of that statement. Can innovation happen through the efforts of one person alone or does innovation require a team?

Today’s most admired companies are those that innovate. Companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, and ExxonMobil are all at the forefront of their respective industries due to constant innovation. Additionally, their ability to innovate is often credited to their employees and the teams they have assembled to drive some of the best innovations and inventions of our times. Yet McDermott seems to have chosen a “go it alone” strategy having terminated most of SAP’s previous leaders of innovation.

SAP’s advisory board seems to be in full support of Mr. McDermott and has done nothing less than support him in his me, myself, and I strategy. But will it work? Here are 3 areas where McDermott’s strategy may go awry:

1. Collaboration breeds innovation – even the late, great, Steve Jobs saw the benefits of team collaboration when launching the first iPod as referenced in the book Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney. Teams were assembled to take a raw idea and bring it to life. Contrary to popular belief, Apple’s success wasn’t Steve Jobs alone.
2. Checks and balance. Not having a #1 or #2 on your team can lead to beliefs of invincibility and disillusionment. Every leader needs a strong next-in-line. Believing that only you have all the answers or ideas is very risky. Beyond the benefit to the business, having the right #2 will stretch and challenge the leader to explore options he or she might have otherwise dismissed.
3. Competitive Intelligence. Much like the reasons for #2 above, it’s highly unlikely for one person to be “in-the-know” on all things at all times. I rely on my team as a unit to keep us all up to speed on current and trending market conditions. Having multiple inputs from different folks minimizes bias and assumptions.

So will SAP’s strategy work? Time will tell.

How Your Sales Team Really Feels About Social Media

socialmedia

Sales people are some of the brightest, most adaptive, and persistent personalities on the planet.  They thrive on ego and strive to be recognized from the highest levels of their organizations.  The best sales people focus on establishing strong relationships and broad networks of contacts.  But what most sales people dislike more than anything else is change, and social media represents one of the most sweeping changes to sales people since the invention of the fax machine.

To get your sales team on board and using social media to improve their results requires you to have a thorough understanding of what’s preventing them from getting involved to begin with.  Here are 3 things your sales team believes about social media but isn’t telling you.

  1. Social media isn’t up to me, it’s the company’s responsibility.   Reps believe that social media is an extension of advertising and thus is the sole responsibility of the company.  Communication, narratives, or messaging whether via social or traditional media outlets are the responsibility of the corporate marketing team.
  2. I don’t have time.  Reps see things as either-ors.  If I must do Thing A, than Thing B must be sidelined.  Something must come off the plate before something new is added.  Given most sales people feel they already work to their fullest capability and capacity, few see a way to add more to their daily routine.
  3. I’m afraid.  Ever hear the story of the sales rep over-promising what their product or service can do?  What about the rep who exaggerates, manipulates or misleads a prospect?  Reps fear putting things in writing which provides them little to no wiggle room if they need to dial-back a previously issued statement or comment.  Putting something on LinkedIn or Twitter creates a feeling of unease and discomfort for a sales rep.

How to overcome these 3 false-beliefs?

  1. Here’s just one reason social media is a joint endeavor between a company and its sales people:  branding.  There are 2 parts to every sale – the company’s brand reputation and the sales person’s brand reputation.  A buyer will not buy if they don’t believe in the company’s brand.  If its product is perceived to be irrelevant, or low quality the buyer will know and look for an alternative.  Likewise if the sales person’s reputation is in question no matter how good the company’s product is the sale will not be made…at least by that sales person.  Social media is a great way for sales people to build and expand their personal brand reputation and thought leadership.
  2. Social media can help a sales person become more productive by improving their efficiency.  Utilizing free apps like Zite, Hootsuite, USAToday, and Google Alerts can help keep a sales pro up-to-date and add value to their sales conversations with prospects and current customers.
  3. Show them.  As their leader you must be able and willing to demonstrate your involvement with social media.  How do you embrace social media?  How does it play into your day?  Is it a passing thing, or do you participate daily with social media?  How do you use it?  Can you provide examples?  Being able to walk the talk is critical to implementing any new initiative or change.  The sales team must see you doing it before they even consider it for themselves.

Try these approaches and let me know how it works.

 

How Great Is Your Company? Answer These 4 Questions.

happyworkGreatness is determined on many levels.  Seldom is it one thing that defines a great company.  This year’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work for include: Google, SAS, CHG Healthcare Services, Boston Consulting Group, and Wegmans Food Markets rounding out the top five.  What makes these select few stand out among the millions of companies doing business every day?  Is it the free lunch that Google offers or the casual dress code at SAS, or the leadership development programs offered at Boston Consulting Group that make the difference?  More than likely it’s those things plus other less tangible things that have elevated these companies to becoming employers many people aspire to work for.  If you’re considering a move, or simply trying to decide if you should stay or go, look at the following 4 areas and answer the questions I’ve posed.  This may provide you with the insight you’re looking for to make your decision.

  1. Employee morale.  Some companies conduct regular surveys of their employees to measure morale and job satisfaction.  Poor morale can lead to many negative side-effects for a company and its employees.  Here are some signs you may have a morale problem:  increase in sick time, customer service levels dropping, longer than scheduled employee breaks, increase in personal phone calls, visible avoidance of senior management.  Typically low employee morale is the result of uncontrolled stress or strain in the workplace.  However, in companies with strong employee morale you see higher engagement, lower usage of sick-time, and perhaps most importantly a culture of innovation that leads to strong customer satisfaction levels.  Engaged employees offer new ideas, suggestions, and solutions for how to improve things across the business.  The key driver to making this happen?…managements ability and desire to listen and act in collaboration with their employees.  How is your company’s morale?
  2.  Creativity.  Positive energy generates positive thoughts.  Positive thoughts produce creative ideas and solutions.  When a company’s culture is negative or numb, it loses its ability to create new ideas, concepts, products, or services.  Creativity is a required ingredient for innovation and invention.  Without it, you will successfully secure your spot in the purgatory of status quo.  Companies that thrive in a highly creative and innovative world have mastered the power of creative thinking.  They have accomplished this by instituting a level of controlled, creative tension.  Management expects employees to generate new ideas and employees expect to be heard.  This dynamic of a two-way-street creates a steady stream of creative traffic that produces ongoing positive results for both the company and its employees.  Is your company a culture of creativity, what example can you give?
  3. Turnover.  Life is all about relationships and the workplace is no different.  According to a recent Dale Carnegie Training study, the #1 reason people leave their job is because “their boss sucks”.  People don’t leave companies…they leave to get away from other people.  Companies with high turnover, which I would define as more than 10% annually should take a deep look into what is driving their turnover.  Often times exit interviews and surveys are the relied upon methods for gathering feedback from a departing employee.  However, these tactics come after the fact…when nothing can be done to salvage a high-value employee who has decided to leave.  High turnover can also suggest a disconnect between the management team, the company vision, and employee goals or quotas.  What’s the turnover rate at your company?
  4. Transparency.  It’s either there or it isn’t.  You know as an employee how your work impacts the top and bottom line…or you don’t.  Management communicates a clear vision that includes the company’s goals, the timeframe for achieving them, and regular updates on the health and progress of the business relative to these goals.  Creating a culture of transparency requires time, commitment and most importantly trust.  Management must trust the employees with information, and employees must trust their management to provide this information with accuracy and honesty and hold it in confidence.  A breakdown on either side of this relationship ultimately leads to the elimination of transparency further leading to many of the above symptoms taking hold:  poor morale, turnover, and lost productivity/creativity.  How much do you know about your company’s goals and objectives?

The Marketing Mix Has Changed

Marketing

For those of us that have studied Marketing on our own or in college, we learned of the 4 P’s, either in a book, or in our first marketing class.  The idea of the 4 P’s was founded in 1960 by E. Jerome McCarthy, a marketing professor at Michigan State University. Professor McCarthy created what became known as the “marketing mix” which contained four specific elements including: Product, Price, Place, Promotion.

Every business has to decide what Product it will sell.  Features, benefits, and functionality must be defined. Once complete, the business moves to the next P which is the Price of the product (or service). Most times, the price is dictated by how much the business owner wishes to make…profit.   After pricing is complete the owner decides where he/she will sell their product – the Place. Traditional approaches assume that the bigger the city the better the opportunity. And so businesses take their product, and their price and head toward the cities with the largest populations assuming success. Finally, the owner makes the decision on how to best Promote, advertise or communicate their product to the marketplace.

Many business schools and books still tout the 4P’s of the marketing mix with little change. Unfortunately Marketing students end up with a very elementary view of the subject, not fully comprehending the seismic shift in the role and importance of this crucial business function. So what’s changed?

Perhaps the biggest change in the marketing mix is the arrival of 2 new P’s;  Person and Proof.

For years products and services were developed based upon an inside-out view…what the business felt was needed in the market. Little concern was given to what the market was lacking, needing, desiring. Build it and they will come, was the general sentiment.  However, companies like Apple, Samsung, Wegmans, Southwest, and Google came along and turned this belief on it’s head by focusing heavily on the Person. They looked at the market to determine what was there and what was missing. They listened closely to consumers to understand what they wanted. Instead of slamming a square peg in a round hole they changed the shape of the hole and in many cases created a custom fit, which has lead to an era of innovation.

Complimenting the Person was the arrival of Proof…or data.  Marketing automation systems, metrics, and dashboards have all contributed to marketing’s evolution as a profit center versus a cost center.  Data drives proof or disproof of the effectiveness of actions or activities.  Blending these two new P’s with the traditional P’s in the marketing mix allows marketing practitioners to create strategies and tactics that yield predictable and consistent results.

Two resources that offer great insights into the importance of these new P’s include:  What The Customer Wants You To Know by Ram Charan and Hubspots 120 Awesome Marketing Stats, Charts and Graphs.