I always hate having to start a post with an apology. I’ve many friends and clients that run outstanding agencies. Unfortunately, like so many professions, there are too many bad practitioners. The adversely impact your reputations and those of their clients. My apologies to those friends and clients, I really respect your work.
Somehow, I’ve found my self on the “list” of dozens to hundreds of PR and other Marketing agencies. I get at least a dozen requests each week. People sending me press releases about the latest greatest wonderful product their client has launched, a partnership their client has entered into, or the opportunity to interview the CEO or some other top exec.
The dozen that get through are the “new” requests. I relegate each one to my Spam folder, so I don’t get the endless follow ups, “Did you receive my original email.”
There’s an interesting irony in these emails. These agencies tend to position themselves as experts in messaging and connecting effectively with audiences. In addition to traditional “PR,” many of these agencies also do demand gen—presumably applying the same brilliance in thinking to targeting and communicating with prospects.
But each of these emails always follows the same pattern: 1. Let me tell you about my wonderful client. 2. Let me tell you about their great stuff. 3. You need to take your precious and valuable time to talk to us about the great things we want to tell you.
Many of these things are interesting and noteworthy, but I simply don’t care.
There’s never anything about me, why I should be interested, or why my audience would be interested in my take on these issues.
If they wrote, “Dave, I’ve noticed you writing about these issues in the past month or so. My client has a point of view that you will find intriguing. She believes……..”
That might stimulate some interest on my part, but of course I never get a note like that because these people have never read my blog. They have no idea what I write about, what might be interesting to me and my audience. My name was just on their list, so I get the same mind numbing emails as hundreds of others.
In fact, if they really read my blog, they know I never write about company’s new products, what the CEO of some company thinks about their product and market strategies. So, as interesting as the CEO might be, however, enjoyable our conversation might be, I’ll probably not write a thing or promote the company.
Some months ago, someone at an agency somehow persisted long enough to get my attention. Out of frustration, I sent a response, “I don’t write about the stuff you and your client want me to write about. While I’m sure the CEO is interesting, and we would have a very enjoyable conversation. But it is unlikely I’ll write anything, so any conversation would be a waste his time and my time.”
She persisted, “He would love to speak to you (I’m sure she didn’t check with him). Can you please, please, please take some time.”
Finally, I responded, “OK, you’ve worn me down. I’d love to talk to him, but this is what I want to talk about, the surf has been really good at Dana Point this year, what is his company doing to help maintain the good surf? If he is willing to spend time with me on this topic, I’m glad to invest my time (would love to continue to see great waves.)”
Odd thing, it seemed a compelling topic, certainly one I was very interested in. Never heard from her or the CEO.
CEO’s and CMO’s need to be worried about this horrible prospecting by the agencies representing your companies. I try to separate issues, thinking, it’s just an agency hack, someone milking clients of their valuable marketing dollars. But these efforts adversely impact your brand. Many of us view your agency as indistinguishable from your company.
You certainly wouldn’t tolerate this kind of inappropriate prospecting with your sales teams. You shouldn’t tolerate it from your agency.
The agency is using your precious marketing funding to produce not just bad results, but they are getting people to think poorly about your company and brand. Yes, they are probably coming to you saying, “We’ve gotten the word out! We’ve contacted a quajillion influencers. They will be writing dozens of articles promoting your stuff!” (For those of you who don’t know, a quajillion is a large number.)
But most of us aren’t. In fact we’re getting quite annoyed, everything gets spammed.
Even worse, your agencies are doing this in the “influencer community.” The impact of a pissed off “influencer” can be very painful. You try hard enough to build your brand, don’t let your agency destroy it.
Your agencies owe you high quality work that produces results and builds the strength of your brand! Your agency is supposed to be the pro’s at communicating, reaching your intended audience, maximizing the impact of what, who, and how you communicate. Make sure they are doing their job.
If you need some agencies that take the time, do their homework, and have a great impact, I’m glad to share them with you. But if your current agency is “prospecting” in the influence community this way, then stop them!
I’m reading a post that provides “7 Phrases That Make You Sound Like An [Sales] Authority Figure.” My first quibble with the article is that I’d actually like to be an authority figure or, in the least, a credible sales person, not just sound like one.
One of the things the author suggests is posing the question, “What type of ROI are you looking for?” The reasoning is: “With this question, you’re tossing the ball to your prospect and giving them an opportunity to show off what they know. It’s also an easy way to ingratiate yourself with results-minded individuals. Instead of asking a vague question about goals, find out exactly what they expect to get back from the money they’d put toward buying your product.”
I get it–kind of–but it’s really a terrible question, particularly early on in the discussion.
We absolutely have to understand how the customer will justify the investments they make in a solution and their expectations of return, but we don’t get this by asking for the expected ROI. ROI may be an element of the justification, but it’s never the only element.
And a great ROI or an ROI that exceeds the customer hurdle rate doesn’t necessarily cause you to win. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen solutions with lower ROI’s selected.
In evaluating change initiatives and the investment required, it is never reduced to s single number. There are differences in risk, time to results, other hard/soft benefits, strategic fit with the organization’s priorities, and any number of other things. I’ve been involved in a number of deals in which the ROI was not great. But if the customer didn’t do the project, the viability of their business was seriously at risk.
Our customers are always evaluating how to best invest their money and resources. There are always more requests to use funds than there are funds available. How do they choose? If it was ROI only, they might choose a new employee cafeteria and parking lot over that great enterprise software system you are selling. Even if your solution were “mission critical.”
Asking the ROI question without understanding all these other issues doesn’t build credibility, but limits the discussion to a small part of the financial decision, and a smaller part of the overall decision.
If a sales person was crazy enough to pose this question, in isolation, then there are a whole number of rat holes the customer can take the sales person down.
Is it the ROI of the vendor solution, is it the ROI of the total project? The vendor portion may have a great ROI, but if the overall project ROI is insufficient, guess what—no decision made.
Then there is the whole way in which the ROI is calculated, what do they include, what do they exclude, and on and on.
If the sales person asks the ROI question, they have to be prepared to drill down and understand all the details of the ROI discussion.
I suspect, most customers, when asked that question, would either shrug their shoulders and reply, “A good one,” or “I have no clue.” They really don’t know the answer because the business decision is never just a case of the best ROI.
If we ask the ROI question without understanding how business decisions are evaluated and made, we are displaying our ignorance, not building our credibility.
Our job is not to sound credible or authoritative. We have to be credible and authoritative. We have to understand our customers’ businesses and how they make business decisions. We have to understand business and financial cases, we have to have the knowledge and confidence to challenge the customer on their business evaluations/assessments. We have to have the ability to lead them in developing strong business justified proposals, understanding the investments, risks, tradeoffs, alternatives.
If you aren’t prepared to have business discussions at these levels you will be disadvantaged both in the value you can create with your customers and in your ability to win business.
I had a fascinating conversation with my friend Tory Hornsby. We got to talking about the performance of his sales team–they’ve produced great results over the past couple of years. I asked him what his secrets were—we’ll be discussing those in an upcoming podcast, but one struck me as remarkable–and completely counter to what most executives would do.
Tory said, “Every day, we devote the first 45 minutes a day to sales training.”
I had to stop him there, “Did you say every day? Did you say 45 minutes a day?”
In my head, I was doing the math—assume a 9 hour day, assume 90 minutes lost in lunch, breaks and so forth. That leaves 7.5 “productive hours” in the day (we know those aren’t all productive), or 450 minutes–so he is investing 10% of everyone’s time in sales training—every day!
Tory knew what I was thinking, he said, “Yes, it’s a huge impact on time—but it’s the biggest multiplier in sales effectiveness that I’ve found. I literally could not afford to stop doing this. The adverse impact in sales would be unacceptable!”
He had the data to support this, in the past year, his team has grown sales 138% over the prior year. While there are a lot more things Tory has done to drive sales performance, according to him, this is the single biggest impact. Constant training, constant reinforcement, constant learning enable his team to continue to grow and improve their performance.
They have a regular cadence of how they conduct each meeting. Each day is the same, but different.
They’d spent some time figuring out the optimum amount of time. They started with 60 minutes a day, reduced it to 30, finally have settled in on 45 minutes—every day. For everyone, all the sales people, sales managers, and even others participate (though not every day).
The meeting starts with the team celebrating their accomplishments of the previous day–maybe landing some big orders, though those don’t happen every day. They are things like great sales calls/meetings, reaching their goals for the day, something they have learned. It’s followed in scrum-like fashion by each sales person taking about one minute outlining their goals for the day. The sales people set these goals for themselves and measure their attainment of the goals. This takes the first 10-15 minutes.
The remaining 30 minutes is spent training. They rotate the responsibility, Tory may lead the training, one of the sales managers, or any of the sales people. Tory described one of the sales people using the game “Jeopardy,” as a way of training the team on a new product they were launching. Every day, they attack something different. It may be a new sales or marketing program, learning about a new product, building sales skills—yes they do lots of role plays.
An important part of the training is constant reinforcement. Tory says, “We have to reinforce every new thing for 4 weeks until people have internalized what we are trying to get them to learn.” The way it works is they may introduce something new on Monday, on Tuesday, they spend a little more time talking about it. Later in the week, they may spend a few more minutes. The following week they cover it several more times—each time they change things up a little, it may be a presentation, a discussion, role plays. They continue this for 4 weeks. By this time the new skills and capabilities are ingrained in each of the sales people.
They also provide tools to support the sales people. I laughed as Tory described his sales enablement platform–each person has a three ring binder. They keep the latest sales programs, some “cheat sheets,” and notes they take from the daily meetings. They use those constantly through the day.
For training to work, it can’t be just one class or workshop. It has to be constantly reinforced, exercised, developed, and coached until people have internalized whatever it is you are training them on.
I was still astounded by the commitment Tory and his team make to daily training. Tory had all the math done and all the data. He knew how many person hours it took–both in the daily training meetings and in the time people spent preparing. He knew that at a minimum the daily 45 minute meetings “robbed” them of at least 10% of their selling time. As he reviewed the data about time, investment—then results, he concluded, “I can’t afford not to do this! The adverse impact on sales productivity and sales results would be huge!”
Can you afford not to invest in training, reinforcing, and developing the capabilities of your people?
As sales people, we know we have to engage our customers in disruptive thinking. We need to them to think about their businesses or functions differently, we need them to see new opportunities, we need them to recognize changes going on all around them.
As we look at our customers from the outside, what we see is a corporate level view. We see the positioning of the company, we see the priorities of top management. We understand their strategies for growth, for competing. It’s these that drive or should be driving the actions, behaviors of everyone in the organization.
Yet the people we deal with, unless we deal exclusively at the C and BOD levels, have their jobs. They have the things that consume their time every day. Meetings, projects, designing and manufacturing all sorts of widgets, marketing, selling, supporting, and getting paid for them. Too often, “our customers” the people we deal with every day are “distant” from understanding the corporate priorities and strategies.
The CEO is someone they may see on video or in “all hands meetings.” But the challenges the corporation faces, their strategies to win, grow, compete are very distant from what our customers do every day. As a result, they often have difficulty connecting the dots between what they do every day and their contribution to those things the BOD, CEO, and top executives care about.
You may be asking, “So what, why do they need to know how what they do has an impact? Why should I care? I just want to sell them something!”
The critical issue is: If our customers can’t demonstrate how what they are doing or what they want to do impacts the ability of the corporation to execute their strategy, then it simply won’t be approved!
A corollary is: If they can’t see how the change that we are trying to sell them, contributes to the ability of the company to achieve it’s goals, they won’t take the risk of presenting that change and asking for funding to top management!
The problem is, too many times our customers may not recognize these issues. They, like everyone, tend to think just of their jobs, their roles, what they have to get done. They may engage in a buying activity as part of getting their work done. They may want to spend money on new tools, services, or other things–because it helps them do their jobs more effectively. But if those things don’t contribute, in some way to the things top management thinks is important, it won’t be approved.
As a result, both they and we can invest a lot of time and effort, only to be disappointed in the end with a “No Decision Made.”
To make sure our customers get what they want to do their jobs, we have to make sure they have connected the dots to the top priorities of the organization. They have to present and justify what they want to do in the context of how it impacts key corporate strategies and initiatives. It doesn’t have to have a huge impact–if they are buried very low in a large organization, it’s unlikely to move the needle, but it has to make a contribution.
We create greater value by helping our customers understand this, helping them build their business case, and helping them sell their change initiatives to their management.
Do you know how to connect the dots of what they are doing to the top goals of the organization?
Are you helping your customers do the same?