If you believe that most of your potential customers are putting in a lot of time online trying to do research on your products before they want to talk to salespeople, then it makes sense that you’d want them to find your stuff online before that of your competition. It also makes sense that you’d want to put your best foot forward and create the gosh-darndest best stuff online there’s ever been, so they’ll be call you instead of your competition.
The reality may not be that simple, however. Although there’s no denying that better lead generation material and processes is a net benefit, it doesn’t come without costs. The argument for better leadgen systems and leadgen collateral and landing pages, salesforce integration, continually updated content, parallel marketing programs, etc – all come at a significant cost. Many sales and marketing leaders are finding that these costs are not in addition to their sales forces, but in some cases may exist instead of some of their sales force.
Can social media marketing programs be counted on to successfully replace salespeople for revenue generation? Probably in some cases, but probably not as much as most operational folks would like, and not to the extent that social media evangelists and web developers would have us believe.
Social media is undoubtedly a significant leap forward towards more effective lead generation. But is lead generation really the biggest impediment to achieving revenue? Not at any of the companies I know of. They’re struggling more with things like effectively selling into a client’s budget cycle or helping a key champion earn consensus – the same challenges that have always extended enterprise sales cycles.
The danger of allocating budget for social media campaigns in your lead generation program isn’t that they won’t work. They might work like gangbusters. The danger is that if your budgeting allocation is a zero sum game, you could be spending money on a killer solution to the wrong problem. By the way, please consider support our partners at www.SocialKingMaker.com if you need social media marketing services.
How much business will you close next month? What about next quarter? What about next year? How valuable are you to your company?
Those questions are at the center of the definition of the value of a salesperson. Yet the means to get those answers are so varied that you’d think they were brand new and possibly a little unreasonable. But they’re not. The answers to these questions exist, and they’re actually fairly predictable. Yet so often, we fail completely to answer them with any accuracy.
More often that not, we derive answers to forecasting questions from the following equation:
Number of companies I’ve taken to the last step in my sales cycle –
Number of those companies where there are significant enough objections that despite their place in the sales cycle, doesn’t look good to close
But there’s a new school of forecasting and modeling that looks a lot more like the models used to predict the productivity of baseball and basketball players than what’s commonly used in business. In basketball, it used to be that knowing how much a player scored was all you needed to know. Then about 30 years ago people started tracking “assists” and “rebounds” that seemed to be tangential, but also important. Today, there are no less than 12 different statistics kept in most modeling engines with a number of others that are combinations or derivatives of combinations. These measure “activity” in a number of different ways to predict, with far more accuracy, whether the net outcome of the player’s activities will contribute positively towards a win.
Would something like that work in sales? Yes, but it will take more work than we’re doing right now to gather that data and build those models. Before we do that, it’s important to understand why there was a movement in basketball to get beyond “points scored” as the sole measuring stick. To do that, we have only to look at Monta Ellis of the Golden State Warriors. Monta was one of the best point scorers in the game last season but not only did he not make the all star team, statisticians report that he actually had a negative impact on the only real stat that matters: activity that contributed towards wins. Put plainly, statisticians determined through different yet complementary models that the net sum of Monta’s on court activities actually lost more games than he won, despite being the highest scorer on his team. How is that possible? Well, two main things: he took so many shots that he took good shots from other players. If an NBA game has only so many possessions or opportunities to score, a player needs to be effective at scoring and efficient, so as not to reduce the opportunity to score for the players around him. Second, he played horrible defense, allowing opposing players to score more points against his team when he was on the floor than he was able to score in the same time period. Again, a net loss.
Would it be possible for salespeople to be meeting their sales targets but still not be doing well? Definitely. Just like Monta Ellis, its entirely possible that a rep could meet his goals and still be underperforming and perhaps hurting the team. If a particular rep had a surplus of leads or a spike in territory activity he could slack off and still coast to his quota. A quarter that should have finished at 125% of quota is underperforming significantly if it finishes at only 105%. Quotas, and our expectations around sales success, need to be variable based on our best available intelligence about the difficulty of cultivating and closing qualified opportunities. With proper modeling, quotas should change quarterly depending on activity and triggers that are environmental and have nothing to do with the rep.
For example, if you’re a real estate agent and twice as many houses go on sale this quarter versus last quarter, shouldn’t you be doing twice as much business? Of course. There are territory indicators like that in every business, but I’ve found that most companies don’t use them to determine performance expectations. This is bad for reps. For every rep that’s coasting to his quota because he has a stacked territory, there are three reps who will have a much harder time hitting their number due to conditions they don’t have control over.
When I think of scaling out a go to market plan, my inclination is to think of all the elegant efficiency I’ll get from soulless yet exacting execution of proven tactics over and over and over again. Building a great letter and then sending it a bajillion people. Writing a great blog post and then doing x, y, and z to promote it. Coming up with a great call script and having a thousand phone reps make a hundred calls each to reach 10,000 customers per day.
But that’s not the way it really happens. It’s not the call script, it’s the caller. It’s not the site design, it’s the extra time spent on making the buttons just the right color. It’s not the great strategy that wins it, it’s the off the wall idea someone came up with and fought for after the budget was all allocated and projects assigned.
Really good work is messy and creative and accidental. It comes from things like persistence and awkwardness and risk.
Imagine you have more money than you could ever spend. You have a passion for basketball so you buy a team, but not just any team. You buy one of the most famous and historic franchises in the world, the NY Knicks. But, your team is horrible and for all your money you just can’t figure out how to make it better.
Enter LeBron James, statistically the best basketball player in the world and at only 25, a relative bargain even at the maximim contract he can earn under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement. He’s so good that his team won more regular season games over the last two years than any other team, even though the rest of his team was made up of scrubs. There will never be a better opportunity for you to resurrect your franchise than to recruit this one player to your team.
Cluetrain Manifesto posited that there was a unique sound to authenticity. That the human ear in the marketplace had become attuned to, and somewhat immune from, marketing speak. To their credit, this has proven itself through both the steep decline of advertising and traditional PR and the incredible growth of social media marketing and event-driven viral marketing campaigns.
But we’re at another crossroads now: where authenticity is no longer enough. If it ever really was. The great thing about authenticity is that it tells the market who you really are, and gives them clues as to what you really know. Well, that’s great for people and companies that have interesting things to say. All of those other companies which used to buy their way into conversations through advertising and traditional PR, are finding it much less appealing.
One of the odd things about selling to businesses is the overwhelming feeling that businesses are organisms and have human characteristics. This is, of course, silly. But I find myself describing companies I work with in human terms constantly and rationalizing things that happen in those terms.
Technically, this doesn’t make any sense. Companies are made up of thousands of people, each acting as an individual cog in a great big machine. The idea that they all share some commonality that would be present in how they interact with others sounds a little far-fetched. Not to mention that there exists a rate of churn.
On the other hand, it would make sense that if there is such thing as a culture in the enterprise, it would naturally attract or repel certain people based on certain values.
The thing I thought I hated most about telemarketers is that they somehow know to call at the worst time. Every time they call I’ve either just put a baby to sleep or just sat down to dinner or just gotten knee deep in a hairy problem at work (or in Facebook Scrabble).
It’s worth mentioning that every call I get on the phone is an interruption. The difference between a call from say, Publishers Clearinghouse telling me I just won $10m, and the kid from the local newspaper trying to sell me a subscription to an ad-filled inky mess filled with information I read online the night before is that after my initial shock/annoyance/resignation, the news from Publishers Clearinghouse is a lot better than the awkward rejection I have to give the telemarketer. And therein lies the rub for interruption marketers.
It’s not uncommon for people to ask prospective salespeople to give a “mock” presentation in an interview. Sometimes this is done as a surprise; right on the spot, sometimes the rep is given materials and given time to prepare. Either way, I’ve found that this tactic still endures despite, by my estimation; presenting prepared material in oratory form is no longer the most significant skill in a salesperson, and probably isn’t even in the top five. In fact, I’d argue that it’s probably the easiest and most predictable part of selling today.
Here are some things I’d like to see from a rep more than a bad imitation of a good presentation:
Marketing Plan. Here’s the thing, my marketing department is running macro campaigns. When they’re not doing that they’re all angling to become the next social media guru. That means whatever field marketing resources you had, you just lost. I need to see a plan for how you’re going to identify all the prospects in your territory, reach them, and start working them through your funnel.
A couple days ago we noted ABC’s story about BP using SEO and a $50m ad campaign to try and salvage their image a bit. Just days later, we can’t really say whether it’s been working or not, but we can say that its gotten BP a lot more attention for both the campaign itself and its level of dedication to making good on the spill versus improving its image (an issue I pointed out in Tuesday’s post).
Marketing is a bizarre profession. Sometimes, like when we’re tasked with promoting a solution, technological or otherwise, that we believe will improve our customer’s business interests and allow them to be more competitive, it can be very fulfilling. Other times, like when we’re asked to spin a negative story for damage control, it can be less fulfilling. It can even be a little creepy.
Creepy is definitely how I would describe British Petroleum purchasing all available keywords connected with the oil spill. ABC News is noting this as possibly the first time a company implemented an SEO strategy as part of damage control. That may be true technically, but not really. Since the first political pranksters tied former President Bush’ picture to the searched term “miserable failure” in 2003, Google Bombing has been a key part of marketing strategy. BP is just employing the same strategy, but in reverse: buying up placement to all the terms a person might search for to get news about the oil spill.