Archive for May, 2010

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Technology lets you hide as well as seek.

Interesting how your status as a vendor or as a prospective customer changes your attitude toward Web marketing. If you’re selling something, you want people to find you.  You want your marketing to be “in-bound”, in today’s parlance, as opposed to doing things the old “out-bound” way.  When we snap into customer mode, however, being found is what we do not want.  We want to covertly snoop around.  We want to sniff the offerings undetected by eager-beaver sales types.

In the B2B world, however, buyers must come up for air once in a while to see what’s out there.  We need to stay aware of who’s offering what, at what price, and on what terms.   When we make a determination as to which vendors we want to approach, we’ll do it our way.  Smart vendors are coping with this new reality.  Rather than hammering prospects with cold-calls and email, they are engaging with them in way more akin to the word-of-mouth processes that held sway generations ago.  Ironic how 21st century Web technology, a.k.a. social technology, has brought us full circle to a time when merchants relied on small groups of people to spread a good word socially.   Doesn’t mean cold calls and spam will suddenly disappear.  They’ll just become less prevalent as marketing and sales departments get smarter about using the Web and wise up to what’s working.  And what isn’t.

Be not deceived! According to recently declassified NSA r... Handout

Aren’t there better ways to show solicitors who’s boss?

Fact: As long as a small percentage of salespeople are successful with B2B cold calls and e-mail spam, neither will ever go away.  Companies on the receiving-end can continue to do what they are doing, or implement simple processes to control the situation.

1.  Use permission-based spam filters, so that the promising and respectful vendors’ messages do come through.

2.  Direct e-mailers and callers to a supplier portal that requires them to articulate their value proposition and cite an example of a similar customer for whom they delivered quantifiable and relevant value.

3. Be more willing to “reward” your best vendors with detailed case studies that relate the value you received from them and thus help your peers and colleagues elsewhere better screen solicitations and develop potentially valuable business relationships with vendors.

These, and other recommendations, are contained in a report of a months-long study of CIOs and the vendors who hound them.  Get it here, or call 650-823-7469.

A healthy Web site qualifies leads…and vendors.

Big companies like Bank of America, AT&T and Wal-Mart have what are called “supplier portals” on their Web sites.  These are special pages, run by the the vendor-management department or procurement managers (buyers).  They serve as way to avoid waste, fraud and abuse.  They also channel colossal volumes of unsolicited sales inquiries into one location.   The practical reality for most companies, however, is the lack of resources to maintain something something like this.

Most of us just don’t have what it takes to build this kind of portal, let alone manage it.  So we route cold-callers into voicemail and email into spam filters.  Problem is, if part of your job is staying up to speed with good deals on hot new technology, you have to wonder if any of those calls and emails might present an interesting value proposition.

What’s needed is a kind of “mini-portal”/ Facebook page.  Such a web page would be free to buyers and available via nominal subscription to vendors and would off-loads annoying cold calls and email (spam) to a location where the buyer could peruse and appraise all the inquiries at their convenience.  The buyer would be assured visibility of relevant offerings while the seller is ensured that their outreach isn’t vaporized in voicemail or spam-filtered into oblivion.  Vendors would be able to describe their product’s or service’s value proposition to their target buyer, establish dialogue and keep all information prominent and updated.

Full disclosure:  Our shop is beta-testing this concept right now at places like Pet Insurance (div. of Nationwide), The Fashion Insitute of Design and Merchandising and the City of Minneapolis, among others.  In each case, the CIOs and I.T. executives use it to evaluate offerings of technology vendors for relevant value.  For vendors, it represents a more productive method of establishing relationships with buying organizations without having to resort to cold-calls that don’t get answered and emails that rarely reponded to.  For buyers, no intrusive solicitors and assurance that all potentially useful value propositions are appraised.   Stay tuned.  For more info, go here.

Yes, prospective customers really do hate it when you chase them.

Off All Fours - 3:30 p.m. - Baker Beach, San Francisco. I... Lacy Atkins / The Chronicle

Tips for PR people who pitch stories to the media are equally useful for selling and marketing just about anything.  Especially when it comes to selling things B2B to stretched-thin, short-attention span executives and managers.  Here’s a check-list borrowed from another source and modified for marketers and sales reps:

1. Create relationships with your targets BEFORE you make a sales pitch.  Meeting in person is optimal, of course. But social platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn  give you the ability to get to know your prospect in a different context.

2. Know the company you’re targeting. What is it about what you’re selling that makes it a compelling value proposition? Hint: do not rely on your marketing material to tell you.  Do your own homework on the company you’re interested in.  What value would they see in your offering?

3. Know how you fit into their picture. Do they even have the problem that your product purports to solve?  What is it about your solution, or what you can persuade them about it, that makes it as close as possible to a gotta-have and not just another nice-to-have?

4.  Make sure there’s hook inside the bait you’re dangling.  A value proposition isn’t anything qualitative.  It’s a specific quantity that is measurable.  Customers calculate value as the dollar amount they assign to a specific benefit minus the adoption cost plus the actual price.  You have a compelling value proposition to the extent that the sum of the last two is less than the value of the benefit.  In other words, if the value your customer puts on the benefit your product delivers is greater than the adoption cost plus the price, you’ve got something they’ll be interested in.

5. Make the pitch about your target, not your product.  You’ll succeed here to the extent that you’ve done your homework.

Window in the Art World - 8:33 p.m. - The DeYoung, San Fr... Mike Kepka / The Chronicle

Isolation is never good thing.

Wary industrial buyers today face the dilemma of having to make purchases from suppliers who, those buyers complain, are woefully uninformed about their product needs.  How ironic that much of the information they say the vendors should have  is exactly what those buyers won’t make the effort to share.  As vendors grow more aggressive in selling and outreach efforts, their targets retreat deeper into the bunker.

Isolation in the digital culture has become a cliche.  To paraphrase the line in Funny People: The more friends you have online the fewer you have in real life.  Our own findings in a survey of I.T. buyers, CIOs and CSOs revealed evidence that many otherwise “plugged-in” leaders can become remote from vendors.  This is self-defeating, of course, but we can hardly blame them, cold calls being what they are.  Technology can indeed make leaders more current and knowledgeable, but James Champy writes that he sees the potential for plugged-in leaders to become more distracted and remote. A sense of connection can be deceiving, he warns: “Technology, in the hands of unskilled leaders, can create distance, and even a false sense of security”.   CIOs, of all people, should be the best practitioners of technology application.  In sales, you have to make the calls.  In applying technology, you have to know what’s out there and how to make the most of it.  In other words,  there are times when you have to take those calls.  Full disclosure: Turner DeVaughn Network makes dealing with unsolicited sales inquiries — cold calls and email —  virtually painless and far more productive but it still requires some engagement.  Isolation is never a productive condition.