Archive for June, 2010

The crowd of thousands cheer as Dykes on Bikes leads the ... Lacy Atkins / The Chronicle

Above, no validation necessary of course.

Seth Godin is one of my favorite digital-culture pundits.  His thinking is clear, compelling, purposeful and always relevant.  Gotta take issue with him on this one, however, about the notion of validation.  Maybe it’s just semantics issue I have with him in the context of his post, but in my humble experience the first thing people want from you is validation.  It is, after all, “validating”.  Investors want to know if there’s a market, demand, and/or relevance.  Now more than any time I can recall.  Sure, if you want to write your book, paint your painting, publish your blog, etc., you don’t need an “OK” from your betters on Sand Hill Road, the membership committee, or the planning commission.  But if you’re soliciting an angel, better have some proof points at the ready.  Get your concept validated.

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When the going gets tough, the tough do a better job of qualifying leads.

Last year I weighed in on topic familiar to just about all of us: B2B cold calls epitomize the gap between sellers and buyers

CIO Magazine agreed with the premise and took it a step further with a survey of chief information information officers. The intent was to use what they learn from the survey to formulate guidelines for vendors on how to sell more effectively.  Good idea.  It tried to make life just a tad easier for beleaguered CIOs who are having to do a lot more today with fewer resources.  (Hey, a lot of us can relate to that.)  The thinking is that if suppliers were hearing it straight from the people they’re trying to supply, it might help them use everyone’s time more wisely.  No knock on a vendor trying to make a buck.  It’s that in today’s economy, “aggressive” doesn’t always equate to “productive”.  And aggression is the order of the day when it comes to trying to get the order, as in sales.   A little background on the survey explains this, too.  Studying the survey can help anyone trying to sell anything today.

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ROI:  the expressway to executive hearts.

We hear regularly from CIOs whose gripes about salespeople and marketers typically contain the the letters ROI, as in return on investment.  More specifically, they will tell us how R.O.I. is M.I.A. from too many sales pitches.   A value proposition that doesn’t address a return on the buyer’s investment is a rudderless, leaky boat.  It just drifts.  Then it sinks. Here are seven things to keep in mind:

1.  Find out how your prospect makes money.  If your offering contributes to this, explain why and how.

2.  Help your prospect build a business case for the purchase.  Example:  Reduce the cost of _____, while increasing ________.

3.  Make financial reasons for buying your stuff absolutely clear.  IT salespeople should know that technology metrics will never find the heart of a CFO, but a focus on financial metrics just might.

4.  Show the CIO (or anyone you’re selling to) how to calculate the ROI.   Calculate the cost of NOT purchasing and compare it to how the customer gains by buying.

5.  Talk economic benefits of ownership.  If you discuss features,  link them to specific financial outcomes.

6.  Help the CIO and CFO visualize changes in their company’s business model and how it gets improved with your solution.

7.  If you’re pitching the CEO, use a one-page exec summary.  If it’s the CFO, show the detailed ROI analysis. Share the application benefit(s) with the users.

Have we missed anything?

steve jobs

OK, CIOs would probably take a cold call from Steve but you’re not Steve.

Seth Godin, A.K.A. the world’s most wanted marketing dude, reminds us again that Starbuck’s became successful one cup at a time, one store at time.   It wasn’t suddenly discovered by Oprah or blessed by Warren Buffet.  Like achievers of all stripe, it took them years to become overnight successes.  He specifically cautions entrepreneurs, or anyone else with something to sell, to hope for that bolt of lightning that will change your destiny is a sucker bet.  You owe yourself much more:

“Here’s another way to think about it…amaze the customers you can already reach, dazzle (those) who already trust you enough to listen to you. Take the permission you have and work your way up. Leaps look good in the movies, but in fact, success is mostly about finding a path and walking it one step at a time.”

So, as a vendor, what’s your experience here?  Do you count on lucky breaks or do you focus on the little things? If you’re a buyer, what does it take to get an audience with you?

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The golden rule is “golden” for a reason.  It’s perpetually relevant.  Yes, even when it comes to unsolicited sales outreach like email marketing.  Thus, a tip for email marketers:  Be a giver of the kind of stuff (AKA “content”) that you like to receive.  News you can use.  Associate your “brand” with immediate and personal utility. Tips for making somebody’s business life simpler and more productive.  Meaty stuff on saving time, money, being better at what you do, solving problems, dealing with recalcitrant employees or managing overbearing superiors.  Managing mundane day-to-day crap and annoyance.  People will actually open it. Send unto others what you would have sent unto you.   You’ll be amazed how far it will take you.

Imagine your VM greeting to unsolicited sales calls sounding something like this:

“Thank you for calling!

“We appreciate your interest in our business and we’re interested in learning more about you.

“Because the volume of sales inquiries is much higher than our capacity to personally respond to each one as we receive them, we invite you to register now on a special Web page devoted exclusively to prospective suppliers.

“Please visit ciosupplier.com/-WXYZ

“And please be advised that we will consider those vendors and only those vendors who utilize the above page.

“Here you can tell us what we need to know about your products and services in the most effective, efficient way — both for you as a prospective supplier and for us as a possible client.

“You can be sure that your information will be carefully considered to determine the match between our current needs and your solutions.

“You may read more about our supplier page and how can put to work, at WXYZinc.com/supplier

“We welcome your free registration today.  Thank you!”

Supplier portal meets Facebook?  That’s one way to look at it.  But if you had online portal by which you could stay front-and-center with a prospect, how much would it be worth to you as a vendor?  Or as a buyer getting cold calls and email marketing today?

Someone's got to do it ...

Giving cold shoulders to cold callers may be self-defeating.

OK, you might not have to go as far as Zappos’ Tony Hsieh, but treating vendors as you want to be treated can pay off.  Yes, even unsolicited vendors.

IT executives should, for example, use permission-based spam filters, so that the
promising and respectful vendors’ messages do come through.

Routing e-mailers and callers to a supplier portal is useful, too. When they arrive there, vendors can articulate their value proposition and cite an example of a similar customer for whom they delivered
quantifiable and relevant value.

Finally, CIOs should be more willing to reward good vendors with detailed case studies that relate the value delivered by the supplier, and thus help their colleagues better screen solicitations and develop potentially valuable business relationships with vendors.

Yes, there are cold calls that offer valuable solutions.  And there is need for buyers to have
a way of hearing what those vendors have to say and filter out the rest. None of
these tactics are revolutionary. The best companies already implement them to their
business advantage.  With no coldness.