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And Sales Means What? Today

I never fail to be astonished by some of the hires that start-ups and entrepreneurial firms make and am shocked that they actually succeed. More and more, in examining and researching companies, I see a lot of people with the title VP of Business Development or Sales who are nothing of the sort. Loads of "content pushers" out there, highly educated and/or experienced people with not a prospecting stint to their name, and "sales" people who have no real sales experience.

I can somewhat understand experienced or highly educated people selling certain solutions, particularly if it IS a more consultative sale. But I wonder really how someone without inherent sales ability can actually be successful selling? And, what I refer to is more the extreme.

Traditional methods of sales and marketing even are definitely going by the wayside or - evolving. Prospecting and cold calls in terms of pure telemarketing don't work, but making phone calls using a higher level intelligence and solution type positioning DOES work. Press releases and other PR tactice don't work, but "managed content" through social media and other channels DOES. And so on.

Regardless, I still think sales and marketing - as a discipline - is still a discipline and is NOT something that just ANYONE can do - or do well for that matter. And multiple channels, new and old school, are still viable for developing business and growing markets.

Unfortunately also, everyone seems to be of the mindset of "NOW" - using the fastest means for achieving revenue (i.e. partner, channels, etc) without spending time really getting to KNOW the customer, market, and finding what really works for scaleable traction. Get rich quick, sell out fast, pad the pockets - but not sell, market, build, and sustain a solution.

Permalink 01/04/14 -- 04:57:01 pm, Categories: Announcements [A]

The World's Worst "Entrepreneur": A Cautionary Tale

Once upon a time, there was a technical expert who was very proficient at developing applications and executing projects. He worked for many years for a world class Fortune 500 company where just the mention of the name would open a door.

One day, he happened upon a "very" successful company that developed applications and became obsessively fixated on this company. Determined that he could do a better job he decided to replicate the essential solution - he even named the solution pretty closely to that of the target of his affection and envy. He also banded together with a partner, a schoolmate, who called himself VP of Business Development. Both achieved MBA's at a fairly good school, both has limited to no sales experience. They were positive that due to the nature of the market, they would achieve a million dollar plus pipeline in six months.

Three months after initially starting out, the company had version 1 of two products and invested heavily in another "hardware" oriented solution. They also spent a load of money on a tradeshow, hired a full time sales rep, and hired a telemarketer to get meetings. At this time, they had no pipeline and secured only one very small pilot customer. The co-founders were also banging on every door trying to get investment to continue development - a very large investment. The VC's basically kicked them out saying come back when you have a single solution that actually has some revenue behind it.

Six months into the effort, the company ran completely out of money. Despite everyone telling the owners repeatedly that: 1) it was premature to ask for so much funding when there was no pipeline, 2) they needed larger scale sales and better marketing support, 3) they had no history whatsoever in the industry they were developing an selling to and they needed to learn more and "slow their roll", and 4) it would take at least a year to get any real traction. The salesguy and telemarketer are on the market looking for work.

Lessons Again:
1. Set and understand realistic expectations for achieving technical, financial, and growth goals.
2. NEVER "word for word" copy a competitor and do the "me too" thing unless you have some type of competitive advantage.
3. LEARN the market and industry. The company that these BOZOS were targeting had a management team with over 15 years ground floor experience in the industry.
4. Technology alone will not and will NEVER get you very far.
5. VC's and investors DO NOT care about you unless you have PROVEN traction and pipeline.
6. Getting the traction via market sustainable development activity needs to happen even before throwing experienced SALES at the situation. Unless you have messaging, targets, process, leads for guys to follow up on - you just pump money into NOTHING.
7. Follow on to that: Throwing money on brochures, slick websites, and attending a tradeshow is meaningless without the positioning and market comprehension.
8. If you can have a million dollar business in six months - then you don't need sales or marketing, the product will sell itself.
9. Spending on development for multiple products at one time without strategically assessing growth and upsell or any research is nothing short of foolish and stupid.

The sad thing in this case is that the company WAS starting to get traction and in a year probably would have established a decent toehold in the market. Another lesson which also demonstrates the incompetence of these people is: listen to everyone involved and heed advice or else end up with nothing left in your 401K and hardware parts scattered around your garage.

Permalink 01/04/14 -- 04:43:35 pm, Categories: Announcements [A]

Another story from Obamacare. Or lets really kill small business.

So here is my story. As one knows I work at Kohls, a fun place and nice place to work - with the exception of some pain in the ass customers and such. Well Kohl's gives nice benefits which include medical, vision, dental, and retirement among other cool perks. It is because of those benefits I was able to be self employed and have affordable coverage. Plus the money to pay came out of my kohl's paycheck and was covered every week without fail.

Well like the millions of Americans who received the dreaded letter - I did. The healthcare provider did not fulfilled the mandated bullshit basics and like everyone my coverage ends in December. Merry Christmas.

In order to get coverage from the exchange the best plan is 2.5 x more. I don't need maternity or other stuff, the plan I had at kohl's gave me the right coverage for the right price.

The effects to others I work with are equally as Bad, families who saved tons of money and received affordable care...really affordable good care from kohl's are going to see big increases again. Also, so.much for taking the money and buying a car, contributing to my newborn nieces education, or investing in anything else. Thanks again Mr. President.

Not to mention.....

By raising my rate I risk losing the type of clients I want to work with, I become could become non competitive and lose business, plus I have a bigger expense to worry about which has to come out of my main pay.

Permalink 11/09/13 -- 08:35:20 pm, Categories: Announcements [A]

More Tales from the Rude Rude World

While working at KOhls has dulled my sense of hope in humanity, even prospecting can amaze me as to how far people have fallen from any kind of civility. Here are some tales of the rude. DOnt forget your mouth may hang open.

1. Called a public company Controller and he answered the phone. When I told him who I was and from the company I was calling from, he muttered something and I heard a click. The guy hung up on me. I own stock in the company, don't think executives really should treat people like that.

2. Called cosmetic firm. They have a beautiful, classy website and position as high end. I had spoken with their production manager a couple of times who told me to call and keep her updated and in touch. They had an old technology. Recently I called the company to update her as directed, there was a lot to update. This unidentified woman answers the phone and tells me pleasantly that the production manager went home for the day and she offered to take a message. I told her who I was and where from. She asked me what I was calling about and I told her.

Then she completely went mental. Like off the rails crazy person nutty. Sounding like a crazy banshee, the unidentified woman literally started screaming about how they don't need anything like that. I told her that they had legacy technology. She screamed that they don't have any technology called legacy. Given that the numskull didn't know what legacy technology was, it is pretty clear she knew nothing about what technology was in her company. After a little more screaming, I sternly stated that I had the production managers email and would send her the update and proceeded to hang up.

If this person is the receptionist, then she needs to fired. If she is the business owner then she needs to learn to control herself and project a calm professional manner.

3. Along this lines, another firm I called had a similar but less psychotic interaction. I had sent the owner an email and was following up. The girl who answered stated he wasn't in. I asked when he would return. She offered a message. I asked if he had voicemail. She said and I quotes: you want to a leave a message or what. It was the "or what" part that ticked me off. Itold her how rude she was and said goodbye. What she should have said is the only way to reach him is by leaving a message with me, if he is interested he will call you. Just as blow off, but much more professional. I ended up contacting the owners brother who is a salesguy who at least gave me an ear and review.

As I always say image does count and the level of unprofessionalism at these companies reflects the real culture and true engagement attitude with constituent. A poor and stupid reflection indeed.

Permalink 11/09/13 -- 07:36:49 pm, Categories: Announcements [A]

When Your Mission is in Question

After 7 years of working with clients, I look back and see nothing but a litter trail of failed companies. I do not think there is one organization that I worked with that is either a going concern or is still in the same shape that it was when I was with it. I don't count an existing company where the founder is working a full time job - a success either. That, if anything, is probably the biggest failure of all.

The same holds true for my former employers, with the exception of course, of Hexaware Technologies which has continued to evolve and grow. The rest don't exist or semi exist in a different form - battered by incompetency and economic forces.

Have I helped anyone? Achieved anything real? Do I have the ability to look back at a company and say, "I was a part of that success?". No. More often, I see clients with big dreams and big ideas running for the safety net of that "day job" or defaulting to a full-time salesguy who will do nothing more than pound the phone on a meaningless wisp of traction.

The biggest, most frustrating part of working with past and, even, present clients is the lack of doing things. Sometimes commonsense things:

1. You get a ton of demos/meetings, but don't close any except "softballs". Logically - hire a strong, aggressive salesperson. Too easy right?
2. Your day job feeds the business and your family, but you want to leave the job eventually and have your own destiny under control - sell the company and make some real money. Logically - sacrifice time, stop partying and balance effort for your day job. Too easy right?
3. You aren't getting a ton of demos/meetings - traction is lacking. This is evident in the fact, I call the right people but NO ONE IS INTERESTED. Do you hire a full time sales person or figure out what needs to be done to get people interested. Hire a full time sales person, of course - so he and you can lose your job in six months.

Those are just some examples. I think there are a lot of pseudo-entrepreneurs, people with good ideas, even good products, who lack the commitment and general competency to drive their organizations to success. There are no courses on how to be the next Google, but there are ways to enhance commitment and determination and make things happen. It is too easy, as I said before, to blame the girl making cold calls - that is only a fraction of what is involved - and a cop out that exploits the lack of accountability present.

Permalink 09/02/13 -- 04:20:46 pm, Categories: Information

Let's Talk Lead-Gen: Qualifed Vs. Not

As I state in my marcom materials and in proposals, if you engage me - you will get LESS meetings/opportunities, but when you get them - they will be qualified. And I mean, QUALIFIED - what that means is that the prospect really wants to do business - they understand the product or service, it fits their needs, and, they have money - now or in the future. If they don't have the money now or the timeframe or need is out a bit, or they are just doing a "looky -loo", I know that and will convey accordingly.

To some people, less means less - while as I have written before less can be more - particularly when the meeting/demo is worth $25, $50, or $100K - named account or not. Even I would rather have another SMARTFormulator, Clear-Demand, or SkyStem then some dumbass who goes to market unprepared and does a 3 month trial thinking they have the "IT" product. I want quality, my clients want quality, the client's prospects - want quality.

I had a conversation with a prospect for myself, he was "concerned" about the time and the fact that he may only get one demo/meeting a month. He wanted TWO and the cost per lead was high to him. I tried to explain, that what I deliver - that one meeting a month is generally "sales ready" - it is beyond a lead. His response, "yeah, yeah, I know the difference between a lead and sales ready lead", but it was clear he really did not - because he was using cost per lead for a lead that had a very high likelihood of closing. What is cost per lead? I spend $200 to generate an appointment to introduce the product/service or I spend $200 to generate an appointment where the person is fairly informed about the product/service and understands key differentiators and is 80% sold already? How do you calculate cost per lead? $200 for entry into a months long sales cycle with yet a lot of work - that is expensive for sure, $200 for a meeting where there is another meeting and decision to buy - within a short timeframe - well that isn't expensive at all!

It is like someone stated somewhere on the internet, some sales "guru" - cost per lead in complex b2b sales is an archaic measure. I use ROI - how much the client invests in me per year and how much sales they close to earn that investment back and then some. If the client pays me off - which most do - then I did good.

One time a client worked with a well known pay for performance firm, you pay for a meeting regardless of outcome. Twice the company set up meetings that I, in a matter of minutes, disqualified - a little research and I knew a competitor contract was signed, in the other instance the COO had someone call me to inform me that a competitive product was rolled out. You pay for a meeting, but not for a sales-ready or qualified lead. I was told actually that that is another service level and costs more. It costs more to do something which naturally should be part of the process.

If a client spends $15K and gets $300K back in closed sales or gets $24K+ in repeat year-over-year business, isn't that a better condition to consider? What is the cost of everytime I leave a voicemail, email, or talk to someone where they learn the name of the company and solution? What is the cost of when someone you talk to calls back 2 years later and hands you a $50K opportunity?

We are so short-term in our thinking and ways, that we lose sight of what really matters. Quality leads that mean real opportunity, real business - not necessarily today - but tomorrow. What the real definition of ROI actually is.

Permalink 08/30/13 -- 07:18:14 am, Categories: Background, Information

Why I Chose Not to Work with You

So at the end of Spring, one client who was faring poorly - was faring poorly and I knew their effort to introduce a new service was not getting legs and another client threatened to end. The client who threatened to end, by the way, was not aware of how many leads he actually had - once he realized and closed a deal or two - he quickly changed his tune. I reached out to a former client to see if they would be interested in working together again.

The answer was "Yes", almost immediately, an email came in saying that the new owner wanted to talk about re-enagaging. They had a new product to launch and my timing was great, plus I knew everything about the old company, their products, and had connections. It was a perfect scenario on both sides, no training or ramp up even needed! The company had come under new management, but I did not know why.

We set up the first meeting, 2 hours of talking about past and present. The owner went on and on about how awful the prior management was, how mismanagement nearly caused the company ruin, but he treasured the employees there - one or two named who were "the best" - one who practically SAVED the firm cause of her tenacity and connections. It was a long conversation, but meaningful from a business update perspective.

There were a few interim meetings, I joined a hastily scheduled impromptu call with the team and he glowing spoke of strategy and all this great stuff. I submitted a proposal. Oh, he would pay me almost double my hourly rate and generous commission. Wow!

Then nothing. I called, I emailed. Nothing. Finally, we scheduled a call - supposed to be one hour to go over the proposal and discuss next steps. Well, when I tell you that that is NOT what happened! The owner not only suddenly became the penny pincher - "forgetting" what he stated as a rate and commission - clearly not having a whit of an inkling as to what he should offer, but he rambled for another two hours in what I term a vitriolic diatribe against everyone and everything associated with the prior company, the culture (which he mentioned over and over), and the products. It was all I had to not only tell the idiot to shut the fuck up, but my god - stay the hell on track. Holy Ravioli Batman! And, he kept going on about "the culture" and how even I exhibited "the culture" which is IMPOSSIBLE given I never went to their facility, worked with anyone in any kind of super close/direct fashion - how the hell could I have any "culture". I wouldn't have approached this company to re-engage if I had a bad experience, which I told him clearly - I was unaware of any issues, didn't care about them (past is over), and I was treated really well and did very well with them. The clod couldn't take the hint.

Even after I told the owner, I had to cut it off, he still rambled on - clearly with a need to control when the meeting ended. I was blown away. Already angry at my time and my remaining client's time being wasted and disgusted by the vitriol, I thought it over and emailed the next day - that he didn't have to worry about sending me anything - cause I wasn't going to go forward. His reply, "U R Making a mistake....".

A month later, the "hero" of the company whose tenacity and relationships were so crucial to their success changed her LINKEDIN profile to "Looking for Sales Job" and there were 3 people listed for the firm.

The only mistake I made was letting this guy waste my time as much as he did. Wow! Was that not the right move or what! Bye-bye!

Permalink 08/04/13 -- 01:33:46 pm, Categories: News, Background, Information

Managing Expections: A Story of Opportunity Blown

The number one reason why client engagements end is that business owners have unrealistic expectations about what it takes to compete and win, particularly in this difficult economic environment. I have, in prospecting adventures, spoken with sales leaders and owners who tell me that one demo or meeting a month is NEVER enough for them (even though when I get a demo or meeting it is sales ready and fully, and I mean FULLY, qualified). One guy I had spoken with about 2 years ago, upon learning how my fractional business worked, was like I need five demos a week to happen. To which, I told him, he would probably need five or 10 people making calls on a full time basis - which 1) he could NEVER afford and 2) given he sold data center technology - was unlikely to happen anyway with such long sales cycles and such.

Recently, I had a client engagement end. They were selling a B2B combination "app" and desktop solution for sales productivity. Something I could sell in my sleep and even partner with them to build an even better tool and provide services.

So, we go to market. They had been out there under a different name, but failed to really gain traction. This time - they had a more relevant name, they had support, even investor interest. I used their sales productivity tool which was OK, used their own lists of contacts, and even had some leads to follow up on. In the four months I worked with them, the equivalent of 2 weeks level of effort, they had 4 meeetings including one kind of strategic deal. They ended the relationship on a Friday and on Tuesday, I had a call that the deal was likely to go forward - covering most, if not all of my costs. And, they had a nice pipeline building with folks who were interested, some now, some later - some wanted different functionality added. Fairly typical situation.

Well, in spite of what was developing into a real success. They ended the engagement - citing my fees as reasonable and the effort good, this is what was stated:

"Well, as you know, we expected to have more interest. We expected to build an app and have people download it and use it and a LOT more people. Plus, the support from the partner - it wasn't what we expected".

Let's interpret that: What we wanted was for a billion people to download a b2b sales productivity app and use it as is, with no need for enhancement, and for our partner to drive us lots of leads, so that we could sit on our ASS and make hand over fist money. We really just wanted to to make a phone call or two, hit it, and generate a ton of demos, and follow up on the billion inquiries.

Let me say that I abhor people like this, people who spend little investment and time, developing some "app" that they think is revolutionary - feel that they have no need to meet customer needs, provide service, know nothing about what sales and marketing really involves, and expect to get rich. Even Zynga is just a passing fad.

Had they taken the real development/entrepreneurial route and invested time, money, and effort in building out their tool (which was OK, but honestly, probably didn't meet the needs of 75% of the sales/marketing people today), they may have had a winner on their hands - something that could be a $25 - $50K - real solution.

Maybe they will invest more time and money into the "Golden App" for the next time, my feeling is like a great meal that looks lovely at first blush, successive efforts will come out as another poop going down the toilet.

Permalink 08/04/13 -- 01:12:53 pm, Categories: Announcements [A]

The truth about landing the whale

Recently, my clients have gained entry into many mammoth companies with large deals pending.

Now and in the past those firms included IBM, walmart, Goldman Sachs, other Fortune 500 - names like Jetblue, and more.

Jill Kornrath has written books and people talk about doing all kinds of stuff to get the "C" level and enter accounts. Now stupid crap is floating about no cold calls, social media, and no follow up - can you believe that?

It is very simple:
1. Relevancy of product, person, message
2. Good communication
3. Follow up and follow through. No wasted or wasteful communication.

And - most importantly Time. It took me a minimum of two YEARs to land these accounts in a prospecting cycle. That's right, YEARS. Continuous follow up, follow thru, and upkeep.

That is the secret no one tells you. There are no shortcuts or special tricks. And - cold calls do work very well.

Permalink 08/04/13 -- 08:00:43 am, Categories: News, Information

Anatomy of Client Engagement Failure

As happens occasionally, I run into a bad client. Not uncommon in the entrepreneurial world where entrepreneurs and hired guns lose focus, receive market intelligence that changes things, and other mishaps. This is the story of one such situation, where hindsight is 20/20.

I engaged with a technology solution provider for which I had a good knowledge of the industry, contacts, technology, and prospective need. The training was easy and ramp-up required little time or energy. The provider was launching a new solution for which they had already pre-announced, it was out there in the right circles. They recognized that it would take time to build a pipeline and wanted to prospect and "pre-sell" to gauge market interest and set up introductory discussions.

While difficult to reach the people, the first three months yielded some feedback and interest. A demo was scheduled, another demo scheduled, and a few introductory conversations occurred yielding future opportunties.

The first demo did not result in business because the product was not ready to show and the need was immediate. The organization could not wait and did not want the risk of waiting to see what ultimately would result. The second demo yielded a person with need and interest, but who could not afford the solution (as is) and the client was unwilling to provide the tool on a flexible payment plan or discounted rate. One lead generated was never followed up on by the client manager who said he wanted to deal with it. Other opportunties, including an RFP situation, were not occurring until the next season.

I had complained that I was lacking sales support materials (particularly when a prospect asked for more information and I could not give him anything "next level") and the website they had was awful and not reflective of the company's capabilities. I offered to help with materials, but was limited in developing anything since I too - had no knowledge of the new product scheduled to launch. Plus my client manager insisted that he would hire a marketing person in a month or so who would do all of that.

Four months into the engagement, I was told the new product that I was engaged to take to market would not launch at all. Some issues arose that would push the product launch til the 2nd Quarter of the following year. Nervously, I asked if the engagement would end - but was told "NO" since they had no sales presence and could sell other services and products. I was confused about WHAT to sell and changed the messaging for the third time with the client manager's assurances. Also, the client provided me a list which I was working off of, they received weekly reports as to who I talked to and outcomes, and I used Salesforce.

The call came finally. Given the delay and lack of interest in other products and services, the client was "suspending" the relationship until the new product was ready and would contact me in Spring. I sent my invoice for the month and ended everything neatly.

When my final invoice was not paid on time (the second occurance), I inquired. To shorten the story, the company claimed that I had not fulfilled my duties and refused to pay the invoice - blaming me squarely and saying I did not deliver my deliverables "leads, meetings, opportunities, and market intelligence" and they should have ended the relationship "months ago".

So, lets recap:
1. The company failed to develop and launch the product they promised to the market.
2. The company could not deliver the promised product to the interested prospect and would not negotiate or compromise to get another interested client on the new product.
3. Despite reviewing every weekly report and seeing every piece of feedback from people talked to, they still continued the effort.
4. They continued the effort well beyond the three month trial I mandate for all clients.
5. They claimed I did not do any marketing or sales support work, yet did not approve of me doing any or get on the ball with providing me with any marketing support to help the effort.
6. They provided me with all the tools: the list, approved messaging/scripting, and used their CRM.
7. The client manager was clearly not suited to manage a sales effort, he oomplained a few times he was overworked and had too much on his plate to handle. So, I was not supported.
8. Despite the delay in product, they still continued the effort.

Am I to blame here? Isn't it usually the salesperson that is blamed for not delivering revenue or opportunity when the fault is in poor management, poor product strategy, poor support, poor processes? I know from my experience I could have easily taken them to court and won my invoice, but it wasn't worth my time.

The client manager was fired, the company is on vapors, and I found a super replacement client who is getting a ton of "leads, meetings, and opportunities". By the way, thanks to the reference provided by the former client's manager.

Permalink 02/23/13 -- 10:43:56 am, Categories: Background

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