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Get the Business: Less is More and Stop the BS

Recently, I have had a couple of clients ask me to help them with more specific lead generation tasks. Drive people to a booth at a major trade show and help them get more demos. I was handed a list of companies and told to execute.

In the one case titles of people were provided, some in technology, some lower level, some in a different area. I did some digging and found key people within the companies that would buy the client's solution. A discussion ensued about the right approach for this effort, do you drive people to demos or the booth who may attend or do you go after key buyers who may actually look at a demo and BUY.

I said to my clients), what is your goal here? Do you want demos and booth traffic or do you want real qualified business? In fact, in these cases, having a technology person FIRST scrutinize the solution may raise an obstacle in that this becomes a technical rather than functional sale. I want the functional users/buyers to look first at my solution and determine whether it is better and more cost/beneficial functionally then worry about the tech stuff - the compatibility, security, and maintenance (with SAAS that isn't even a consideration). I also told my client, dontcha think that driving a lot of booth visitors or a stream of demos to people who never will take another step forward makes you look pretty bad? Well, we had fifty booth visitors or fifty demos, but only two people decided on a next step meeting? Wha? How do you explain using resources for that?

Some people believe - well - get them to a demo and once they see it, they may change their mind. While that may be true in SOME cases, it isn't in all - particularly if your solution is very similiar to the competition, has no "wow" factor, doesn't add any real additional value or meaningful value, or lacks generally. And it means nothing if they signed a 3 to 5 year competitive contract, have some type of relationship that prevents them from switching, or aren't the right person to really make the decision. You also may run the risk of showing a solution to a person who will blab off to the competitor about your solution and hurt yourself.

I'd rather have five booth visitors that are the right people and will buy - maybe even sign a preliminary promise document on the show floor than fifty who go "interesting, not my area". I'd rather have 1 or 2 demos with people who really are looking and doing a competitive analysis than 10 with people who are "interesting, hands are tied for 2 more years". *(In two years, your product or the competitions can evolve more, you can charge more money, etc).

I don't want to waste my time, I don't like my time wasted either, with unqualified situations unless I am getting something out of it - like competitive information, feature input, or market research - that is different. But, if the goal is to "get business" then the means need to be centered around getting business - in this case - LESS can be MORE.

Permalink 01/01/13 -- 12:55:05 pm, Categories: Announcements [A]

When More Equals Less: The Full Time Hire Dilemma

As written in an earlier post, a long time client terminated my services earlier this year in a rather unprofessional manner. One of the reasons was that they were hiring a full time person to carry on duties. The VP of Sales did not want me - a vendor - to continue because the limited time I devoted to their biz dev effort wasn't enough. As expected, six months to the date, the full time employee listed the company as "PAST" on her LinkedIN profile - a kid out of school, around the holidays. I can't think of any situation worse than that, being that I was in that situation time and again.

The truth is, that company, like others did not need a full time marketing or sales person. More calls and more activity does not translate to more business, particularly when you have a murky market, message, or questionably fit product. More of something will lead to less of anything when there is no clear traction or lack of understanding of what it takes to really market to and reach your customers. You need to spend the time figuring all of that out clearly and ensure it is sustainable before investing heavily in sales/marketing resources and supporting effort.

I usually tell my clients that when I make X calls and 1 of X results in a meeting and closure more predictably or people begin calling back or calling you (due to research), then you don't need me anymore. Then you can scale and hire a bunch of kids out of school and really go to town. But until then, a couple of part time people to get there is all you need. You can save a lot of money, heartache, reputational issues, and taxes by reducing the pain of unemployment. And if this doesn't happen within a reasonable time period, then maybe the question isn't about "who to hire" maybe it is about whether you have a sustainable business and market desired product in the first place - save yourself the pain and heartache and fold the company.

My former client probably should have continued with me in a limited fashion, working on who the target is, the messaging, delving deeper into the "why" behind the product. *(Interestingly enough, I was doing that with the client - having long detailed conversations with decision makers. The VP of Sales made it clear that he did not want me doing this and "just get to the meeting".) With the manner circulating around the relationship end, on top of the fact they did that to that poor junior person, I will not work with them - ever - again. Even if the junior person lacked competency, still the fault of the company for not taking care of her properly. More definitely equated to less here, burning is only good for bushes - not much else.

Permalink 01/01/13 -- 12:18:50 pm, Categories: Announcements [A]

The Period is In the Wrong Spot or Where the Hell are Your Priorities?

When I worked as a Sales Intelligence Manager, I once sat with my boss and asked for a review of a sales intelligence plan. The plans were dossiers of key business, technology, and contact information designed to enable a sales person to quickly obtain all the account information required to develop account strategies, initial contact scripts, and proper target information. He, a super salesman, skimmed over the plan and announced - "you have a couple of periods in the wrong spot" and seeing my frustration cross my face, could not understand what the problem was.

I had a boss once who looked at a proposal and reamed me out because a period wasn't visible. Recently, a client -during a discussion about yet another company that stated they had a solution they were married to - commented that there "was an extra space in my email" which was not the message intended to be sent. Really?

What is lost on these people is that prospects don't care about one or a couple of periods or an extra line in an email. Granted, if there are horrific grammatical and spelling errors - that is one thing - illiteracy will definitely send a poor message about quality. But a period out of sight, unless it contextually changes the meaning of a sentence in a price quote, is of zero consequence. Considering prospects SKIM information, they aren't paying attention to truly stupid stuff - in fact, the message sent is that YOU (Mr. Boss or Mr. Client) really don't get it and that is even more concerning to me.

1. In the sales intelligence case, it wasn't the periods I was concerned about, it was the content - was it enough, from a salesperson's context to generate the value propositions, value statements, and critical business cases to actually fulfill the goal of the plan as researched?
2. In the case of the price quote/proposal, was the information presented clearly and accurately so that the propsect would understand it?
3. In the case of the email with the client, the issue was over the fact the prospect was married to a solution - a clear market trend and a concerning one. Not over the email itself.

Anyone who responds to an inquiry of such nature with a first comment that the "look and feel" or period is in the wrong place is out of touch with what is important to real success. First is the addressing of the real issue at hand, secondly or thirdly is the remark that the period is out of place. Anyone who states otherwise is headed for trouble.

Permalink 01/01/13 -- 11:59:02 am, Categories: Announcements [A]

Railing on the Rich Where Has This Great Nation Gone?

With the pending election, numerous people have been railing and wailing on the rich. Tax them to hilt, disallow loopholes, punish the rich with taxes. Start a class war, which maybe already has started.

Economic growth is tied to consumption and job creation. Those reality shows truly are awful, but you know what? The rich buy things, a lot of things, and also the rich are the way they are because they created and built companies which in turn made others wealthy and created loads of jobs. Only a small percentage of rich or wealthy are inherited wealth or dumb-luck wealth (i.e. lottery players). A majority are people like Bill Gates - a college dropout who would have flipped burgers otherwise, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Ellison, Zuckerberg, and the list goes on - even midsize company founders....old wealth eminates from magnates of the industrial revolutions, inheriters of Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and others like old money M&M Mars. And once upon a time, many of the wealthy were quite poor, people who came in rags to the United States, people who were in the midst of the Depression who looked for ways to feed families, people in crisis who worked hard and worked up the ladder to make millions and earn "fat corporate salaries". One executive who became Time Inc's president or a president of a division cold called and did advertising sales as a young single mother with two kids - she didn't have dimes to rub together and two babies to feed.

When business leaders get rich, so do others - people who worked hard and supported the business when the lights were staying on via credit cards, people who invested and get dividends from the "awful corporate profits".

The United States of America was, WAS, a land of opportunity where a guy in rags could cross a wide ocean with a dime and dream and create a business or find a job where they could work hard and rise up the ladder of success. We have decided, in today's world, it is better to tear down those who would build, be "economic zombies" on the dole from the government - that used to be shameful and is now a proud entitlement, be fat lazy whiners - crying in parks about not having a job and blaming everyone for everything, and rip all the business leaders and wealthy. That folks is not the United States, that is a shameful denigration of a once powerful nation that led the world in opportunity and shone a beacon to those who aimed to become more.

Permalink 10/22/12 -- 06:26:12 pm, Categories: Announcements [A]

Entrepreneurs please do some research!

Part of the reason why MagnusMG exists is because my former employers rushed into marketing without comprehending what was needed yo support marketing _ from both strategic and financial perspective. Today with some clients - they rushed products to market without fundamentally establishing whether there was a market to begin with.

I know of situations where a product was developed for a clear and distinct issue however due to s lack of competitive research it turned out that other more established products covered what the tool was supposedly developed for or other solutions existed that fundamentally did what the new solution does leading to the general feedback that the ultimate User of the solution saw no value. Translated this means there was no way in hell or in this economy the tools could be sold.

Imagine getting funding and hiring people only to learn there is for the tool?

Please spend some money doing old school talking to people outside your Friend/colleague network and make sure thou really hast what people need before thou ends up with nothing and hurts the economy even more.

Permalink 10/06/12 -- 03:41:57 pm, Categories: Announcements [A]

Ending Relationships Can Be As Important as Maintaining Them

This is a topic I have written about before, ending relationships. Two long term relationships ended with clients recently, they already were replaced - at least short term.

1. A two year relationship ends with an email, no phone call, on July 3rd - right before the holiday. Nice.

2. The other ended thusly. A call came from my "supervisor" or "vendor manager" who essentially stated that they are "suspending the engagement resulting from changes in the company and that if they were to engage an 'independent contractor' again, they would consider me". First, after two years of working with the company and being one of the few who actually was able to generate demos from phone calls, I thought I deserved a little better than "an independent contractor" status. How about - if we need help again or resume an outbound effort, we will be sure to call you. So, I told her OK, can I work to the end of the month to which the client agreed. Long story short, I sped through all my remaining calls, frantically calling everyone I had contact with to reduce a long list of calls outstanding. As I was doing so, I recorded stuff in the CRM tool, but NOT EXACTLY the way it was mandated to be done. For the billionth time, I received another NAGGING call from her indicating that I wasn't recording things exactly to the "T" they wanted - to which I explained the situation and as I was doing so, a call I expected to come in - came in - so I told her, I couldn't discuss this further and hung up to take the other call. The call was critically important regarding a deal for another client, a new client I was working with. And, this client had made it a point to NAG the SHIT out of me regarding recording stuff in the CRM.

The next afternoon, my phone rang - I missed the call - I went into the CRM and there was a message stating that the administrator changed things and I couldn't log in anymore. I was stunned! Turned out the call was from my client, one of the owners, who wanted to give me a "heads up". Net out- he stated that the "vendor manager" was angry and upset because "I wasn't following process" so she terminated the log in.

I calmly explained the situation and said that up until then I was clearly "following process" and as a 1099 (in their words 'independent contractor') legally I did not have to follow any mandated process. The crux of it was, I didn't link my task notes to an opportunity (which there were no opportunities - since there were no leads associated - they were just calls or touches). I didn't link my task (left vm) to an opportunity - which there wasn't an opportunity, since there was no discussion or need defined. Understand this.

After we talked, he said, just put it on ice - forget it for now. Contact them in the Fall as they may resume outbound. Sure.

Probably not though and why?

1. My contract states written two week notice, the client agreed to allow work until the end of the month. They cut my CRM access without telling me and ended the engagement against both contractual and integrity based notation.

2. I had some leads in that CRM and people who I had spoken with, I was unable to properly end those relationships and transition the leads accordingly. Not cool in my book.

3. They ended the engagement because they hired some college kids to take over and used me to do work that they admitted was basic. They were not honest with me in what they were doing - why not tell me upfront that I was being used to execute these tasks until they hired full time people and that the engagement may end.

I value honesty and integrity in my dealings with people and believe my clients should as well. Of the three things listed above the most disturbing to be is point 2, thinking college kids can equal what I do is beyond belief also - but they can learn, like my other client did who called me six months and thousands of dollars later.

Permalink 08/04/12 -- 06:22:30 pm, Categories: Announcements [A]

You, Rachel, Are a Lousy Salesperson

"You, Rachel, are a Lousy Salesperson" were words that were actually uttered - twice - now by a long time client and a person who I view as a friend. I took his company from zero clients and no prospects, to over 70 users nationally and growing - that number would be a LOT more, if the economic environment weren't so lousy. Hurt at first, given this accomplishment, he further clarified his point.

"You are a great marketer, one of the best. You are fantastic at identifing client needs and fitting the solution to exactly what they need. And you present things in such a way that evokes interest so that they want to see what we have. But, you don't know how to sell. See, real salespeople are aggressive and they sell to people stuff they don't want or need and that you don't do. You don't sell ice to Eskimos. You don't hunt and kill and move on to the next one. "

The context in which this was stated was at the end of a prospect evaluation for a piece of software where it was evident that one part of the software was what the prospect needed, but that the other part was clearly not as much, if at all, a need. In listening to the prospect, he clearly outlined what he wanted, needed, and expected - which one software did, but not the other. That is what I pointed out to the customer who validated it. The prospect was very much interested in the aspect of the software I pointed out, not so hot on the other. It could result in a sale.

Well, I told my client/friend/prospective future boss, I said - if you believe in that and have that attitude, you will be out of business in a year with a terrible reputation. Not to mention, the horrible halo that will surround your company. I cannot, I will not, ever sell something to someone that they don't need or want and will never encroach on my reputation or that of the company in that manner. I told him about the $100K+ salesguys who were utter assholes that fit that mold and suggested looking at commission salespeople, since I am such a great marketer who generates a pipeline of Qualified leads. Yah, yah - can't afford someone like that, can't find those guys.

After coming back from the meeting, I thought about what he said. I am glad I am a "lousy salesperson" who has ethics and morals and wants to help clients get what they really need. I looked up the definition of consultative salesperson which pretty much fit the description of what my client stated about me and smiled.

By the way, he isn't the only one. There are many idiotic people out there who stereotype salespeople and think that pushy aggressive selling is the way to generate revenue. Until the sales profession gets beyond that, it will never be taken seriously or get much further than "used car salesman" status.

Permalink 08/04/12 -- 06:01:03 pm, Categories: Announcements [A]

Cold Calling is Dead: NOT!

Was reading, again, on LinkedIN about how cold calling is dead and people don't respond to cold calls or prospecting. Social media is the panacea of life, cheap and easy - it gets results - or so people think. Here are a few anecdotal stories of why making a phone call is an OK thing to do.

1. Client develops a tool that other people have developed. I take this new solution to market and CALL people. While others have been in the market longer, no one has ever heard of this type of technology and are expressing interest in it. Particularly larger companies that have major opportunity. A direct phone call that takes 2 -5 minutes drives direct awareness, particularly for people unaware that such a solution may exist.

2. Called a prospective company a few times over the course of six months. Out of nowhere, a call comes in from another person at the company. He is enthralled with the product and is very likely to buy. He claimed he didn't get any calls or info from us, despite the calls - which is possible. Let's consider that the decision-maker, who I called, did not bother to pick up any voicemails or emails. The other guy took how much time and payroll cost to look at our solution which could have been passed to him in less than 5 minutes had the decision maker forwarded the vm or email. Maybe the decision makers should take a minute or two to review or have someone review voicemails, maybe they would expend employee's valuable time and payroll cost searching for stuff that takes five minutes to acquire awareness of.

3. The relative time and expense of inbound marketing can equate to much more money than prospecting. The costs of SEO, website design, continuous product information, inbound receivers, etc may be more than hiring a few outbound agents to call and send emails.

Of course, as I always say, banging the phone will not yield much - but when making phone calls intelligently, persistently, and with respect to the people making calls - it can certainly yield great results.

Permalink 04/08/12 -- 11:25:06 am, Categories: Announcements [A]

Marketers and Parenting: How Discipline Creates Customer Experience

In today's Wall Street Journal, there was an article in the lifestyle section of the paper discussing the "secrets" of French parents with respect to the creation of well-behaved children. The key pointers are what most people would consider obvious: delaying immediate gratification, telling the child "no", and being consistently firm in an educative fashion - and a few more things. All of which I may add, my parents imparted to me - in fact, I felt incredulous that this article was written or HAD to be!!!

Then I thought about Kohl's and the "YES, we can policy" which has gotten so out of control that the "kids run the store". At least in our store, coupons lack expiration dates, discounts are freely imparted to anyone, returns years old are refunded without question for more money than they are worth (that is opinion, there), and essentially customers can do anything they want.

Case in point: A POS colleague of mine told a customer that there were no coupons. Believe it or not, at occasional points in the year Kohls will actually NOT have coupons, discounts, scratchoffs, etc. The cashier advised the customer in a stern, but professional tone that Kohls did not have ANY additional coupons, promotions, etc. The net result is the the customer wrote a SCATHING letter to corporate which went down thru the ranks. My friend was called into our Store Manager (who knew the story and felt it was overboard) who had to discipline her - as to the new policy of writing anyone up who received a corporate complaint (unfounded or not). That customer claimed that because she owned a Kohls card and was a loyal shopper she should get a discount, regardless of whether there was one available or not. If you even question a customer about whether they have a card and intend to use it to receive a discount, you are labelled rude. If you say "NO" to a customer, they immediately want a manager who will override you and "give it to them anyway". The first words out of a customer's mouth when they come to a register isn't "HI" or "nice day", it's "I want my coupon", "what discounts are available today", "I forgot my coupon, give me my 15%", "any Kohl's cash?".

Without discipline, the customers are too empowered and are running wild. Like children with no rules, the customers get what they want, when they want it, how they want it. Marketers need to be aware of how bending the rules or eliminating them can create even worse customer service, lower profits, and wreck a business.

Consider: Now customers will call managers and write corporate even when the rules are correctly enforced - service levels need to be even higher to keep them happy and "in line". Eliminating coupon expiration dates will erode profits and reduce sales intentions. Customers who abide by rules get slighted and will not shop where they aren't treated fairly. Scenarios that aren't far-fetched, particularly if things do not change to a more compromiseable situation (i.e., Kohl's cash is still redeemed a day or two after expiration or for a good justifiable reason like a snowstorm, versus whenever people feel like using it - even months later!!!).

Hopefully things will change and swing to a compromiseable middle ground which is fair for customers and employees of Kohls alike. And, entrepreneurs pay heed - it is OK to bend a little - but not so far, that you reset expectations and create monsters.

Permalink 02/04/12 -- 04:27:52 pm, Categories: Background, Information

Why I Wasn't On the RecruitingAnimal Show

So, as some may have noticed I did not appear on the RecruitingAnimal show as scheduled. I wanted to, however after talking to the Animal - it was not in my best interest to do so. I had listened to his raucous shows in the past and had heard a few with Shally - as he was my client and I wanted to keep on top of what Shally was doing.

In this case, the Animal contacted me because I have the guts to publish the names of clients who don't pay me. I do that because my blog is intended as an educational vehicle which highlights issues and provides insight into situations that occur to business owners and sole proprietors like myself. And, the message is that people should be cautious about working for or with those organizations. My journalistic intentions are 100 percent factual and are not libelous or slanderous in any way.

What the Animal wanted to do was put me on the "hot seat" and would have yelled at me, although he was OK with me not revealing any client names, he would yell at me. In a raucous setting and in an uncontrolled environment what could come out of my mouth may be construed as libel or slander. I may be tempted to reveal a name and say something more of opinion than fact. In addition, right now I am involved in a small claims action against another deadbeat who decided to withhold the last payment. I would not want anything to jeopardize my winning of that suit. Better to destroy deadbeats using the proper channels in the appropriate fashion. I would have loved to go on the RecruitingAnimal show and tell people how to go about really dealing with deadbeats and encouraging the "pen is mightier than the sword" method also.

Also, as I am selling to staffing agencies and would like to work with one again, gaining a reputation as a "chicken" or chickenshit is not a good moniker to have. I could see calling someone and having them say - 'yah, i heard of you - the chickenshit who writes, but wouldn't yell about your deadbeat clients'. Bad. Salespeople like me are groundbreakers, chickenshit I am not.

So, while RecruitingAnimal is supercool and his show is a great forum. Just wasn't for me at this time. I think also most people know the story with Arbita and how Shally is now dealing with his own deadbeat situation (what goes around comes around) and most of the deadbeats are belly up anyway - as they deserve to be.

Remember Justice is served in many ways.

Permalink 01/28/12 -- 03:32:36 pm, Categories: Announcements [A]

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