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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]

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]

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]

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