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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

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

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

Pick Up the F*** Phone You A$$: Why Kiddies Will Never Succeed

Oh my! What weenies Twitter and Email have wrought with the interpersonally challenged. I can't understand why people just cannot pick up the phone and actually speak with people to communicate or get anything done? I love the response one of the reporters or editorializers of the news made with respect to the BlackBerry (Research in Motion) outage. S/he essentially said, this outage would not be a big deal if people would have just used their phone and CALLED people instead of texting or waiting for an email to appear.

We have become a nation of anti-socials, phone reluctant because that would actually mean you have to hear cadence and emotion in voices and possibly be rejected with feeling. Of course, so much easier to hit the delete key, right?

This week, two issues occurred that highlight the need for the kiddies to drop the texting and email and learn how to use the phone.

1) A prospect at one of my clients had a few simple questions about a software solution his company was very interested in using. The prospect was already qualified and was inches away from signing on the dotted line to acquire the software. I sent an email to my client with these questions, the email was acknowledged. I waited, waited, waited - almost five days for a response. Meantime, the prospect is evaluating solutions and response time can affect perception of service. In between I sent another email to my client, which was acknowledged, saying has there been any response? To which it was stated that the company was contacted and was awaiting response. Finally, a week later I gave up, risking the ire of the client, and called. In exactly 2.5 minutes the questions were answered and the prospect was emailed AND called, a response thanking me received not more than 2 hours later. It was clear that my client, who has done this before, has phone reluctance. The deal could have been blown because of a fear or disregard for dialing the phone.

2) A manager at Kohls was overheard complaining that some type of signage was needed at the store. She stated she had emailed the district manager who had not acknowledged the email and ended up bringing signs that were incorrect. She never picked up the phone to reiterate that an email was sent and specifically what she needed. She too is in the younger generation.

Relying on text and email solely, particularly at this generational point is not effective. As in case number one, a sale could have been blown - REVENUE LOST because of a lack of appropriate communication. In case two, the wrong materials were brought or may have not even been acknowledged.

This also goes to the importance of backing up emails and marcom with some type of point contact. With any other marketing channel, email, social media, web will become cluttered with crap - tons of it, more than ever with greater filtering and scrutiny to the point that much of it will be ignored making it REALLY difficult to reach anyone effectively. As long as phones exist, particularly desk phones or published cell - a phone call can make the difference between revenue and "out of business".

Permalink 10/22/11 -- 12:40:57 pm, Categories: Information

How to Lose A Salesguy in 10 days or less: Part III

I replaced that client and actually got another one, 2 for one which is usually what happens. However, the economy is slow and it is very hard to find the right type of companies to work with. Particularly ones that are B-to-B and have some product or service that they are early phase launching. In fact, my new client an IT solutions company received a major opportunity within about three weeks of calling and have a few leads. The truth is, that usually is my pattern - fast ROI.

The former client has been remitting commission checks to me as deal after deal continues to close. However, none of the hotter newer opportunities closed. Curious, I tried my CRM login, which still worked, and took a quick look. I had meetings and pending deals with large companies noted for follow-up. What I saw in the CRM was interesting - my former client appears to have hired his aggressive salesguy - a smile and dialer. Tons of calls, lots of activity. Explained why none of the pending deals closed.

No matter how many times I tell people that phone banging results in nothing but quick low priced deals that mean nothing to anyone and that real business is developed over time in a more strategic manner, they pooh-pooh until they realize that they secured half the salesguys salary and lost money on whole thing.

Banging the phone, folks, doesn't work unless you have an established brand, credibility, and a strong offer. Don't do it.

Permalink 06/04/11 -- 04:34:50 pm, Categories: Announcements [A], Information

How to Lose a Sales Person in 10 Days or Less

Client: I very much disagree with your rationalization of your sales approach. A sense of urgency is one of the most important characteristics for a successful sales person. I do not have the patience to wait for your initiative to mature at the customers speed. You either start showing me the urgency I expect or I?ll find someone that will.

Rachel: You need to give the prospects time and let things happen. People do not appreciate being pushed into decisions or taking action - the "hard sell" does not work. I told you that I had talked with [the prospect] for over six months tracking this particular initiative. He told me clearly that he wanted the costs and needs to discuss what they will do.I will follow up with him in a few days after he has time to consider what action to take.

The context of this was a discussion with a prospect who committed to working with my client, but was deciding which course of action to take. The deal is worth at most $300 with a commission of a whopping $60. Not really worth my time or energy, not worth a commission sales rep's time - if that is the route they want to take. Just the week prior, as a result of prospecting efforts a $3,500 deal was quoted on from a company that is like Fort Knox to get into. The month prior, I closed on 2 deals and set up 2 meetings with large name organizations for even bigger $$.

The problem here particularly is the phrase: "I do not have the patience to wait for your initiative to mature at the customers speed.". Which I read to mean, I am not willing to go in synch with the customers buying process or decision cycle and want to short circuit that for a quick sale now. I want you the sales rep to *make* them buy now. Of course, we all know as experienced sales people that this is impossible without incentive or some type of support. Urgency is created by demonstrating the need or comparative need to take action. In this particular case, the person ALREADY established the need to do something and WANTED to work with the company. Issue isn't urgency, it is what course of action to take, which was explored fully with the prospect. The prospect was also at the mercy of others involved in the decision which is typically the case. I am helping him to make the case.

People will not buy until they are ready to buy, you need to be there when they are ready to buy and create support for their decision to work with you over others. Lecturing, demanding, cautioning them, pushing them to "do it now" (particularly without any incentive) will only cause them to walk away.

I am the only dedicated rep for this company focused on the service. Do you think it is wise to threaten replacement with someone else? Considering the fact I went to them originally, lets think about the time and cost to find a sales rep, train them, get them up to speed, and producing...part or full time. The sales cycle won't be any shorter, company does not market at all, offers no leads, and offers no support. I am thinking thousands of dollars down the drain, right?

Pushing someone against their will and threatening them with cautionary words will cause them to walk away. Much like I am considering doing with this client. Anyone want a sales rep who works with prospects, listens to them and cares about them?

Permalink 02/12/11 -- 02:03:16 pm, Categories: Background, Information

The Stupid Prospect and the State of Marketing

Speaking of Jasperlabs....recently I called a company that could truly benefit from this dynamic display creative optimization advertising tool. I learned that the tool is so versatile, that an ad agency is not even required to feed it any creative - the platform can accept a data feed right from an existing website and "repurpose it" (for lack of a better term) into a display ad that can be modified based on site data. So anyway, I called this retailer which is primarily online and got the VP of Marketing on the phone, after explaining in short what the tool does - his response (and I believe his background is agency oriented) is "we have that all covered" and proceeded to hang up.

Of course this guy can't have "it all covered" because there really aren't any other tools on the market that do this type of thing that this midmarket company could afford. While my messaging may have been off, the fact that this guy who answered his phone and engaged with me, evidently half-listened and clearly didn't get it and completely blew me off is disturbing. At the very least, this person could have asked me to send information for review. In this type of economy, for this company to be spending un-necessarily on advertising also is a bit scary and I don't think the company is doing as well as in the past to be blowing discretionary marketing dollars.

Another concern is that in talking or attempting to speak with Marketing and Advertising people, they don't seem to be open to innovation. This concerns me as marketing and advertising used to be the forefront of innovation and creativity. Have we as marketing professionals become so "technologized" that we can't think out of the box or see things beyond our noses anymore? I actually had worked in the past with Marketing people who were so truly boxed in that it was stifling, so I can believe it. What happened here folks? Creativity is what creates new business opportunity, develops new products, and builds the economy...lets try to get off social networks and go out of the boundaries!

Permalink 09/18/10 -- 03:56:54 pm, Categories: Information

Another Reason Why Prospecting Fails

In an earlier post, I mentioned something about how my clients don't listen to me. This is a much more serious organizational problem than "no one listens to Rachel". I have taken to calling myself the step-orphan of my clients.

Recently, I completed a campaign with a new client. Because of various issues, they supplied a tight list of 300 organizations that required both market intelligence and lead generation. I completed the project and provided back the list which contained close to 30 or 40 leads, complete information on what organization was using or had implemented what product, insight into reasons why organizations weren't adopting certain products and more. I started to provide the recommendations on how to handle the list - suggesting when to call back or do another (the third) mailing, etc. Abruptly, I was told - that's OK, WE will decide how to handle it. The owner is pretty sharp...he isn't stupid. But, I kind of have a feeling about what is going happen...the very young salesguy is going to visit the leads and counter their direction on when to call and email. They aren't going to position either the company or product properly to attack the organizations objections. And, because they need a return will likely be aggressive. The result will inevitably be - you guessed zero results. Two other points:

1. I have some type of "magical" quality that allows me to converse with people of all types. Just because I talked to someone and they responded, doesn't mean that anyone else will have that same capability. By not having me follow up the leads - nuturing them to meetings or the right point to hand off and not letting me do the follow up calls on the other part of the list...the leads will drop.

2. By not incorporating the market insight and the approach to continue the process, they will subvert the evaluative process that the organizations are going through - individually or collectively.

When salespeople snatch leads too early or marketing passes leads too early, before a relationship is solidified - it can actually harm the organization's success. Sometimes, and potentially in this case, it will be perceived as a bait and switch - you had one person represent and now someone completely different is dealing with us. Long ago, when I worked at CSI Multimedia - I had super relationships built with many Princeton area firms and knew a lot of stuff. Instead of working with the salespeople to build those accounts or learn how to account manage, the owner practically pulled them away. One client at Merrill Lynch stated that he only wanted to deal with me because I knew his jobs so well. He wasn't too happy with his salesrep, if the rep and I worked together - this would have saved the account which ended not long after I was ended.

At Hexaware, I managed the lead generation function and stayed involved with the prospect until there was a handoff to the sales manager. It was a super process, I also was another point of contact for the client in the event they couldn't reach their salesrep or needed something. I transitioned the account over - introducing the client to the sales rep from myself and my prospecting agent. But, then again, Hexaware was a professional multi-million dollar organization at the time I ran that function. I wish these small businesses would gain that level of team functioning.

What absolutely kills me is when I sit there and tell my clients - if you do this, then you will have success and they go and do something completely contrary. Then, I hear it failed or didn't work or whatever.

Key takeaways:
1. Not all phone personalities are created equal. Different people will have different levels of success, taking someone off of working an account too soon and handing off to someone else will cause failure. It takes time to build a relationship. No one likes to date someone only to open the kimono and find out they are really someone or something else.

2. Pay attention to the market. Again and this is pervasive among many companies, the ivory tower of management or company does not dictate what or how the market operates. It can be influenced, but not driven. And, it is a cycle...meaning the inputs from the market will drive the outputs from the company which in turn influence the market. This cycle is broken when the company decides to follow its own agenda and not that of the market.

3. Going against the market will result in failure. If Joan the business manager says we won't make a decision or look at any products until March, you contact them in late February or March. You don't show up on the doorstep with the product ready to demonstrate in January and leave 8 messages trying to set up a demo before March. Joan isn't going to return your call. Why? Because you aren't working with her, you are working against her. No one likes that now, do they?

Permalink 01/31/09 -- 05:16:57 pm, Categories: Information

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