Archives for category: Sales

A while back I wrote a post called Are You Working In or Working On? Working in the business is a ‘head down, bottom up’ thing where you’re getting stuck into the everyday tactical stuff. Working on the business is the strategic, directional side of it.

I want to tweak that question slightly in this post, to this: are you working on something, or towards something? This to me is a pretty fundamental question. There’s no right or wrong answer. In fact, I think you have to do both.

Working on something means you’re in the moment, dealing with the present tense, getting it done. Working towards something means you’ve an eye to the future, or to a destination. It’s like the difference between the journey and destination. A means in itself, or a means to an end.

If we don’t know where we’re going with something it’s hard to shape what we’re doing right now. Conversely, if we don’t know where we’re going with something we can learn from the journey. After all, we can’t necessarily see the finish line but we can see the next few hundred yards and that’s enough to keep us on track.

Keeping an eye on what we’re working on sets us up for what we’re working towards. Keeping the other eye on what we’re working towards improves the quality of what we’re working on. Sounds like a pretty virtuous circle to me.

 

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Our American business friends love the phrase ‘peeling back the onion’. It’s used a lot as a metaphor for life, but I hear it in business most of the time. People use it to describe how you can layer a story or a whiteboard to get your message across, or to reduce something complex and muddle to something simpler to grasp, but for years I was never sure I knew exactly what they meant.

Sure, I get the analogy of how you can remove the layers of an onion, and there is a satisfying feeling to doing it that probably dates back to six-year-old-birthday-party games of ‘pass the parcel’, but there’s not much to it when you peel away the inside layer. There’s no reward in the centre of an onion.

For me, the direction is wrong. Even though I’m an outside-in kind of a guy – by which I mean that I need to understand the whole picture so I can see how the little bit I’m dealing with fits in – I much prefer the inside-out onion layers approach, starting with the core and adding back in the onion layers, or the concentric rings of a diagram, as you go.

Adding the onion layers, rather than peeling them back, starts with something small and simple and builds as you go. It’s not a breaking down or disassembling process, it builds from the nub, the core, the kernel, and layers on the colour, complexity and detail.

‘I’ve had nothing back from her.’

‘Radio silence so far.’

‘She’s not come back to me yet.’

‘Nope, still waiting, got nothing back.’

This is par for the course when you’re trying to reach people in business, at work or at play. It’s not even confined to sales people trying to reach prospects and customers. We’re all busy and we’re all trying to reach other busy people whose agendas and priorities don’t necessarily mesh with ours.

It still makes it tough to get through your work and keep on track if you rely on input from others. You can get all scientific and favour certain days of week and certain times of the day, and then you’ll have those days when you get nothing back from anyone, which can be pretty frustrating.

We have to keep plugging away. We have to use all our skills and powers of persuasion to make sure we package those emails, voicemail messages and chats in a way that’s going to appear minimum impact to the recipient, with the maximum chance of a positive response.

Funnel and Hubspot Flywheen

Funnel and Hubspot Flywheel

For decades we’ve been talking about funnels – or hoppers – to talk about how we manage sales, especially in B2B circles. Marketing throws leads into the top of the funnel, perhaps helps leads advance down the funnel, and sales pushes them down through the bottom until they emerge out of the funnel as a customer, a sale. It’s also assumed that the funnel has holes in the sides, since leads and opportunities get qualified out or are lost during their journey, but that’s not really talked about and not what I’m talking about either.

Then there’s the flywheel. The flywheel analogy and image is a Hubspot creation, – at least I think they originated it – and aims to better integrate the customer, ideally the delighted customer, into the selling process from an advocacy point of view. After all, with the funnel, once the opportunity emerges as a customer there’s not a natural way for it to come back into the funnel as a repeat customer or as an influencer to a new customer.

I like the flywheel approach, although I prefer a wheel analogy myself, and I can see where they’re going with the idea that a flywheel increases in speed due to the rotational energy of delighted customers feeding fuel to the marketing and sales engine.

Hubspot acknowledges that you still need funnels in a business that measures its success, and argues that you can put funnels within the various stages of the flywheel. That doesn’t seem particularly elegant and they don’t even try to present it visually. But, viewing your customer’s buying journey as a circle rather than a straight line certainly helps you keep your focus on developing your existing business and leveraging customers to bring in new business.

Apparently it takes between 12 and 17 touches before a prospect engages with you. A touch being a call attempt, voicemail, email, ping and so on. I’ve heard varying numbers around that, but in any event it’s a lot. And there’s a load of reasons why they don’t engage with you before then:

  • They’re not interested
  • They’re not around
  • They’re too busy
  • They have other priorities

Even if you happen to pique their interest, still they might not respond, which is for another reason:

  • They can’t retain anything!

Your average crazy busy prospect is so busy skim-reading everything that even if they do want to act on something but don’t do it right away, they forget about it. Even if they have a vague recollection of something they wanted to act on, they can’t remember who the email was from or what the subject line might have been.

So you have to absolutely catch them with good topics and good timing, when they can follow the AIDA process through in one go. Awareness – see the email; Interest – read it and be engaged; Decision – decide to take action; Action – they actually take action, in your favour, hopefully.

17 touches…

"Streets Clock Acrylic Orange 2" by Individual Design is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Streets Clock Acrylic Orange 2” by Individual Design is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When you’re publishing something, or thinking about publishing something, it’s great to have images to lift and amplify the message. Better still are those copyright-free images you can use without having to go to the photo stock library vultures.

If you’re getting an image that’s in the public domain or is free to use, you want to be able to attribute it properly. After all, some generous soul is putting out their creativity for you to use gratis, so the least you can do is to give them the proper thanks via the proper shout out. This can be tricky to do:

  • You have to find the image
  • You have to check the copyright or licensing for it, to make sure it’s OK to use for your purposes
  • If it fits your requirements you have to collect the name of the image, the author and the type of creative commons license it falls under

This is fiddly, especially if you’re sourcing a lot of images. Enter the Creative Commons automated image attribution feature. You can access it here. As I write this it’s in beta, and it hangs and falls over a fair bit, but who cares? It’s invaluable. You search for your image, click on the one you like and the entire attribution text is pulled together for you in 3 different format options, like in this example.

A massive time-saver. Genius.

I’m a fan of LinkedIn. It’s a great networking platform, and really good for staying in touch with people as they move around the place. Also, people tell me the Navigator premium enhancement is worth it for prospecting. Furthermore, I’ve found the LinkedIn Adwords more expensive than Google Adwords but better quality in terms of leads that go somewhere.

I tend to connect with people I either know or have worked with, at least on some level. I generally don’t connect with someone who I’ve never heard of, although I must confess that very occasionally I might try and reach out to someone influential that I don’t know, which I admit is hypocritical.

Then there’s the LinkedIn news feed. That’s another story. It’s hard to see the value of that. The majority of the news feed items are of the Facebook-type, Look-at-me! variety. Most posts come under the heading of:

  • Here I am at this event
  • Here’s a presenter from an event I’m associated directly with
  • Aren’t we great? We just got shortlisted/awarded/commended for this thing
  • Come to my event
  • And so on

There’s very little helpful content along the lines of here’s how to do something, here’s the inside track on something, here’s an introduction to something, here’s a resource you might find useful.

Good marketing is about putting out content that’s useful to the people you’re trying to reach, via a place that you know they hang out in. The direction is pulling interested people to you, not blasting out stuff to people who aren’t interested.

The majority take the me, me, me approach, or the us, us, us approach, when they should be talking you, you, you.

 

I travel on Irish trains a lot. You might too. In fact you might be reading this on the train. Central Dublin, for example, is far easier to reach by train and LUAS than by car, and you can work on the train, obviously, or ‘obvs’ as the young people of the world write in their SMS messages. I always book my train ticket online in advance, unless I’m heading somewhere local like Galway and I’ve left it too late.

The booking system is very straightforward, and they always offer you a choice of manual or automatic seat selection, as well as whether you want your name or your booking number above your seat. 19 times out of 20 I will choose automatic seat selection, opt for the booking number display – some kind of English, under-the-radar thing no doubt – and sit where I like.

On this occasion, I manually picked my seat – A26, a rather pleasing rear-facing aisle seat in the lead coach – and also opted to have my name up there. Why not, I reasoned.

The following morning the train duly arrived, and I hopped onto the lead coach to locate my seat. I couldn’t see my reservation for A26. There was no name up there, and none for the chap sat close by me who was travelling by train for the first time in ages.

I sat somewhere else, like I normally do; the train wasn’t busy. 30 minutes into my journey, I realised that the train was back to front. I was in coach E, not coach A. The lead coach, the one that arrives closest to the station exit, is normally coach A. Not on this occasion. It’s also not that easy to know which coach you’re on. You have to get on and wait for the coach ticker tape to tell you, by which time on a normal busy service all the good seats are gone.

Later that day, on the return journey home, I made a point of going to the exact seat I had booked, on the correct coach. They were no bookings at all showing on the train.

Both journeys kind of defeat the purpose of booking, I thought. I might go back to my 19 times out of 20 thing.

A good while ago I wrote about how strategy and execution are joined at the hip, but that one tends to attract a higher consulting rate than the other. It’s hard to have one without the other. If you have little or no strategy and you execute like mad, you will have some success, but not as much as you might have hoped. If you don’t execute on a good strategy, you don’t really have anything.

I was reminded of this in a recent post by Tom Tunguz on the importance of execution. He referred to an HBR article from over three decades ago about ‘hustle’ – or the concept of getting it done – as the strategy. The central premise was – and still is – that it’s really hard to get competitive advantage, let alone sustain it, so you’re better off executing your plan better than everyone else.

I think a lot of people who work in areas where it’s hard to genuinely differentiate will identify with this approach. You still need to plan well, hire well and measure well, however.

Execution is what separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the growing companies from the struggling companies. It’s about following through, staying the course and closing the loop. You need to just do it, repeatedly.

Are you a taker or a maker? There are those of us who make stuff, and those of us who take stuff.

You can look at this at two levels. At the first level it’s simple commerce, the transaction between buyer and seller. A manufacturer makes something and the customer or consumer takes it, for an agreed price. It’s a fair exchange, in most cases, otherwise it often ends up being the last exchange between those two parties.

In the wider sense there are those that make something. They create something, they offer it up. It might be their time in the form of volunteering. It might be a form of social enterprise to benefit the community. They might invent something that they give away. Then there are those that take that something. They use it, consume it. Sometimes they thank the maker, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they don’t pay it back, in other words make something for somebody else to take and give back. They leave a debt to the community, they’re in debit. The makers create something for the community, they’re in credit. Sometimes the makers object to this and stop making. Sometimes they don’t and carry on making.

So the question remains: are you a taker or a maker?