Archives for category: Sales

The role of marketing is to generate demand for a product or service, and positively influence the chances of a sale or a satisfactory exchange. The role of production or operations is to have it ready so that when a sale happens you can deliver.

Stand and deliver, as the highwaymen and a certain 80’s pop band used to say.

This is not as easy as it sounds. It’s helpful to know your sales cycle, the length of time between when you start creating the demand and the customer wants to buy. Sometimes the sales cycle is miniscule, like in ecommerce, so you need to be ready to deliver on the upsurge in demand. Otherwise, goodwill wanes proportionally to the amount of time you have to wait after you’ve placed your order.

Last year I ordered a rather nice brand-name top from a website I’ve used for a couple of years. They used to send me a daily email with their offers. They complete on value and totally wing the service and delivery side. I ordered the top the 3rd week of February and it arrived the second week of May. I don’t know why it took so long; the possible reasons are many. Once I got the top I unsubscribed and they get no more business from me.

In the business to business world, it’s also helpful to know how long it will take you to build your product or service, and also how long it will take for your people to be able to deliver and support the product or service. If you’re lucky, you can do some of these two things in parallel and save a bit of go to market time.

 

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Partnerships, relationships, company. All of a sudden it’s not about what you want, or what your company wants. It’s not even about your end customer. It’s about the person that holds the key to the end customer.

With partners you’ve got somebody else’s priorities to think about it. This is why people that consult on partnerships emphasise the importance of lock-step, being aligned with your partners and making sure their goals are your goals.

You work really hard to get a partner on board, an agent, a distributor, a reseller perhaps, and then the hard work really starts. That’s when you figure out how important to them you really are. If they’re calling you, they’re getting pull from their customers, what you have is easy for them to sell, and profitable too. If they’re not calling you, their priorities are not yours and they’re not going to bat for you. Simple as that.

It’s a bit like the domino theory I proposed in blog post number 1. You’re facing your partner, looking for their attention, but they’re facing their customer, looking for their attention. An entire supply chain can be like that, a line of dominos focused on their customer and ignoring their supplier.

Bottom line? Well, 3 bottom lines, I think. Your product has to be relatively easy for someone not in your company to sell, which you can help with, of course. Second, it has to have sufficient margin for it to be worth it to your partner, who will always seek the path of least resistance toward hitting their own target. Third, the end customer has got to want it, to pull it through the supply chain. How you achieve that pull? Well, that’s all down to you, your marketing, your budget, your staying power and your inventiveness.

A former boss and mentor of mine recently referred me to an article on self-publishing. It was written by someone who had been published before, using the traditional publishing routes and methods, and now was publishing his own books. The full post is here. It’s a fascinating read, especially so if you are thinking off putting stuff out there.

This post, however, is not so much an advert for self-publishing as it is a comment or two on how technology has changed how we write, and how we consume what’s been written.

Books are changing. They’re not books any more, much of the time at least. Sometimes they’re ebooks, existing on screen but not existing physically. Sometimes they’re printed on demand, one at a time, Sometimes they’re very short, like a pamphlet. Sometimes they’re simply a blog post, like this one.

Publishing something used to be this mammoth, self-contained, one-off project that ending up with something spitting out off the presses. Now we can publish something very short, very quickly, even charge for it too, and get almost instant feedback on what readers thought of it. Web 2.0 baby, what a wonderful thing.

This same technology has also changed the way we read, our reading behaviours. We have an unending wealth of information and diversion at our fingertips. We now skim read, and have a shorter attention span, so unless what we’re reading is a compelling page turner – digitally or physically – shorter is better.

So maybe this is a misleading post title. Maybe books have already changed.

 

When I was a kid, one of the most important motivations with parents was not to disappoint. It the wasn’t fear of reprisal if you got into trouble, did something wrong or underperformed. It was something much worse. They would be ‘disappointed’. Letting them down, letting yourself down; it was the crushing weight of potential disappointment that made me toe the line or do my best.

The D-Word was a very powerful motivation and a force for good in my upbringing. I didn’t want people I respected to be disappointed. In me, or for me.

Disappointment is still a motivating force now. I went to see my physio about a month ago for my troublesome calf that I thought I’d fixed with my change in running style, but no. She gave me a series of core-strengthening exercises to do 3 times a week before I saw her again four weeks later. They were very hard work, bordering on the murderous at times. I exaggerate, but not too much. I didn’t want to go to the gym and do them, but I did, mainly because I knew she’d be disappointed if I’d not kept my side of the bargain and put the effort in.

When there’s a level of respect on both sides, the potential disappointment that one party will feel when the other party hasn’t made the effort is a strong incentive for the first party to do the work.

The D-Word is a word not used lightly, and carries much weight.

‘That’s mental!’, as they sometimes say over here, meaning something is crazy or mad. But that’s not what I mean by mental, at least not in this post.

I played in a table tennis tournament a few Saturdays ago. I’ve been playing quite a bit lately, but it’s been all practice and no matches. Some practice matches, sure, but it’s not the same thing. I played quite well in the tournament, at least for someone in his supposedly declining years, but I lost all 3 of the matches that went to a 5th game ‘decider’.

What I told myself, and anyone else who would listen, was that I wasn’t match tight, I’m not playing enough matches. That might be true, but it masks the fact that the mental side of the game has been my weakness. The talent and the work-rate is there, but the mental part has been not as strong, and it’s resulted in a failure to close out more than my share of matches in my favour. In sport, at all levels, so much is down to the mental side – belief, confidence, trust in one’s abilities, positivity, good decision-making in the heat of battle, presence of mind to close out the victory.

It got me thinking about the working world, and whether we’re neglecting the mental side of our development as well. We work hard, we update our learning, we follow process, we’re open to best practice. Do we make decisions and execute to the same high level with the top two inches? I came to the conclusion that we probably don’t, and it’s probably an area we should work on more.

I caught one of those winter colds over the holidays, the type of thing that comes along every holiday period, and spreads like wildfire, felling thousands in its path as it wreaks its havoc.

All of a sudden it seemed like everyone across the country was getting sick as a huge miasmic stain rippled through the landmass. It got me thinking about how a virus is properly viral, in comparison to what we’re used to seeing in cyber security and social social media circles.

Then again, Internet malware and viruses do move pretty darn fast as well, now that I think about it. Social media memes or other concepts move rapidly too, but not with quite the accelerating destructive force of Internet-borne badness we’ve been used to seeing in the noughties and early teens of this century.

As business people, or people seeking to influence consumers, we long for our own thing to go viral, hoovering up support like a giant tornado, getting ever stronger and increasing our wealth accordingly. The physical reminder of seeing and experiencing real physical infection at speed served to remind me of the power that important new ideas have.

Remote working, teleconferences, videoconferences, skype calls: they are the new norm, with many companies now embracing the idea of some of their staff working from home or satellite offices some of the time.

It’s very efficient too, for both parties, cutting down on overheads, time and travel, and reducing the effects of poor weather on schedules. You have to work harder to overcome the communication and confusion issues that can arise when you’re not in the same physical room as someone, but that’s OK.

However, to get the best out of working relationships, the absolute best, nothing beats face-to-face. You’ve got body language, facial expressions and the sheer presence of someone next to you on your side. If you want to sort out a disagreement, or clear a misunderstanding, get people together. When it comes to sales and marketing of products and services that carry a decent value, and a decent trust element, nothing beats seeing the whites of each other’s eyes.

It doesn’t have to be face-to-face all the time, simply once in a while will do it. Last month I caught up with 2 groups of people I’d been meaning to catch up with for a long time. Now we’ve met, we’re more front of mind for each other, the priorities have risen up the stack and we’re moving projects forward.

Like I say, even when or if we become used to hologram drop-ins and clone stand-ins, nothing will beat face-to-face.

I saw the headline of an article the other day, and clicked on it, because it looked of interest. Except I had clicked on for the wrong reason, or at least my analysis was wrong.

The headline was: When is a Sale a Sale? I thought it was a cool article about defining when you have successfully closed a sale; some new insight on sales methodology. What we would call closing a deal in B2B. Is it a sale because the customer commits to the order verbally? Is it the receipt of the PO or the contract? Or is it the payment of the invoice or the handover of the cash?

In fact it was nothing of the sort. The article was a consumer-focused piece about what constitutes a selling event, the other kind of sale. It was about the retail industry trending towards a state of permanent sales and how difficult it is now to differentiate a true sales event and a retail status that is claiming ‘special’ sales status when it really isn’t.

Not to mention how difficult it is for retailers to get out of that sales spiral and protect their margins.

So, two different kinds of sale, and I clicked through under false pretences, but an interesting skim-read nonetheless.

Well, a happy new year to you, if you, like I, follow the western Gregorian thingamabob.

2019 marks the seventh year during which I’ve blogged – not yet my seventh year blogging if you follow the distinction – since I put my first blog post down in September 2013. Since then it’s been a 3-times-a-week, Monday-Wednesday-Friday thing, regular as clockwork.

By the end of this year, I’ll be about a dozen posts short of 1,000 blog posts. Once you get into 4-figure territory, that probably puts you in the top 1% of bloggers in terms of output. I don’t think I’ve ever been the top 1% of anything, yet I’m willing to bet that it will feel exactly the same in early 2020 when I hit that threshold.

If you’ve read at least one of my blog posts in each of those 7 years, then I thank you, and I also admire you in equal measure.

If you’re still reading at this point, I’d like to wish you a most healthy and prosperous 2019. May it bring you almost all, but not absolutely all, that you hoped for. Stay hungry – not literally.

When we’re taught the rudiments of writing a press release, we’re sometimes encouraged to get to the ‘five w’s’ in the first paragraph. Who, What, When, Where, Why?

Why is often the last W to be addressed, and it’s probably the most important W. Why are we doing this? What impact are we hoping to have?

I remember an ad campaign for a national newspaper a few years ago, for a broadsheet rather than a tabloid, which was all about the why. I thought it was a great campaign. The answer to why is this happening or why did this happen is the most informative answer.

Why is a very pertinent question to ask in business as well. Why are we doing this? Why are we in business? This is a concept popularised by Simon Sinek in his book Starting With Why. I hadn’t heard about the author or the concept until a good friend told me about it some time ago. It’s a really simple and profound way of thinking about your business or your organisation and what its purpose for existing is.

I love the concept, but I haven’t read the book yet. It’s sitting digitally on my Kindle, working its way up my list and I’ll get to it over the holidays. What we do is something every company knows. How we do it is something that a smaller proportion of them knows. Only the very special ones understand, throughout the organisation, why they do what they do, why they’re in business in the first place, and that’s where great organisations should start. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to read the book, take exactly 5 minutes to watch this abridged TED talk, it’s well worth it.

Then you can ask yourself the question why are you in business. And if you don’t have a good answer, maybe start a new organisation with a new answer.