Archives for category: Sales

In the preceding post I wrote about the bites Brexit is already taking out of our daily lives at work and play. It’s really hard to fathom what the economics of it are going to be. Bad is the universal opinion, but how bad and in what areas?

The trouble with economic models is that they are not very good at predicting the future. They’re great for explaining and rationalising the past, but that’s not much good when you’re staring down the barrel of the single most important macro event of the last half century. The last economic downturn took some of us a decade to recover from. This one looks like being at least a generation, and not just economically. For the last few years we’ve been in a period of serious isms – isolationism, protectionism, lookafterourselvesism…and this is the background against which Brexit is going to play

The central banks’ methods of, for example, keeping down interest rates to stimulate the economy while at the same time making it more difficult for us to plan for a financially secure retirement, may well not work in 2020 and beyond. They might have the opposite effect. We simply don’t know.

Business uncertainty makes businesses worry and stop spending on the only thing that’s likely to bring them growth, namely marketing. Why is it that the practice of positively influencing the exchange of outcomes between you and your customers the first thing you stop doing when the going gets tough?

Personal uncertainty makes us stop spending money and consuming as much as we were, which of course impacts businesses. It’s the downturn death spiral.

Who knows, perhaps any impending hardship will actually force us to properly embrace the environmental tenets of reduce, reuse, recycle, like our parents and grandparents had to do in wartime eras? Perhaps this kind of economic downturn and conservative/conserving/conservationist behaviour is just what the planet was hoping for. It might re-engender some genuine altruism and community spirit, and turn us from a diet of me-ism to we-ism.

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Brexit is a subject that’s possibly broader than any other. It’s pretty much like saying ‘the global economy’, except that it’s broader again, with huge cultural and environmental implications. That’s the problem with a connected world: everything’s connected. Fine when everything is going well, a house of cards if it isn’t.

And, as I write this, the implications of it – uncertain but massive – are starting to bite into the apple of our daily lives. It’s true that business hates uncertainty, but the recent doom and gloom of the Irish broadsheet press is hard to ignore.  Mrs D is very scornful of my comment that I don’t think Brexit is going to affect me very much. I should have perhaps qualified that by saying I was talking about my work. For someone whose business is sales and marketing strategy, the international aspect of this should mean that I’m actually busier.

In truth, while, paradoxically, we’re pretty close to full employment in Ireland, the state bodies that part-fund a lot of business initiatives – and therefore indirectly fund some element of consultants’ income – are reviewing their programs, reducing initiatives and reducing the number of companies on them. At least to my partly-tutored eye.

At an individual and personal level, and as an Englishman working in a die-hard EU country, it’s hard not to feel insecure. Where do you go to insulate your financial future from the impending onslaught that might last long enough to prolong the entry into retirement for those who might be twenty years away from it?

Probably worth a follow-up post on this, I think.

Culture, practice and customs seem to highly sway the concept of punctuality. In some cultures it’s considered bad form to be late; in others, it’s considered the norm.

Context is another aspect to punctuality. There’s no point turning up fashionably late for a train, a flight or a show, but in many cultures it’s advised for things like parties. Perhaps that’s why the rather helpful ‘7:30 for 8’ invitation works so well. Don’t turn up any earlier than 7:30, but the important thing starts at 8 so come and have a chat or nibbles and don’t be later than 8. A 30-window is enough for the top 90% of organised people.

Which got me thinking: speaking for my culture, punctuality is one thing, but being early is often as inconvenient to your host or the person you’re picking up as it is being late. If someone says they’ll pick you up in 40 minutes, which gives you enough time to pack, shower and get ready, and then they turn up 20 minutes later, when you’re in the shower, you get a rushed and stressed start to your day.

There always has to be the first people to arrive at a party, but have you ever got the time wrong and arrived early? Misread or misremembered an 8 til late as a 7 til late? It’s a major pain, for you and your host.

Same rules apply in business and work, methinks…

A while ago I wrote about the distinction between ‘urgent’ and ‘important’ when it comes to work, tasks, jobs and so on. On another occasion I wrote about the differences between liking something and something being ‘good’. It’s time to revisit these themes, or more specifically the word important.

When we think about things and events, we often have to make a judgment on them. There’s a subjective way of reaching a decision and answering the question, and an objective way of getting there too.

‘Do you like this song?’ ‘Is it a good product?’ ‘What do you think of iTunes?’ What about this development? You can give a subjective answer, by saying whether you like it, or whether you think it’s good. You can also choose not to answer it and say, ‘well, it’s important.’

You could argue, of course, that you’re still making a subjective judgment on the weight or value you attach to something. My view is that you’re rising above the personal preferences and saying, in effect, I’m not saying whether I like it or not, or whether it’s good: I’m simply saying it merits respect because of what it does.

Of course, by saying something’s not important, you’re also implying it’s not even worth addressing subjectively. You’re not going to bother assessing whether you like it, or whether it’s good, you’re done with it.

 

In a recent post I explained that the 4 basic questions you need to cover when you introduce yourself is who you are, what you do, who you do it for and why it matters.

A really good follow up question from someone who is sufficiently engaged with you is ‘how do you do that?’ They’ll only care about the how if they’re genuinely interested or they’re making polite conversation. This got me thinking about how I would explain the process by which I get companies to accelerate their time to market and their sales growth.

Imagine holding an imaginary set of bellows or a concertina in your hands. Then you bring your hands together, before bringing them apart. That’s exactly what you do in sales and marketing to grow more quickly.

You have to reduce in order to increase. By that I mean that you start with your market, then you narrow down the segments of that market until you’ve identified the ideal target audience for what you do. Then you design your offering and your marketing and sales messaging to that audience. Because it’s tailored to the specific requirements of your tightly defined target audience, you have good success and you quickly grow your business or your new product or service.

So, how you do it is by reducing to increase. I imagine that the next time someone asks me how I do what I do I will accompany my explanation by the bellows or concertina hand actions, to reinforce my point.

When we’re introducing ourselves to people for the first time, even if we’re not in the selling business, there’s the opportunity to sell ourselves, to make a good first impression, or to influence people in a positive way. They might not need our services, or to be our friend, but they might know someone who does.

So what are the four introductory must dos? I see four questions that we should answer for the person we’re meeting:

  • Who? Who are you? What’s your name? Not necessarily the organisation you’re with, your name is more important. They have to remember it. I’m sometimes not a fan of leading with yourself, but in this case they need to remember your name when you accompany it with a handshake
  • What? What do you do? What do you provide? Can you describe this simply, without jargon? This is the bit that’s going to catch their attention, since they will use it to pigeonhole you in their mind
  • For whom? Who do you provide what you provide for? Who are your customers, stakeholders, patients, students or constituents?
  • Why? Why should the people for whom you provide what you provide care? What do they get out of it? This is the bit that adds value, your chance to say what makes you different

For some people, you don’t need to cover these four bases. “Hi, my name’s John Smith, I’m a dentist.” You can pretty much stop at second base. But for others, perhaps those in more complex business-to-business roles, you’ll probably need the last two, especially if you’re networking. “Hi, my name’s Paul Dilger, I’m a sales and marketing consulting to small to medium-sized companies so they can grow their business more quickly.”

If it feels unnatural to add the fourth point, you can always drop it into the conversation later, especially if the first three points resonate, make a connection or provoke a positive reaction.

 

I’ve just renewed a contract with my mobile telecoms provider. Along with the 2-year deal came a free upgrade to a better smartphone.

Not the latest smartphone, you understand, because I don’t need the latest smartphone. I’ve eased from an iPhone 6S to a 7. An improvement, I think. I got more data too, which is nice.

One of the ‘improvements’ of the 7 is that it does away with the circular port for the headphones. You get headphones with a firewire thingy that goes into the firewire charging port.

This means two changes in behaviour for me, none of them good. Firstly, it means I can’t charge my iPhone 7 and use it with the headphones at the same time, which I used to do a lot. Secondly, it means I need one set of headphones for my laptop (standard earphone port) and one set for my iPhone (firewire). I travel quite a bit, and now I need to pack two sets of headphones for any trip. Harrumph

Of course, I could spend more money on bluetooth earphones that will pair with both laptop and phones. Double harrumph…

The lack of time and thought invested in accessories compared to the base product is something I’ve blogged about before.

You can tell a lot from a handshake. First impressions and all that.

It’s not that the handshake is the only component of greeting someone. It’s the accompanying smile, the eye contact, the body facing the other person.

I once attended a corporate speaking engagement where the guy said the optimal time to clasp someone’s hand in a business handshake is 2 seconds. Anything shorter is a touch disrespectful, anything more is uncomfortable for the other person. Then there’s the angle of hand of the person leading the handshake. Palm down is a power play, palm up is subservient but also friendly.

As I said, it’s not only the handshake. It’s about eye contact, a ready smile, and physical engagement. I’ve seen people line up a handshake and actually be turned away for the moment of contact as they move onto the next person or thing. Not good.

When I shake someone’s hand, I extend my hand upright, with the arm at three-quarter length. A straight arm and they’re too far away, half arm makes them come into your personal space, another power play. My fingers are slightly splayed to stop someone gripping too soon and getting your fingers and none of your hand. I smile, face the person properly and apply a medium grip. If someone has a strong grip I increase my grip pressure; if a weaker grip I ease off on the grip. I don’t bother to adjust the angle of the power player’s or servile/friendly hand, as you’re advised to do. I simply go with it. Ladies and Gents, a medium grip is the minimum really. You don’t want to offer some a wet fish, and you don’t need a handshake like a docker’s vice to assert your personality.

Always good to say one’s name slowly to help the other person remember it. Telling them it’s good to meet them never hurts either.

Ask any business leader what their primary business challenge is and you’ll often hear words like ‘demand’, ‘pipeline’ or ‘more, better leads’. There are very few businesses that can rely on a never-ending stream of inbound enquiries from prospects or customers looking to buy.

Generating demand is generally the domain of the marketing department, although in business-to-business environments it’s not uncommon for the sales people to be expected to find or develop about half of the demand themselves. Many businesses therefore take a well resourced, scientific and automated approach to being in the right places with the right content to engage those people looking to fix a problem or exploit an opportunity.

Despite what you might have read from the minority of practitioners who’ve written or published ‘how to’ books, blogs or videos on the subject, while the principles are straightforward the practice is hard, especially when the business has a relentless demand for high quantity, high quality expressions of interest to keep its costs of acquisition at manageable levels. What often happens is that instead of demand generation you get demand degeneration, by which I mean a lack or shortfall of pipeline for your products and services.

What are the reasons for this? As you might expect, they’re many and varied. Incorrect market sizing, poor segmentation, a lack of understanding of the customer, inferior or inappropriate content, and insufficient or manually dependent activities are some of the common reasons. There’s also a requirement to stay current with trends and technologies in demand generation, since ways of engaging with customers have a natural lifecycle that means they won’t always be productive and will be replaced by new ways.

It takes a relentless drive and relentless inquisitiveness to engender relentless interest in something. That’s a pretty tall order to avoid demand degeneration, and the good business will recognise this and have in place parallel activities like customer advocacy to keep the pump primed.

“Daur “Hockey” Sticks” by Gary Lee Todd, Ph.D. is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

I’ve been in business for a good 30 years or so. For most of those years I remained confused about a phrase that a lot of my North American colleagues used.

‘We’re looking for hockey stick growth,’ they would say, ‘that elusive hockey stick growth curve.’ This image always left me flummoxed. After all, who wants to see a massive downturn in growth before you see the upswing? You might not survive the downturn…

I finally realised that I wasn’t thinking about the right hockey stick. In fact I was thinking about the right hockey. Hockey, or ‘Ice Hockey’, to give it its full name, is hugely popular in North America, and has a flat bottom part and then bends up in a straight line, the sort of sales growth envied the world over.

In Europe, hockey is field hockey, not anywhere near as popular in North America, and uses a differently shaped stick with a curved part where you hit the ball. Not the shape you want for sales growth…

Confusion over!