23
Mar

There’s Networking and then there’s Networking . . .

Unstructured engagement outside of the office makes sense within a coordinated program of marketing and sales activity. However, it is important to operate under the assumption that not all networking opportunities are created equal. Sales management must exercise some discretion as to which networking opportunities make sense, vs opportunities that simply provide sales staff with an excuse to waste time.

We have worked with a client who we found to be very adept at quickly equipping sales staff with the techniques required to transform an ostensible public networking event into an opportunity to gather, first hand, lots of information potentially useful for completed, ongoing and planned sales opportunities. Much of the client’s recommendation was that sales personnel be sure to interject lots of open questions during one to one discussions with contacts to “prime the pump” on information sharing. Further, our client recommended that sales people research legitimate contact names in advance of these meetings so as to have credible information at the ready that can be utilized to obtain additional names from contacts.

With regards to obtaining additional names from contacts, we should note that our client’s objective was to utilize networking opportunities as opportunities to verify apparent roles with prospect businesses. Some of the recommended dialogue included the specific use of some “yes” or “no” questions; for example, along the lines of “So you work with [contact name] in IT?,” or, “Does [contact name] still run quality assurance?” etc. Admittedly, some contacts won’t rise to this bait, but some will.

Once sales staff are armed with information gathering techniques it is not difficult for sales management to determine the specific networking opportunities worth attending. Obviously, if sales staff return from monthly meetings, speed networking events, trade shows and conferences without planned information, then either the chosen networking opportunities are incorrect, or sales staff is not able to effectively implement techniques.

We do not see where it makes sense to simply permit sales staff to leave an office for outside prospect interaction without returning with information. Further, managing unstructured outside contact engagement can enrich the rest of the marketing communications effort with an excellent supplementary source of leads. Sales management should target a flexible management style that will permit unstructured contact engagement, but firmly within the bounds of ongoing intelligence gathering efforts.

If your sales organization is begging for an effective, assertive management effort, then please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com. We will be happy to show you what we’ve got.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

20
Mar

What Constitutes a Valuable Sales Lead?

An important job for anyone in a sales management position is to define what “valuable” means with regard to leads. Not all leads are the same. Some leads will be very valuable. But other leads will have little value. Therefore, it is safe to say that defining what constitutes a valuable lead is an important job for sales management. Why waste precious time working on leads with little promise? Perhaps leads can be obtained that will support efficient selling efforts and hasten attainment of revenue objectives. If there is a possibility of obtaining valuable leads, then sales management ought to allocate as much time as may be required to formulate a system to capture valuable leads. Further, sales staff should always work on as high value leads as possible.

We should note that sales management engaged in defining value for leads very often will have an opportunity to also define the stages of development for leads that will be typical for the specific business at hand. We spend considerable time working with leads for clients over telephone conversations. Therefore, what follows is specific to telemarketing and, further, very specific to teleprospecting. However, in a subsequent post we will present complementary stages that contribute to lead maturation from raw to high value for electronic media — social and email marketing. The stages for lead maturation from the perspective of teleprospecting include:

  1. Identifying Potentially Useful Contacts within a Prospect Business
  2. Engaging in an Initial Conversation with a Potentially Useful Contact. This first conversation is characterized by the teleprospector gathering information to identify what the prospect needs as well as contacts within the prospect that have the authority to purchase products and services to satisfy needs
  3. Engaging in a Conversation with a Potentially Useful Contact that Expands on the Original Conversation. The teleprospector plans this second conversation to provide the contact with information that can be useful to identify needs and decision makers
  4. Engaging in an Initial Assessment with the contact. A teleprospectors utilizes this third conversation to exchange information with the contact on the needs and decision makers that have emerged from the first and second conversations
  5. Mapping into the Prospect Company. The teleprospector enters into as many additional conversations with other contacts as may be required to identify all of the other contacts from this prospect who need to be included in any subsequent conversation about the needs and decision makers who have been determined from the first three preceding conversations
  6. Vetting Assumptions about Needs and Decision Makers. These conversations provide the teleprospector with the opportunity to establish the credibility of apparent needs and decision makers.
  7. Obtaining Referrals. Authoritative contacts are used by the teleprospector to secure the participation of all of the contacts produced by the mapping exercise in step 5, above in subsequent conversations with the prospect business
  8. An Unqualified Meeting with Unqualified Decision Makers. The teleprospector engages in a group meeting with the contacts who have been identified. The meeting topic is specific to the need assumed to be pressing for the prospect business. The outcome of this meeting will determine any further steps in the development of the sales opportunity

If we find that the sales opportunity has further promise beyond #8, above, we are comfortable turning the lead over to clients for further development as a valuable lead. If you care to learn further about our methods, then please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. We welcome contact. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

16
Mar

Establishing Sales Quotas can be an Effective Motivational Tool for Sales Staff

CEOs at innovative tech businesses usually think about implementing a quota system as a method of building revenue. We think that the real value captured by implementing a sales quota system, regardless of whether or not revenue targets are ultimately attained, or not, is staff motivation to meet or exceed targeted quotas.

We have considerable experience working with a type of sales person who maintains a high sense of urgency. Our typical sales person operates in a highly stressful environment. True, compensation targets are ambitious and rewarding, but day to day operation requires a personality comfortable with making solid commitments, exercising patience and dedication, and, finally, competing for prizes. Our type of sales person responds well to sales quotas. After all, a quota is no more than a target. Highly competitive individuals can even enjoy the work required to attain targets, not to mention the related payout and financial reward.

But for businesses looking to accelerate revenue, to take a major step forward from one level of activity to a new and much higher level of activity, establishing quotas cannot be the sole method of attaining objectives. Rather, a sales quota program works well alongside complementary marketing programs that do the job of successfully positioning the business brand within striking distance of market perception and, through that congruence, contribute a lot of value to the effort to move up on the revenue scale.

To reiterate: the marketing job, as we see it, is to align the intended business brand with the actual market perception of the brand. The closer the alignment between what a business promotes and what a survey of a correct market segment indicates is being perceived, the quicker the path to revenue growth. In fact, many of the related methods become that much more plausible as a direct result of overcoming any market gap. If market perception of a business brand is far removed from an intended message, then steps need to be taken–via any available means–to narrow the gap. Sales will certainly benefit from this type of healthy brand marketing.

Nevertheless, sales quotas generally stimulate the creation of regular, persistent sales activity on the part of sales personnel, which is certainly beneficial to tech businesses targeting enterprise business markets.

Along with implementing sales quotas, a tech innovator should have a CRM system in place that includes a method of ranking lead quality as well as a set of milestones that correspond to a “typical” timeline for the lead development and sales cycles. With lead quality and timing in place, management will have the information required to predict near term revenue and plot the business course of the near term.

We have considerable experience in these areas. We welcome opportunities to discuss requirements with innovative businesses with technology products for enterprise business markets. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com to further a discussion.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

13
Mar

Leverage Priority-Centric Selling to Meet Sales Objectives

Priority-centric selling is a method of structuring sales activity around two key variables:

  1. the value of a prospect or customer to the sales and marketing plan and
  2. the stage in the sales cycle represented by a planned activity

With regards to the first of these variables, a prospect profile ought to be at hand. Prospects should be ranked hierarchically from highest value to lowest, generally on a four or five point scale. A usual rule of thumb positions the highest value prospects as those prospects who promise very high rates of repetitive purchases, should a product be implemented as a corporate standard. Further, high value prospects typically have a centralized IT group with the authority to dictate application and systems for specific business functions. High value sales staff are those individuals with the ability to identify opportunities that meet these two criteria along with the contacts within the business with the authority to request that a specific product of service be purchased for a known application.

The recent economic downturn here in the United States, together with a pervasive failure of IT products and solutions to deliver as expected and, in some unfortunate cases, as promised, have contributed to the construction of a wall between high value prospects and marketers. It must also be noted that the pervasive access to enormous amounts of potentially relevant online information has added some very strong cement into this wall the construction of this wall. The effect of all of this is a general consensus that high value prospects pop up much later in a lead generation timeline, generally to collect prices and place orders with solutions already clearly delineated. We are not entirely convinced that this general consensus is the case, but it is not the objective of this post to discuss our alternative view; rather, we simply wish to present some basic tenets of prioritizing sales activity.

With regards to the second of the above noted variables, specifically an assessment of the stage in a sales cycle that corresponds to a planned interaction with a prospect, we think it makes sense to have more experienced sales staff handling early stage engagement with prospects to ensure that a correct assessment of value is established as early as possible within the process, thereby keeping wasted effort and lost time to the barest possible minimum.

We will be happy to elaborate on the above; therefore, please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your specific plan, staff and managing lead assessment and ranking. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

5
Mar

The Imperative of a Value Proposition for Enterprise IT Sales

Perhaps more than ever before, it is an absolute imperative for IT sales teams focused on enterprise class business customers and large groups of users in the public sector to structure sales offers around value. Further, value can no longer be the amorphous entity of the past, which was coupled specifically to user “benefits”. These benefits were rarely, if ever quantified. On the few occasions where benefits were quantified, the costs were general in nature; therefore, it was next to impossible for the average IT sales engagement with enterprise class prospects to specifically include hard costs in the discussion.

A close look at most of the big deals that have ever been won for this type of product and market since the mid 1980s reveals that hard dollar cost value has always been at the root of these deals. The fact is that enterprise class businesses make purchase decisions on products that will save on the cost of maintaining operations at high levels of performance. Few, if any enterprise buyers will object to maintaining operations at targeted levels, albeit at substantial lower cost. Winning sales teams will quantify the cost savings represented by any additional functionality implicit to new IT systems to ensure the inevitability of a customer order for products or services.

Therefore, it is entirely safe to say that sales teams must be trained and directed to develop conversations, face to face interactions, etc with enterprise class prospects to capture the information required to determine present day hard costs of operations as well as any initiative on the part of prospects to lower costs. There is little, if any leisure time left to coast along with this class of enterprise buyer.

Innovative early stage technology vendors will save substantial cost by purchasing the services they require right now to ensure that sales teams have been properly directed to deliver sales in the type of value intensive environment constituted by enterprise class business prospects. These substantial costs can amount to lost opportunities as the result of poorly trained sales teams failing to work with prospects in a manner that will produce the information required of prospects in the areas of hard costs, along with an identification of budget/program owners who need to make a decision to lower those same hard costs.

We don’t see how innovative technology vendors can waste time training sales teams. IMB Enterprises, Inc can train sales teams to redirect efforts strictly around value. Please call me, Ira Michael Blonder, IMB Enterprises, Inc at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

2
Mar

Test Support Systems for Sales Efforts Prior to Launch for Optimum Returns

Quality assurance policies and procedures must be in place to ensure that optimum returns are realized from sales programs. Further, these policies and procedures must be implemented prior to the launch of sales programs to certify that procedures do, in fact, work prior to commencement of efforts.

We recently experienced the negative effects of a lack of attention to quality assurance. A promising interactive program of online marketing communications and sales was handicapped from its outset as the result of a complete breakdown in the telephone response system for the program. We had spent months negotiating with our client to ensure that a telephone number would be displayed throughout our online marketing communications collateral. Our objective was to ensure that prospects and customers could utilize, at will, the “instant synchronous access” promise represented by a telephone call to discuss specific opportunities.

As is the case for many innovative technology businesses in the post Internet and Web world, our client was hard pressed to recognize the value of publishing telephone contact information. Certainly we do not dispute our client’s contention that promoting contact availability without ensuring that most telephone calls would be managed by a human being (rather than by an IVR system or by even simple voice mail) made lots of sense. However, we have deep experience with telemarketing and teleprospecting and, therefore, saw lots of value in publishing telephone contact information. Further, we provided the required human resources to manage incoming telephone calls.

It should be noted that important assumptions about the online marketing program, itself, specifically with regard to the appropriateness and effectiveness of our online message were in the balance pending a review of the results of the in bound telephone program.

The results, in fact, appeared to be quite dismal. Our client’s website receives high volume traffic. Further, our client’s website is prominent with the Google Search Engine. Nevertheless, it appeared that the results were abysmal: lots of traffic, but few inquiries and few conversions.

A review of the telephone support system quickly revealed the core of the problem. The alerting system for voice mails had not been correctly configured. Further, the call forwarding feature of the telephone system had not been correctly configured. We need to note that it took us the better part of 3 months to find these problems. Three months worth of incoming telephone calls, voice and text messages had been buried in a non working system.

We cannot overstate the importance of managing the rather mundane tasks of certifying and periodically testing back end systems. These tasks are not glamorous, but neglect them entirely at your peril. Certainly do not make decisions about programs without first testing, in detail, the individual components designed to support the specific programs under scrutiny.

We can help point out the mandatory quality assurance procedures that must be in place to support marketing and sales programs for technology innovators. Please call me, Ira Michael Blonder, IMB Enterprises, Inc at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion about your product and your plan.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

13
Feb

A word on the role of persuasion in sales

Ever since Xerox Corporation spun off its excellent internal sales group into a separate business peddling “needs satisfaction” sales training, it has been entirely de rigueur to talk up sales that somehow, magically, sell themselves. In fact I’ve written up this approach in this very blog, for example, with reference to what I take to be “broken down” purchase decision making in global businesses that can’t move on seemingly important acquisitions. I have advocated heavy use of information gathering and collaboration with prospects on crafting decisions when and how they “make sense” in an evolutionary manner. In other words, I’ve preached selling without a close, a prescription entirely consistent with my own selling roots in the above mentioned Xerox sales approach.

HOWEVER, there is today, nevertheless, an excellent role to be played by persuasion in sales. But where and how to implement persuasion in the sales process? Look to rhetorical argumentation for useful guidelines as to where and how to commence an effort to persuade sales prospects to move forward on a purchase. Any student of the English language and literature is familiar with rhetoric, rhetorical argument, and how to frame a position in an essay. For this reason, personnel with a background in the humanities and English, in particular, make very good candidates for sales roles. The caveat is that these individuals must also enjoy interacting with prospects–introverts just won’t cut it.

Specifically, it is the “argument from authority” that provides a very useful foundation for persuading prospects to move forware. This argument from authority can be summed up simply as “Well don’t you recognize that everyone else is doing it? therefore might it not be too presumptuous to go against the tide in this area” etc.
I have used this approach successfully to open conversations with prospects and, also, to facilitate successful closure on purchases by prospects. Fact is that some slow progress is disingenuous on the part of prospects, a purposeful retarding of the natural progression of discussion and inquiry into products or services. When I catch wind that things are slowing down without reason, I then put the petal to the metal, bringing an argument from authority to the attention of a prospect to keep the normal progress of discussion on track. Nothing whatsoever wrong about hastening sales along in this manner. In fact, this type of “wake up call” can do wonders for prospects who just can’t seem to move forward despite a rationale to buy that would otherwise be inescapable.

Call us for further information on the above points. IMB Enterprises, Inc. has considerable recent experience selling complex sales of IT products and services to global business. Please telephone us at +1 631-673-2929 to discuss your products and needs. We are particularly interested in technology products–software or hardware–as most of our experience has been garnered from working with software and computer hardware manufacturers.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

11
Feb

Sometimes Ready Fire Aim makes sense

Sometimes it makes sense to implement a ready, fire, aim product development strategy. For example, to test out market interest in various product types, or to gauge the readiness of a market to purchase products and solutions for otherwise unqualified needs.

Maintaining product direction in an entirely pliable state, capable of moving any which way to meet market needs, while engaging with prospects on ostensibly clear sales discussions is a great posture to gather lots of useful information about product perception, first hand. This stage should be incorporated within any product marketing plan as it makes little if any sense to finalize product performance without some reliance on the perception and interest of representatives in the marketplace. Usually this type of information is gathered through prospect and customer interviews, but with ready, fire, aim it is possible to go even deeper with prospects and, thereby, gather the most credible response from the market. The fire stage, after all, is actually mustering selling efforts around products. A go to market strategy on the fly.

Notice that I stressed maintain products in an entirely pliable condition. If, on the other hand, products are rigid, then engaging with prospects in this fire stage prior to aiming sales efforts can provide little more than an excuse to either race into product development, or to abandon the business plan altogether. Therefore, but have your funding in place before entering into this type of marketing strategy to ensure that you realize the most benefit from this exercise.

With regard to using the fire stage to determine present buying interest in products and services, this technique can jump start revenue building–no doubt about it. Even more compelling, this stage does not require the support of a full complement of marketing communications tools, etc; therefore saving cash strapped technology innovators precious cash. Further, marketing communications materials can be assembled and published entirely on an as needed basis, which may make the most sense from a funding perspective.

Despite these advantages, I counsel caution with regard to implementing this approach. By no means should your firm look half baked as the result of proceeding in this direction. Be sure, as ever, to stay under the radar while you navigate these turbulent waters.

Call us for further information on the above points. IMB Enterprises, Inc. has considerable recent experience implementing lead generation programs for complex sales of IT products and services to global business. Please telephone us at +1 631-673-2929 to discuss your products and needs. We are particularly interested in technology products–software or hardware–as most of our experience has been garnered from working with software and computer hardware manufacturers.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

28
Jan

Four IT Sales Fundamentals that Work for Selling Any Products Targeted to Global Business

Despite current market conditions some IT sales fundamentals must be utilized. Therefore, it is worthwhile to recap some features of these fundamentals. These “must have” techniques should underpin other, mutable strategies. At the core of these fundamentals are four important sales activities:

  1. Mapping decision makers within specific global business prospects
  2. Verifying the credibility of decision makers identified through step one
  3. Composing a useful picture of the condition of prospect requirements for relevant products/services/solutions
  4. Engaging with decision makers on topics depicted within the picture of relevant requirements or needs at the prospect

Notice that “engaging” is the last of the four activities in my list. The activity of engaging is to be differentiated from the activities of gathering information, qualifying levels of prospect maturity, and testing hypotheses about prospect needs. It is entirely acceptable to proceed on the activities just mentioned. In fact, it will not be possible to proceed on prospect engagement without the data that must be produced through gathering, qualifying and testing. It is critical to hold off on engagement pending collection of useful, definitive information about the prospect.

I highly recommend a direct marketing approach to performing these activities. Through direct, cold call outreach to contacts at prospect businesses much can be learned (surprisingly quickly). On the other hand, one can argue that leveraging influential individuals to gain access to contacts at prospect businesses is a means of potentially shortening the sales cycle, but picking the right influential individual may be impossible if one approaches these activities with the assumption that the prospect business is, indeed, a tabula rasa. This assumption, if it is to work its magic (I strongly believe in the power of keeping an open mind as hypotheses are tested, contacts vetted, etc–in other words approaching the prospect as a blank slate), requires sales to focus on listening, and to hold off, for as long as possible on presenting anything.

The purpose of gathering information is to ensure that a decision to proceed on a sales campaign for a specific prospect makes complete sense. Why waste precious time on a campaign that will go nowhere for reasons that may lurk within some early conversations that ought to have been scrutinized carefully for important signs of prospect maturity.

If these four activities can be practiced consistently, then any markets, whether driven by commodities or not can be successfully mined for business. I have much current experience with each of these four activities and would be pleased to expand on my views upon request. Please call me directly at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

3
Dec

Good Luck Selling Unclear Products

Technology innovators with products in flux should have minimal to no expectation of sales.

What are products in flux? Products in flux are conceived by marketers who opt for the “ready, fire aim” approach to product development rather than a more conservative “ready, aim, fire” approach. I am using “in flux” as a synonym for “in play”. Changing either products, or the method of distribution for products, subsequent to market introduction confuses buyers. Confused buyers generally are in no position to buy anything, especially if a confusing product presentation alights atop a heap of additional internal confusion within the business. Therefore, be especially careful not to opt for this product development technique for products that require a commplex selling strategy.

If you’ve already gone and polluted your market space with this lack of product clarity, then the best way to deal with your soon to be sales-less situation is to drop any/all pretense of selling and revert to listening and surveying customer prospects to garner their best thoughts of markets that you intend, ultimately, to serve with your ever evolving product. How to catch an early indication that your product might need retooling? Consider your market pricing, and preliminary estimate of the length of a typical sales cycle for your product. If realities are way off of your assumptions, then you need to reconfigure your product.

Real life example: a client of mine has built a product for a market serviced by channel partners, meaning resellers who add value to manufacturers by configuring products for end customer implementation and supporting these same products after implementation. My client opted to offer products directly to end users, without availing of channel partners. Our attempts at direct sales were characterized by very lengthy sales cycles, and a rather low level of buying interest. When we landed orders, the orders were landed at low prices. General consensus, we would not be able to achieve revenue “escape velocity” via our direct to the end customer approach for our market.

We decided to reconfigure our distribution plan. We approached channel partners with an interest in discussing their expectations for products like ours in their market, etc. We also reassembled his product to better conform to channel offerings. All of this work transpired during his initial “go to market” effort. Revenues lagged, but we had taken a promising turn that bodes well for the future of his product.

If your product is unclear, better strive for clarity before expecting much of sales. Your time will not be wasted. Once you’ve repositioned your product you may be able to hasten revenue beyond the timing you assumed in your product plan.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved