Tag Archives: sales

The Twelve Days of Prospecting

partridge-in-pear-tree-fi

To keep your business pipeline healthy all year long, prospecting for new gigs is a necessity.  In keeping with the holiday season, KiteDesk.com has posted my article, The 12 Days of Prospecting.  In it, I discuss a variety of processes, tips, and suggestions for successfully building your customer base.  These are twelve strategies that you can begin to incorporate today, which will serve you well in the upcoming year!

Read the entire post here!

The Missing Piece in Content Marketing

Lisa Dennis Content Marketing“While content marketing is one of the most effective and interesting marketing tactics to come down the pike, I have to confess that I have a bone to pick with it.  Content marketing isn’t only about marketing.  While marketers have all the responsibility for strategy, creation and execution, which is no small thing, there is another very important aspect that’s missing…”

I recently wrote this while pondering the strengths and weaknesses of content marketing, and why it has not been fully embraced by sales people.  I came up with a few ideas on the matter that I’d like to share with you.

Click here to read my entire article on TechTarget’s Mktr2Mktr site.  Thanks!

We’ve Been Busy…

Lately, we’ve been asked by customers, partners and colleagues pretty frequently about what kinds of things we’ve been working on.  We’re usually so busy creating, developing and delivering, we rarely take the time to share what we’ve been up to.  Here’s a taste of how we have helped our customers over the past twelve months.  Perhaps it will give you some ideas on new ways to tackle your own markets in 2015. We’ve had the privilege to work with some amazing companies to help do amazing things.  Give us a call – we’re happy to share more detail. 

Value Proposition Development: We worked with a global leader of next-generation information technology services and solutions to help them develop a compelling value propositionval prop mirror (3) platform for a new workplace solution tailored to different workstyles, including deskless workers, innovators, knowledge workers and more. We conducted a two day workshop, bringing together teams from product development, marketing, strategy, sales, analyst relations, and others to collaboratively develop a value proposition for the services category, as well as the individual workstyles. Post workshop, we worked with key individuals through virtual editorial sessions to fully develop, refine and test the messaging.  Outputs included a set of highly differentiated value proposition statements, top customer value drivers, quantification of those drivers, and proof points.  We then moved into a subset of vertical markets to customize the messaging platform for selected industries. 

Value Proposition Coaching: We helped a SMB Insides Sales Training company develop a new value proposition to better leverage their name and more clearly differentiate themselves in a noisy and competitive market.  In this project, we provided them with modular orientation and tools to draft each piece of the value proposition platform.  Then we reviewed and coached them through the development process.  This enabled them to create, iterate and develop a new messaging platform semi-independently, with the benefit of expert guidance and input. According to the customer, the live coaching was a value-add that enabled them to go further with the creation process than they had previously been able to on their own.

Digital Content Assessment:  Working in tandem with one of our partners, we conducted a number of digital content assessments over the past year, evaluating anywhere from  15 to over 100 content assets across a set of best practice content attributes developed and market tested by our partner. With each project, we simultaneously surveyed technology buyers in each customer’s specific target market space. Upon completion of the assessment and the survey, we then compared the results to reveal the strengths, weaknesses, gaps and opportunities of their current content asset array, and how they mapped to their buyers’ content preferences.  We also provided a set of recommendations on the top ten assets across the set, as well as ideas for content improvements, extensions, and new assets.  The end result of these projects was a digital content road map for each client to use to refine, better leverage and improve their content marketing mix to drive better target engagement.

Account Based Marketing: This year we became certified in a partner’s Account Based Marketing methodology and started jointly delivering this program to clients.  Our first engagement was with the leading global provider of enterprise software and information solutions for professional services firms and government contractors. Together we worked on a single strategic account to develop a highly customized account based campaign plan.  The program included advanced research, a workshop with the account team, marketing and product management.  Together we build a set of account imperatives (business, operational and IT based) around which we crafted potential plays to address each imperative.  Finally we created a campaign plan for each selected play to drive these new messages and enable the account team to have deeper, more solution oriented conversations to uncover and drive deeper account penetration and revenue.

conf speaker (3)Sales Enablement and Sales Kickoff Training: We built a sales enablement program for a mid-market integrated marketing services and solution company to help drive evolution in their sales team from selling predominantly print  and promotional materials to adding interactive services (digital, web, social).  This was phase 2 of a two year effort to bring the sales team up to speed in this new arena.  The program included developing a new Discovery Model geared to prospecting within existing accounts for new interactive marketing opportunities, a bundled offering strategy with sales enablement tools to help sales more easily integrate interactive services into their selling mix.  The program was initially piloted for three months with a select set of account executives, and then rolled out to the entire national sales team at their annual sales kick-off meeting. The effort t included two workshops, sales tools (Quick Reference Guides, Offering Brochures, Discovery Model, Discovery Questions), and a post training coaching program.

Strategic Content Development:  Working with a partner, we developed a set of branded content components for a global Fortune 100 technology company.  The content was used in a multi-touch campaign for a key solutions offering to drive multi-country lead generation.  Working with their subject matter experts, we developed and executed an industry survey aimed at vice presidents of IT Infrastructure and IT Operations.  The results of the survey were utilized to craft messaging in the development of an infographic, an interactive white paper, and a branded interactive assessment tool to be used by the customer’s prospect audience.  All asset and activities focused on two things: the insight of buyers, and their current adoption status, plans and expectations around potential benefits. The content was translated into 11 languages – providing the means to execute this multi-touch program globally.

New Product Launch: We helped a global information company to execute a fast-track pre-launch of the world’s largest online information source for news, insight, content and community for engineers and technical professionals.  This fast-track project demanded a 4 week turnaround of sales content while the product itself, simultaneously, was in concept development. The goal was to be able to pre-launch to their top partners at one of the most important annual trade shows in their market space.  Launch materials included value proposition development, a high-level product sheet, an internal product briefing presentation, an external partner presentation deck, and a product FAQ.

As we dive head-first into 2015, it makes sense to jump-start your sales program now, so it pays off at the end of the year.  Let’s talk.

   — Lisa Dennis

7 Steps to SMARTEN UP about Your Biggest Accounts

raising_handPlease raise your hand if you are a sales leader that has ever been blindsided by one of your biggest customers buying something from a competitor that your company offers, and you and your team had no idea they were even in the market for it.

You’re doing a good amount of business with this customer. So how come the account executive wasn’t on top of this?  Why didn’t we know? Why weren’t we considered or asked about it?  It’s one of our best accounts and we missed a great opportunity to open a new line of business with them.  Now the rest of the account may be in jeopardy!

If you’ve been there, let’s talk about how to keep it from happening again.  If it hasn’t happened yet – well, listen up because it’s highly likely you’ll find yourself there when you least expect it!

Being consultative, at its core, is about two things.  The first is about conducting “discovery” on the account on a regular basis.  The second is about developing a living account plan that includes a solid strategy, and not just random tactics.

Is this rocket science?  No.  Then why do we still have these challenges?  Because it takes a lot of both work and patience – and with our quarter by quarter mentality, we just keep executing tactics to drive short-term revenue. We’re insanely busy and we just don’t have time to be “strategic.”  Plus, we already did a pretty thorough discovery exercise on this account.

As we move into the second quarter of 2014 sales leaders are grappling with two challenges

  1. Our prospects and customers are asking us to be more “consultative.”
  2. Many of our sales people are transactional sellers and are leaving money on the table at our most important accounts.

Group of unidentifiable business peopleBoth of these needs boil down to a hard truth:  we simply don’t know enough about the accounts we are already engaged with, and our accounts know it.

Wait a minute – accounts that we already have?!  

Right – I’m talking about accounts that we already have sold to, and maybe have even done quite a bit of business with.  The good news is that we have them. The bad news is that we may either be assuming we know more than we do, OR the sales executive is comfortable with what he/she is generating, and doesn’t want to risk rocking the boat on that account by pushing for more.  But the reality is that you don’t have time NOT to be strategic; limiting yourself to one round of discovery is the reason you had no clue that other things were happening in that account.

 

So here are 7 Ways to SMARTEN UP about Your Largest Accounts

  1. Define The Buyer’s Journey
    To get from point A to point B, you can wing it, or you can get your hands on a map.  The landscape inside of big accounts is not simple, and it gets more complex every day.  Consider developing a Discovery Matrix that outlines the stages of how your account’s customers typically buy from them.  This is the horizontal access on your map. Then list all the business needs that their customers might have that your offerings could help the account deliver on. This is your vertical axis.  Have you noticed yet that this buyer’s journey is more account focused than “sales” focused?  Unless you are helping them through their own buyer’s journey, then you aren’t consulting to help their business grow – you’re just selling, like everyone else.
  2. Map What You Already Know
    Now do a brain dump on this map about everything you know for sure about this account.  In what areas of the buyers’ journey are you already contributing?  What do you know about other any other areas, which you haven’t broken into yet?  Is someone else in there? If so, what are they doing?  What business needs have you already addressed or are currently working on?  What new opportunities, challenges or goals do they have that you are aware of? Populate this matrix with everything you know or are aware of.
  3. Identify and Analyze the “White Space”            
    In the white space, the areas in the account for which you have no information, lives potential opportunity.  There may be entire areas where you could be creative with how your offerings can help.  There may be extensions from where you are now that link to new ways to help in other divisions or solutions or offerings.  Are there any patterns in your map that might help define a path for account growth?  Most importantly, this mapping of the account shows you clearly and visually the areas where you don’t know enough to really grow the account.
  4. Do Your Research – Even if You’ve Done It Already
    So it’s back to doing some more homework.  Discovery is never done.  Why?  Because your account is never at rest.  They are trying to grow and expand themselves, which means they are constantly changing.  And their customers are changing, as well.  So what you knew last year, or even last quarter, doesn’t mean you’re on top of things today.  AND if there are areas in the account that are untouched by your company, then I KNOW you need to do more research to learn what’s going on in there. Does it take time to do this?  Yes. Stop complaining and get on with it!  What you don’t know is keeping you from penetrating and expanding the account.
  5. Develop Your Discovery Questions
    Mapping? Check.  Research? Check.  Now you can start to make some strategic decisions on where you want to begin to move further in the account.  You need to prepare strong discovery questions around the “white spaces” to continue to learn, and to demonstrate you’ve done some homework.  This moves you to starting a much more consultative conversation than you may have had with them in the past.  But good questions aren’t random.  Give some thought to what you want to ask and why.  Be sure it’s about true discovery, and not rhetorical questions that can only be answered by your products or services.  You are not going to pitch in this conversation – you are going to learn.   (Repeat that sentence twice!)
  6. Conduct Discovery Conversation (and Shut Up!)
    A good discovery conversation happens when you sit down with a person high enough in the organization to have an idea of the bigger picture of the company’s goals and objectives.  Be sure you are not with someone who doesn’t have insight into that view.  Share that your organization has been able to deliver more value in several key areas with other customers, and you have some specific questions you’d like to ask to determine where that additional value might be gained.  At that meeting, ask the questions, and SHUT UP AND LISTEN!  You don’t need to respond to every point.  Just take it in, write it down, and plan on going back to the office to think about it, talk with others, and come up with some ideas that you will come back and discuss. This sets the stage for the second consultative conversation.
  7. Define Strategic Account Goal, Top 5 Objectives and Action Plans
    At this point, you should have a good handle on what the account is trying to achieve, and you will have discussed some ways to help them deliver.  Now you’re ready to define a meaningful account strategy, set an aggressive goal, and define the top 5 objectives to get you there.  This forms the account plan that will focus your tactical action plans in a clear and well defined direction.  Strategy first, then tactics.  Account expansion relies on this.  The obvious sales opportunities are never enough to really go deep and wide in an account, and build a solid partnership.

Being consultative with your best accounts means “being in the know.”  It’s up to your account team to stay on top of what’s happening and to ask smart questions that will inform as well as bolster the importance of this strategic account, and show how committed you are to helping them achieve their goals.

—  Lisa Dennis

All I Want for Christmas is… a customer-focused value proposition?

Some of you in reading this will question whether what I’m proposing is really a marketing responsibility or a sales responsibility. But the point is that the buying climate out there is forcing marketing and sellers to engage and partner more closely than ever before. It takes a village of marketing and salespeople to land and keep happy customers. Marketing has the power and expertise to lead the way on that journey.  So please read this and let me know what you think!

• Customer-focused value proposition that clearly states the prospect’s challenge or goal, your company’s specific offer to address it, and what differentiates your offer from available alternatives;

• Customer-focused benefits (not features) tailored to individual personas/titles of target prospects;

• List of key value drivers that guide the prospect’s decision process, quantified with verifiable proof (customer testimonials, case studies, or third party validation). Qualification tools make all the difference in streamlining the sales process and driving closeable opportunities into the pipeline. While it is sales’ job to qualify, there is a role for marketing to play in driving the process.

• Create a “Prospect Fit Index,” which provides an easy and consistent method for sales to determine whether a prospect is worth pursuing. The index should outline what is a poor fit versus an optimal fit based on a set of 5–7 key criteria that describe the best and closable sales targets for your products or services. Any prospect can be quickly assessed or scored based on where they map across the index.

• Develop a lead measurement tool that allows both marketing and sales to score a lead to be able to assess the quality of leads coming in, and to determine which leads should be pursued versus nurtured until they are ready to go to sales.

Oh yes, there is more!  Click here to continue.

Customer Fit: Do You Know What You Are Seeking?

You’re looking for more business.  The bad news is, so is everyone else in the world.  the good news is, you have a plan.  At least you will after reading this.

Evaluate the makeup of your best customers.  Things to consider:

  • market position
  • revenue size of organization
  • number of employees
  • market type
  • technology platform
  • competitive strategy
  • core business challenge
  • opportunity size
  • core product penetration
  • level of support needed
  • referral or reference potential
  • industry fit.

What common factors do they share?  What trends do you see emerging?

Develop your own set of custom criteria, get internal buy-in for the list, and prioritize by overall value to your business.  Go do this!  Now!

— Lisa Dennis

Dear Everybody – Sales & Marketing Letters

Marketing and sales writing needs to be written for the masses but sound like it’s written for the individual.

We want to be sure it’s not too long, but not too short.  Does it cover all the key points, and include a call-to-action?

While we too often focus on correctness – we need to spend more time on what actually generates response.  Personal, prospect-focused, informational content will get letters read. Understanding what your specific target is motivated by personally will increase readability as well.  Include proof of what you say – third party, objective proof that your offer has real utility that is true and documented.

In other words, write a letter to me, not to everyone you know.

— Lisa Dennis

PS – Peter Shankman coincidentally addressed this very issue in his blog recently – as usual, he hits the nail on the head.

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