Sales Force Automation: Friend or Fool?

May 10, 2009

I was recently asked:

“How could sales force automation (SFA) affect salesperson productivity, marketing management and competitive advantages?”

To which I resonded:

If you automate non-compelling marketing drivel in an intellectual, ineffective attempt to generate qualified leads that in turn motivates incompetent sales people to meet and/or exceed quotas blindly assigned by a narcissistic CEO you are simply accelerating the pace at which the marketplace discovers the weaknesses in your offerings and you all get re-acquainted with Monster.com.

Most SFA implementations I endured as a sales person became little more than expensive spreadsheet-producing torture devices whose manipulation and hourly generation were used by confused and inept sales managers to justify their further isolation from their staff.

These same managers then used the 87 different reports as enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) to cajole inflated pipeline guesses out of their scared, under-quota sales people during weekly sales beatings meetings.

The answers the sales staff gave – and the managers accepted – reminded me of Darren Stephens explaining to his boss on “Bewitched” why he had a monkey wearing a tutu riding a donkey in his living room.

During the boom-boom years of the late 90’s and early 2000’s most companies didn’t have to sell because people spent money more freely than drunken politicians on a Madoff junket investigating the viability of franchising Nevada brothels.

Instead of looking inward to see who and what needs to be reassigned or released, companies turn to SFA platforms in a technological attempt to cure what ails them. But rotten eggs carried in a Rolls Royce still can’t be used to bake an award-winning cake.

Now the good news: “Perfect practice makes perfect,” as Vince Lombardi used to say. If you create and automate tested, effective, constantly-updated marketing campaigns with proven “next steps” that are triggered by key events, i.e. a prospect downloads a free report or white paper, signs up for a webinar, requests a quote, your sales staff will become exponentially more productive and profitable because they will be spending more time with educated, hot leads ready to buy rather than chasing “investigators” and “SeeMores” who cannot make a decision.

When you spend less time educating and more time connecting with decision-makers that are able to buy sales cycles are shortened.

And in sales it’s all about compressing sales cycles.

If you can do more, faster and better with fewer people you will bury your competition and dominate your field and you’ll do so despite working less hours than your competition, charging higher prices, selling at higher margin, with less stress and more fun.

It’s all about automating the proper message to market to media match. How fast do you want to bury your competition? Contact me if you’d like to start today.

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Which is Better: CRM or Social Media?

May 7, 2009
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Spread Your CRM & Marketing Wings

To blog or not to blog?

To network socially or…anti-socially?

Salesforce.com or Zoho or Infusionsoft?

During the “good old days,” i.e. before Socialism really took hold of our great country in late 2008, I  had to suffer through Onyx, Siebel, SFDC, Zoho, Highrise, “Outlook as a pseudo-CRM,” Cardscan and ACT disasters, I mean, implementations, as the companies I worked for and with attempted to better manage their customer relationships.

Sidebar: do you manage customers like you do inventory? I’ve heard of Just In Time Inventory (JIT) that Dell really mastered but I’ve never heard of Just In Time Customers. If you must provide more value today to less trusting clients shouldn’t in order to open a lasting relationship instead of close a sale and run like hell maybe there is room for both Social Networking and CRM to play together. But I digress.

Sometimes I even had to endure the implementation of 2 or 3 of these CRMs at more than one company. Boy oh boy. They REALLY wanted to manage some good customers more gooder. (Oh how I long for the good old days!)

While the management and the bean counters and those that never left the office may have enjoyed the raw spreadsheet-producing horsepower of these various tools, as far as the sales force was concerned none of them lived up to their hype. The bean counters eventually saw the flaws in their thinking as well, which is why most changed platforms at least once.

Case in point: In 2004 I took over a large territory from a sales rep that was moving to England to help open an office there. Despite the company running an expensive CRM he handed me a manila folder stuffed with printouts from the customer record that was originally created in the CRM but never updated. All of the updates were hand written on the printout.

SHAZAM! Boy-howdy was I motivated to get that manila folder!? I had MY WHOLE TERRITORY right under my arm and there were only a couple of cofee mug stains on the folder. Imagine the power and the possibilities. (AURGH?)

The excuse was that the company was moving away from that platform because it was too hard to use and they were rolling out another in 2-4 months time so why update what’s going away?

Besides, they had a great Excel macro built for quoting and that’s where the important information was kept anyway.

In the end, every CRM I’ve seen installed since 2000 became little more than an expensive calendar to schedule conference calls and a tool management used to inspect every orifice – even the hard-to-reach ones – of their sales people and then beat those same sales people over the head about the poor quality of their pipelines. (Why am I thinking of Kevin Bacon murmuring “Thank you, Sir, may I have another?” during his frat initiation in “Animal House?”)

Companies – by that I mean, bean counters, desperate/worn out managers and/or clueless sales VP’s that have no idea what their sales people do all day but think they just need to get out there and “give more presentations” –

iopUAY 987YTADSF;K –

Sorry about that. I just fell off my soap box. I’m ok. Where was I? Oh yeah,…

– these poor people think a CRM will solve all that ails them.

After thousands or even millions of dollars and months or years of tweaking they all realize that garbage in equals lost opportunities, lost revenues, lost sleep, lost sales people, lost capex, lost opex, lost market share and lost customers.

While I admit that CRM-type tools are needed to enable snapshots as well as deep-dives into the health of the organization I think the acronym, “Customer Relationship Management” is a huge misnomer that must be changed.

In reality, the big CRMs more closely resemble “Nag the Customer Incessantly So Management Can Get Paid Their Bonuses” or NTCISMCGPTB.” (I guess CRM does roll off the tongue a little easier.)

So is your goal to “manage” a customer or open the lines of communication with them?
If you want to “manage the relationship with your customers” you need tools to automate and standardize your correspondence with them. (You do understand Message to Market Medium, right?)

You conduct webinars & seminars, attend trade shows, produce white papers and application notes, have press releases and product upgrades that you would like to tell the marketplace about.

What are the 3 or 5 or 25 steps that can be built into a sequence that includes email, a letter, a postcard, a voicemail blast, a fax blast, a phone call or even a visit every 1, 3 or 21 days to better “manage” the relationships that will evolve into happy cleints that invest in high margin solutions from you over and over again?

You see, most business owners and enterprises haven’t wrapped their brains around the idea that you must open up a two-way dialogue with your customers. Those that know they must do this come to the harsh realization that it’s hard to figure out what to say, it’s harder to say it well and it’s either impossible or unaffordable to set up the type of required sequence that will say deliver the right message at the right time and run in perpetuity on time, every time with no human intervention after it is created once.

So they revert to beating the sales people for their pipeline update. “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”

It took me 9 years to find that type of software that automates my marketing and what a difference it has made to my consulting business. I liked it so much I became a certified implementer and reseller of it. If you’d like to know more about it just drop me a line.

To answer the question, CRM or Social Media, the answer is both.

They are just two sides of the same coin. The proper usage of Social Media will get people to raise their hands and express and interest. A good “Automated Marketing Platform” that takes old-school CRMs to the level they were meant to be, will help maintain the dialogue with those in your marketplace until enough trust is established that they gladly buy on their own terms and sing your praises from the mountain tops.

It can happen but it will take a new perspective, a willingness to grow and a little time. The good news is that your competition is too lazy to do this because they’re worn out from shivering in their hunkered-down bunker waiting for this storm to pass.

The thinking that got you into your mess won’t get you out. It’s time to come out of your cocoon and Seize the Day.

Life is good. It’s gooder when you’re selling.


How to Choose a Lead Generation Company

May 6, 2009

lead generation, telemarketing, prospecting, seo, sem, ppc, google adwords, direct mail, selling over the phoneYou may have asked yourself this question and never gotten an answer:

“What are the key factors to consider in choosing a lead generation partner for technology leads. We are an IT services company aiming at the SME market. We have heard many horror stories of relationships that do not work out?!”

Lead generation, marketing, prospecting…whatever name you give it, this is the most important thing a business owner must do to grow the business.

To get granular for a moment I would say that a business owner’s job is to market, a sales manager’s job is to recruit and a salesperson’s job is to prospect.

The better the business owner is a marketing the easier the recruiting and prospecting, but those are topics for another message.

Back to the lead generation question. This is how I answered:

This can really open Pandora’s Box.

  • What is your budget?
  • What is your time line and time horizon? By that I mean are you looking for a “quick fix” that can be generated with a direct mail and/or PPC / SEM campaign and/or are you looking to develop a more organic/holistic approach via SEO, webinars, seminars, etc?
  • How much are you willing to do in qualifying the leads? Do you want a firm to make outbound calls for you and turn over warm leads to you or do you want them to make calls and then direct the prospect to a website where they sign up for a free whitepaper or report and then they are put into a drip campaign that coordinates a multi-media, multi-step approach to nurturing them along?

I can’t think of an outsourced telemarketing firm that has lasted long term with any of the firms I’ve ever worked with so be tough when you interview a so-called lead-gen company.

Ask if they charge by the hour, by the call, by the appointment or by revenue generated.

Ask and verify their referrals and testimonials.

Make sure they have a track record both in your industry and with firms your size and even in your part of the country if you are not national.

Ask them how their success has been in the last 12 months since this recession really took hold. (We’re seeing who has good business models and leadership in place now that people aren’t spending like drunken politicians…er…I mean, sailors, these days.)
Ask them if they provide any type of trial period or even money-back guarantee.

And prepare all of these questions ahead of time and have them written down before you go in to negotiate.

Then put on your sales manager’s hat and “recruit!” By that I mean retain two or even three of them and have them start at the same time and see who performs the best. After a week fire the worst one. After the second week keep the best one and then recruit another.

Remember, life is good. It’s “gooder” when you’re selling!

To get good at generating your own leads you may want to check out my newly updated Inner Circle.


The 2 Key Ingredients to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

May 5, 2009

Do you want to be a succes?

Do you have that entpreneurial bug but you’re not sure how to start?

Here is all you need to become a success in business: Ignorance & Courage.

That’s it.

Here’s how you start: stop over-analyzing and start! That’s right. Just get to work!

Most entrepreneurs just starting out need a one-page business plan. If you’d like to see a million-dollar business plan on a napkin look up Ryan Deiss and his “Million Dollar Napkin.” It’s simple. It’s classic. It’s worth $1,000,000 and more.

So keep it simple. You can’t know everything. You can’t “cover all your bases.” So find your niche. Find what makes you happy and get started being happy helping other people do what you know they want or need done.

It’s amazing how many people I meet that don’t want to be treated “like everyone else” but they’re afraid to stand out from the pack. In today’s economy where you can make millions by specializing, by servicing a niche that has never been served before you MUST stand out.

You must get noticed. Otherwise, how will those people you are hoping to serve find you? If they can’t find you they can’t pay you. If you don’t get paid you can’t help and serve more people. It’s just that simple.

So what are some ways to stand out?

  • Outrageous marketing. Send X-Rays and peanuts and trash cans and shoes (actually, one shoe) to your top prospects to secure appointments.
  • Sequences and automated follow up systems.
  • Write a blog and write from the heart.
  • Video “sales letters.”
  • Lots of testimonials. With pictures are good, with audio is better, with video is best.
  • Social networking.

And these are just a few ideas. But here’s the kicker: none of these are “easy” and doing them all in concert with one another to build a wide funnel that creates self-screened prospects that come to your door ready to buy IS DANG HARD!

But you can do it IN TIME but you have to get started.

If you don’t know how to write good sales copy but you’re not afraid to make a video from your USB camera plugged into your computer then DO IT!

If you don’t know anything about SEO or SEM or PPC that’s fine, just start writing and indexing what you write and submitting it to popular blogging sites like blogger.com, wordpress.com, even add it to your Facebook or MySpace or LinkedIn profile and let others comment on it.

If you don’t know how to “market outrageously” but you’re not afraid to pick up the phone then do that and let your passion carry you to the next level.

Eventually you’ll need to implement systems and processes to automate the simple things to enable you to spend more time on the money-making things. And forget that myth about “work on your weaknesses.”

B.S!!

Work on your strengths. Do what you do best and outsource the rest.

Now get to work!

I’m here to help if you need a little boost.

Remember, life is good. It’s gooder when you’re selling.