Posts in ‘Sales and Marketing’

Social Media and Tribes #1: Tribal behaviors 2.0

by Deepika Bajaj on May 26, 2010

Media was designed to be an medium for the message of man. It was a way to broadcast a message to be able to connect with a community that might have interest in what you might have to stay. MOST importantly it was the extension of our Human Tribe. A Tribe which was based on interaction of the social community – where commerce was created through referrals, recommendations and participation. The objective was to tap into the intrinsic behavior of the TRIBE and most often people were motivated by certain social behaviors and NOT necessarily by money.

In traditional media, the idea was to blast something to everyone who had a device like TV, radio to receive it. These medium was designed to interrupt people like an ad within a TV program, a song on the radio or an article in the newspaper. It was an intrusive way of marketers to grab attention and shove their message. They wished that people will be touched by their message and will be moved into action to buy, refer or participate.

Here is the major issue with all of this, the media channels eventually took over the control of what will be printed. Newspaper won’t print anything you sent them. Sometimes, you have to advertise with huge sums of money to get a spot on TV, radio or newspaper. Over time, the power of community to share information over media got depleted. And the Human Tribe which was based on many-to-many communication was reduced to a DICTATOR model of one-to-many communication.

And then arrived social media, suddenly you could print anything on your blog, upload any video and even make your podcast on whatever you fancy. And media became TRIBAL.  We were able to share our opinions, our businesses and our tribes.

Speaking of tribes, the predominant characteristic of tribes throughout time is the need to communicate. So what social media can do combined with a tribal structure is very quickly mobilize a shared interest and becomes a powerful way to communicate. In effect, as Godin, the author of Tribes, says every tribe becomes a media channel.

Keeping this in mind, ActiveGarage team launched 99tribes, a premier site to discover people on twitter who share your interests and become part of their own media channel.

Here is how tribes are shaping their media channel:

  1. Communities as Tribes. People are able to find like-minded people and declare their interests. This allows for them to make themselves “discoverable” by those who share their interests. Given how hard it is to find people in the real world who share your interests, here is a way to become part of YOUR tribe – your own media channel.
  2. Think Tribes Not Market Segments. Modern human tribes are based on our need to use language and communicate. This enables the tribes to reciprocate, help or even hoard each other. This is your tribal broadcast media channel.
  3. Chalk your Tribal path. Each person becomes a valuable contributor of the Tribe and shapes its journey. And brings along people who then shape the tribal path – what will your Tribes journey look like now depends on you. Share and shape the journey on your Tribal media channel.

So, I invite you to become the part of your Tribe. If you have a Twitter account, you can join 99tribes by simply clicking on “add me to the tribes”… and if you don’t, create a Twitter account, join 99tribes and create your own media channel!

Triple Constraint Sales

by Guy Ralfe on May 12, 2010

We had the opportunity to present our business offer to a potential client, whilst it was one client there were 8 delegates attending the meeting and each of those delegates represented an opportunity for future business.

I am a subscriber to the thinking that all employees are in sales; however as a project manager I never used to think of my role as having to conduct sales, yet reflecting back on it a very high proportion of the project management role was balancing the commercial interests of the company with the needs and desires of the customer.

As a project manager you constantly hear the mantra of the triple constraint being mentioned. For those of you not in the know it stipulates that for a successful project the Scope, Cost, Time(Resources) and Quality  (yes four not three axes) have to remain in balance. Any change to one of these axes will result in an impact to one or all of the others.

Since our offer is about sub contracted services it was not hard to think in terms of project management, and I then thought about how the triple constraint also applies to an effective and enticing sales pitch as basically every sale is a project.

Taking each of the axes and assessing them from a sales perspective:

  • Scope – the products and services you offer
  • Cost – the competitive advantage of your products, marginal utility and value to the buyer
  • Time/Resources – structure of your organization and its ability to fulfill on your commitments and obligations, ability to adapt and handle changes
  • Quality – what are your past accomplishments, how have you ensured that the quality will remain when taking on a new sale, your organizational structure, your organizational philosophies and practices?

Just like in a project you have to carefully balance these axes, it is vital that you do the same in managing your business. Customers are looking for good partners all the time, if you can demonstrate through your pitch that you are able to manage and deliver on these axes it provides a very compelling case for any prospect to engage with you.

You may have a superb product but if you have a poor supply chain and are prohibitively expensive you no longer have a balanced offer and you immediately become average.

Remember at all times though that you are presenting for the customers concerns, and in the marketplace average and mediocre are in abundance – there these four axes are not balanced. Just by performing these four key areas well with demonstrated success you will be differentiating your business and make any sales pitch enticing.

Are You Preventing Your House Sale ?

by Guy Ralfe on May 5, 2010

We are in the process of selling our house, the same house that when we bought it, we bought because of the opportunity we saw in the land and buildings to make it into the home we wanted it to be for our family – it was also at the time going to be our home for the foreseeable future.

When we negotiated for the house we were negotiating with owners that had spent the last 28 years in the house. They clearly had a lot of sentimental attachment to the house, but to me the buyer this sale was purely getting the homestead for as low a price as I could.

Fast forward 5 years and we have come to the end of our stay in the home and it is just now that the home looks like the home I imagined when we bought the house. Today we also received our first offer on the house – it was ridiculously low balled and our first reaction was that we had been slighted and victimized so in retaliation we rejected the offer.

… fortunately good help was close at hand and we were mentored through the errors we made.

Firstly we had to get to grips with what was happening – we were selling a piece of land and buildings, there can no longer be any emotional ties to this property otherwise we wouldn’t be selling it.

The buyer is looking at the property through their vision of what the property can be for them. The agent is responsible for identifying and selling the strengths of the property to enable the buyers vision. By virtue of the fact that we had an offer the agent had completed their obligation.

By us refusing the buyers ridiculously low offer closes the door and ends the conversation. Our response of a rejection may even have offended the buyer in the same way their low ball offer did to us.

The better response is to respond with a counter offer, at or very near to your asking price. This signals to the buyer that you are interested in working with them. Once this process begins the buyer is now in the thought process of getting the object of his desire.  In the majority of cases a common ground can be found and the transaction completed when you approach the sale in this way.

Another benefit of this is that even though you have not accepted the offer, the property is effectively under “negotiation”. What this does is it heightens the sense of urgency for any other potential buyer and with a right to first refusal, means that you could easily accept a better offer.

A far more powerful option than closing the door by rejecting the offer – if during negotiation a mutual agreement cannot be reached you can still easily walk away from the offer – remember it is just a piece of property.

The Difference Between Balance and Harmony

by Robert Driscoll on January 8, 2010

Everyone wants their life to be perfect with no concerns and in perfect harmony and balance.  Or do they?  If you think about it, a perfect life with no concerns would actually be pretty boring where you have no disagreements and no worries.  Your life would be like a stick in the stream with no obstacles.  In reality though, life is full of challenges.  Some challenges you can foresee them coming, but most of the time you can’t and it’s how you deal with these challenges that defines you and your identity at home and in the marketplace.  Everyone strives for balance and harmony in their lives, or so they say, but is there a difference?

There are several definitions for each.  For balance, one of the definitions states that balance is a point between two opposite forces that is desirable over purely one state or the other.  With harmony , the definition states that it is an order or congruity of parts to their whole or to one another.

If you take a moment and think about both definitions, they are actually very different.  If you are striving to have balance in your life, then by the definition, you will have to ease up on something or give it up to bring your life in balance.  In the end you might not be fulfilled by having to give something up that brought you some pleasure in life.  Granted, if what you had to give up was causing you or those around you pain, then it’s understandable.  While many of us say that we want to have balance in life, do we really want to have something always pulling on us?

This leads us to harmony.  Life is full of challenges and we face them every day in our marriages, our friendships and in our professional lives.  Learning to work through these challenges and not letting them overwhelm you by accepting and understanding them and by working through them and eventually embracing them, you can have a more fulfilling life.  At the same time, embracing the good things that come to you in life and taking advantage of these moments will make life that much more enjoyable. 

Like Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”  Instead of trying to achieve balance in your life and always fighting or dealing with opposing forces, try to find harmony with everything that comes to you and embrace it.  Accepting the challenges that come to you in life and working to improve the areas that bring you joy in life will open up the space for new possibilities  which in turn will make your life more fulfilling.

Making Expensive Sales or Lucrative Relationships

by Guy Ralfe on December 30, 2009

Star-RatingsI have just returned from vacationing with relatives in Colorado. The vacation was great except for the frustration caused by one purchase over this festive season. Steve was due to take delivery of a new vehicle yesterday that they had ordered 3 weeks before.

Buying a car is likely the most expensive discretionary item most people purchase. There is often a lot of thought and time that goes into the purchase even if you are not a car fanatic. Whatever make, model, style and financial commitment you settle on, you have to live with for 3-5 years before you get to change it without incurring unnecessary cost.

During our vacation we got to hear a lot about this transaction… After a less than stellar sales interaction the paperwork was complete and the deposit paid. The expected delivery date was given with a 98% certainty. Steve requested weekly updates even if it was that there was no new information, to which the salesman assured him he would get.

After two weeks he had to call the salesman for an update. The salesman promised to get back to them, which he didn’t until they called back again a day later. Only news was that it still appeared to be 98% certain to be available on the promised date. On the promised date no call was received by 10 am, so a call to the dealership was made for an update. The salesman wasn’t available so the sales manager promised to get back with an update shortly. By 4pm still no response so another call was placed to the dealership.

On being put through to the sales manager and requesting the update, the sales manager said they had been extremely busy with a number of other customers and that Steve would have to wait. When Steve asked if he wasn’t also a customer having committed to spending more than $35,000? The sales manager  took everything to heart and rather than addressing his concern, attacked him and told him he could come to the dealership and collect the down payment for the vehicle if he was so dissatisfied with the service – which he could guarantee delivery of in 10 min!

Having waited 3 weeks already, he assured the sales manager he wanted the vehicle and was not concerned when it came, just that he expected some information so that he could plan around that. The sales manager then said the manufacturer was off and the systems were not updated so it could take up to two more weeks to get the vehicle. Steve was fine with that but upset he wasn’t told that initially when he called and said “… great then I will expect it in two weeks”. To which the sales manager then responded “…but I expect you to get the car in the next two days!” Steve then became frustrated as he asked the sales manager – how can you make that assurance when you have just told me the system is not updated? In frustration the sales manager then offered his down payment again, which Steve refused and responded that he will work to another 2 weeks delivery and maybe he will be surprised – and the dealership will call him early!

Based on this interaction (there is always two sides to every story and a lot more detail but…) Steve will wait out his delivery but as a consequence he has already made two commitments:

  1. He will not use the dealership for any service and maintenance
  2. He will post on online review forums about his experience

This is where the tragedy lies and so much damage is done without the salesman even being aware of the situation they have caused. Instead of viewing the transaction as a relationship where there could be ongoing goodwill through referrals and future maintenance of the vehicle this is now a once off transaction that is likely going to cost more than the expected sale. Secondly, this is the ignorance of a salesman/sales organization not yet accepting the power and influence of Social Media and the cost it can have on:

  • The salesman – any online post will likely name the individual and the power of Search Engines will quickly find that for future customers and employers
  • The dealership – also named in the online review will produce a negative customer valuation which can affect traffic to the dealership
  • The dealership network – often a dealership is an affiliate or part of a larger network (across multiple brands). Again the power of search engines will make the association of the individual dealership within the larger organization thus tainting their reputation.
  • The manufacturer – the dealership represents the retail storefront for a global manufacturer, who works hard to promote and protect their image. In the realm of social media they are dependent on their product and dealers to preserve this image.

As consumers this is the magic of Social Media – no longer are we told through marketing and advertising what our perceptions should be, our peers and fellow consumers tell us firsthand. Social Media has given us the power, we need to use it wisely, to both promote and demote based on actual interactions which helps everyone.

This is a simple illustration coincidentally involving the behavior of a stereotypical car salesman, but this applies in all transactions – Understand and engage at all levels as if you were in a relationship as Social is how the world moves today.

Selling when you’re not there

by Wayne Turmel on December 18, 2009

selling when not thereThere’s been a lot of research done about how customers- especially B2B customers- buy online.  The difference could mean a lot of money to your company and make your sales force’s jobs easier.  The good news is it means less work for you and your sales people if you do it right.

The problem is that many companies are still locked in last century’s sales thinking. That model was: hook them early in the sales cycle and get them to commit to a demo as early as possible. This webinar, usually delivered by a Subject Matter Expert, assumed they were starting at Square One. This doesn’t fit the way they want to buy from you now. They want to meet you armed with research and get their questions answered by someone (your sales person) who can help them buy.

Not surprisingly, companies are acting much like you and I do when we shop. CFOs and Purchasers (well, actually their underpaid and overworked assistants) are spending a lot of time cruising websites and shortening their list of prospective vendors. Only when they have a pretty good idea of the features they’re looking for- not to mention the approximate price and how you compare to the competition- will they  ask for a demo or to speak to a sales rep.

The implications of this are pretty profound:

  • Metrics matter Take a good look at your website’s analytics. When are people visiting your site? (if it’s a lot of after hours, you’re getting shopped out).What are they looking at? How long do they stay? How many take the next step to ask for contact with your reps?
  • Make sure you have something to measure If they’re not staying long, they aren’t finding what they are looking for, which is enough information to qualify you as a prospective vendor. The more information you provide (video demos, pre-recorded webinars, articles and industry research) the more they will look at you as an expert and a resource. This can only help.
  • You’d better know what your customers think they know Just because they’ve clicked the “schedule a demo” button doesn’t mean that’s what they need.  It’s critical that whoever they talk to next ask questions about what they have already read or seen (they don’t want to sit through redundant information) and where they are in the sales process (are you talking to the buyer who will need different information than someone doing the screening for them?). All of this means…
  • The people who demo need to be (or at least think and present like) sales people Many companies use “sales engineers” or Subject Matter Experts to do the demos to customers, which is fine (obviously you need someone who knows what they’re doing, and that isn’t always the sales person of record) but their job is not solely to demonstrate functions and features. They need to ask the questions that qualify the prospect, identify where they are in the sales process and move them through the sales cycle.  What are you doing to help prepare them for that role?

Does your website reflect this new buying reality? What are you doing to help customers move themselves as far along the sales cycle as possible, and what are you doing to help your SMEs and sales people bring them the rest of the way?


social-mediaWe all agree that social media is really effective in discovering people who have similar passions. Still, being in sites like Linkedin and Facebook, where people are connecting randomly it is hard to understand the value of these relationships you are building. It is possible, there isn’t any… But we will never be able to build deep relationships without one on one interaction or meetings in person… So, here are some steps to take virtual social interactions into real world:

1) Be present in community networks

Meet people in community forums that share your common interests. This way you can build relationships with people who live close to you and so you have access to them… In case of social media, these relationships can be in different parts of the world and not be as meaningful for your work or personal interests…

2) Take your business cards to these events

Don’t underestimate the value of business cards…it is great to have blogs, twitter accounts – but there is just a simple problem – to find you in cyberspace, one needs to know your full name….what if they got the wrong spellings or wrong name. With a business card, one can always Google your name…

3) Build Relationships

Yes, you can ReTweet posts and help other elevate their profiles…Still, there is value in sharing other gifts than RTs. Try calling some people you haven’t spoken in a while…you will be surprised how much more pleasure it is to talk to people than to DM or Email.

4) Understand social

Historically, social has been associated with people meeting, talking, exchanging ideas in person. These conversations have led to many innovations, wars and even consensus…the MasterMind thoery dictates that it requires people to exchange ideas that create possibilities they could not see for themselves… Humans will always be Social Animals…Long way before we become Cyber Beasts. So, engage in brainstorming ideas in a conversation….

5) Pleasant Personality

There is a advantage if people see you as having a pleasant personality…that is never visible on social media channels. Some people put pictures that are not true to their real selves…Don’t miss out on being generous to other with your pleasant personality….This will help you surround yourself with people who might potentially become friends, business associates or life partners… So, build connections with social media but power your relationships with personal interactions…

Remaining Competitive over the Long Road

by Guy Ralfe on November 26, 2009

long_range_targetThanksgiving marks the beginning of the 5 weeks of holiday season in the USA. For many it will be a time when people’s focus is on the near term line in the sand, marking the end of the year – this will have people working to make/protect their targets, others resigned and looking forward to seeing the back end of this tough year and hoping for a better start next year and many public companies working every angle to close the quarter with the best results they can.

Whatever the case people are suddenly driven by the appearance of a tangible situation that they can  now envision. What we need to be mindful of is that what we do now in a tactical manner is still part of fulfilling our longer term strategic plan.

I’m a subscriber of Rajesh Setty’s newsletter (you can subscribe here) where he just  shared a beautiful story about “The Daffodil Principle” read it here. What this story exposed for me was the power of a long term vision and also that we need to achieve and produce over our entire careers and not just focus on the here and now. We would all like the quick win – like winning the lottery, but statistically that is as close to impossible as you can get – don’t get me wrong people do win the lottery but there is nothing other than buying a ticket that you can control the outcome of that situation.

Ultimately most of us are going to need to produce for our full careers to meet our ambitions. We must not forget that we are also playing for a longer term game, our careers, as we approach the year end. Think carefully about the consequences of the actions you may choose today, to meet your short term objectives, that you don’t have to live with the consequences after the horizon has passed.

I see similar action taking place on projects in the same way as careers. Projects have a lifecycle that we can equate to a career, but when we get close to delivery dates, slack is gone from the system, pressure is everywhere and people make rash illogical decisions to keep a delivery date. This action is the same as what happens in the marketplace approaching the year end deadline. As in projects, the consequences of shortsighted action always surface later and the consequential cost to resolve quickly becomes far more than the cost to have acted correctly in the first instance. An example I hear at this time of year  is how sales are completed in the closing weeks of the current year, which have a significant impact on the start of the next year when the fulfillment comes into play.

My message here is very similar to the ancient story of the tortoise and the hare, just that today’s market also requires some traits of the hare mixed in with the tortoise. Whatever we do we have to act with regard for the future consequence but at the same time remaining better than our competitors.

Remaining ahead of the competition is beautifully demonstrated by this slideshow shared with our organization today in preparation for the coming year. Enjoy and wishing a happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

Managing Your Identity – Telephone Etiquette

by Thomas Frasher on November 20, 2009

whats_in_your_telephone

A professional business people our identity in our marketplace is extremely important.  Identity or brand is an early indicator of the cost of doing business with us. A well respected identity results in lower cost to your marketplace, no matter what that marketplace may be.

Today’s article focus’ on a single aspect of identity management that has raised itself to me several times this week: Telephone Etiquette.

How many of us use conference calling and online meeting sharing systems (Skype, GotoMeeting, Meetingplace, etc) to conduct our meetings?  I have been in 8 conference meetings this week where 2 or more participants were not geographically located in the same area as the main meeting.

Given that we are more and more, required to conduct business in a more virtual fashion, identity management takes on a different complexion. With a virtual meeting, there is little if any visual cues to help people move the conversation along or not step on one another verbally.  Today’s article gives some simple guidelines for making conference calls work more smoothly and helping to build your identity as a competent business person.

1. Pay close attention to your proximity to the telephone or microphone.  Voices will be softer or louder based on this distance and can give the impression that you are either not paying attention or that you are otherwise engaged.  Remember people are "seeing" with their ears on a conference call.

2. Don’t tap the table that is holding the telephone or microphone.  While those in the room may not be able to hear it, the mechanical noise will be transferred to the phone or mic and it is very distracting on the receiving end. Likewise shuffling papers near the phone of mic can be inordinately loud and prevent others from actually hearing what was said.

3. No Side Conversations! This sends a clear message that you don’t consider others thoughts valuable, if a side conversation starts up, as a business leader you need to stop it or bring it into the main part of the meeting.

4. My pet peeve, make sure the other person has finished talking before making your contribution.  care must be taken to manage the meeting so that all the opinions are heard and all the information needed to be passed is passed. I personally must work to remember to not talk over someone. It is very rare when that is required, so be on the lookout for this one.

5. Pay attention to what is being said by others. You have no permanent lock on good ideas, so make sure you are open to the ideas of others, it will improve the quality of your own ideas.  Another peeve I have is when it is obvious that the other person is simply waiting to start talking and they are only gated by me speaking, they are not listening (I admit I’m guilty of this as well).  If you listen carefully to the other people on the conference call you may find the your opinions of them and their contribution may change.

Above all remember to respect your virtual meeting colleagues, which is what the list is all about anyway.

Assessment, Assessment, Assessment

by Guy Ralfe on November 18, 2009

Imagining

I am sure we have all experienced how when we meet someone for the first time we draw a gut feeling about someone – the saying goes “first impressions count!” What many people don’t realize is how this impression affects their decision making.

Let’s say we go in to buy a car at a dealership, the smooth looking salesman walks over and introduces himself and immediately gets down to business of asking pointed questions so that he can make the quick kill sale. Your immediate reaction is to draw a negative impression about this individual and you prepare yourself for the situation ahead of prying questions and being cornered into signing on the dotted line! Our muscles tense, our bullshit meter goes into the red and we physically begin shutting down. We would challenge everything they claim and scrutinize every detail of the paperwork presented to us – if we even got any further with the individual.

What then if the same salesman cracked a joke about his approach saying he was only joking, just wanted to see our reaction and then graciously introduced himself and offered his help in an open and friendly manner. Provided we see the funny side of the situation we would have our bodies relax, we might then engage in conversation and move forward in working with the salesman. What we will find is that as the salesman addresses us by name and provides references we trust or believe we may then begin to like interacting with the salesperson.

Are we losing our minds? Here are the same two people coming together for the same reason under the same situation and yet the situation changed so much in the way we wanted to interact. I am sure most people can associate to a similar situation in their lives if not often.

Now let’s look at the results of these two situations –later when the buyer asks does the car have climate control? The sales man replies and says “yes, it has air conditioning”. To the piqued buyer at the initial reaction, they will inquire further – does it automatically adjust and how many zones does it have? The salesman can then answer that “no that is only available on the next model up costing $X more”. To the buyer when they had warmed to the salesman and were now trusting of the salesman, they will accept the response and likely ask another question, but in their mind they will have come to the conclusion that they have an electronic climate control with the features they envision.

This is not about the stereotypical auto salesman or placing in doubt the ethical nature of the sale – the issue is that the buyer comes to believe that they are told by the salesperson that they have climate control when the salesman answered “air conditioning”.

I see this happening in many areas of business. For me it shows up often on projects where people build up their own interpretation of what the future situation will be based on their wants and desires – this can be a shock when they confront reality and realize that the situation they were expecting was based on assessments they drew, from their own answers.

Life is too short not to make gut decisions – so where decisions matter to you, make sure you have a good assessment for granting someone your trust, then ask the questions you need to make the right assessment.