A re-share of an article written by David Hirschfeld for an Entrepreneur Magazine. The article was published several years ago but the concepts stand true today.
Hope you enjoy!
Which comes first, the chicken, the egg?
You have a technological or design advantage in your product. History teaches that competitors will eventually leapfrog your advantages with new advantages of their own. At the same time Venture Capitalists want to see growing revenues or at the very least, proof of market acceptance of your products or services before they invest the money it takes to grab substantial market share. You need to demonstrate market acceptance of your offering in order to get expansion funds you need to accomplish that you need to do it before your product lead is dissipated. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
Most entrepreneurs instinctively think about selling their wares based on the “irrefutable” functional and/or performance and/or price advantages they offer. Entrepreneurs are generally the best spokespersons for their wares as they are the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic conveyers of the message or value proposition. However, they are totally surprised when a perfectly logical appearing prospect buys an obviously inferior product or service from a competitor, often for more money.
While not always obvious to the outsider, there is most often a very logical method to the buyer’s madness. This method, once understood and properly employed can greatly simplify and magnify your sales process and your revenues. The buying method used by companies to select and purchase your product and/or service is unique to the individual company and to the specific product and or service you are selling. Unfortunately for most emerging companies, the star spokesperson and deal closer (again, usually the entrepreneur) has neither the time nor in many cases the skills and experience to uncover the purchasing methodology for their specific offering in a specific company. These entrepreneurs are usually responsible for a number of business aspects and selling is just one of many claims on their time and focus. They need capital infusion to develop the staff, infrastructure and training required to mount a professional sales campaign and they need consistent and growing sales to acquire the needed capital. So, which comes first, the chicken, the egg, or an interim outsourced sales solution?
For many start-ups and emerging companies, as well as many established companies, outsourcing of some or all of the sales functions and execution has become an invaluable tool in their overall go-to-market strategy. Highly trained and experienced experts in every aspect of sales execution for your company and your markets are most likely available to safely steer your company through the chicken or egg obstacle course most early stage companies confront.
The goal of every resource and investment decision relating to sales resources is almost always” maximize the probability of meeting or exceeding sales goals while minimizing the total cost of doing so”. This goal is best met by assembling just the right mix of expert resources in just the right quantities and experience. Some of those specialized experts may only be needed for one or two hours per week while others may be required in multiples of FTE’s. Hiring one or two “experienced” sales people at the early stage of a company’s development may not be the answer for several reasons:
- Attracting a truly effective sales person will come at a premium price
- One sales person will likely not have all of the skill sets and inclination to execute the varied tasks required to prospect and create demand, properly qualify opportunities deserving investment of sales resources and create and execute an effective and repeatable sales process.
- Statistics show that only one out of three new hires of B2B sales people are still on the job after 6 months. The cost of recruiting, training and lost opportunities can be an enormous strain on a small company
- Creating the proper sales messaging, defining and targeting the most likely markets, creating and implementing a repeatable and effective sales process and acquiring the experience gained from many sales campaigns (both successful and unsuccessful) are critical parts of the infrastructure needed to employ and manage a successful in-house sales force.
The most effective answer for many start-up and early stage companies is to outsource part or all of the sales and related go-to-market functions to an organization that can field just the right amount of just the right resources needed to achieve sales goals. This provides the lowest cost means to achieving the highest probability of success. In the process, the outsourced team can put in place the needed infrastructure to facilitate the smooth transition to in-house resources as it makes sense to do so. Channel Methods Partners is one such outsourced provider of these kinds of services with a track record of success for its clients. There are others to be sure. Perhaps it’s time for your company to solve the age old riddle of which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
David has had a long and successful B2B sales career prospecting, qualifying, closing –delivering the revenue. His B2B career spans 40 years and has produced hundreds of millions of dollars of software and services revenues. He holds both Engineering and MBA degrees, has rune his own software company for 20 years and has led the biggest sales forces in software and services sales for many years.
This picture is from our back-training room. I was attending a meeting in this room and noticed this very busy white board. My first thought was “OMG who is learning all this material?! The notes on the white board ran the gamut from the impact of investment funding on clinical trials to operational nuances in pre-clinical and clinical trials.I then realized that this is just part of all the knowledge base our new Business Development Representative team members must learn. It’s been a while since I went through basics training. In today’ selling environment there is so much to learn, not only here, but at any company. The concepts of value-based and consultative selling has taken on such a broad meaning. A value is now measured by total total organizational impact of the sellers solution coupled with providing the least risk possible to the customer. Then the sellers must be knowledgeable about all of their marketing departments traditional and digital touch points with their customers. All of these concepts need to be understood and followed if we are to properly help guide the prospect through their Decision Journey (DJ). The seller of today has to be tech savvy, market knowledgeable, and most importantly be able to relate to the customers needs.
Conversely, the prospects today are better educated than ever before. In fact, many industry pundits estimate that over 55 percent of prospects extensively research solutions via the web before ever reaching out to a potential vendor. At the same time, the prospect on a DJ can experience content overload by being barraged with posts, white papers, and browser pages full of “me too” marketing collateral that would make any time crunched executive’s head spin.
Well, back to the training material on the white board and why it is necessary. Prospects deserve our help in learning if our solution is the best for them. There are many factors that go into this- financial, technology, and often a cultural fit between vendor and customer. That’s why training about features, benefits, and value proposition is no longer enough. The modern seller should understand the customer’s side of the business; their day to day challenges and the hard work it takes to select a mission critical vendor. As the saying goes, if we walk or actively learn and listen to what it’s like to walk in the prospect’s shoes, we can now understand what they need. If we are trained to understand a “day in the life” of the prospect and are knowledgeable enough to listen and understand the business needs we can truly offer a solution that benefits them. Simply, sales teams must have the training foundation in place so they can hear what the prospect needs versus just what seller wants to hear.
In summary, the better sales teams take the time to be trained on their customers business and their markets. In this scenario all parties win! The customer gets a vendor that understands their business and can help tailor a solution that fits their needs. The seller gains the customers trust and on-going loyalty.
Revolutionary Technology, Same Marketing Principles
Blockchain. Crypto currency. Talking about an item with a friend, and immediately seeing a Facebook ad. It feels like a barrage of new and sometimes, mysterious technologies are taking over our devices and incoming advertising.
Additionally, the application of technology to traditional marketing principles makes the concepts that we all know seem unrecognizable. Market research, advertising impressions, the 4P marketing mix, Porter’s Forces, and the 5 C’s, are still viable foundations of marketing theory, albeit buried deep under incredible marketing automation and technology-driven immediate consumer feedback. Web and mobile based technology have collapsed the boundaries between the manufacturer and the consumer, changing the face of multi-tiered distribution channels and supply chain logistics.
Consumer reviews, blogs, and other postings have stood market research concepts on their proverbial heads. The one-way product information flow from manufacturer to the consumer has been replaced by the virtually instantaneous consumer feedback that does not require any participation by the marketer at all.
But, the biggest disrupter to digital marketing is blockchain. blockchain built applications allow users to user to participate without sharing personal data, and their on-line presence is a simple blockchain verified signature. Today, digital marketers harvest personal consumer data as a dual asset. First, information about how the consumer reacts to their primary promotion, second, consumer data that can be resold to other marketers.
A blockchain enabled network combined with crypto currency concepts would allow the consumer to make many types of online purchases without the exchange of any personal information; (Caveat: shipping actual product may crimp the anonymity, and possibly create a surge privacy guarantied package stores!)
Other examples, of blockchain’s impact on marketing is the brave.com browser. A web interface that touts keeping its user’s personal information private and using blockchain tokens can create scenarios where the consumer can be paid by the advertiser to view the advertisement.
There are myriads of other examples that show how technology has redefined marketing. Despite this, traditional marketing theory still exists. The marketer still has to find a way to reach the consumer when they are in a place they can purchase. The difference? The place in not the store on small town main street, it is their mobile device. Price is no longer just the trappings of the store and the perceived value, it is how fast, and efficiently can the product be delivered to the consumer, a unique blend of value plus convenience consumer decision point. The potential of the consumer being paid to view an advertisement gives the consumer more bargaining power and gives more power to the marketer with the deepest pockets. Porter may never have had this market dynamic in mind when he first introduced the Forces of Change in 1980, but his Market Analysis Strategies still provide insight today.
Marketers are challenged by having the choice of so many options to interact with the consumer. It is hard to know which one is the most effective. Which marketing spend actually converts to revenue and a loyal relationship with the customer, which results in solid forecast able customer Life Time Value, (LTV)?
One of the keys to this challenge is to remember that there is a person on the other end of your transaction, a person who wants to buy and not be sold. If we focus on consumer and help them mitigate their risks, provide real total value, and improve their lives by their experience with us, then we should be able navigate the sea of incredible marketing choices.
Create Event ROI
As we wrap up some of the most important conferences and trade shows of the year, sales departments are processing piles of business cards, overdue promises for post-conference follow ups, expense reports, and calculating the impact of those costs on their pipelines and forecastable revenue….and often coming up short. Some questions that come up during this analysis:
- Did we get value from attending?
- Are we only there because it’s expected by our industry peers?
- Why don’t the right people come to my booth?
- How do I get actual business from this investment?
- Can attending the trade show help reduce client acquisition costs, (CAC)?
- Are we measuring any positive economic impact from attending?
These are not the days of excess budgets – either time of money – and every minute and dollar taken from your teams’ allotment must contribute to your measurable goals. How do you make that happen for conference and trade shows?
How to measure ROI or Value Derived from a trade show, is a well published topic. We could write for days on the possible processes and formulas to determine if attendance at a trade event was maximized.
In our experience, this happens with a focus on four things:
Pre-Conference Preparation and Strategy
- Create a plan to manage booth traffic. For example, have a greeter, (aka traffic cop) that engages with floor traffic and has the skills to direct the truly interested prospects to sales personnel and helps manage less profitable interactions that erode precious sales time.
- Pre-show appointments with prospects, clients, KOL’s, and potential partners. These meetings are one of the most valuable gains from conferences. It is the perfect opportunity to meet offsite and build relationships.
Corporate Persona Strategy
Has your company changed focus or expanded its’ offerings? Has your corporate narrative changed? Do you want to strengthen your existing perception in the market? Conferences and trade shows are a great, interactive, place to let the market know about your value propositions, culture, and direction. Make sure the persona you present at the show, is consistent with the marketing collateral and space design to the staff attire, and style of personal interactions and presentation.
Show floor and event resourcing requires critical planning. The booth should never be unattended, and your key executives should be networking with their peers at show events and planned get together s. An easy barometer to help make staffing decisions with ROI, is the amount of pre-booked executive meetings that are in place. If your team has booked your key executives over 60% of their time to pre-set meetings, you’ve reached the tipping point to justify the cost of bringing another person to cover the booth.
The best pre-conference strategy is diminished if it is not coordinated with a well-executed post conference strategy. The post-conference “thank you” touch points and calendar coordination should be taking place as the conference happens and finished within a few days of a conference. Sales assignments should be tracked, (consider a contest for the sales reps that convert the most conference leads), and any business attributed to the ROI of each conference for next year’s attendance decisions.
As you measure your conference season success, manage your ROI expectations by factoring in the exposure your organization gets from attending or exhibiting. A challenge for marketers is how to measure the value of working with prospective clients at a trade show when the potential revenue may not be recognized for several quarters. If your sales transactions are large and/or multi-year, a reduction in sales cycle time will greatly reduce client acquisition costs and improve cash flows which should be factored into Trade Show ROI.
Each of your attendees gain more experience, polish, and develop more valuable industry relationships. Although not as easily measured, these factors grow and develop individuals and organizations, adding to your strength and value.
Increase Effective Consumer Education by Integrating Marketing Channels and Sales
Feeling overwhelmed by the deluge of articles covering the speed of change in marketing? Recently, the hottest topic is how the convergence of multiple channel including digital, trade events, television, radio, print, conventional mail, traditional out and inbound voice, and field sales, has given all of us in the marketing game a plethora of consumer touch points. With all these exciting methods of channel engagement, (no pun intended, but our name is Channel Methods), it’s easy to inundate the consumer with an overabundance of confusing communication and call to action choices.
One of the biggest challenges marketers have is making sure that our value proposition and the supports that make them up are uniform across all our channels. It sounds simple, but we must remember that each channel catches the audience in different modes and stages of consideration. For example, while the message built into a video push to a business email address would be different than the message and presence on a social media channel, such as Facebook, the underlying message needs to stay consistent – the organization’s unique value proposition.
Ultimately, one of the biggest challenges marketers face is equipping their field force with the tools needed to reinforce the value proposition in a customer facing situation; while keeping in mind that the customer may have gained impressions from one or more our marketing channels before the field sales team ever meets them.
A strategy for leveraging those impressions, is training inside sales staff and lead generation teams to first discover from the prospect what marketing channels they have been exposed to, and what is their current awareness of your firm’s value proposition. They can use this information to help the prospect fully understand the value proposition, ensuring that the prospective customer is ready to move into the consideration stage.
This net result will be a more efficient initial field sales calls, as the prospect has already been educated on the complete value proposition, or the inside sales team has advised the field sales team that additional explanation about your value proposition is needed.
In either scenario the marketer that promotes this integration between marketing messaging, field sales and inside sales will present a more uniformed front to the information overloaded prospect.
Questions or comments? We would love to hear what you think. firstname.lastname@example.org Jillian Stamatis, Business Development Manager (comments sent to CMP will never be posted without permission)
How to Create a Powerful Conference Strategy
Conference season. At times both the most refreshing and exhausting time of the year. On one hand, it’s an opportunity to step away from the office or lab. On the other hand, the travel and taking time away from ongoing projects can often seem like too much to handle.
We’ve picked up a few tips and developed strategies that can help anyone through securing critical appointments, walking a trade show floor, and prioritizing informational sessions.
Plan Ahead: Are you really planning far enough ahead? Ideally, begin planning 6-8 months in advance, ramping up in the six weeks before the event.
Personal Contact: Put together a mix of outreaches. While email blasts with a link to click “if you would like to meet”, or social media posts announcing your attendance and availability, might seem like the easiest way to reach the most people, the most powerful meeting you have will be with the people you personally connect with before the show. Create a strategy mixing these methods, to schedule appointments with these targeted contacts before the show.
Resourcing: Who is representing you? Make sure you are choosing the right mix of your sales and marketing team and subject matter experts, to both achieve your business goals and solidify your reputation as an industry thought leader.
Meeting place: Scout before the show. Identify areas throughout the venue to hold both formal and stand up meetings. Ensure they are near your target companies.
Packets: Each team member should be prepared with an informational packet containing appointment and conference schedule, prospect bio’s, and marketing materials. Additionally, sales reps can put an announcement regarding their attendance, with a link to an appointment calendar in their email signature.
Follow Up: Real time follow up, conducted by a remote team during the conference, is one of the most impactful ways to ensure post-conference engagement. Develop and deploy a follow up team before the conference begins.
You can significantly increase the return on your conference investment, and reduce stress for your team, by creating a powerful strategic plan before the start of the season.
Questions or comments? We would love to hear what you think. email@example.com Jillian Stamatis, Business Development Manager (comments sent to CMP will never be posted without permission)
It is with a heavy heart that we write this message. Sadly, Dan Diaz our long time client- and more importantly- long time friend, has passed away after fighting a courageous battle against ALS. Dan’s glass-half-full personality that has consistently inspired others around him to give it their all. In our hearts we know that Dan’s first love was teaching and mentoring. He took great pride in helping others around him reach their potential. Even as we write this, our email inbox has invites sent just last week from Dan about future events and Biotech Breakfast Club meetings, an event that is further testament to Dan’s optimism, tenacity and never ending desire to make a difference.
During Dan’s battle against ALS, industry friends, neighbors, and friends, came together to support Dan and his family; is there anyone in Pharma that Dan didn’t know? This outpouring of support truly shows the many lives that Dan and his family touched- and we must add again; is there anyone in Pharma that Dan didn’t know? We don’t think so 🙂
We also came to know Dan’s family better and, at times, got to see first hand the tireless support and care they gave Dan. They, like Dan, showed strength, kindness, and a perseverance that is an example for us all.
We will forever miss Dan being with us in person. However, we can find solace that every day that some piece of what Dan taught us will be practiced both in life as well as in business. To that end, Dan will always be with us.