The Name Badge Does Not Sell Your Business

Blank name tagAt the close of a large entrepreneur event, a small business owner came up to the registration desk and offered a suggestion. He felt like his name badge should have more than a name. He wanted a badge filled with all his information: name, company, title, website, email and phone. Then, he would talk to more people and more people would talk to him.

In an effort to help himself, he went ahead and scribbled all his identifying details in fine print below his name. Unfortunately, his details were written so small it required someone to lift his badge up close to read it.

In his view, his networking experience was hindered by only having a name to identify himself and others. The name-only tag “forced” him to have a conversation, instead of oddly reading someone’s detailed badge to self-select whether he should engage them.

My empathetic response, “I understand how you might feel more information on the badges could help you. I appreciate your suggestion. I do feel that you can open more doors, when you directly talk to people. Perhaps we have a different view of the value of these type of events and networking.”

My non-empathetic response, “Your name doesn’t open doors. It won’t sell you or your business. Your story, your enthusiasm and your passion are what engages others. It’s awkward to read someone’s name and then turn away. Then again, maybe we have a different view on what sells you and your business.”

What was not revealed to him was that it was intentional to only have a name on each badge. Why? To provide an everyone the opportunity to connect, share and learn. A convenience for each attendee to have an open door to sell themselves, their solutions and their business. Written words never sell. Written words affirm. It is the verbal story, the questions, the conversation that closes the deal. It is the interaction that really matters. It is looking someone in the eye and asking, “What do you do?” The name on your badge only facilitates an easier way to start the conversation.

No matter how many words you use to invite someone into to your lair, the offer is only as good as what you have identified through an engaging dialogue. A conversation. A two-way exchange. It answers, what can you do for me and what can I do for you? Value is created by the time you invest to ask, listen and qualify. It is the ongoing assessment that takes place during the conversation that defines opportunity. The number of conversations you have helps you measure the success or failure of your valuable time spent at an event or networking.

Business owners sometimes feel if they are equipped with mountains of content, leave behinds and written justification, the buyer will sell themselves.  In fact, written content is just an invitation. Invite to learn more. Invite to perk interest. Collateral and content does not sell a product or service. Collateral documents and illustrates. People are best for selling goods and services.

Networking and events give you a formalized occasion to have a dialogue. To learn and share. Those that will not talk to you because of your name-only tag are short sighted and often losing the opportunity to learn the real value of you, your offerings and your ideas. Conversation requires a back-and-forth tailoring of information that can be customized to your address your precise needs.  We only buy what we need. The listener is always waiting for you to make it about them. In their mind, they are waiting for you to tell them how you help them or solve their problems.

Less information on a name badge gives you the polite excuse to inquire, “Tell me what you do.” A badge or name tag should never give you reason why not to engage. Ask. Inquire. Question. That is how you benefit from any event. Do not hide behind a 3 x 4 card hanging around your neck. Use it as a chance to address the person by their name. “Jim, what is your reason for attending the event today?”  “Mary, are you an entrepreneur?”  This provides you the best opportunity to qualify, inquire, learn and discern if the person has something to offer you and you have something to offer them.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. – William Shakespeare

By Jamie Glass, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers, follow: @jglass8 @artfulthinkers

The event noted in this post was the Innovation Arizona Summit 2013.  Read more about the event here.

Investing in Co-Selling Partnerships to Grow

iStock_000022899520_ExtraSmallSmall businesses and entrepreneurs can greatly benefit by selecting co-selling partners to drive revenues. Utilizing another company’s sales and marketing resources may be a great channel to aggressively extend reach and acquire new customers.

Co-selling partnerships with businesses selling complimentary products and services to your target customer can be smart business. These partnerships can cut existing sales costs and even accelerate growth in market share. The best sales partners create a synergy between respective offerings. There should be a “natural fit” of how the products and services add value for the customer. The buyer should inherently understand why you would partner, not question as to why you did or if there is any benefit in buying from a single vendor.

Co-selling partnerships can reduce sales costs. There is a required investment in sales and marketing to grow a business. The costs of a sales team can be crippling for a new venture or small business.The overhead expenses that enable a sales person to be trained, productive, and armed with the right marketing tools, technology and product support can be onerous in the earlier stages of an organization.  Lack of initial investment often produces lack luster results and can actually cost the business even more with unexpected turnover or lengthy sales cycles. Businesses need a specific budget and defined cost of sales to properly staff, train and equip a sales organization to get results.

Time-to-market and time-to-close can be reduced through co-selling partnerships. A new sales hire ramp-up time can be 3-12 months, depending on price of goods to be sold and anticipated sales cycles. Ramp-up requires an “blind faith” investment of time and resources. A business has to invest in sales with nothing more than the anticipation and belief that something is going to be sold. It is a huge price to pay and has great risk. Utilizing a trained and experienced sales team through a co-selling partnership can help you bring revenues in while you invest in building your own sales team.

Co-selling is not free. There are costs of co-selling partnerships. A strong partnership requires investment in training and account management resources to keep top-of-mind awareness with your co-oped sales team. You also need to provide sales and marketing tools to properly equip the team to sell your goods and services. You need to be available when they have questions and to support them throughout the entire sales process.

You also need to create an incentive as to why a sales person in another organization should throw your offering into the mix. Higher commissions, faster time-to-close and value-add to the customer, are all good reasons; however, remember — sales people need to be sold too. If you extend the deal time or complicate the sales process, it will never work. Make it easy and valuable for the sales team through your co-selling partnership.

Incentives matter in co-selling. If the paired companies benefit but not the people selling, the partnership will fail. You need to set up a partner agreement for commissions and shared revenues.  A typical commission in a co-selling relationship starts at 10% of net revenue on the deal for a qualified lead pass. This type of agreement puts the burden back on you to close the deal. You are basically paying for marketing and an introduction. If the partner does all the work, including closing the deal, you may provide an incentive of 20% or more just to get that customer on your books. The structure of the agreement and commission rates should be based on your financial projections and cost of goods and associated expenses in managing the customer post-sale. 

What doesn’t work? Relying on commission-only sales teams and partnerships that are by name only. There are business owners that believe they can get a motivated, committed sales person to work for free. The odds of making this type of relationship work are close to nil. The relationship between a company and it’s sales team, whether a direct hire or partner, is measured by the commitment from both sides. Small businesses may have to tier commission levels based on the ramp-up of sales or find ways to create early non-cash incentives; however, no one should be expected to go out and sell without a financial commitment. The words “you get what you pay for” should ring loudly if you are thinking about commission-only or finding people to sell for you because they like you.  Sales people that are really good at closing deals are expensive because they have a huge ROI.

Attributes of great co-selling partners to consider are the size of the partner’s sales team, market reach, relationships with your customer and available support the sales team receives in training for new products. The partner must have the means, connections and existing relationships to introduce your products to market. Co-selling means they will take an active role in selling. Again, partners by name only often produce little value.

If you choose to use co-selling partnerships, embrace the model and build support for the partnership. Show your loyalty through your commitment to make the partnership last and benefit everyone including the customer, the sales person and the partners. Create value by talking about the partnership and promoting the relationship. The results you get from this co-selling will be directly tied to the amount of time and resources invested in the partnership. You have to give to make it work and really pay off.

In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.” – Anthony Robbins

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Related to a series of posts on partnering.  Also read: Sales Referral Partners Lead to New Customers

Don’t Confuse Confidence with Enthusiasm

Enthusiastic blonde woman wearing big glasses.Business leaders, entrepreneurs, sales people and marketers utilize enthusiasm to draw people to their ideas. They passionately motivate us to follow and take action.  Enthusiasm creates an emotional attachment.

Beyond the emotion, we soon find ourselves wanting more.  We want to trust that we should follow, not follow blindly. We need proof that the words are supported by facts. We need evidence. We are convinced by confidence.

Enthusiasm opens the door, confidence is the closer. We are attracted by enthusiasm. We believe in confidence.  Enthusiasm is selling, marketing and promoting.  Confidence is demonstrating, providing proof and creating trust to solve problems and fulfill needs.  Knowing the difference is very important.  Knowing how to balance the two requires expertise.

A person that lacks confidence will often exude excessive enthusiasm to mask insecurities or lack of evidence.  Have you ever found yourself so engaged by a sales person that you forget you are being sold? Enthusiasm wins. The result may be buyer remorse or worse, deception. Perhaps a new hire enthusiastically convinces you that they can “do the job” and soon the facts do not support reality. A very expensive mistake for a small business – costing the company time and money.

On the flip side, a confident person can be so overtly confident they fail to listen to others or fail to create a following.  Confidence is not arrogance. Confidence can easily delude rational thinking.  The love of power convinces the most confident they can not fail, thus losing all sense of humility and gratitude. When you look around you and no one is cheering you along, your confidence has removed your ability to attract others. There is no emotional appeal. You are now the leader of no one.

Confidence is defined as full trust; belief in powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing, belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance.

Enthusiasm is defined as absorbing or controlling possession of the mind by any interest or pursuit; lively interest.

How do you create balance and avoid the extremes? The perfect blend of confidence and enthusiasm is pitchman Ron “Ronco” Popeil.  He used demonstration to prove his inventions were viable and trustworthy. He used hype and selling to capture our mind share and imagination.  Who can forget his famous, “But wait, there’s more!”  Son of an inventor, Popeil is one of the most famous marketing pitchmen.  He showed you how you could dice onions, so you won’t shed a tear.  How you could depend on his electronic dehydrator to feed your children healthy fruit snacks instead of candy.  The lessons in all the infomercials where about solving a problem. Confidently.

What is the financial impact when you expertly blend confidence and enthusiasm?  Many of the Popeil inventions, most designed by Ron’s father, sold over 2 million. Ron Popeil is not rich solely from his fishing poles and spray on hair inventions. He is rich because he used enthusiasm to get our attention followed by confidently demonstrating how he solved our problems. He sold it. We bought it. We bought his confidence.

Whether you are pitching for investor dollars or motivating your sales team, you must build trust.  Demonstrate reliability and accountability.  Show the why.  Why you, why your company, why your ideas, why now.  Then use your persuasive personality to make sure the message is received, understood and people are left wanting more.

Enthusiasm without evidence is hype.  Hype doesn’t convince anyone, only gives us reason to be suspect.  Don’t oversell, don’t undersell. Confidence alone is mundane. Lead with enthusiastic confidence. A moderation of the two, equal but not separate, wins.

“Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” Norman Vincent Peale

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Take the Chill Out of Cold Calling

ImageCall reluctance is experienced by all business professionals, no matter their role.  Executives returning messages from upset customers, accounting personnel calling on past due notices and technology team members shopping for service providers.  Imagine if your entire day’s success was measured by the number of calls you made to convince strangers to buy your goods and services.

No. Not right now. No, thanks. Not interested. Maybe. Not in our budget. Hang up. Send me information. Yes.  That is the typical day of a sales person who is building their pipeline, repeated over and over again.  And we wonder why it is hard to find and retain great sales people. There are not many of us who would put at the top of our career ambitions to be rejected several times a day.

Cold calling is rarely listed as a favorite work activity; however, for millions it is what pays the bills. Selling is fundamental to our economy. There is no business until something is sold. Embracing the fact we all need to make cold calls, how can we take the chill out of one of the most important activities in business?  Here are a few tips to prepare for a day of cold calling:

1.  Know your target market. Every buyer is unique; however, they will have similar demographics, sociographics and psychographics. Spend time understanding the common data characteristics, along with behaviors and motivators.  For example, if you are targeting a small business owner, know what drives them to change.  What fears do they face in making buying decisions? What would benefit them the most personally and professionally when they say yes?  The more you know about them, the easier it will be for you to make a “warm call” into a known, targeted buyer.

2.  Feel the buyer’s pain. There is a natural tendency for inexperienced cold callers to talk about their reason for calling more than finding out why the buyer would benefit from their products or services.  Stop. Listen. If you are doing the most of the talking, you are losing.  You will never hear the buying signals when you are spewing facts, features, and generic benefits.  The best technique is to understand and relate to your buyer so they have confidence you are doing what is best for them, not you.

3.  Quantity matters. It is far easier to deal with rejection if you can get a “win” during your calling spree.  Plan with enough time in a single day to make calls in blocks of several hours. One, right after the other. Hang up, dial the next.  If you stagger your calls throughout the day or over longer periods, you are simply prolonging the pain. Dial until you get to yes and then dial more. Target how many yes calls you need in a day to hit your weekly and monthly goal.

4.  Needs analysis pays off.  Do your research on your buyer. You will be expected to speak to their individual business needs. There is no excuse to cold call blindly. “Google them”. It takes seconds now to find valuable data online about buyers.  You have access to profiles in LinkedIn, you have company websites with executive profiles, products and company information, public reports and news. Do your homework.

5.  Call with intent. What is your goal in cold calling?  What qualifies as a “yes”?  As with any business function, have a goal and objective with every call. The only way to get to the yes is to ask – ask for the sale. Get agreement along the way of your presentation and make sure you are aligned in your mutual objectives. You are solving a problem for the buyer. Countless deals are lost because people think making the call is the goal. That is not the win. The win is getting the deal.  Ask for their business.  It only counts when they say yes. When they say no, ask again.

A sales person has to remain calm in the chaos of measurable rejection. They have to keep their eye on the “prize”.  One more call to a yes.  One more opportunity to use their real skills and talents of negotiation and the power of persuasion to fulfill a need.

Respect and reward those that you depend on to make the calls to grow your business.  If you are the cold caller, prepare to win.  Know your target, be diligent in your process and never forget to ask.  It is the glimpse of hope, the possibility of acceptance and the incredible satisfaction of closing a deal that keeps a cold caller motivated. Commissions aside, most sales people will say they get the greatest reward from winning.  Winning when a customer says yes!

For every sale you miss because you’re too enthusiastic, you will miss a hundred because you’re not enthusiastic enough.” – Zig Ziglar

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Additional Sales Related Posts by Artful Thinkers

  1. http://www.artfulthinkers.com/prepare-to-hire-a-sales-person
  2. http://www.artfulthinkers.com/questions-sales-candidates-ask-that-should-stop-the-interview
  3. http://www.artfulthinkers.com/a-bad-sales-hire-can-crush-a-small-business
  4. http://www.artfulthinkers.com/5-essential-topics-for-a-winning-sales-proposal

Great find:  Additional tips and references for warming up cold calling can be found at fellow sales advisor Tom Costello’s blog post: http://www.igroupadvisors.com/wordpress/five-steps-that-will-take-the-chill-out-of-cold-calling/

Prepare to Hire a Sales Person

It is the time of year that businesses start to look at their anticipated revenues and question if they can increase the top line with additional sales resources.  A sales person is an investment in your business. Preparing for the role within your organization is as equally important as hiring the right person.

Before you hire anyone, have you created a sales plan?  The sales plan is where you define your revenue goals for the year, the budget for required headcount and support resources, and the tactics you will employ to achieve your goals.  At a minimum, you must define what you are willing to invest into the selling of your products and services for every expected new dollar of revenue.  Once you make this calculation, set your budget based on your investment requirements and expected returns with new sales.

Now that you have your sales plan outlined, here are some steps to help you get ready for hiring a new sales person:

  1. Sales Role: Will your new hire be a direct, field sales person or an inside sales person?  A direct sales person will have a larger budget for travel and expenses, in addition to higher compensation.  The expense of a direct sales person can be offset by a putting in place a higher quota.  A direct sales person is expected to negotiate larger contracts and develop profitable long-term relationships over the phone and in person.  An inside sales person will conduct all of their selling over the phone. They will be qualifying opportunities, making online presentations, negotiating and asking for the business over the phone.  Inside sales people will have a smaller quota and also typically sell smaller priced products and services that do not require face-to-face presentation and negotiation.
  2. Job Description:  Create a job description that clearly defines the requirements for the role, responsibilities and expectations of what the sales person must deliver.  Be specific. State the sales goals, types of customers they need to sell and how they will engage with prospects.  Will they be a “hunter” or a closer or both?  Will they need to have existing relationships?  How much experience in your industry?  Note how your sales person will be measured and how you view success.
  3. Quota and Territory:  Generally inside sales quotas will start at $100,000 to $250,000 in new business revenue per year.  The defined quota will always depend on the sales price.  A direct sales person can be expected to have a quota of $500,000 to $1,000,000 a year in sales.  Again price of product will help set the quota, along with experience of the sales hire.  If you hire someone with no experience in achieving a million dollars in sales, they probably won’t hit a million dollar quota no matter how much they sell you on the prospects.
  4. Comp Plan and Incentives:  Detail how the sales person will be compensated.  Typically there are three factors in sales compensation:  sales commissions on new business, incentives to exceed quotas and bonuses for quality or quantity.  Define your compensation and commission rules.  When will the sales person be paid?  You can set different commissions for different products, based on profitability.  The average sales commission is 4-8% of top line sales revenue.  One word of advice, the easier the plan is to follow, the more focused your sales person will be on achieving plan instead of trying to figure out when and how they get paid.
  5. Sales Process:  The sales process defines the steps a sales person will engage to find, qualify, present, negotiate and close a deal.  If you know the process, you can better hold a sales person accountable to how they manage their sales funnel.  It will also provide you data on how many leads you need to support the number of deals you expect to close each year.  Data is your friend in sales.
  6. Marketing and Sales Support:  Sales people will typically work independently; however, you can shorten the sales cycle by providing sales tools and marketing support to help educate the customer, drive the process forward and substantiate the value propositions of your products.  Prepare a training plan to educate the new hire on what they will sell.  A minimum requirement for any sales person is a CRM tool.  Your prospects and clients are a company asset.  Track and manage the data and make sure it is stored in a company repository.
  7. Measurable Success:  Before you make the hire, know exactly how you will measure their success.  A sales person, no matter the level of experience, will have a ramp up before they start closing deals.  Your sales cycle can range from weeks to years.  The more complex the sale, the higher price of your products and the more consultative the sales process, the more likely it will take six months or more before you see traction with even the most experienced sales person.  Your only exception will be to hire a person that already has relationships with your targeted customers.  The ramp-up will decrease with selling experience; however, you will pay a lot more for this type of sales person in base and expected overall compensation.  Do the math.  Can you invest more early on to increase odds of higher returns with a shorter sales cycle?

An investment in sales is one of the most important decision an owner makes in the life cycle of a business.  Making a bad sales hire can crush your business.  Prepare and plan for success.  Set reasonable expectations and measure performance.  Sales is a numbers game.  Know the numbers, inside and out.  Know what you spend.  Know what you want in return. Know how the sales person will achieve the sales goals.  Prepare your plan so you know what success looks like and then execute your plan.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Capitalize on the Dog Days of Summer

iStockPhoto

Dog Days of Summer

There is a constant drum beat in business circles that summers are difficult for getting anything done. There are a variety of excuses that justify this belief, including, “everyone is on vacation“, “people don’t work when kids are out of school“, “buyers are not engaged“, and of course “decision makers are unreachable“.

The hard reality is these excuses are self-fulling prophecies.  We are more wired, more connected, more engaged today.  Business is not done during the hottest months of the year because we assume we will get a no before we ask for the yes.

The facts prove people are working all summer.  Monthly average work week data shows that we work the same amount in the summer as we do all year round.  Decision makers average 49 hours per week.  We are more productive than ever.  So, why are you not capitalizing on the hottest months of the year?

The Dog Days of Summer are the best time of the year to build up prospects, qualify leads, refresh your marketing strategies and compete for mind share.  While everyone else falls into the excuse trap, you have an opportunity to make noise and get noticed.

Laying back until September to heat it up your marketing and selling efforts only pushes you into the most distracting time of the year.  Right after Labor Day, decision makers are budgeting for 2013 and events are abundant.  Daily sales calls peak and we are all flooded with competitors emails and advertisements trying to capture top of mind awareness.  Simply, your odds are much better to get noticed during the summer months.

Here are some suggestions on how to capitalize on the final dog days of summer:

1.  Reach out to current customers.  Estimates are that it is 7x less expensive to get business from a current customer than a new customer.  Update your current customers on your latest business activities and see if they are ready to buy more.

2.  Prospect for opportunities.  Run reports from your contact database to see who has not been reached in the past six months.  Put them on your priority contact list and create a campaign to heat up some buying interest.  Activity creates action.

3.  Build sales plans for key accounts.  Spend time to craft detailed sales plans for your top prospects.  Identify decision makers, buying cycles, budgets and key influencers at your top target companies.  Read up on their latest news and research their business to identify critical needs.  Use your sales plan to carefully craft the value proposition for doing business with you and then set the appointment to make the pitch.

4.  Promote, promote, promote.  As others hold back until after Labor Day, you have the opportunity to use public relations and social media campaigns to gain attention.  Take advantage of the slower news cycles and go for the headline.  Do whatever you can to get the attention of those seeking your products and services.

5.  Summer close out sales. There is a very strategic reason why Christmas in July sales dominate the dog days of summers.  Retail outlets and online storefronts are looking to clear out inventories.  The other reason is June, July and August sales are the time people will typically start shopping for school and holidays.  Consumers expect a deal.

6.  Refresh your sales and marketing strategies.  Review your strategic plans. What has worked, what is not working and what market opportunities exist for the business in the next 18 months. Tactics follow strategy.  If you are only doing the work and not evaluating the impact on your strategy, you could be heading in the wrong direction.

7.  Pivot now.  Review your key performance indicators and adjust if you are are going to miss your mark.  Making a change now can benefit you in the last quarter of the year.  Don’t wait, start executing your changes and new strategies to achieve your business goals this year.

It is time to heat it up!  You have fewer people competing for attention and business right now.  Take advantage of it.  People receive fewer emails, fewer calls, so use this as an opportunity to make a direct connection today and set the wheels in motion to capitalize this year.

Jamie Glass, Outsourced CMO and President of Artful Thinkers, a strategic sales and marketing consulting company and Sales & Marketing Services Managing Director at CKS Advisors

Ready to Hand Over the Keys to Your Business?

Business owners can easily be consumed by the short term activities of day-to-day operations.  Sole focus on immediate outcomes exposes any business to long-term financial risks.

Every business leader needs to mitigate risks associated to being the one in charge.  The value of a business is built upon the sustainability of the operating plan, with or without it’s leader.  As an owner or CEO, have you asked yourself the “what if” question?  Are you fully prepared to hand over the keys to your business today?

You may have imagined that some day you will be transitioning your leadership to a partner, an investor, the next in line or even family member.  You may see your fabulous retirement life through the eyes of selling your business in multiples above your investment. In order to realize your dream, you need to spend time and commit resources to adequately prepare for a favorable transition. When? Now.

Succession planning is critical to an effective transition.  Achieving optimal outcomes in transitioning a sustainable business requires years of preparation.  How confident are you in handing over control of your business to your successors today?  A successful transition plan gives the new leaders a complete operating manual.  They need to be adequately prepared to operate the business day one.  They need to be able to take your business forward to protect your investment and to benefit your employees, stakeholders, customers and partners.

Some owners avoid planning for the end of the business because of the time it takes away from working “in” the business right now.   The lack of preparedness puts your business value at risk. It is never too early to prepare for an exit.  Whether you are a small owner-operated business, mid-market company or family-owned enterprise, you need a definitive succession plan.  It should be part of your standard business.

Here are some tips on how to start your succession planning:

1.  Document company processes and procedures.  Everyone is not replaceable. Unfortunately, when a person leaves the business they take institutional knowledge.  Key personnel that do not document their knowledge or share it with their direct reports, cost your business long-term and expose you to great risk.  This includes the owners and founders.  You can mitigate that risk by making sure every employee documents their processes and procedures.  Start with key roles.  This is not a job description, it is a “how to” operating manual for every role in your company.

2.  Review your wealth preservation strategies with your advisors.  Meet regularly with your personal and professional financial team members to analyze your current situation and review your short and long term goals.  Be “in the know” at all times of where your business stands financially.  Use strategy and growth advisors to help you pivot the business, so that you can exceed your goals.  Update your business evaluations annually.

3.  Build a culture of knowledge sharing.  Create internal social exchanges and information sharing networks.  Use your company meetings to have one department or key player provide a highlight of their role and what it means to the business.  Reward employees for creatives ways they educate others.  Commit one hour a week per employee for education and cross-training.

4.  Host quarterly strategy updates with key personnel. Spend time with your “next generation” of leaders to share business plans, KPIs, lessons learned and company strategies.  They are the future leaders of your business and they may be executing your business plan.  Keep no secrets.  Share your wealth of knowledge.  Sharing keeps people engaged and actively participating in achieving business goals.

5.  Reward excellence in execution.  Find opportunities to reward performance for those that take initiative and demonstrate they are prepared to lead.  A business full of up and coming leaders, results in sustainability.

Exit planning helps you increase the value of your business today and in the future.  Investors and bankers should ask to see your succession plan.  As you plan your beginning, you need to plan for the end.  Make your investment of time and energy pay off more than you imagined.  Plan today to realize a profitable, rewarding and fulfilling end.

Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

A Bad Sales Hire Can Crush a Small Business

ImageThe decision to bring a sales person into your business is the most important decision you make as a business owner. Financially, it can be very rewarding or it can be devastating to your bottom-line.  The reality is that your hiring decision can propel you to mega-success, crush your business or land you somewhere in the middle.

There is no absolute science in making good hiring decisions.  Know your associated real and opportunity costs of making a bad hire.  Calculate the risks of the person not working out before you sign the offer letter.  Will your business survive making a bad hire?  How soon will you need to pivot if performance is substandard?

Based on the financial risk assessment, you can qualify whether you should invest in a professional resource or hiring profile tool to reduce the risk.  In other words, decide if you will pay now or potentially pay later.

What else can you do to protect your long-term financial security as a business owner and make an informed decision about hiring a sales person?

Ask candidates questions related to sales activities.  Don’t focus on their industry knowledge.  Industry knowledge is trainable.  You don’t need a nurturer or relationships person.  You need a sales person that will ask for money!  It is the secret skill that will bring revenue in the door.  There are two types of sales people:  hunters and closers.  In the beginning, you will need someone who is good at both.  They will cold call, with or without leads, and they will ask for the close.  These are “rare birds”.  Ask questions about the candidates history with sales cycles, average size of deal, average daily cold calls, number of customers sold each year, and presentation-to-close ratios.  These are all indicators of past performance and predictors of future success.  When a resume lists awards for exceeding quota, that does not tell you what they sold in the past is going to translate.  You want to know what they did to exceed quota.  What activities made them successful?

Invest in training and sales support materials.  Basic training materials should be product feature and benefit lists, industry keyword definitions, product overviews, competitive analysis, market positioning statements and scripts of common objections and how to overcome them. Utilize your team of in-house experts to train your sales people.  Set up daily Q&A sessions with product engineers, marketers, customer service personnel and anyone else that touches the customer.  Share all the secrets, good and bad.  The more knowledge and access to experts the sales person has the better prepared they will be to overcome objections.  The first two weeks of any new sales hire should include at least two hours a day training and practice calls.

Set sales quotes and activities quotas. An experienced sales person may only close 1-2 deals per year, with an average deal size of $2 million.  You need to clearly outline your expectations and what you will inspect regarding number of calls, meetings, presentations, proposals and closes.  Assigning the closing numbers without understanding how many calls that might take will cost you severely.  You must know, for example, 500 calls or 20 face-to-face meetings may result in five closed deals at an average sale of $10,000.  If this doesn’t meet your expectations, adjust accordingly.  Then measure the number of calls to see if you are on pace each week.  Early indicators will provide you the opportunity to pivot quickly.

Know your exit strategy.  What is the maximum time you can invest in a bad hire?  The answer can not be zero, because every hire has inherent risk.  If it is 90 days, then have a very specific plan with measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can inspect every week.  You only have 13 weeks to determine if you will terminate employment or keep on staff.  Sales people are used to 90-day probationary periods.  You should have inspection points with planned exit strategies at 6 weeks, 90 days and 180 days.  Cut sooner and learn from your mistakes.  A year-long bad hire could close down your business if you are not well capitalized and depend on this new hire’s revenue to sustain your business.

Identify the characteristics that could be a threat or high risk to your business.  Character matters as much as sales skills.  You need to adequately assess the “fit” of this person in your business.  You are handing over the keys to your future.  Can you trust this person? Is this a person you would take with you to all your important meetings?  Does this person dream big?  Are they kind, friendly and positive?  Will your customers like this person?  If you can afford a hiring assessment by a professional, with tools that can define their character and skills, it will be worth the investment and potentially save you from making a big mistake.

Do your homework.  Never, ever skip reference checking.  Dig deep!  Ask community and business people that might know the person, look at their LinkedIn connections and recommendations.  Reference and background checks are as important as due diligence when buying a business.  You will be writing substantial checks to this person on a promise.  They will be creating your business first impression.  Reduce the risk by learning from other’s experience.  Again, it may be in your best interest to hire someone to do your reference checking to get a complete picture.

Finally, use your gut.  Do they represent you?  Your professional and personal instincts will serve you well.  A bad hire can scar you and make you timid in making a future decision.  Know that it can take four or five hires to find a rock star.  An early success in hiring a sales person is rare, so have a backup plan.

Sales people can make or break a business.  Know your upside and downside when hiring a sales person to promote your business.

Jamie Glass, CMO and President of Artful Thinkers.  Creative. Strategic. Results.

Who Makes the First Impression for Your Business?

Who Greets Your Potential Customers?

First impressions for your business are made by people that open doors, make cold calls, attend networking meetings and answer your phone.  They are delivered by your marketing communications like social media and websites.  How confident are you that your potential clients are greeted warmly and with a direct invitation to do business?

Years ago businesses paid someone to sit at a front lobby desk and answer every inbound call and greet every walk-in appointment.  The receptionist qualifications were measured by friendliness, service-orientation and attentive disposition.  The standard phone greeting of this time was “Thank you for calling, how can I help you?”

When is the last time were greeted this way?  Today we are often met with automated attendants and empty lobbies.  Some businesses have completely eliminated any dedicated space to a welcome station and filled it with another cubical. My impression is that first impressions are not a priority for this business.  The decision that customer experience may be too costly to employ a dedicated person, may be costing you business.

It is not difficult to think back to a bad first impression.  I recall three in the past weeks.  One top restaurant asked me to wait outside in 110 degrees because they did not open for four minutes, yet the door was unlocked.  Another restaurant hostess asked me to stand until my party arrived even though every table was empty.  A technology company, which had a sitting place upon entry, left me for 20 minutes while employees stared at me.  Not one person asked why I was there or if I needed help.  I remember all of these first impressions, vividly.

Noted in a recent New York Times article Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall, “Bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.” Sited from Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University in a journal article he co-authored in 2001, “Bad Is Stronger Than Good.”

How your employees are greeting the public, networking, making introductions, and opening doors for others is a direct reflection of hiring skills, company culture and leadership.  Business owners, CEOs and managers own the customer experience.  Every employee is responsible for making a positive first impression.  How are you reinforcing how positive first impressions are made in your business?

Customer experience is a financial decision in business, unless revenues are low on the priority list.  Reputation management is critical and costly.  A bad review is hard to overcome.  You can’t erase the Internet or someone’s memory.  People use others professional and personal experiences as a reason to buy or not buy. Bad experiences are viral, whether online, through social media, on sites that track reputations or by word-of-mouth.  Once word is out, it is permanent.  You own it!

Welcome!

Every experience starts with the greeting.  Take time to review how your potential and existing customers are greeted today.  This applies whether you are selling B2B or B2C, for every industry, in a building or online.  Use “secret shoppers” and have them rate how inviting, caring, and enthusiastic they were welcomed to do business with you.

Customer service is a pillar to good business.  Customer experience starts when the phone is picked up, the door is unlocked or a web site is visited.  We may not all have the luxury of hanging up a flashing “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign to greet everyone.  We do have the luxury to manage and train our messengers to provide an outstanding first impression.

Invest in your greeting.  Define, train, test and continually reinforce how you want to insure a positive first impression.  It your opportunity to create a long-term valuable relationship with your customer.

Jamie Glass, CMO and President of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

What is Your Marketing Meme?

Will Your Meme Go Viral?

A meme (pronounced meem) is a packet of social information.  Marketing memes are word associations, beyond a tag line or slogan, that take complex concepts or ideas and make them simple and easy to communicate.

A meme is defined in Wikipedia as “a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.”

Effective memes are potent messaging serums, dripped out over time that enter into our brains and stick. Think of your marketing meme as your viral message.  Who you represent, what you do and what you offer, tightly packaged into one memorable soundbite.

Memes are easy to replicate.  Good memes always communicate value and benefit.  It is the message you want propagated all over the world about you and your business.

I first learned about crafting memes from a Fortune 500 marketing expert who spent his time coaching several solopreneurs on how to market their own businesses.  To some, it may seem odd that an experienced marketing executive would spend weeks learning how to market themselves.  Admittedly, I was resistant at first. After all, I have been responsible for marketing multiple million dollar business for years.

Attitude and all, I threw myself into doing something I was avoiding — marketing me! It is hard to market yourself, let alone dedicate the time required to build your own marketing communications plan.  Truthfully, I needed the discipline and focus to develop my own meme. In the end, besides a business card, it was the best marketing investment I made in starting my own business.

An effective marketing meme is a single powerful statement that communicates the benefits of your products and services.  Here are some simple steps to help you craft an effective marketing meme:

1.  In one sentence, write down what you do for your customers.

2.  Next sentence describe the value you provide to your customers.

3.  Outline the problems you solve in the last sentence.

4.  Now start cutting! Combine the three sentences into one very simple, benefit-oriented sentence.  Answer who, what and why it matters in a single sentence.

5.  Test your meme with the following questions:  Can you repeat that sentence over and over again?  It is easy to remember?  Will your meme invite people to want to know more?

Memes are clear value propositions that roll off the tip of your tongue at every introduction.  An effective meme is not a slogan or headline. It is not an elevator pitch.  You rarely get 30 to 60 seconds to cite a rehearsed sales pitch.  It needs to be tight, concise and memorable.

Use your Meme Everywhere

Memes create lasting impressions. They are the words people will carry with them and tell others about you and your business.  Marketers often suggest that it takes seven times before a message really sticks.  It’s called the Rule of Seven. Will your meme be repeated by every person you tell seven times or more?  If so, then you have truly created an effective, viral marketing meme!

Invest time in creating your meme and start sharing it with world.  Repeat it often, in presentations, in meetings, on the web. Make sure your meme is a simple message that leaves us wanting more.

Special Note:  This post is dedicated to my friend and marketing mentor John Coyne.  He patiently worked with me to create my Artful Thinkers meme. His influence and teachings are still making an impact. He will always have a lasting impression. RIP my friend.