Business Development Rants and Resources

What’s With These High Sales Targets?

I have heard salespeople lately express their concern over what they consider to be high sales targets in view of our current economic situation. “Whats my boss thinking? Nobody is spending any money right now!” “This is just a terrible time to (start a business/keep the business/stay in business/sell anything)”

While I would concede that unrealisitic sales targets are sometimes improperly used by sales managers in a clumsy attempt to motivate their people, I am not ready to admit that this is a terrible time to attempt to do business. And even though at the time of this writing, the numbers have not gotten much better, for a salesperson, now might be a pretty good time and it will only get better. Let’s start with this unscientific, and possibly annoying truism: Somebody is going to sell something. So it might as well be you.

Now that that is out of the way, lets dig deeper and look at why you shouldnt just chuck it in and go looking for a new career:

  1. Not all industries are experiencing a slump. Have a handle on the dynamics of YOUR marketplace and don’t get distracted by all the attention that our recession is getting. If you have to stop watching the news or reading the newspaper, go for it.
  2. Your sales prospects are more likely to be looking for new suppliers NOW than in more comfortable economic environments, often owning to their desire to reduce costs. Doors that were previously locked are going to start to swing open. This means a whole new world of opportunity. Your focus should be on exploiting that.
  3. Are all of your competitors still in business? Good. That should be a signal that there is still opportunity. Are some of your competitors out of business? GREAT! Now you are there to fulfill some unmet market needs. A market shakeup can provide great opportunities for everyone from dominant powerhouses to pipsqueaks that previously had no chance.
  4. Making even the slightest inroads now, on sales volumes that never excited you in the past, may pay big dividends down the road when your customers start consuming more and now YOU are the supplier. That is exciting, and should be quite motivating. That’s the reason to push harder!

I am not willing to give most sales managers credit for well thoughtout targets. Many are just reacting to their bosses, who are often too removed from the word on the street and are just trying to make some numbers work. But certainly it can be an exciting time to be in sales when it is NOT business as usual, for some of the reasons above.

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Business Building | , , | Leave a comment

Lead Management System Setup

Companies are implementing sales information applications, or sales lead management systems,or web- based CRM systems (or whatever you want to call them) by the thousands, every business day. What is amazing is the little thought that actually goes into the setup. This lack of planning is a theme within some previous article and undoubtedly will be for many other articles.

As we have deployed SalesInSync within hundreds of companies, there is one simple mistake that can absolutely bring down the house: field redundancy. This is when you force users to put basically the same information into the database in two or more different spots. The most common example is having both sales Cycle Stage – where they are in the broad spectrum as they move through the funnel – and another field that classifies the record by whether they are just a suspect, or a prospect that has not yet had a proposal, or one that has had a proposal, or is now a customer. Sound identical? Well, yeah! So why do so many companies have databases that are set up like that?

An extreme example that I encountered the other day was a setup where the company had one field for the ABBREVIATION of the Lead Source, and another for the FULL NAME of the Lead Source! This type of thing destroys the database, and then ultimately takes the entire sales information infrastructure with it.

You see, as salespeople fill out information on the form, whether it is web or locally-based, they will not reliably take the time to make sure these redundant fields are filled out or are in agreement. In fact, even presenting a salesperson with a form such as this will make the smart ones question the value of the program as a whole, and they will ultimately use the database only in the way that it benefits THEM because their confidence in the intelligence or abilities of the rest of the organization is shaken, no matter how subtly and/or subconsciously. Once that data is not reliably entered, its value as a tool for analysis by sales management and marketing is greatly reduced. And then the ugly part happens – the database itself is deemed “ineffective”, and that is blamed on the salespeople, and the database, and everyone else that has come within a half a mile of it. The solution is to chuck out the old database and start over. The cost of doing this enormous, and it happens every day.

A sales activity database needs to have fields that are mutually exclusive, and that reflects the philosophy of sales management with respect to the sales process. Ideally, Marketing will have a role in its design, to the extent that their efforts feed those processes.

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Lead Management and CRM | , , , | Leave a comment

The High Cost of In-Sourcing

Let’s not consider, for now, of the normal outsourcing argument, that often it is possible to save significant money by using outside assistance from people who are set up to do whatever it is that needs doing. To do that kind of outsourcing is often (but not always!) a no-brainer.

Let’s talk about other cases, though. I recently worked with a company whose overarching philosophy was to do everything in-house, presumably with the simple view that “We already have these people, and they have talent, so why should we spend additional money by outsourcing?” Or, in the case of technology, “We can figure out this problem on our own. There are lots of good resources out there.”
This latter point really does resonate with me. It is almost always true. In fact, for the sake of this article, let’s dwell on that.The vast majority of people in the U.S. that are involved in IT have zero formal training in it. And we are not talking about your brother-inlaw that somehow cobbled together a web site for his company. This group also includes real, highpowered techies and tech business visionaries. Got a problem? Google it. And then maybe you’ll end up joining one of the hundreds of great technology forums that address every popular area of IT, inhabited by lots of people that are willing to share their knowledge.

But there are a few reasons why straightup outsourcing of your technical issue is a better choice, despite the availability of these awesome resources:

  1. Faster time to market implementation. Often, all of the flailing around trying to cobble together a solution has measurable opportunity cost. And when I say “often”, I really mean “anytime you are doing this as part of some business objective, rather than a) for your health, or b) to make the world a better place”. Why not just go and get the thing done and move on to meet your objective, within your company’s’ core competencies?
  2. To answer questions that you do not know enough to ask, or at least had not thought of asking. I have used technical forums many times, and my question was answered and then I successfully moved from Challenge 97 to Challenge 98, moving across the raging river on those slippery stones hoping to make it to the other side. I have also, by necessity, given whole projects to outside firms. I was happy I did because as I subsequently looked at what they did, and I learned techniques that I would have never used or even thought about. That knowledge was integrated into dozens of other existing processes, greatly benefiting my organization.
  3. To develop a relationship and a backstop for times of need. Business relationships, especially tactical ones that center around complex solutions, take some time to develop. When things go bad, VERY bad, you cannot just start dialing numbers from the Yellow Pages and yelling “HELP”. The value of someone that knows you, and has not only a vested relationship with you and your company, but also some knowledge of how you are doing things, cannot be overstated. So starting with your next challenge, consider picking someone else’s brain. Maybe you’ll take on the next dozen on your own, which is great. But when you find the right outside resources, you will quickly see how you can benefit.

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Business Building | Leave a comment

Sales Lead Management 101 (or, The Marketing Shell Game)

DISCLAIMER: I am not a marine biologist.

You are at a beach, and for about as far as you can see, there are shells scattered around. They are mollusks. Some of these mollusks are oysters. Some of them even contain pearls! (By the way, in case I forgot to mention, that is why you are there.) You aren’t there to get a suntan or to see bathing suits. And you brought 10 people with you in a search for pearls. You turn around and say to your team, “Alright people, lets get em. Go!” And your people start running all over the place on the beach, looking at each shell, determining if the mollusk is an oyster and whether it has a pearl that is big enough to harvest. Once the determination is made, the team member throws down the shell and runs to another one that they are sure they have not yet examined. You see people gathering pearls! Things seem to be going pretty well. At the end of the day, your team comes back and puts the pearls in your little red plastic pail. There sure are a bunch in there. Looks like your team did a number on this beach! Time to go home. We’ll come back tomorrow.

Okay, lets get into land mode. The beach is a market. Maybe it is your only market. The shells are suspects (someone that fits the broad profile), an oyster is a prospect (someone that actually uses what you are trying to sell), and the harvested pearls are sales. The pearls that are not harvested because of their size are sales that will occur when the timing is right. Theyre still growing. Does the above description of the pearl hunt in any way resemble your approach to sales lead management? If it does, don’t feel bad because the great majority of companies do the same thing turn people loose to dig up pearls. These are companies that have afinite and identifiable set of suspects, and could be doing things differently, whether using  a lead management system or sales management system such as SalesInSync or some other web-based CRM system. So what’s wrong with the “just go wild” approach I described?

Wouldn’t it have been more effective to gather every single shell on the beach (“own” the market by owning the informatoin, another Groundroll article), bring them to a central location, divvy them up among the team, and methodically examine each one? The shells that are not oysters get put in a special bin. They are not randomly tossed back. The oysters that do not contain pearls of any size get put in a similar special bin, and the ones that contain smaller, nonharvestable pearls are in another bin. The ones wherein you picked a pearl are put into the fourth bin. The bin we are talking about in this case is simply your sales database, from Excel sheets to a Lead Management System such as SalesInSync. We even have seen customers with shoeboxes of 3×5 cards as their lead management system. At least they kept the information! This article will stop here for now, in case the analogy is getting tedious or making people seasick. But the concepts will certainly form the basis of much of what is on this site, so look for more pearls of wisdom or annoying grains of sand.

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Lead Management and CRM | , , | Leave a comment

Why “Groundroll”?

Come up with a concept, and then think of 100 different suitable domain names for your web presence. 97 of those will be taken already. Of the 97, 91 of them are not being used, but instead parked. Of the 91 that are parked, 85 of them are done so in order to perhaps have a big company buy it for a million dollars, and the other 6 will eventually be used by their owner in actual commerce.
Yes, the GoDaddy-fueled hopefuls make it difficult for people that actually DO something with internet domains.

Wow. Tthat opening to this article is like a rant! I hadn’t originally intended that.

Sometimes you get lucky and dont have to be too abstract. In this case we did get a little lucky. Groundroll is a term used primarily in aviation to describe that part of the takeoff wherein the airplane is still on the runway, gathering speed in preparation for its liftoff. We thought that this would be appropriate, given our focus, which is to discuss the launching of businesses to the next level.

We are just getting started, and we’re very busy with category and topic selection. It is easy to brainstorm topic lists, but a blog is like a printed magazine, and you don’t pick up a business magazine and go to Technology on page 47 just to see four pages of white, so we are being careful to notwaste our visitors mouse clicks!

March 28, 2012 Posted by | NTDWA | Leave a comment