Work Harder, Not Smarter

This week’s blog is from Ben Bradley, Managing Director of Macon Raine, Inc., who also blogs on marketing, sales technology and just about everything else at BenBradley.net.

Caught your attention with that headline, didn’t I.

It’s not a misprint. The fact is that too many sales professionals are working harder than necessary because they are completely missing the obvious.

You’re going to slap your forehead in disbelief when I tell you this: It is hard to sell to someone unless you know who they are.

CRM data is crying for attention. And most of the sales people I talk to are crying about the ugly state of their data. Most complain that they don’t have time to clean it.

Data, like unrefrigerated milk, goes bad fast. In fact, some pundits estimate that 25% of a database will sour within a year. Add poor import practices and other minor mistakes, and bad things in the CRM system quickly snowball. It isn’t until senior management realizes they are making strategic decisions on the back of sub-par data that heads begin to roll.

Head rolling is a complicated thing. Do you yell at the person responsible for cleaning the data in use, the person responsible for preventing low quality data from getting into the system, the sales people for not updating contact information, or the marketing department for not scrubbing the unworkable email addresses? Or should the executive team look in the mirror because clean data was not a strategic priority?

Some organizations try to fix the problem by assigning an intern to scrub data instead of committing to a permanent process change.

Others will look longingly for new gadgets, tools, hosted software, widgets, mobile apps or various marketing automation tools to fix the problem. These things can provide a wonderful shiny distraction and may also be an incredible technology advantage…but they are no substitute for permanent process change.

Need to rationalize major process changes  to upper management? The ROI for clean data is simple. All things being equal, a company with a larger database of clean prospects will close more business than a company with a smaller database of clean prospects.

Barry Trailer, of CSO Insights, confirmed what we all know.  “The 2,800 companies participating in CSO Insights’ 2010 Sales Performance Optimization survey (being released 2/1/10) confirmed what everyone knew: 2009 was the toughest year yet.  But it was harder on some firms than others.  Those implementing higher levels of sales process implementation, enjoying higher levels of relationship with their customers, and leveraging enabling technologies fared better than the rest. Of course, having accurate data to inform your systems and processes is key.”

Data quality is not a one-time event. Cleaning your data will cost money and so will the process improvements needed to support ongoing data quality. But in the end it is worth it.

So while the option of continuing to work harder, not smarter holds its own appeal, a fast way to improve sales and marketing success is to fix things that can be fixed.  Data quality is one of those things that can be fixed fast.

What Would Happen If We Saw Things The Way Our Customers Saw Them?

Most of the organizations Dave Brock works with are very high performance organizations.  They have great products, great sales people, and provide solutions that can have great impact on their customers.  However, in meeting with them, he often hears, “Our customers just don’t get it, they don’t see the impact we produce!  How do we get them to better understand?”

Sales success comes from the heart, Doon expert says

There’s more to successful selling than knowing your product, longtime sales professional-turned-trainer Diane Marie Pinkard of Bonny Doon says.The secret of the best salespeople is to treat people well, said the author of the newly published “Just Treat Me Like I Matter: The Heart of Sales.”

In this article, she’s sharing her own pitch to help other salespeople connect better with their would-be clients.

What are the Top Traits of a Successful Sales Professionals Today?

Kimberly Collins asks the question: Has there been a “Death of the Sales Professional” as we have known it? Collins sought out answers to this question and asked a handful of influential sales leaders what they felt were some of the most important characteristics of a successful sales professional in the Sales 2.0 Generation.

Stop Selling Like You’re Walking On Egg Shells!

Do you want to know why some sales people are struggling?  Because they are believing all the whiners, sales snipers, and so called gurus who like to “talk” sales instead of “make” sales.  These “big talkers” are filling everybody’s head with junk!

Doyle Slayton has had enough of hearing people talk about how “prospects like to buy, they don’t want to be sold”.  He’s tired of hearing that sales is “all about building relationships”.  He’s sick of hearing that “cold calling is dead,” intrusive, and whatever else! The reason people say these things is simple… in a lazy kind of way.  Why do they say it?  Because it’s work.  Hard work.  That’s it.  They don’t want to work.  They want it to come easy, but sales isn’t that kind of job.  Selling is a job for mentally tough, strong-willed, highly motivated “workers.”

Strategic Alliances: Not Necessarily a Two-Way Street

This week’s blog is by Paul Terlemezian, owner and founder of iFive Alliances, LLC, which focuses on building revenue-producing strategic alliances for training, consulting and technology companies.

The concept of “Strategic Alliances,” or partnerships, is often used interchangeably and loosely. There are at least 16 different types of alliances. For this blog, I will focus on alliances that are intended to produce revenue for each company as a result of the intentional collaboration to deliver a product or service to a third party.  The third party pays for the service and the alliance partners share revenue.

Strategic alliances take a long time to build – usually six to 12 months or much longer. Then the alliance has its sales cycle with the third party, although there is no guarantee of success. Each partner is risking time, money and brand. But when effective, a strategic alliance promises to save time and money while building or strengthening brand.

Here are some useful ideas for reducing risk and building more effective strategic alliances:

  1. Focus on one-way streets. Alliances need to have a mutual benefit, but do not require both partners to do business development. The mutual benefit should be a strategic benefit to the third party and the reason for the alliance should be evident to the buyer. A two-way street may lead to confusion regarding selling effort or account management. I recommend separate agreements and rules of third party engagement for each direction of the alliance.
  2. Establish an early focus on revenue goals and accountability. The primary reason for an alliance is profit for both partners. This will be achieved by gaining revenue from third parties. The partners need to agree on how much revenue, the time frame and the process for creating the revenue. The partners will also have to agree on being accountable to each other regarding operational tactics and financial matters.
  3. Deal with the difficult issues up front (e.g. account ownership when the alliance ends). Discussing difficult matters will either “kill the alliance” or strengthen it. If it dies early it was probably going to die later and at least you save time, money and energy. On the other hand, knowing how you will handle difficult matters in advance will allow you to move forward more effectively.

Alliances are a combination of art and science. There is a professional association for alliance practitioners, Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals, and LinkedIn groups such as “Alliance Best Practice” and “Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals.” These resources can help you grow and maintain your knowledge while introducing you to other alliance professionals.