The Channel Needs to Update its Marketing Operations – By Michael Vizard | Posted 2013-12-10

One of the more perplexing and frustrating aspects of the channel is that vendors in one breath will extol the channel’s critical role in helping them grow their businesses and then in the next complain about how backward channel partners tend to be when it comes to investing in the sales and marketing expertise needed to grow the business.

Much of the hesitancy to invest in sales and marketing in the channel stems from two fundamental issues. The first is that solution providers tend be very conservative when it comes to cash management. Closely related to the issue is the fact that the return on additional sales and marketing capabilities is often hard to quantify. Unfortunately, those two issues collectively conspire to limit the channel’s growth potential.

While marketing has evolved over the years, it’s still more art than science as far as the average solution provider is concerned. Emerging big data analytics applications and marketing automation platforms are changing that. For example, IBM has invested millions in marketing apps, and now predictive analytics tools for CRM applications are emerging that better identify which leads are most likely to close.

As accidental entrepreneurs with strong technology backgrounds, many solution provider executives are likely to put more faith in hiring an additional engineer before, alternatively, investing in a salesperson who may wind up doing little more than taking in-bound orders rather than driving net new additional business. As far as many solution providers are concerned, a lot of so-called salespeople turn out to be little better than an expensive customer support representatives, many of which are just as good at up-selling a customer as any salesperson. As for professional marketing, that’s something most solution providers leave to vendors—only to complain about how bad it is later.

Pete Busam, chief balancer for Equilibrium Consulting, a channel sales and marketing consulting firm, said the core problem is that most solution providers don’t have an effective, structured sales and marketing process. They have some formalized process, but no one is dedicated to nurturing the skills of the people involved in managing the process. Because there is no demonstrable ROI in six months or less, solution providers throw up their hands and revert to looking for additional revenue by mining their existing customers for more business. The result is a business with limited growth potential.

That’s a shame because the one major upside is that cloud computing makes it easier than ever to serve a larger number of customers. The challenge, said Busam, is having the patience required to develop that new business, which usually takes several months of investments in everything from training to content marketing. The trick, said Busam, is to have a balanced approach that leverages content marketing to educate customers about issues that they would then want to discuss how to solve. Otherwise, salespeople are wasting thousands of hours making cold calls hoping to get lucky. Even then, it’s hard to distinguish a true lead from a “prospect,” who would say anything to get an intrusive salesperson off the phone.

Busam said that investments in professional services automation (PSA) platforms have improved the sophistication of many solution providers. But by and large, most of them are not taking the time required to build a sales pipeline that would truly scale the business. Naturally, that leads to a lot of frustration among vendors trying to leverage the channel to increase sales by, among other things, increasing both the overall size of any given market and their respective share of it.

In effect, this creates nothing less than a paradox. Solution providers are inefficient when it comes to sales and marketing. But if vendors try to compensate for those shortcomings, they inevitably wind up being accused of trying to take the business direct—which, given the nature of salespeople working for vendors that are trying to meet a quarterly sales goal, is all too often the case.

The only way to resolve this paradox is for solution providers to modernize their sales and marketing operations. Only then is the business going to scale in a way that allows the solution provider to maintain control of the business.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review. – See more at: http://www.channelinsider.com/blogs/business-management/the-channel-needs-to-update-its-marketing-operations.html#sthash.VSOIZNG8.dpuf

 

Selling Technology Assessments

Technology assessment involves face-to-face selling.  This can be a scary and daunting idea to many sales consultants since they have to sell a service that others percieve should be provided for free.  Consider a few basic selling techniques when selling your technology assessment services.

Finding Clients

This is the most important step in selling your technology assessment skills.  Sometimes, clients are referred to you.

However, when first starting out, you will probably need to seek out potential customers.  Consult local business directories to determine which businesses might benefit from your services.  Contact them directly.

Setting an Appointment

Most consultants feel more comfortable with first sending a letter or brochure about their business to a prospect.  This letter should detail that you will be calling to discuss your services in more detail.  After a week, phone the prospective client.

Some will not be interested; some will, and some won’t even come to the phone.  Be prepared for these responses and do not take them personally.

Making a Face-to-Face Sale Presentation

Once an appointment has been set, research the business and any important background information.  Arrive to the appointment on time, with a positive expression and attitude.

Once a prospect’s needs have been determined, you can detail the technology assessment services that you can provide – make sure to differentiate what makes your companies assessment different from the competitors FREE assessment.  A prospect’s objections are often a good sign, indicating they are interested in your services.  Listen carefully so you can overcome any objections throughout the sales presentation.

Closing the Sale

Believe it or not, many consultants forget to ask for the sale!  Once you and the prospective client have discussed fees and any other negotiable items, it is time to close the sale.

Detail the exact technology assessment services that you will provide, set the fee, and determine when the project will begin.  Get out your appointment book and have a contract ready.  Don’t miss the opportunity to gain a new client!

The Bottom Line about Technology Assessment – Selling Your Services

Understanding some basic sales techniques will assist the technology assessment consultant in gaining clients.  Although it is a frightening task for many sales consultants, it is a necessity.  Preparation and role-playing will assist the consultant in feeling more comfortable with the process.

Setting Salaries is easy, right?

Setting salaries for your staff is always a tricky thing to do. It’s especially hard if you’ve never done it before, because you probably don’t even know where to start. On the one hand, you want to pay enough to get or retain the best possible talent. On the other hand, you don’t want to overpay. What’s are you to do?

First of all, don’t panic. Your goal should be to attract good talent and pay them fairly. When it comes to the exact amounts you should pay, however, You never want to pay more than the job is worth to you. That’s just good business.  A salary is like any business expense–it’s an investment, and you should get a return. So start by deciding the top amount you’d be willing to pay.

The best way to determine that ceiling is to ask this: How much more valuable will this person make the company? Your answer is the most you’d be willing to pay that person when it comes to their salary.

For a salesperson or business development employee, that question is easy to answer. These type of employees are revenue generators, so you can just ask yourself if the sales they’re generating covers their salary. If your new sales candidate can bring in $500,000 in profits, then it might certainly be worth it to offer a $200,000 salary plus commissions to bring them on board.

So now you know the most you’ll pay. Next is to figure out the least you’ll pay. This is where the market comes in. Market rates set candidates’ expectations. Sometimes, the market underprices value. Truly excellent knowledge workers do ten times the work of merely good ones, but they’re only paid 20 to 30 percent more. Other times, the market overprices value (can you say “CEO salaries”?). Either way, candidates will expect you to at least pay market rates unless you can offer them alternatives. There are many sources out there that are specific to your geography that will aid you in establishing the markets high or low salary range.

When all the research is done, you’ll pay a combination of what the job is worth and what the market demands. It’s also critical, to consider each new hire individually. As much as we all love salary bands, you shouldn’t let the standard process blind you to the need for exceptions. When you’re hiring a salesperson with close personal relationships to your five hottest prospects, feel free to pay way above market. I sure would.

Beware the trap of complicated or confusing commission percentages with the dollars you pay your salespeople.  If you believe your commission percentage is right, let your salespeople take home as much money as they can. I’ve seen companies chase away phenomenal salespeople by getting greedy. They see a salesman taking home $1 million a year in commissions, they get jealous, and they cut commissions or fire the salesperson. Heck, if a salesperson is pulling in a cool million, let them! That means they’re making tens of millions for your company. Don’t cap their commissions and risk losing the salesperson who lays the golden eggs.

Finally, realize that you have a lot of flexibility if you expand your thinking beyond mere money. Some people value things other than money (yes, it’s true!). You may be able to offer nonfinancial rewards that hook people and draw them in. Flexible hours, casual dress, more time off, telecommuting, and impressive or creative titles can all be offered in lieu of cash. Training and professional development also matter to people! So use the market rates, salary expectations, the intrinsic worth of the job, and your creativity when deciding what to pay.

 

 

It’s a New Year with a New List of Don’t Do’s for Sales and Sales Mangers!

2013 is here and I have heard New Year’s resolutions from so many, I just don’t know who can really deliver on them. An unknown author said “Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits.”

Human beings in any line of work could double their productive capacity overnight if they began right now to do all the things they know they should do and stop doing all the things they know they should not do.  Most of us are standing in our own way on the road to success. What holds us back is that we all love to improvise instead of rely on processes  that faciliated the right course of action.

Things salespeople should have on their daily not-to-do list:

  • Don’t waste time chasing unprofitable leads.
  • Don’t show up late for the call.
  • Don’t make a call without a plan and preparation.
  • Don’t pretend to listen; stay focused.
  • Don’t talk about politics, religion or sex.
  • Don’t talk about what you like, talk about what the prospect likes.
  • Don’t talk about features without explaining the benefits.
  • Don’t quote price before establishing value.
  • Don’t skip steps in the sales process, stay on track.
  • Don’t forget to up-sell and cross-sell.
  • Don’t over-promise and under-deliver.
  • Don’t lie; build trust. Don’t under-dress or over-dress.
  • Don’t drink prior to a call; look your best.
  • Don’t flirt with the staff; be charming.

Things sales managers should have on their daily not-to-do list:

  • Don’t make hiring decisions based on your gut instincts alone.
  • Don’t slip back into the role of the super-salesperson.
  • Don’t claim you made a sale that you helped create.
  • Don’t play favorites; be fair to everyone.
  • Don’t accept incompetence; set the bar high.
  • Don’t resist change, embrace it and lead the change
  • Don’t reject technology because you don’t understand it.
  • Don’t mistake sales increases with profitability.
  • Don’t think that sales training is unnecessary.
  • Don’t allow salespeople to put their monkeys on your back.
  • Don’t criticize in public; offer performance feedback in a private setting.
  • Don’t assign a $10-an-hour job to a $120,000-a-year sales executive.
  • Don’t push your salespeople to success; lead them by example.
  • Don’t think that your sales process is perfect; it needs to be renovated all the time.
  • Don’t hide in your office, crunching numbers; delegate and invigorate yourself.

The magic of the not-to-do list
Think of your to-do list. It takes a lot of work to get things done. Chances are that you are starting the day with 7-10 major action items, and you are lucky if you are able to cross off the first three items by the end of the day. Start a fresh to-do list every day. Don’t agonize, prioritize.

The not-to-do list doesn’t change every day. This list doesn’t take more work on your part; it creates less work for you. It helps you recognize new patterns. It helps you prevent self-defeating actions. Like Michelangelo chipped away all the unnecessary marble from a gigantic block to create a masterpiece, your not-to-do list will bring out the best in you.

The Terrible Triad

The terrible triad locks in a thinking routine that destroys any glimmers of focused flexiblity on a team or individual.  It gets worse whithout aggressive war like measures.  It grows is stegnth and influence as each element reinforces the other!  Leaders must forcefully attache the harmful tirangle by clearly understanding the enemies of Excessive Planning, Overconfidence and Cognitive Bias.

 

Excessive Planning  – Proper planning clearly benefits an organziation.  However, few people address teh potential dangers of excessive planning.  Traditionally the managent planning process follows a stand well defined series of steps similar to the following:

  • Endpoint objectives are developed
  • Gaps between current positions and ojectives are identified
  • Action plans, timelines and outcome measure are created to close the gaps and drive forwared desired results.

The process typically works however, in some cases managers will create more uncertainty due to over complicating their quest to create more detail than might be required – remember the old rule, KISS!

Overconfidence – Excessive planning often leads to overconfidence in the ability to control events.

Confirmation Bias – Humans tend to seek out evidence to confirm – not disconfirm,   their preconcieved notions. until you look for evidence to the contrary, you can’t be sure of anything, In short, if you expect a new process to work you can typically find a basis to support th expectation.

Where is your team in the Sales Maturity Model?

Sales management always asks us where they are compared to the competition.   “How do I compare against my peers outside of my company?” asked one sales manager last week. “Tell me what I need to do to get better.   How can I sustain results so we can gain predictablity in our sales motions!” .  there are a variety of ways to accomplish this, but the process is to find tools that provide you the insight to gather information to make decisions and help your team overcome objections, gain confidence while providing necessary input to growing up as salespeople.

Well, where are you (and your sales team) on the Sales Management Maturity Model?

Once you understand where you are you can put in processes and metrics in place to manage pipelines and accountablity.

Avoid Common Mistakes when Selling in a Tough Economy!

How can you drive new business in a downturned economy?  Those that are involved in sales should find the answer by avoiding some common mistakes and taking some proactive steps. There are a few common mistakes that if corrected can lead to a healthier pipeline and better opportunities.

  • Not spending enough time on sales prospecting, at a time when sales prospecting are needed more than ever.
  • Getting discouraged, this allows your competition to take business away from your company.
  • Not responding well when customers ask for additional concessions or not use a consultative sales process
  • Failing to communicate the value that your company can provide for a particular customer.
  • Missing the opportunity to wow existing customers.

By changing the behavior of the sales team on these 5 mistakes, you can find opportunities in spite of the challenging economy we’re all facing.  Here are some ways you can overcome objections:

Don’t be surprised if your current customers ask you to make additional concessions. The prevailing bottom-line climate has created an increasingly frequent request by customers to reduce costs. Salespeople are being pushed more and more by customers for concessions, especially on price. This new business culture makes sales negotiation skills a top priority, and requires you to be confident and skillful at both giving and getting concessions.  It is a 2 way street and customers need to understand that you are in business also which requires you to draw the line – set a target of negotiation well before you deliver pricing so you are prepared with the value proposition and why you can’t go any deeper.

Highlight the value that you can provide. You don’t always have to make a concession, even though times are tough. If you can provide value to a client in ways other than reducing the price, this is the time to do so and can be a “win win” solution for both of you. As an example, Equilibrium was recently asked by one of our clients to make a concession but offered instead to help them in some revenue-generating actions that will end up increasing both of our revenue streams, and negated the need to make a price concession.

This is the time to HUG your customers. What can you do to exceed your customer’s expectations? If you can provide them some additional service or benefit, at no extra charge, you will strengthen your relationship and set yourself apart.  Jack Mitchell wrote a great book that talks about a proven way to personalize sales and achieve results by just caring a little more than your competitor.  Remember the IT business is based primarily on relationship builiding – Hug your customers and they will Hug you back.

I hope that these few items will assist you as we continue to fight through an economy on the rebound.

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We engaged with Equilibrium to help us create a professional sales process. He worked with us to develop a system for opportunity management and provided sales coaching that was instrumental in contributing to a 40% growth in revenue for 2013. Equilibrium continues to be the team that we turn to when we have sales questions.

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Pete and his team at Equilibrium Consulting have helped us get our sales and marketing on track like never before. Their experience and follow through are awesome! I love our weekly calls and all the projects we are working on together.

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