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The Upside: Killer Sales Tips

5 posts from July 2010

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July 29, 2010

Join the AA-ISP in Boston for the Customer 2.0 Roadshow, Aug. 5, 2010

Noticing something different about your customers these days? Are their expectations higher and their patience thinner? Do they come to the buying decision already educated about your company's (and your competitors') strengths and weaknesses? With the advent of social media and collaborative web Customer201 conversations, "Customer 2.0" is now at the center of the sales and buying process.

Join the AA-ISP in Boston for the Customer 2.0 "Roadshow", Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010, and find out how to market and sell to this new breed of customer. Learn what strategies you can adopt to get them to buy, how to use social media to influence their decisions, and network with other sales professionals who face the same challenges.

Sponsored by InsideView and Marketo, in conjunction with the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals, Customer 2.0 - Selling in the Social Media will be held at the Westin Hotel in Waltham, MA.

Register today!

-- Carla Gates, Director, Marketing, Glance Networks

Follow Glance Networks on Twitter and Facebook for daily tips on Sales 2.0


July 27, 2010

Are Software Sales Slow, or Is That a Tar Pit You’re Standing In?

My circle of professional friends is made up of 40 – 50 something’s, divided between the Route 128 beltway here in Boston, and Silicon Valley just outside of San Francisco. 

For the most part, we're all selling software to some of the largest companies in the world. Still in it for the passion of making a small “bit” of code known throughout the universe – or at least on Wall Street.

In his book “The World is Flat”, Thomas Friedman addressed our generation and the various projects which we worked on throughout the 80’s and 90’s – he referred to the events as “flatteners”. 

I don’t suppose we were consciously competent of it at the time, but in retrospect, wow, we did some huge deals, delivered ground breaking go-to-market programs, and launched products that literally change the world and our lives – virtually overnight.

I remember my good friend Michael Werner flying in from Redmond; he was coming to Boston to kickoff Microsoft’s first ever worldwide virtual user conference for a small project which he and his team created – they were building a network of programmers and thinking of naming it: “The Microsoft Developer Network” or MSDN -- a channel strategy to seed the world’s coding rock stars with Microsoft Visual Studio platform, hoping to displace Sun, IBM and all others.

I remember him telling me about Bill's latest "vision" on our snowy drive into Boston; of course, being the prophet that I am, I simply replied “…good luck with that one”.

The point I'm making is that in the 90’s, we laid the framework for online, real time communications, globally. We were working for tiny start-ups selling billions and billions of dollars of technology infrastructure and software to the largest companies in the world. It was intense.

I would spend hours in conversations with C-level execs at these companies, looking to gain a leg up on their competition by leveraging innovation.  Given the scale of these solutions, cost, budget allocation, complexity, and political risk; the Sales pros had to be there, on site -- relationships were the difference between winning and losing. 

The outside sales organization was not just a component of the business, in many cases it WAS the business. All of the momentum, all of the demand, all the incredible competition -- it was so crazy that many of us didn’t see the end coming, until, well, the end. 

  Fast forward 25 years later and things necessarily have changed. Its a Sales 2.0 world. Yet, there still remain hangers-on: High Tech CEO’s, VP’s of Marketing, Sales Managers, and dare I say, Board Members who refuse, for whatever reason, not to see the hieroglyphics on the wall. Who even today, cling to that cost heavy, inefficient and ineffective “Outside Sales Model”.

I am not suggesting that the need to build relationships with clients is gone; that definitely is not the case. Never will this perish (and if so, I hope I’m out of here when it does – because, that is a lost art; a blog post for another time, and something drastically lacking in all of this Sales 2.0 hipness).

What I am saying, however, is that the frequency, and need of the “schmooze” has greatly diminished, and gone with it, is the requirement for the armies that once ruled the road with nothing but Buicks, massive cell phones, and enormous expense.

Certainly some of the old school prospects still look forward to a big steak, but as decision makers of this past generation retire, they will be replaced by “Gen Y” buyers (Customer 2.0), who will just as easily do a deal via their iPhone and Skype, instead of dinner and a ball game. 

Yet, generational shift is only one of two “Sales world flatteners”; in fact, it will probably be the last piece to fall into place. 

The other flattener (and ironically the higher hurdle for many first gen sales people) was created by the very infrastructure and evolution that we built our livelihoods on; from LAN, to client server applications, to the internet, which lead to the .com’s, whose failure proved which commerce models worked (and which did not); ultimately bringing us today’s fast, stable, secure SaaS applications and Cloud Service architecture.

In other words, the groundwork laid over 2 decades ago, now makes it possible for any ISV serving the enterprise to build, host, deliver and manage mission critical applications – for cheap! 

If you don’t believe me, look at the data warehouse and business intelligence space.  I was part of the original Informatica Sales Organization. We were assisting the F500, or in my case Financial 100, with the data they required to run their business.

We were the start up sales team, all 5 of us; telling the story of how you could gain access to the data in your mainframe, transform it on the fly, store it in something called a Relational Database Management System, and while migrating, become Y2K compliant; all for the low, low price of a million-dollars.

Fast forward to the fall of 2009. Here at Glance we had a need to move data from our RDBMS (SQL Server), transform it to meet real time business requirements, and insert it into our Salesforce.com instance; allowing us at any point in time to track the vitality of our business.

Snaplogic For this mission critical application we evaluated the market and choose a tool from a new company in this space called SnapLogic; ironically, (ok, not ironically), whose CEO is Gaurav Dhillon; former founder of, you guessed it, Informatica. 

Here's the cool part, we got a demo from a very bright young guy named Vince Ko; no one needed to come and see us, we didn’t have to install anything locally, its SaaS, the implementation was done by SnapLogic experts from 3000 miles away, and oh yeah, we didn’t spend a million. (For proprietary reasons, let’s just say I bought a new bike this summer, and it cost more money than our SnapLogic annual subscription.)

My story is not unique. It is not a one-off-event, instead it is the rapidly accepted norm, the future of selling enterprise software, the alignment of Gen Y and Tech evolution. A shift which will retrospectively be seen as bringing to extinction the top heavy Outside Sales models of our past.

So if you’re an old guy like me, and you're still driving that Buick, or carrying that GI Joe cell phone, do yourself a favor and evolve your ways of thinking fast, before that tar pit beneath your wheels sucks you in for good.

-- Tom Scontras, VP Sales & Marketing, Glance Networks

Learn the 3 Keys to Making the Successful Shift to Sales 2.0! REGISTER TODAY for the next Glance webinar, Tues. 8/24/10 http://bit.ly/cvoIyc

July 15, 2010

Maximize Your Work Productivity in 12 Simple Steps | Surprisingly Astute "Must-Do's" From a Young Mind

My 11-year old twins came into the office the other day - strangely, they love to "play office" here in Glance's solar-powered, renovated mill space, usually dragging along a friend or two (obviously, they don't yet know the grind of the working world!). "Playing office" involves things To Do List, workplace productivity, business strategylike writing any and all thoughts on the whiteboard wall, making Powerpoints crammed with unusual clip art, rolling around on the swivel chairs, "leading meetings" from the conference table, and xeroxing non-paper objects. 

While the others were haggling over who got the red erasable marker, one of my daughters went off and wrote her work "to-do" list. Looking at it later, I realized that its a surprisingly wise and strategic compendium of business objectives and tasks, which if followed, will ensure workplace success:

J. G.'s To Do List

  1. Make them listen to me.
  2. Figure out what the company does.
  3. Get party organizer.
  4. Organize fundraiser.
  5. Make computer work.
  6. Ignore their fighting.
  7. Actually do my job.
  8. Have an opinion.
  9. Talk.
  10. Remind them that I'm not 21 yet.
  11. Give ideas.
  12. Go home.
Simple steps to a successful business: know your company mission, raise funds, brainstorm, have an opinion, communicate it, act your age, do the job, ignore petty distractions, make sure your technology works, and of course, celebrate your successes and don't forget to go home.

-- Carla Gates, Director, Marketing, Glance Networks

Follow Glance Networks on Twitter and Facebook for daily tips on Sales 2.0

July 08, 2010

The ONE Way to Lose Your Audience Before You Get Started: How to Make Your Social Media and Blog Headlines Stand Out

 The New York Post does it right. Sort of. Eye-popping headlines make you stop and read (or more likely, purchase). Unfortunately, their content doesn't always deliver. But then again, I'm not sure great content is anywhere in their mission statement.

But if you're trying to gain your prospect's attention, generate leads, or provide thought leadership in social media, you need to nail the art of great content plus great headlines.

After all, you have about 1 second to grab the attention of your audience scanning the millions of blog, FB, LI, and Twitter posts every day (Twitter alone sends out 50 million updates each day!)

You'll quickly know your headlines aren't compelling if your pages don’t seem to be getting the exposure you think they deserve; readers aren't re-tweeting them, or commenting on them; and nobody seems to be linking to them from their blogs.

Here are some not-so-compelling, real post headlines that I saw online this morning. None of them made me want to click:

  • Another Brick in the Paywall: I know its supposed to be a clever play-on-words, but it doesn't tell me why I should care to read it, or what it's really about.
  • The Zen of PowerPoint: Again, clever oxymoron, but I have only a few minutes to read in the morning, so I need to know exactly how this post will help me. If I don't see the immediate benefit within the title, I'll move on.
  • SEO Analytics 101: Sounds potentially interesting, but, gosh, with a title like that, it could be a tome! I don't have time for a tome. 
  • APCO Releases Reputation Study Finding: So, who is APCO, and what is a reputation study? Including one of the more interesting findings from the study, in the headline, might have drawn me in.

 

In contrast, here are some online posts from this morning, that I clicked on right away:

  • 7 Steps to Creating a Successful Online Business: Success in 7 steps?! That sounds right up my alley! And since I'm in online marketing, this post might have something I could use for my job.
  • 7 Ways to Start Building Your Personal Brand for Free: Not sure why good things are coming in 7's today, but its a manageable number. Plus, this headline tells me exactly what will happen if I follow the 7 steps, and oh, by the way, they don't cost any money! 
  • The Most Important Hiring Trait, Period. Do You Have It?: 'Nuf said. We all need to hire and get hired. You're crazy if you don't read this one. (And talk about inducing career paranoia! That second little sentence makes the headline.)  
  • Is Social Media Failing to Produce Business Leads?: Oh gosh, I hope not, since I'm the Social Media Strategist for my SaaS company. I better read this.
  • Help: "Our Closing Ratio Dropped by 50% in the last Quarter!" I know exactly what this post is about, its got a real problem in it, and purports to offer a solution. Probably worth my time to read.

So, what's the difference? Good headlines tell you, succinctly, what the article is about, and why you'll benefit from reading it. And they use controversy, mystery, energy, guidance, and fun to engage your interest and stand out from the pack.

Bad headlines are broad, general, boring, unspecific, and company-centric (as opposed to being reader-centric).

Nick Usborne advises using "catchy headlines, but applied intelligently, and always followed by great content." 

Need help writing your headlines? Tiffany Monhollon has some great suggestions in 57 Power Words for Writing Brilliant Headlines (and btw, that is a great headline, following all the right rules!) 


-- Carla Gates, Director, Marketing, Glance Networks

Follow Glance Networks on Twitter and Facebook for daily tips on Sales 2.0 (and hopefully, some very compelling headlines!)

July 01, 2010

5 Selling Lessons Learned from 5th Grade Entrepreneur Day

Last week, my twin daughters held an "Entrepreneur Day" in their 5th grade classroom. Parents were invited to browse the marketplace full of interesting kid-made products and services, ranging from tie-dyed tee-shirts to zen gardens-in-a-box to origami polyhedra. One young business pro even offered to write a song based on a customer's favorite topic. 

Leading up to this day, they wrote business plans, budgeted funds (in this case, the currency was dried beans), purchased materials, manufactured products, and planned packaging and storefronts.

Shopping the 5th grade emporium, I realized that best practices in sales work universally across all marketplaces, and just like in real life, best practices correlated with successful vendors.

Here's what the 5th graders can teach us about selling:

  1. Pay attention to packaging and display. Those 5th graders who highlighted their products neatly, on simple, yet color-coordinated displays, and who dressed well, looked pleasant, and paid lots of attention to each potential customer, attracted the most buyers and sold the most products.
  2. Price right, or to put it in the words of one student, "don't overprice and don't underprice". Students who priced their products very cheaply, often got questioned on why their product "is priced so low?" And often the suspicious questioner would walk away without purchasing. Students who priced extremely high also lost sales, as we all had a limited number of beans to spend and wanted to be able to purchase as many interesting products as possible.
  3. Clearly label products and prices. Its surprising how many sales were lost as parents passed by a desk (storefront) where it wasn't clear what the product or its price was, i.e., no signage, no price labels, products stored in unopened boxes, missing salesperson, etc.  One handsome young entrepreneur was doing fabulous outreach as we walked by, telling us he would "even take orders if he ran out of the items we wanted" - trouble was, we couldn't tell what he was selling.
  4. Always watch for upsell opportunities. One student had made beautiful, little origami boxes for holding jewelry. She priced the boxes well, and then just as customers dug out their beans to pay her, she'd offer a cotton insert "to cushion your fragile jewelry" for a small additional charge. Of course, we all took it.
  5. Be willing to make a deal. As the customers ran out of beans, some students realized that the way to "sell out" (which became the goal toward the end of the marketplace) was to offer products for discount. For example, I'd look wistfully at a product, but tell the seller, I "only had 50 more beans"...smart students would deal; others would hold out, and ended up with unsold product. Who was more successful in the end?

-- Carla Gates, Director, Marketing, Glance Networks

Follow Glance Networks on Twitter and Facebook for daily tips on Sales 2.0.