Confronting the mayhem in Media and Marketing

Are these your sales trends too?

At the end of 2012, Steve Martin posted his top 10 sales trends predictions for this year over at the Harvard Business Review blog. Based on my experience this year with organizations in the graphic arts community, I see similarities. Better yet, these trends scale from small businesses with a sales force of 1 to large enterprises. What are you doing to capitalize each to grow your sales? Below I have summarized Martin’s 10 trends with applications for the graphic arts industries in italics.

  1. Sales Force Behavior Modeling
    A model, description and visual representation, to show how your best sales people operate and close deals.
    Why more businesses do not take the time to evaluate a replicate their best performers is beyond me. Unlike creating a list of best practices, this model should replicate the decision tree process for account profiling, decision maker engagement, and solution selection repeatedly taken by the successful sales person.
  2. Win-Loss Analysis Studies
    Analyze where the process went wrong with the decision makers on current wins and losses.
    It is not longer good enough to know your USPs and the top strategic goals of your customers. You also have to know, or at least predict,  the intricacies of the decision makers including biases, preferences, personal agendas.
  3. Emphasis on Language-Based Interactions
    During the sales cycle prospects not only listen to what you say but how you say it.
    Do you think your iPhone or iPad is “magical” or at least special? A portion of that is distilled from how Apple, most famously delivered by Steve Jobs, announces its products. What you project will be returned by your prospect.
  4. Sales Force Verticalization
    Be a specialist, not a generalist.
    This not only applies to the sales force but the entire organization. Many successful print service providers have focused on a narrow vertical such as automotive, health care, non-profits, etc. The next logical step is to deliver those same services to similar industries as a growth strategy.
  5. Sales Process Ineffectiveness
    Understanding what happens during and at the end of sales calls is just as important a complete sales process.
    While not negating the steps that got you the sales call, the prospect only knows about and remembers the delivery. Incorporating trend 2 and 3 the sales behavior model will help improve the hook.
  6. Organizational Buying Psychology
    Knowing the interwoven web of departments, decision makers, and users of your service at larger account is critical to crafting the messaging for each.
    Realizing how the people fit the puzzle will help to navigate the budget and department wars of larger companies.
  7. No Decision as the Main Competitor
    The success at getting the sale lies at targeting the upper rungs of the ladder or the C-suite.
    This is certainly true for many print service providers, especially ones with targeting marketing services, who need to move out of the procurement department and into the CMO’s office.
  8. “Intelligent” Territory Management
    Utilizing data and analytics to predict which net-new customers should be called upon.
    The challenge is not so much in having a solution to capture the data, but more so in turning that data into specific action items. For smaller businesses, this will remain a challenge.
  9. Technology Fatigue
    The always-on nature of sales is causing the sales force to burnout.
    Too much of a good thing is still too much. The solution is to craft a process so that technology works for sales instead of sales working for the technology.
  10. Continued Migration from Field to Phone
    Many businesses have transitioned a large portion of their sales force to phone based sales.
    While this may be true in many industries, this is not the norm for print sales. Although many print service providers would like to operate in a passive sales model through the phone or web-to-print storefront, most see results from active selling.

Most of these trends are having or will have an impact on the graphic arts market. As a starting point, I would focus especially hard on sales process verticalization and sales force behavior modeling.

photo: rcrhee

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Your Customer’s Influencers

The people you try to reach with your products and services are influenced by their peers, competitors, friends, family, and so on. You try to mitigate the influence of your competitors through webinars, case studies, and hopefully word of mouth endorsements. But are you ignoring influential competitors outside of your chosen industry?

Consumers, of all types, are purchasing more products and services online than ever before. Those purchase are typically associated with consumer goods from computers to toilet paper, but online B2B purchases are equally part of this trend. Unfortunately, consumer brands have already established the de facto user experience for purchasing goods online. Brands from Amazon to eBay to Zappos spend loads of money to make it easy for their customers to find and purchase stuff. Are you living up to this expectation?

Surveys of 400 senior IT and business decision makers in B2B companies with annual online sales of at least $1 million conducted for Intershop, an eCommerce software provider, found that 96% have challenges to half the respondents face challenges with their eCommerce initiatives. Furthermore, half of those surveyed have problems “providing intuitive and user-friendly interfaces for multiple touch points.” Again, the one button type online shopping experience has already been established and anything that is not close is not acceptable. Yet almost half of those B2B companies think it will result in a higher bottom line.

Since B2B eCommerce trends tend to follow those already found in B2C, it is time to imitate and implement the best practices of those big brands because they have already moved to the next thing — mobile commerce. Not surprisingly, over three-quarters of B2B respondents will add mobile commerce capabilities over the next 12 months. If this all has you screaming Mayday, you are in luck. Amazon just added that button to connect you with live person to the latest Kindle. It is just another part of eCommerce you might have to adopt from the giants of B2C.

photo: garethjmsaunders

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Don’t Ignore Your Most Effective Lead-gen Tool

When you think of the most effective lead-gen tools available today you probably think about search engine marketing, search engine optimization, display ads, content marketing, and everything other means of digital engagement. According to a recent survey 2013 Lead Generation: Optimum Techniques for Managing Lead Generation Campaigns by BtoB magazine, marketer’s favorite lead generation tool is product demonstrations followed educational webinars and product trials.

Product demonstrations, whether delivered online or in-person, can vary greatly depending upon the product being demonstrated and the person giving the demonstration. The disparity from bad to good to great demonstrations was on display this month at the Print 13, the major print show for North America. Considering that marketers find product demonstrations so valuable in producing leads, it is crucial to give a dynamic and informative demonstration that clearly shows how that product could solve a need. As someone who has seen and given lots of product demonstrations, here are a few tips to show your product in its best light.

Tips for Product Demonstrations

  • Know as much as possible about your prospect or target audience.
    Work with your sales and service teams in addition to basic web research to know who your prospect is, where they are located, what products and services they offer, and what potential problems they may be having. While individualized product demonstrations are the best after arming yourself with this knowledge, you should always ask a few qualifying questions before jumping into a product demonstration even at trade show events.
  • KISS
    Even if your product is extremely technical, keep the technical jargon out of the conversation. State whatt your product can and cannot do in simple terms; you will often have a mixed audience in terms of technical understanding.
  • Channel your inner pitchman.
    While you may not have the pizzaz or charisma of a Billy Mays or Steve Jobs, you need to have a minimum level of excitement about your product. Sure it helps if your product is good to great in regards to the competition, but any product typically has a few unique selling points. Use upbeat, descriptive language as you explain the functionality, features, and purpose of the product.
  • Ask for feedback and a next step.
    Your prospect has probably seen your competition’s products. Ask them what they like or dislike about the competition. More importantly, offer and ask what the next step should be in the information/sales cycle.

photo: David Berkowitz

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