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A Wee Homage to Those Who Mostly Have No Idea How I Rely on Them

love heartThe past 8 months – wow, Tempus Fugit. After 20+ years of leading a boutique B2B agency, I leapt to the other side of the desk and, umm, across the Atlantic. Talk about a life change :)

There’s a lot that’s lacking in the B2B social sphere – the auto-posters (gah), the claim after claim that is supported by vapor v. any serious study, when people quote themselves (really? does that work?), the tribe folks, I could go on.

But as I was reflecting recently about how we Marketers do what we do, it occurred to me how much I rely on folks I’ve met virtually whose online presence is so sincere and real and reasoned. And while I have miles to go before I sleep, I couldn’t begin to do what I do if these folks weren’t out there, in the cloud-o-sphere, doing what they do and sharing their ups and downs.

You want real? You want fab? You want people who don’t post unless they believe in what they’re posting? Start with these folks (I’m sure I’m missing some – that’ll be Part Two), no particular order.

If you care about B2B Revenue Generation, add them, listen to them and most importantly, engage with them:

Eric Wittlake - B2B and Digital Marketer, Media Director, Strategist and Industry Blogger
Julie Schwartz - Senior VP Research and Thought Leadership at ITSMA
Carlos Hidalgo - CEO & Principal – ANNUITAS | Strategic Demand Process Transformation
Carmen Hill - Director of Marketing at Little Bird
Marshall Kirkpatrick - Speaking of Little Bird, he’s the CEO
Tim Walker - Digital Communicator: Writer, Content Marketer, and Social Media Professional
Marjorie Clayman - Director of Marketing, B2B Client Services at Clayman & Associates
Dan McDade - CEO PointClear
Casey Carey - Head of Marketing, Adometry (now a part of google)
Augie Ray - Director, Voice of Customer Strategy, American Express  

And then these two couldn’t help but know what a big fan I am:

Dave Stein - B2B Sales Strategist | Author | Speaker | Columnist

Avinash Kaushik - Author, Blogger, Digital Marketing Evangelist

So grateful for this lot. Don’t know what I’d do without all of them.

What The Automators Hope You Won’t Find Out

B2B is a nuanced space.Red exclamation point over two questions

So, yes, there are many places where great marketing + automation can lead to an environment where a salesperson is far less necessary in certain phases of the buying process than he was years ago. But what the Automators & Content Zealots would have us believe, is that their data is true for all segments of B2B. Not only is that wrong, it’s an incredibly harmful approach for business in that Marketing is often over-resourced and sales organizations under-resourced.

I have a suspicion that many Data-tificators (those who cite dubiously-sourced data), are rarely in actual selling situations: Negotiating new deals, wrangling contract negotiations, managing relationships with all the players in buying decisions.

There’s actually some great work happening in B2B that you likely don’t hear much about because it’s been suffocated by CONTENT & AUTOMATION noise. Here’s what I’ve been giddy about of late:

John Bottom: I’m a new fan girl of John Bottom via his post on Mark Schaefer’s blog: The 3 Social Media Secrets of B2B Buyers. John’s take on the newly released Buyersphere report:

“The findings revealed an interesting polarization in terms of social media usage. Half of B2B buyers are distributed normally in terms of their use of social media: some more, some less enthusiastic about its value. 47% of buyers, however, do not claim to use it at all:”

The report, and John’s analysis of it, aligns to what I’m seeing in my B2B sectors. Go. Read. This. For many of the clients I serve, a barely-there LinkedIn profile is bleeding edge for them. We don’t see much research on buyers who aren’t social and prospects who aren’t searching, but they’re out there in far greater numbers than you’d think. John also notes that the video craze may not be as big a payoff as many ponitificators are saying.

Julie Schwartz: I’ve been a big fan of Julie’s for some time now. Her robust research leads to data that makes sense, supported by sound scientific process. If you’re not already following her on twitter, do. All great stuff, zero nonsense. Here’s a preview of a study she’s presenting at ITSMA’s Annual Conference in November:

“ITSMA has documented the waning influence of peers and the rising credibility of solution provider websites, SMEs, and even salespeople. ITSMA’s 2013 How Buyers Consume Information Study (in partnership with CFO Magazine) is designed to illuminate emerging trends and help solution providers rethink the ways they reach and engage with decision makers and influencers throughout the buying process.”

(Wow – Salespeople credible? Whatever could she mean?) Connect with Julie and the folks at ITSMA. You’ll be glad you did.

Reg van Steen: Reg is a strategic advisor to financial and B2B organizations with TNS NIPO. Netherlands. WIth a couple decades of market research under his belt, one of his recent, robust studies explains:

“One of the myths around here has to do with the gospel of content marketing. My study has shown that in most B2B categories, very few buyers make use of blogs, online video and even LinkedIn during their buyer journey. This does not mean that one should not touch upon CM, but that you should invest just a very small part of your budget in it. There is no point in running way ahead of your buyers, spending too much money on a marketing instrument that has little reach so far.”

Reg and his team advise their clients “Always tailor your Marketing & Sales strategy to the buyer’s process within your specific category, not to any general B2B ‘truths.’” I couldn’t agree more. He tweets in both English & Dutch (usually easily translatable). Follow him.

Dave Stein: I’ve been a fan girl of this selling expert extraordinaire for quite some time. And I’m jazzed that marketers will get to hear from him directly at ITSMA’s Annual Conference in November. Here’s a preview:

“The vision of salespeople as thought-leaders has been around for decades. Senior executives want their companies’ salespeople commanding their customers’ interest, respect, and as a direct result, their ongoing business. But for many companies, that’s an elusive goal. And not achieving that goal has a big price—commoditization of your products and services, lower margins, stalled sales opportunities, and business lost to less-qualified competitors.”

Subscribe to his blog, follow him on twitter. He’s always spot on regarding B2B Sales.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this telling snippet from Jim Ninivaggi, from Sirius Decisions:

Jim: “…more than 90% of attendees at a recent #sdforum admitted they have no consistent sales call process.”

We continue to have serious, serious challenges in selling today. And the thing that kills me, is that many of these challenges are relatively easy to fix, if we had the resources to do so.

But it’s challenging for our broader community to remember nuance, when we are being slathered by CONTENT & AUTOMATION messages EVERYWHERE. And I get that the Automators and Content folks are sexy and have sexy key-noters, and also actually have some good, relevant messages amongst all the muck. Remember though, the Automators are selling Automation – and they’re damn good at it. But their audience is likely not your audience. So how you execute via Automation should be tailored to your targets.

We’re grownups, y’all, and we’re better than this. Analyze your own space and then strategize the most efficacious revenue generation path possible. One size does not fit all.

THIS Is How To Do Email Content

BroganEmail2

I want to hug this email. I wish I never had to write another email for a client – and I am paid handsomely to do it : )  But if more people knew how to write simply, and engagingly, I could shut down that part of my business.

I often wonder how much the data on email effectiveness would be different if email copy wasn’t so bad.

Color me giddy to get the email above. I know of Chris Brogan, and I appreciate what he does for his communities, but I’m not much of a follower. I recently subscribed to something of his (although I can’t remember why/what right now) – but holy moly, this guy knows how to make me think we’re friends.

Without asking me, he’s also followed the tenets that I lay out for clients for how to do a great outreach email:

  • Start the conversation in the subject header
  • Be short, personable, confident
  • Offer help for a problem I didn’t know I had

So while the Chris Brogan team wants to make sure that I know how to keep their messages in my main stream, they’ve also helped me understand how to keep this type of mail from others in my main stream.

I’ve not yet figured out why it’s so challenging for lay people to write this way. Perhaps I should raise my rates…

 

 

New B2B Offer = Hidden, BIG Sales Challenge

Road sign White Red with word OuchFor those of you who’ve never deeply embedded with sales, I’d like to illuminate a hidden challenge with New Offers. I’ve been evangelizing for years regarding all the silly, obvious errors we make when introducing new products or solutions.

But there’s a definite sales obstacle that trips up the New Offer process. Sales trainers and coaches will know about this, but few others could grasp what’s going on behind the scenes.

HQs can behave as though adding a New Offer is the same as adding a new arrow to a quiver. In some cases, where a new offering is very similar to the current solution or a logical next step then, yes, sellers can incorporate that into their plan fairly easily.

However.

When a new offer requires a seller to grow a relationship outside his/her current comfy relationship (ouch!), there are all sorts of challenges. Here are the Obstacles I’ve encountered, when asking sellers to sell outside their current comfort zone (even when Comp & Ben is good).

  1. Ramp up learning feels too daunting
  2. Concern about jeopardizing current relationships by trying to expand into new relationships
  3. Don’t want to dip their toes into searching for opportunities without being fully ramped up (circles back to 1)

Consequently, new offer introductions are less efficacious than they could be.

My favorite first step, when designing a sales support framework:

  1. First 30 days: Embrace 3 – 5 Questions. That’s it.
    • When we encourage sellers to ask 3 – 5 exploratory questions* about the new offer, to current customers, without any pressure of having all the answers, sellers are much more willing to get started. i.e.
      • How are you handling <topic> today?
      • What’s going well there and do you have a feel for what could be going better?
    • Sellers pick up knowledge and confidence in those first 30 days, in relationships where they’re already comfortable, and it’s a low pressure way to conquer their obstacles and soften the beaches with the current customers.

*To nail the right questions to ask, talk to some of your great salespeople. Ask them the exploratory questions they’d recommend. Capture that in their language. And then, in black and white, provide your sales folks with a one-pager on the marketplace pain, the roles you’re targeting, key questions, and then a few key points about how the new offer will close the gaps on the current marketplace pain. <– notice how even for internal communication the product stuff is the last thing you communicate?

Next steps vary based on objectives; it all goes more efficaciously when we don’t flood our field guys with tons of info upfront.

Nuance, anyone?

wittlakeI was waxing a bit poetic about “Nuance” recently and Eric Wittlake, as he’s wont to do, nudged me for examples. Because he’s a data guy and floaty opinions don’t mean much to him. He wants examples. And in the past couple of weeks, I had plenty of company talking about nuance. I’ll share some examples first about who else is talking about this and then I’ll jump in with why it matters.

Extra props to ITSMA for actually using the word “Nuance” in their piece:

Does your thought leadership read like a book report? All facts, no nuance? Winning is in the nuance. Repositioning for SMAC: 7 Rules for a New Era

Matt Heinz writes in It’s not a lead, it’s a relationship (there’s a big difference):

“If marketing stopped talking about leads, and started focusing on relationships, how would that change their execution? How might it affect the importance they place on managing and nurturing existing leads vs. constantly generating new clicks and entry points?”

In fact, Matt’s first line is really all about nuanced levels of understanding: “Sales has had this right all along. They may start with leads, but over time they are focused on turning those ‘contacts’ into trusted relationships.”

Ardath (she only needs one name like CHER) is up next with this tweet about missing nuance:

@ardath421: I tell salesperson “I’m not your buyer” Resp: “Yes, but you can sell us to your clients, so I need you to watch our demo” Ugh!

And all Amber Naslund is asking for in her post about connecting on LinkedIn is a little finesse mixed with some nuance:

Connecting On LinkedIn the Right Way

Money line: ”Because I’m open about it, I get lots of notes from people within a day of our connection trying to sell me their stuff. Instead of launching straight into the make-out session, let’s have coffee first.”

So What?

The single biggest block (floaty opinion alert) to B2Bs selling more efficaciously is such limited understanding of how important nuance is.

We get Automation. We get Color Psychology. We apparently get excited about Automators releasing coloring books. Whatevs. We get Process. We kinda get training (on Automation, Process). We at least pretend to get Mentoring, Coaching. We clearly get tactical overproduction. We get dials. We get touches.

We. Get. It.

But we don’t get nuance. Marketers don’t get it. Sellers don’t get it.

It’s the single biggest block I see when working with HQ marketing teams. And you can see from this small sample above that I’m not the only one bugged by it.

It doesn’t matter how great (*mammoth) the entire sales and marketing process is, if the sales person flubs the first 1:1 interaction, that’s almost impossible to set right. And when marketers add more tone-deaf clutter, it just increases the noise to signal ratio.

My recommendation: Let’s redirect 10% of the resources going towards clutter production (*marketing) and provide some training in nuance to our marketing & sales teams.

RIght?