Paul Sylvestre's Business Strategy and Marketing Blog

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Upcoming AMA Webinar: Five Key Ways Marketing Can Improve Sales Effectiveness

DATE: Thursday, July 14th, 2005

TIME: This webcast will be offered at three times as recorded sessions:
Session One: 9 am Pacific / 11 am Central / 12 pm Eastern
Session Two: 10 am Pacific / 12 pm Central / 1 pm Eastern
Session Three: 12 pm Pacific / 2 pm Central / 3 pm Eastern

SPEAKERS: Greg Anderson, Sr. Director of Product Marketing, FrontRange Solutions; Paul Petersen, Senior Director of the GoldMine Business Unit, FrontRange Solutions; Melissa Jazmines, Moderator, American Marketing Association

If your organization is like most you are spending 10-30% of your revenue on marketing activities. Do you know if this marketing is resulting in more revenue for your organization? Companies with a CRM solution have visibility into the effectiveness of their marketing spend that results in a 22% higher close ratio on sales. Industry experts will present five key ways marketing can impact sales effectiveness. In this session they will cover:
  • Qualified lead definitions
  • Leads that result in initial meetings
  • CRM solutions that improve sales effectiveness.
REGISTER: www.MarketingPower.com/webcast7-14
Enrollment will give you access to the session of your choice.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Jim Collins On Decision Making, Fortune Magazine Interview

Jim Collins, one of the most respected business thinkers today and author of the best sellers Good to Greatand Built to Lastwas interviewed recently in Fortune Magazine. While you must be a subscriber to read the full article, a portion of the interview can be found on Fortune Magazine's website by clicking here.

In the interview, Jim emphasizes the importance of making sound people decisions in creating a great company. When asked about what surprises he found after reexamining his research through the lens of decision-making, he replied:
"...when I look at my research notes and I look at interview transcripts from the executives we've interviewed, one theme that comes through is that their greatest decisions were not "what" but "who." They were people decisions."


Jim Collins is currently one of my favorite authors on business. His research provides solid insights into what it takes to build a successful organization.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Web Based Demo: Proceed With Caution

For web based software and ASP solutions, online meetings (including web based demos) are an invaluable step in the sales process. Online meeting services such as Webex, Microsoft Live Meeting and Raindance allow a deeper level of interaction with your prospects, which can enable you to develop more rapport than could be achieved with just phone and email correspondence. These systems also provide a backdrop to more easily qualify prospects, clarify the main top-of-mind issues, and when demo'ing your offering, provide proof points to your positioning.

There are very compelling productivity gains by demonstrating your offering over the web. Reps don't have to visit each and every potential buyer in person. Thus, more time can be spent focusing on filling the pipeline with additional opportunities, and more time on high value opportunities where face-to-face meetings could bring the most benefit.

Sound great? It does for most, but for sales that require a consultative process, here are a few words of caution when using these systems for online demos.
  1. Consultative selling requires that the Rep get to the root of the problems and needs before presenting a solution. It is tempting to lead with an online demo. In fact, many potential buyers expect it. However, when the Rep performs the demo too soon, they have no understanding of the problems or goals of the prospect, since no meaningful discussion took place before the meeting. With no understanding of those specific problems or goals, it is unlikely that the online demo will address these “top-of-mind’ issues that will make or break a sale. In addition, the prospect has no vision of the offering for their organization,and the Rep has no understanding of the value the prospect sees (or doesn’t see) in the offerings. With no agreement as to how your offering can help, it is unlikely the Rep will win the business.
  2. Online demos, by their very nature, tend to focus on features and functions. The Rep is moving through a potential minefield at this point without knowing the background on the organization he is trying to sell to. The prospect may view a capability as not needed, not user friendly, etc. and raise objections. Your prospect may conclude, "This is not for us.", and will immediately disengage. Once this occurs, it is extremely difficult to reestablish dialogue with a prospect who has already concluded you can't help them. Even if this doesn't happen, the prospect may still see that parts of your product has value, but sees other features as of no interest at all. When the time comes to negotiate, the prospect will want changes to the system to remove those unnecessary features or demand a discount.
As VP of Sales for my organization, web based demos were an integral part of the sales process. However, we instituted a mandatory "first call" that comprised of an in depth needs analysis, which teased out the specific challenges the target organization faced before we presented the solution during the online demo. In addition, if more than one prospect from the organization was to be present, we pushed for those attendees to be of a similar level to provide even more focus to our product positioning. For my organization, doing this meant the difference between a successful sale and almost guaranteed failure.

If you are using an online demo in your sales process and typically perform this as the very first step in your process, try adding a needs analysis step first and let me know how it goes for you.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Adding Trackback functionality with Haloscan

For those of you that use blogger and were wondering how to enable trackback, I just added Haloscan commenting and trackback, to this blog. The system has a wizard that is incredibly easy to use.

Network Your Way to That Dream Job

According to a recent article by Forbes.com, some have estimated that only about 30% of all job openings are posted on Web sites or advertised in professional journals and newspapers. Katharine Hansen, author of A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market pegs the figure at 5% to 15%. The balance, including many top jobs, is a vein of gold waiting to be mined by those skilled at networking.

It makes sense. Hiring is always a roll of the dice, but an employer can tilt the odds in their favor by interviewing people recommended by trusted friends or associates. Get to know people in your field and allow them to know you. Make your interests, experience and talents known.

Networking takes time to develop. The more time you devote to it, the sharper your skills will become. You'll also build a larger and more effective network. Your efforts will quickly translate into greater access to what many call the "hidden job market," in which the best jobs aren't advertised, but are known to a select group of people in the field.

Just about anyone can become a contact: Friends, friends of friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, a former boss--and even profs from your old school. Don't forget interest groups in your field or even activities that attract engaging people with professional interests like yours. The key is to establish and nurture key contacts, before you need them. And even after developing your network and finding that dream job, follow-up is critical. You must keep contacting members of your network regularly, or those contacts you worked hard to develop will just fade away.

"The biggest mistake is to simply go around asking people for a job instead of establishing relationships and asking for advice," Hansen says. "It's also important to remember that networking is a two-way street. The quid pro quo is important. The person networking should always offer to help his or her contacts or supply needed information whenever possible."

The basic techniques are the same for all job levels. The only thing that changes is where you make contacts. Here are 7 suggested Tips from Forbes.com on building and leveraging your network to get that dream job you're after.
  1. Define the Field: Make a list of possible contacts. Rank them in order of their ability to help you. Ignore those who can't help in the current job search.
  2. Build A File: Keep a list of all the people you've called or met, including phone numbers and e-mail addresses. When you meet, always exchange business cards.
  3. Make Your Pitch: When calling someone, get to the point quickly. State your name, your goal and mention the name of the person who referred you. People are busy so keep your conversations short.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice: If you're learning or polishing networking techniques, practice your pitch on your cat. The fur-ball is likely to yawn, but you will sharpen your skills. Frame your pitch this way: This is what I can do for you based on my experience and educational background.
  5. Return The Favor: Remember that the flow of information has to go both ways for networking to be successful. If you know something that may help others, pass it on--especially to those who are in a position to help you. Even if nothing hits, you've built goodwill by sharing the info.
  6. Say Thanks: If someone, especially a stranger, goes out of his way to help you, follow up with a thank-you note. It's the polite thing to do and saying thanks in writing will create a lasting impression.
  7. Stay In Touch: Even if nothing develops immediately, stay in touch and continue to pass on information to others. Keep the circuits lit and the necessary tip that will point you to your next job will eventually flow your way.

Microsoft and RSS. Next Version of Windows to Support Internet Data Feeds

This just in from Business2.0. Microsoft is going to make an announcement today at a technical conference about how it is embracing RSS feeds. Here's a post from Dave Winer, the guy who invented RSS, about a trip he took to Redmond in April that explains where Microsoft may be coming from:
The first clue that something weird was happening at Microsoft around RSS was when Sean Lyndersay picked me up for dinner on the first night of my visit. I asked what part of Microsoft he worked for. He said he was on the RSS Team. I gulped. You mean there's an RSS Team at Microsoft? Yeah there is.

On Friday you'll see how deeply integrated RSS is in the architecture of the browser. But that's just the tip of what may turn out to be a very big iceberg. The people at Microsoft noticed something that I had seen, only peripherally -- that there were applications of RSS that aren't about news. Like Audible's NY Times Best Seller list, or an iTunes music playlist, or lists of Sharepoint documents, or browser bookmarks. Lists are all over the place, and people are starting to move them around via RSS, and they are not the usual kind of data that has been carried by RSS in the past.

RSS is just a form of XML, which Microsoft has been promoting for years. It sounds like they are joining the RSS bandwagon to popularize their old notion of Web Services, that people should be able to subscribe to any data they want. In fact, Microsoft is not only incorporating RSS into its next operating system, Longhorn, but will extend it to all sorts of lists and media types. Get more on this topic from SiliconValley.com by clicking here.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Upcoming AMA Members Only Webcast: Leveraging Blogs for Marketing and Promotions

DATE: Thursday, July 7, 2005

TIME: This webcast will be offered at three times as recorded sessions:
Session One: 9 am Pacific / 11 am Central / 12 pm Eastern
Session Two: 10 am Pacific / 12 pm Central / 1 pm Eastern
Session Three: 12 pm Pacific / 2 pm Central / 3 pm Eastern

SPEAKERS: Dana A. VanDen Heuvel, Director, Business Development, Pheedo; Melissa Jazmines, Moderator, American Marketing Association

This is an important webcast designed to give those accountable for marketing results a high-level understanding of what weblogs are and how they are reshaping the marketing and media landscape. You'll leave with answers and action items on the topics below along with an intimate understanding of weblogs and RSS. This presentation will cover:

* Definition of blogs, blogging, RSS, podcasting and consumer generated media
* The basic tenants of successful blogging
* Trends in blogging that you need to know about

REGISTER: www.MarketingPower.com/webcast7-7

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Sony To Unveil New Strategy In September

“It’s time to eliminate empty calories,” says Sony. In September, it will unveil a new strategy and look to trim its product line-up or downsize struggling businesses. A Reuters report on The Washington Post stated that Sony will be conducting a survey of its operations during the summer to figure out a plan for maximizing profitability. This is in response to the core electronics division falling in the red for the past two years. Read more.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Damned by Faint Praise

My high school English teacher, the grumpy old man that he was, did every once in awhile offer some pearls of wisdom that only now I can begin to appreciate.

My teacher said "If you are questioning whether you should use me as a college reference, don't worry, I won't say anything bad. But I may damn you with faint praise."

...and then he smiled; one of those acerbic, sadistic smiles.

Yeah, he was kind of a jerk. But whatever his motivation, it was a great life lesson. In this fast paced and hypercompetitive world, there is no room (or tolerance) for average performance, effort, or anything that you have committed to doing. Now more than ever, someone else can be found to step up to the plate and make the extraordinary happen. We live in an environment where you are only as good as your last few projects. There is very little time allowed for resting on past successes.

I've always considered the words "average" or "fine" as equivalent to "poor" or "shoddy". While some critics will argue that setting a high bar causes undue stress, there is something to be gained for those who believe in continual growth and improvement. When someone says "it's fine", consider it a wake up call. Set the bar higher than you normally would.

The carrot is that doing this will give you more satisfaction in life. But there's also a stick...in terms of reputation, greatness has a short life, while a bad one stays around much longer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

On asking Good Questions, A Bit of Wisdom from Peter Sellers





Peter Sellers: (asks the Bavarian Innkeeper) Does your dog bite?

Innkeeper: No.

Peter Sellers: Nice doggie (Peter Sellers pets dog. Dachshund snarls and bites him)

Peter Sellers: I thought you said your dog didn't bite!

Innkeeper: That, is not my dog.

Lesson? Ask good questions to get to the root of the answer you are looking for.

Market Positioning and Segmentation the Easy Way. Not!

Positioning is a perceptual location. It's where your product or service fits into the marketplace. Simply, positioning is how your target market defines you in relation to your competitors.

A good position is:
1. what makes you unique
2. considered a benefit by your target market
3. when run correctly, makes for a profitable business (and hopefully more profitable than your competition in the same space)

But how many small businesses do you know of that have let the market or competitor position their company and/or box them into a unattractive market segment, then hurriedly built a strategy around that to "validate" the situation? I think it is more common than entrepreneurs will admit, but I can understand why it happens. First of all, with small organizations running so lean, it’s easy to fall into something rather than take the time to assess the company’s situation and potential opportunity, and build a detailed strategy that supports the company’s objectives. In addition, here are some other potential situations that can corner your business into a less desirable market segment and product position.

1. Late to market. All the high margin and/or high volume market segments have been snatched up by the competition, who now have “first in market” advantage. It is very difficult to create strategies and tactics that will unseat these leaders from the top position.

2. Lack of understanding of prospects and their true motivations that compel them to buy: Owners and executives sometimes don’t fully understand how even subtle disconnects in positioning within a targeted market segment can adversely affect success, to the point of even causing failure of the business regardless of what star managers or top producing sales reps are added to the team.

3. Not enough time and resources available to drive a more challenging, yet more rewarding path as it relates to strategic business planning and product development. In this business environment most businesses are running lean, but small businesses are especially affected and have little time or resources to pull in experts to sort these issues out.

4. “My baby is not ugly” Syndrome: It is easy for entrepreneurs to let the attachment they have for their product or service, get in the way of making difficult business decisions. They are unwilling to change to meet the business challenge.

5. Poorly communicated positioning to internal employees, prospects and customers, which allows the competitors' marketing and sales force to position your company for you and to their advantage.

These are just a few ways that start-ups, and even larger businesses, court failure by not taking the time to nail down successful positioning and segmentation strategies. Change is difficult, and can be especially costly when modifying core business strategies such as product/service positioning and target market. But if you find yourself in this position, bite the bullet now, rather than later. You and your company will be better for it.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Bad Rap for Marketers

Seth Godin's recent post had me thinking about my own personal experience as a sales person and marketer (see Marketing has a marketing problem). For me, it all comes down to words like honesty, integrity and authenticity. It's about being genuinely interested in the needs of that prospect or customer sitting across from you in the office, and fulfilling those needs under a fair and honest contractual agreement. If you can't do that, you shouldn't be wasting their time or yours by speaking with them.

Which is why my gag reflex kicks in when I hear Reps bragging about the equivalent of "...selling ice to Eskimos" or customers or prospects who expect sales rep to "sell them" on a product or service. This is not bringing integrity and authenticity to the customer-seller engagement, and when the customer expects you to put on a show, it is a sure fire signal that you have just been commoditized. In other words, you are competing on either very basic functional advantages or price, and have no access to the higher level vision or strategy of your customer's organization. If that's the case, you are going to need all the luck you can get.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

MarketingSherpa Publishes 10 Best Blogs for 2005

Mike McLaughlin's Blog, Guerrilla Consulting won in the "B-to-B marketing blogs" category. Congratulations! Honorable mention went to Brian Carroll's B2B Lead Generation Blog. Both are great Blogs on business.

For more. check out the other winners of MarketingSherpa's 2005 Readers' Choice Blog Awards.

Sales Process, Where Art Thou?

I've interviewed many Sales Reps over the years (both formally and informally) on sales process and more often than not, they describe theirs as unique and very different from their organization's. The problem is, not every rep's sales methodology is a best practice. Typically, only a few in the organization have best practices worth emulating. But unfortunately, these practices are not captured by Management and used to train and manage others in order to increase sales force performance as a whole.

The fault lies on two fronts. One is with the Sales Rep. It can stem from an inability or lack of desire to critically assess their sales methodology in detail. Like anything these reps continue to use what has worked for them in the past...sometimes way in the past. And as you know, in the technology field we're lucky if the business environment is stable from quarter to quarter. The other fault lies with sales management. Front line sales managers were in many cases successful Sales Reps who were promoted into management. These individuals have been given very little process or managment training and most often focus themselves on putting out fires, not thinking ahead.

The requirement for a best practice sales methodology, which is tested and improved on a regular basis, cannot be understated. Without it, a sales manager cannot coach to improve their Reps' performance; there is no process to manage to. Yet time and time again, I see managers who do not , for whatever reason, go out in the field with their Reps, and coach these Reps using a defined sales process that has been tested and verified. So business leaders, do yourself and your sales a favor. Require that your sales team follow a winning sales methodology, and manage to that. If your business strategy is sound, I can almost guarantee you will see immediate improvement.

me

Bill Brooks, Sales Trainer and Motivational Speaker, has covered this topic extensively and I recommend his books and seminars for a much more detailed analysis. In particular, his new book The New Science of Selling and Persuasion: How Smart Companies and Great Salespeople Sell offers excellent insight into building a sales force that exceeds targets over and over.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Upcoming Professional Development, Week of 6/12/05

Here are a few upcoming professional development seminars of note:

1. High Performance Demand Generation Webinar from Eloqua (Complimentary). Eloqua provides the leading integrated demand-generation platform for marketers who must produce a continuous flow of quality leads for a professional sales force. Learn more by clicking on this web seminar link

2. If you live in the Bay Area, check out Market4Demand Seminars. These monthly seminars teach entrepreneurs and other executives of technology companies how to emulate best practices in marketing in order to improve shareholder and customer value. Market4Demand also offers courses on related topics of interest to entrepreneurs such as leadership, sales and organizational management.

Market4Demand's next seminar on June 16th, 2005, is titled Positioning Strategies and Tactics for Today's Market. Learn more about this event and register by clicking on the title above.

Knowing Your Buyer, A Situational Analysis On My Karate Studio

I was having a chat earlier this past week with my son's Karate Instructor, Chris. Because of a sagging enrollment base, he took a day job (in addition to teaching the classes in the evening and running the business of his school). Chris attributed the current financial challeges he faced to a weak economy, but after talking a bit more, we uncovered a few other issues, namely:
  • His school catered to a niche crowd...let's just say it is a little more realistic in its approach. As such, he drew from a smaller qualified pool of prospects. In addition, these potential "buyers" typically have less disposable income (although with the right marketing it might appeal to those with more income).
  • His school suffered from a low brand recognition. His competition is well known in his niche space through sponsorships and tournament acknowledgements. These other schools have celebrity status among this niche market.
  • Chris has a strong aversion to teaching a more mainstream style of martial arts and using longer term contracts to stabilize his revenue stream. This is in line with his vision for his school, and definitely not a bad thing if he can find some alternate strategies to increase his membership base. He feels that this vision is somewhat holding him back.
So, what are some of his potential strategies that could increase the membership base, stabilize revenue and increase his credibility in the eyes of the market? And can he do all this without feeling like he is selling his soul? of course, he has very little money to spend.

Our conversation followed along the lines of a simple situational analysis. A good overview of what is covered in a situational analysis can be found here:
http://www.netmba.com/marketing/situation/

For purposes of this post, doing a simple 3C analysis will point him in the right direction.
  • Company: His biggest challenge seems to be his image in the marketplace. Even though he is a great teacher, the market needs to see him as an expert. An additional strategy here might be to position the martial art he teaches as more mainstream (although you risk hurting your core customer base), or he might offer classes in more mainstream martial arts or enter into retail clothing and equipment (aka line expansion). He is well positioned to do this since his core training is in MIXED martial arts, which is a blend of different styles that the instructor is an expert in (and also has a lot of buzz associated with it). I should also emphasize that any strategy must fit with his overall vision for his school, or it just won't work.
  • Customers: His students fall into two obvious categories, hard core fighters and more mainstream students not looking to be pummeled into mush. However, there might be a third category...20 and 30 something urban professionals with disposable income, looking for a superior martial art that fits into their busy schedule. To resonate with this group, he feels his biggest challenge is educating potential students on what makes his school different from the more mainstream martial arts styles that people relate better with. Unfortunately, mixed martial arts is considered by some as a fringe style that is too violent for the average person. If Chris could show that this is not necessarily the case, he would be able to better compete in the market, which leads to...
  • Competitors: Chris is going up against heavy hitters and has not done a good job of positioning himself in an unnocupied area of his market. Instead, he is going head to head with well known and highly successful extreme fighting schools on one end (for those students who want that) and more mainstream martial arts schools on the other. If Chris doesn't want to change what he is doing, he needs to carve out a nichebetween those two areas (e.g. positioning his school as a real martial art that delivers a more well rounded student).
So, will Chris implement any of these strategies and if he does, will they work? Only time will tell. More on this in the coming weeks.

By the way, if you're interested in learning more about this school, send me a note. Chris is the Head Instructor, and he is an excellent teacher for both young and old students. I highly recommend him if you live in the San Jose Area.

Monday, June 13, 2005

About Me

Hi all, this is my first post. Thanks so much for visiting. I Am a Sales and Marketing Management Professional with over 10 years experience in high tech products and services, enterprise level solutions and business consulting. I have a combination of sales aptitude, marketing savvy, business management and analytical skills via a Masters Degree and technical training. I also have combined expertise in C-level sales, product marketing and competitive strategy.

My Professional Mission
Bridging The Gap Between Sales And Marketing With An In-Depth, “In The Trenches” Knowledge Of Both Functions, How These Connect And Are Managed To Achieve The Highest Level Of Success