As a business owner, I manage my tasks, take care of clients, look at my numbers, work hard, attend to quality, work with my team...you name it. Does that sound much different than a sales or marketing professional? Tasks, Clients, Quotas, Energy, Perfection, Peers.
You all own your own businesses! Congrats.
So now that you own your own business, where can you go for some advice and inspiration?
This week is the innagural issue of Owner Magazine. Owner is the brainchild of Chris Brogan, a leading speaker, author and blogger focused on digital business.
Chris and I were sitting down last week talking about the first issue of Owner. His passion for ALL things makes you walk away from any interaction with a "can do" feeling and a smile on your face. His passion for his new online magazine launch is one I share and hope you will too.
"The concept of an Owner is simple," says Chris. "It is for someone who seeks to improve worth by growing capabilities and connections. You can be the CEO of your cubicle as long as you’re accepting responsibility for your intentions to grow your abilities and your network. But more so, you’re likely an entrepreneurial spirit, either helming your own organization, or just about to leap out into the fray and make your own path. That’s who we’ve created Owner magazine to serve."
I'm honored to be asked to contribute to Owner. It's great to be surrounded by some fantastic-smart people (Chris, S. Anthony Iannarino, Marsha Collier, John Morgan and others).
Subscribe to Owner Mag here and be the best owner you can be.
pictured left to right: front row: Lisa, Linda, Cheryl, Amie, Stacey (holding Louie), Kathy, Josh, John T. second row: Kerry, Sarah, Gill, Mira, Bill, Gareth, Anna Marie, Mike S., Mike D. (me), Lenny, Levi. third row: Sam, Dawnia, Coleman, John V., Chris. missing: Janelle, Tim, Ursula, Olivier, Vanessa, Ian and Joe.
Some of the folks you see above have been appointment setting for over 10 years. You would think that they've got it down pat, but there is always room for improvement, or even just a refresh.
Today we had a get together for the team members local to Andover, and went over the basics -- everything from how to save a reschedule to improving opening lines. It's been a great day so far.
At the moment, we have a tag team competition going on with 14 active ConnectAndSell sessions going at one time. Individual and Team prizes for connects (list quality) and meetings booked. The Flatlander team is just two meetings ahead of the Great White North. Should go down to the wire.
ps. The use of ConnectAndSell for the contest is basically saving us the production that we would have lost had we done training without it. So our contest actually has an ulterior motive.
Lead Generation is an "industry" in New England, going back to the early days of the Route 128 Technology Highway. At one point some entrepreneurial soul spun off from one of the big companies, such as Digital or Wang, and there you have it -- the 1st leads of an industry were generated.
Now there are over 1500 third-party lead gen employees in the area, not to mention all the companies that have based their outbound efforts in the area.
The following competitors all call New England home. We know most of our competitors and consider many of them friends:
(If I left one off, leave me a comment and I'll add them to the list)
We were confident at Green Leads that setting up shop in Andover, MA was a good decision. It's a beautiful town, 20 minutes north of Boston, has a T (rail) station, fantastic reach to the lead gen talent pool ... and Linda and I live here.
Half of these companies are located in the Merrimack Valley, with Andover in the center of the map. Does that make us the demand gen capital of the world? It may have been debatable, but now that we've heard rumors that the largest of the appointment setting clan, By Appointment Only, is moving across the street, I guess that may seal the deal.
Andover is now undisputably the demand gen capital of the world.
So if you are looking for BAO competitors, just look over your shoulder. There are plenty in the area, and specifically Green Leads is in the next building, where the parking is better -- and we were here first!
ps. The Shawsheen Luncheonette is our turf
Over the past four months Green Leads has been starting new reps on the first Monday of each month. Inside sales seems to be like that, growth and replenishment.
In our case, we have pretty stringent criteria for success since we are a performance-based appointment setting company. We have to have our reps deliver. So here is what typically happens if we hire four reps, train them, get them on the floor and keep coaching them. Over the next 4-8 weeks one leaves, one never quite makes it to full production and two are long term performers (keepers).
Our goal: Get to three keepers out of four.
How do you train your inside sales recruits? Us, well, here's our modified training plan. It's focused on skills, performance and retention.
- Green Leads Culture - People fitting in is a big part of our success strategy. If the whole team doesn't have chemistry together, we won't thrive. The team has to also understand our Quality vs. Quantity standards, and the ethics that go along with them.
- Demand Gen Basics - Yes, we specialize in appointment setting, but we are in the industry of Demand Gen and appointment setting isn't just about dialing the phone any more. Inbound Marketing, Outbound Marketing, Marketing Automation and Social Media are all brought to the introductory level so that our reps become marketers, not just sales reps.
- Research 101 - Gone are the days of just dialing a list top to bottom. Our reps need to be educated snipers that make every dial count. This session turns them into detectives. They can still work machine gun style or sniper style, but understanding when to use each technique is important.
- Conversational Selling - Boiler rooms don't have conversations, and Green Leads is no boiler room. The problem is that newbies come in with a pre-programmed desire to want scripts, pre-written voicemails, etc. We de-program them so that they become human again. We remind them how to have a conversation with confidence.
- Times Have Changed - This session is one of the most important. Buyers don't get sold to any more; they are sophisticated and want to control their buying decisions and process. Prospects communicate with vendors differently. The changes are subtle, but having our reps understand them is key to their ability to play in the executive level prospect sandbox.
- Toolbox - It used to be that inside reps had their own Hoovers account and looked up main numbers. Times have changed here too. With unlimited data licenses at four vendors, search tools that didn't exist just four years ago, autodialers, power dialers, Google alerts, social media and other techniques -- this business is a specialized trade now and the new skills need teaching.
- Mentor System - First, each newbie is assigned longterm to a performing veteran. Second, along the same lines the newbies are rotated with at least four other mentors for a day-at-a-time shortterm experience. They get to see different styles and techniques. We don't double jack them all day, but we sit them next to each other and the mentor keeps the knowledge flowing. We also comp the mentors on the newbie progress to becoming appointment setting experts performance during the first month just to keep their heads in the game.
What are some of your inside sales training techniques? Have you revamped the way outbound lead generation is done?
| View of the Shawsheen River at Rt 133 from Green Leads' parking lot|
Those of you living in New England know that the past four days have been brutal, with constant rain, the White Mountains melting and all of it heading downhill towards towns like Andover. The Shawsheen River pours right through Andover into the Merrimack, which backs up with each high tide. Combined, the rains, the melt and the tides have caused flooding all over the area.
In Green Leads' case, the Shawsheen River swelled over its banks into our parking lot, seeping through the sandbags, and you can hear the rush of water in the bottom of the elevator shaft.
Needless to say, late yesterday we raised the disaster plan flag and packed all portable computers, headsets and one of the backup drives out of the building. Thanks to our virtual hybrid model, we were able to get all but one person up and running today. In fact, the appointment setting run rate for the morning was 10% higher than yesterday. A flood of leads!
A similar situation occurred last year with the ice storms and power outages in New Hampshire where one of the other lead gen firms went down completely for three days. In our business, time is money. For our sales rep clients, lost production from their lead gen partners means lost opportunity.
- Do you have a disaster recovery plan for your Inside Sales or Lead Gen team?
- If your building were to lose power for a week, or the floods poured into the basement, could you keep generating pipeline?
- What about a business disaster? Could your demand gen efforts survive negative press events (think of Toyota Prius).
Parting shot ... Green Leads' mascot, Louie, taking a sip out of the parking lot.
When we started Green Leads we set out to build the perfect Virtual Call Center. We accomplished it, and other than not seeing people face-to-face every day (they still are required to come in a few days a week), the way we work is identical to a traditional call center. We can see people's dials, what CRM records they modify, listen in for training, etc. Of the many benefits, here are but a few:
- Working from home
- Distributed resources for disaster recovery (this happened with last year's ice storm)
- Flexible hours, allowing for a better work/life balance
- Reduced overhead of an office
- The use of "work at home" as an incentive for performance
- No commute adding an hour or two to people's personal lives
- All the environmental beneifts -- no new computers, no commute, less waste
There were some issues, though. We lost two employees who wanted more of a team community. We lost another because he and his wife were unable to be home all day in the same house. We lost some borderline employees who we may have been able to save with better coaching and training. All that said, we grew 4X over three years. Things are booming. But we wanted to resolve these negatives.
The solution: a Virtual Hybrid. We built out an office with the "hotel" concept. We still use all the same cloud technologies, but if you want to call a desk home for a day, the office is available and it's got all the comforts of home.
Each person has a box to store personal belongings in (see photo). A picture of the family, a coffee mug, a special mousepad ... we even have someone storing his own flavored coffee creamer.
What has worked better than expected is the impact on new hire training. They can stay in-office for all the coaching and training we can give them. We can even use the work-at-home goal as an incentive to ramp up to speed. On the other hand, we've asked our veterans to schedule regular "in-office" days a couple times a month for project meetings and mentoring.
- Increased team community
- Faster training and ramp-up
- Continued virtual benefits
- Reduced overhead cost (facilities, and use of virtual technologies)
- A place to meet visitors
- Centralized location for the management team, who require more interraction
Ultimately, just during month one -- a holiday month to boot -- December's weeks have seen the highest appointment setting rates of the year. Linda and I drive a hybrid car...now we work in one.
How do you work?
Many of you have seen my tagline "Market with Courage!" This emerged as a saying of mine back in the 90's and has stuck ever since. The Market part started with my love of marketing. The courage part came from several life changing business events. These events set the groundwork for how I work with clients today, and how I expect them to work with me, and are what I believe keep our client relationships long lasting.
Marketing vendors (agencies, PR firms, consultants, list brokers - you name it) have for decades, and occasionally still today, been treated by some with disdain - a necessary evil. Many companies simply try to extract their pound of flesh with every contract. The best marketing service providers, however, rarely suffer this pain. That said, some folks still need a lesson in change. I was reminded of this last week when a young gun manager of demand generation turned on me with a rude, "I just got a quote from your competitor that was 30% lower than your price. I want a discount." It was an opportunity to share one of my "courage" stories.
I had started my career as a $7.00 per hour software support engineer at Modicon, and soon enough I was dabbling with sales and marketing, which led to me closing the largest ongoing contract the company had at the time with Mars (as in M&M Mars). When we showed up in Hackettstown, NJ to negotiate the contract, the first thing I noticed, besides the wonderful smell of chocolate, was a sign in the lobby referring to The Five Principles. These were the five guiding concepts that Mars ran their business by and expected all of their associates to follow. These were: Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency, Freedom. Being a young and brash sales guy who was admittedly a bit intimidated to sit face to face with the same guy that negotiates peanut and chocolate contracts all over the world, I immediately honed in on the word "Mutuality." Next to it was the following paragraph:
"Mutuality: We believe that the standard by which our business relationships should be measured is the degree to which mutual benefits are created. These benefits can take many different forms, and need not be strictly financial in nature. Likewise, while we must try to achieve the most competitive terms, the action of Mars should never be at the expense, economic or otherwise, of others with whom we work."
My nerves subsided in seconds. They wanted me to negotiate a win-win deal. There it was in writing. They wanted the value we could bring to the table, and they were willing to compensate us fairly to get it. This one paragraph gave me the courage, as a vendor, to structure a relationship that is still, almost 20 years later, benefiting both companies. Still to this day, I always have the courage to ask for, and maintain, a mutually valuable relationship.
By the way, I also shared my client Mars' first principle, Quality, and how it is mandatory for Green Leads' appointment setting service, added to my ability to disarm the situation and maintain my margin (my half of the mutually beneficial relationship).
I was with Craig Rosenberg in SFO a couple weeks ago and were having a hot discussion on the economy, marketing, and Thai food. Craig is the author of the blog The Funnelholic and is an expert on b2b lead generation so I decided it would be great to do an impromptu rapid-fire interview with him on his thoughts regarding b2b lead gen and publish it here:
Mike: How should marketers adjust to the downturn?
Craig: I wrote a post that I continue to stand by: 3 Changes You Must Make: re-message to reflect the changing buyer, retarget to find prospects who are likely to buy, and redefine their lead definition. Not adapting will mean failure.
Mike: It’s easy to talk about the doom and gloom with the economic downturn, but where is their opportunity for 2009?
In my post When the Blood Flows, I wrote that marketers should view the downturn as opportunity and try to aggressively gain market share. For instance, NetSuite deciding to get MORE aggressive now and try to take on Salesforce.com. When everyone else cuts back, play offense! Marketing must have a compelling offer. Then you need to go out, generate leads, and SELL.
Mike: Being that you are ab online marketer, what is your opinion of outbound appointment setting?
Craig: Truthfully, you should do both: Push and Pull. You should have a presence online to generate “hand-raisers,” but you should leverage a target market and get your sales team face to face regardless of whether they raise their hand or not. The lure of outbound appointment setting is you can move quickly -- no hiring, pay for performance. You can point them at the target and fire.
Mike: Thanks, Craig...green, red or yellow curry?
Craig: Green, of course.
I'm on the the flight back from SFO after attending Sales 2.0 conference. It was great to put faces to names of folks I've been colleagues with by phone and email. Even better was to find out that my company is well on it's way to Sales 2.0. As defined by Selling Power, Sales 2.0 is “Sales 2.0 brings together customer-focused methodologies and productivity-enhancing technologies that transform selling from an art to a science. Sales 2.0 relies on a repeatable, collaborative, and customer-enabled process that runs through the sales and marketing organization, resulting in improved productivity, predictable ROI, and superior performance.”
What do you do to Sales 2.0?