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).
So back in November I posted a couple articles about Apples and Oranges and how the industrialized US agriculture market has warped our natural foods. Since it was around Thanksgiving, I made a point of telling our thanksgiving dinner guests all about it, and my niece and nephews heard the story. I had hoped they listened, but like most things out of my mouth, I expect only a small portion to actually stick.
Then earlier today I got an email from my sister with the following picture of Ben showing me their version of the bionic orange versus the normal orange. The kids may not have remembered the story, but they certainly got a total kick out of discovering it themselves.
Did they understand the ecology issues? Maybe not. But something stuck. I predict that the excitement of finding the big orange, recollecting Uncle Mike's story, grabbing the camera, sending me the picture, and enjoying the moment may have sparked some thought on the matter. Our next generation WILL figure it out if we keep taking the lead.
I guess that's the only thing we can hope for with a blog post. Someone, somewhere might read it, benefit by it, and possibly remember it. If they can draw the same conclusions I did with the same information, then maybe I accomplished something. If they simply thought about, debated, or pondered the issue, then I accomplished something there too. Always give an apple to the teacher.
Just got an interview published on Craig Rosenberg's funnelholic blog. I'll share the intro here, and you can get the rest of the article on the site. Craig is publishing a series of Thought Leader articles and thus far they have been great reading for B2B Marketers. You can find all his articles on his site.
Thanks Craig! Enjoyed doing the interview.
"Having worked with Mike Damphousse over the last couple of years, I can tell you this: He has a value-added opinion on anything and everything. Check out his blog and you’ll believe me. He is the expert in one of the hardest things to do in lead gen: Getting an appointment for the sales rep."
We get asked all the time, "how good will the appointments you set for us be?" It's a good question and the answer relies on many variables. One thing for b2b sales execs to remember though is that an introductory appointment, as long as it's with the right person at the right company, is exactly that, it's an introductory appointment. Some will be good, some will be great, every once in a while there will be a complete dud. I tell them to treat the first meeting as if it were a first date, and make the goal of that first date to be a second date (if there is a mutual fit). Typically, if you have 10 introductory appointments, a handful of those will move on to follow-on activity. That's your goal. Get the second date. Of that handful, there will be some deals. It's a numbers game just like the dating world -- "there are lots of fish in the sea."
- Sell yourself. The prospect doesn't expect to make any business decisions in that first meeting. Spend the majority of your time gaining rapport with them and educating them. Forget the pitch. Would you ask someone to marry you on a first date? Do some research on your date. Five minutes on LinkedIn and you will know enough of his background to be able to ask some interesting questions. "I was watching that BC game Saturday, did you see that?" "Of course I did. I'm a BC alum, you know."
- Keep it short. Match.com fanatics, of which I know one well, live by the premise of meeting someone for a coffee or one drink. If it's going well, make it two drinks, if not, head out. Set the expectation up front. "I'm in your area on Thursday and would love to meet with you, but I only have 30 minutes before I have to head to the airport. Could we meet across the street at Starbucks for a quick intro?" Who doesn't have 30 minutes in their day, and who doesn't want to get a latte? Get to know them a bit, and set the second meeting up.
- Listen to them. Now this is just like a date. Don't turn on your "all about my product/company" drivel. They may act as if they are interested, but what they really want to do is to have you hear what they have to say. Give them a tiny bit, just enough for them to tell you why they even took the meeting with you. Then prod them to share more. "I had heard you guys got a thumbs up in that Gartner report. We have an issue similar to the one in that study..." Make the meeting about them, not about you.
- Bring value. How many dates would you go on if the person had nothing to talk about or wasn't interesting. Most buyers don't want to pour over reams of data sheets or specs. They don't want to have to figure out why you want to meet with them again. Tell them that you would like to meet again to share something with them that they will find valuable. "John, we have a great energy study that shows how software virtualization can save you money. Could we set something up to review the study and see how it applies to your company?"
- Close for Meeting 2. This is your only goal. Get the second meeting. Get a commitment to bring more value to them. Get them to bring along some friends (the old dating trick). Set it in stone, set some goals. Then start selling.
In our industry,appointment setting, we can only promise to put you face to face with the executive you ask us to target. In fact, we guarantee that we'll do it. After that though, it's all up to you. But don't blow your opportunity during the first meeting. Make your only goal to get the second date. From there you have a shot.
Do you trust the statistics you use when you are making marketing decisions? Yahoo recently published a research study claiming that "77% of consumers identify themselves as green." They go on to state that "23% claim to be deeply committed to environmental issues," and that "71% have an interest in purchasing an environmentally sound car." And, that "72 percent saying they get (green) information in traditional media and 68 percent citing online," and tout portals as still being strong sources of information (of course).
Then there is one very important piece of data buried at the bottom, "respondents were recruited ONLINE." Could this possibly be tainted NOT to represent consumers as a whole? I think so. Online respondents could possibly be on the upper end of the economic scale, education, and already interested in green if they decided to respond to a green survey.
As a marketer, I dig through numbers all the time. Analyst reports, claims on blog articles, even conversational stats. Having taken a handful of probability and statistics courses, some market research courses, and having wanted to make a point or two with numbers myself in the past, I always look for the source. Knowing the source is like knowing the butterfly in the butterfly effect.
Stephen Dubner, one of the Freakonomics co-authors, stated in Global PR Week Blog, that, "The three things marketers can mainly learn from our book include
- realizing conventional wisdom is often wrong;
- dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle, causes; and,
- knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicated world much less so.
But, keep in mind our methods in “Freakonomics” actually counter intuitive marketing thinking."
My message to marketers and analysts (especially the analysts since they publish most of the data), is when you're trying to make educated decisions and conclusions based upon numbers that figures don't lie, but liars can figure. Check your sources, and if you don't like the source, simply explain why and let others make their own conclusions.