Sell or nurture?

Sell or nurture?

Every piece of research I have ever seen puts the conversion rate of an initial sales contact little higher than 2%.

It does not seem to matter if it is the old style letter box stuffing or sophisticated email outreach, 2%.

Does that mean 98% are not interested?

Not necessarily, it can mean that they are just not ready to buy right now.

Therefore there is a percentage of that remaining 98% that may buy at some point with some nurturing.

This opens the question not just of how you go about the nurturing process but how you split your time, creative, and financial resources between the two, which is where the challenging strategic choices need to be made.



The one rule to ensure you attract attention.

The one rule to ensure you attract attention.

The real fight out there, the one that is for most businesses ‘make or break,’  is not for  likes, or new friends, or how many social media feeds you showed up in, it is for attention.

The problem with attention, is that it is transient, hard to get, and there is  no saving it up for later.

Use it or lose it.

To win that fight for attention, or at least have a shot at the title, there is one rule to remember and implement.

Nobody cares about you and what you care about.

There it is, in 9 words, could be better at 7 if you cut out ‘you and’ .

Perhaps your Mum cares,  and your partner, maybe your few really close mates, nobody else.

They are all too  busy caring about what they care about to be worried about you, someone they do not know, or occasionally may know superficially.

Why is it then that we spend so much time telling others what we care about on our landing pages, brochures, advertising platforms, marketing collateral, and websites?

Usually in my experience that mistake comes from one of two places, often both:

  • You do not know who you really need to talk to well enough to communicate with absolute clarity why they should give you some of their valuable attention.
  • You are covering your arse in case someone higher up in the place asks ‘what about….’

Both are short sighted, and revenue destroying tactics.

All forms of marketing activity and material have one purpose only: to contribute to the generation of revenue.

Nothing else. Nada. Zilch. Generate revenue or go home.

What contributes most to generating revenue?

Easy: someone has a problem, and  in the first glance, on your website, or brochure, or whatever it may be, if the answer to their problem, in 10 words or less is there, they may stop. Even 10 may be too wordy, some with the problem will have skimmed over it and moved on to someone who expresses their solution to their problem with greater clarity.

Outside your family, and close circles, nobody cares. Until they need you: then they care, and occasionally when you get your marketing ducks in a row, offer you the opportunity to gain their attention.


Cartoon credit: Hugh McLeod at gaping void

How to choose your marketing and sales automation software

How to choose your marketing and sales automation software

One of the common questions I field is which tools are the best to automate sales and marketing processes.

The right answer is that there is  no right answer.

There are just so many tools out there that may do a really good job for you, some need to be stitched together with others, but there are a few that offer all singing, all dancing solutions.

The latter are usually not appropriate for the needs or IT resources of small and medium enterprises, who typically lack the knowledge  and resources to do a complicated implementation.

While it may seem wasteful, my advice to SME’s is to take small steps, be wary, find ways to work around the shortcomings, and stitch things together, then when big enough take a bigger step and integrate in a larger package.

It does not always work, but experimenting as you go along is usually a very good idea.

However, here are some generic steps that can be taken that should be done at the beginning of the process, no matter what, and how, you are going to implement.

  • Define outcomes. Define the outcomes you want from the software in the context of your strategy. Automation tool implementation without reference to the strategic principals and goals will be a painful experience.
  • Integration. Consider how the software will integrate into the rest of your business. Most implementations I see these days are automating sales and marketing in one way or another, which usually need to be integrated into the existing financial and operational software that has typically already been deployed. You need to clearly understand where the holes between the applications hide, and have considered the manner in which they are to be filled. Excel seems to be the ‘filler’ of choice in most circumstances I come across.
  • Build wide buy in. It is essential that you get the buy in for the functional users, by seeking their input to the tool choice, project planning, training, and implementation. This offers the opportunity to ensure that their current and anticipated requirements are met as far as possible, and that their concerns are able to be aired, if not completely addressed.
  • Fit. Ask yourself how well the new software and existing processes fit together, and how familiar the new processes will feel. Most software is not fully utilised, and this is often a result of legacy systems being useful and familiar. You need to determine how to address these issues of what I call ‘legacy elasticity’.This may seem very similar to the challenges of integration, but they are different, as there is always resistance to change, and  the better the fit to the existing, the easier the evolution will be. Integration implies that both parts of the equation can be altered to achieve a different outcome, whereas fit matches existing parts together.
  • Map your processes. My normal practise is to have someone outside the business map all the current processes, then run that map over the process map that will be implemented in the software. My objective is twofold: remove the inconsistencies and silly bits from the current, and find a process that matches what is left as closely as possible, then implement the software without change. Changing the code in the software package seems easy, but always ends up in tears as unintended consequences rear their ugly heads.
  • Do we go to the cloud? The argument about ‘cloud or not to cloud’ has been had. Go to the cloud. The compromises can be managed, the cost will continue to beat the costs of on premises, but the real value is in the automatic patching and upgrades that occur.
  • Due diligence. As you are doing your due diligence, make sure you ask deep questions, and hold control over the agenda. Software sales people are very good indeed, and will sway the most recalcitrant and reluctant buyer with a vision of the new life you will have purely as a result of their software. Just assume it is all bullshit, that there are a number of options that will meet your requirements, and be clear about what you need, not just in terms of the functionality, but the training costs, ongoing maintenance, upgrades, any internal hardware expenses, and features that may not be included in the base package.

Making a software vendor decision is challenging, but the truly challenging bit, the implementation and leveraging of the software is yet to come. Make sure that the whole project is planned in great detail, and that the vendor is locked into the outcomes.

Do all that, and you might get away with it, and when you do so the productivity gains will be huge.

Image credit: Scott Brinker of Chief Martech. The landscape details 5,381 digital martech automation tools as of the end of April 2017. There will be more by now. I recommend you dig around in the Chief Martech blog for ideas, information and insight.


3 foundations for B2B revenue generation.

3 foundations for B2B revenue generation.

Creating a process that delivers consistent and profitable revenue involves a whole range of functional collaboration from the agreement of the strategic objectives to the relationship building that occurs after the early honeymoon of the first sales.

It takes time, effort and commitment from a lot of people, and importantly a process that is sustainable.

The usual metaphor of a ‘Sales Funnel’ is well understood, but flawed in many respects, principally because the behaviour of existing and potential customers is rarely as predictable and linear as a funnel assumes.

However, the sales process can be broken into a series of steps that reasonably represents the sort of activities required to assemble leads and develop them into long term customers.


To my mind, prospecting has three elements.

  • Building a wider network of relationships within existing customers, focussed on the servicing of existing business, with the objective of increasing the share of wallet
  • Identifying and making contact with those to whom the value proposition has the potential to resonate in the existing market segments
  • Go exploring, seeing where the capabilities you have may be applicable in ways that are not as obvious. I find the 70/25/5 rule applies as much to sales prospecting as it does to the more complicated and holistic challenges of a business turnaround. 70% of a sales prospecting time should be spent finding ways to increase the share of wallet of existing customers, and perhaps chasing those generated who have lapsed, 25% devoted to identifying and engaging with new customers who fit the usual profile of a prospect, and 5% being ‘out there’ exploring.

All three elements recognise the role played by the tools of digital marketing. People are expensive, so it is managements  task to leverage the cost to the maximum extent. Much of the role of the traditional sales rep has been overtaken by digital tools, but it still takes a person to ‘close’ and build a relationship. Such people are not order takers, they are amongst the most important people in your business.

Metrics present challenges, the adage that what you measure gets done is largely true. Therefore prospecting needs to be tasked and measured in meaningful ways that direct the effort made in alignment with the strategy. There is a whole list of elements that are present in a prospecting toolkit, such as: time bound revenue objectives and qualified sales opportunities, conversion rates of leads generated, outbound calls and contacts, Identification and relationship building with new contacts in existing customers, same for prospective customers, understanding  and profiling of a prospects business,



Long term revenue generation  requires a mix of repeat business, new business from existing customers, and business from new customers. The mix will be different in each case, and some level of management of these needs to be reflected in the way the metrics are set up. For example, a start-up leveraging new technology will have targets very different from an existing business that operates in a mature industry. Nevertheless, the process of conversion needs to be managed so that there is a steady and predictable as far as possible flow of business. Predictability of  the business coming in is a key to managing a business with as little ‘internal friction’ as possible. When there is predictability, most of the revenue is generated in a semi-automatic way, but when there is little  predictability, everything is a crisis, and crises consume inordinate amounts of management time and attention, leaving the important but not urgent stuff undone.

The sorts off metrics used can be broken into a number of classes:

  • Revenue generated
  • Leads generated and conversion rates necessary to generate the revenue
  • Data base management. This applies to the data on the markets in which you operate, the number and type of prospects in a market, as well as the more common CRM type data that accumulates detail on calls, responses, status of enquiries and what next type information.
  • Quantification of the funnel, how many leads are just ideas, to the hot prospect stage. As noted earlier, customers rarely behave in a linear fashion, but the metaphor often helps to ensure that the right resources are allocated at the right times.



Measuring the state of a relationship is never easy, the measures are usually subjective, and only truly evident over time. Like good parenting, we all know it benefits the kids, but the outcomes are really only evident over time.

  • Share of wallet my  personal favorite B2B ,measure  the most useful and often overlooked measure of the effectiveness of a relationship and of the sales personnel involved. How much of the spending of a customer that you could supply, do you actually supply? How much of their available ‘wallet’ comes to you? You can delude yourself in the manner in which you define the wallet, but defining the wallet in accordance to the things you can reasonably supply Vs would  like to supply, is sensible, and leads to the building of capabilities that will get you into other areas of a customers wallet.

How they see you. Are you the supplier of a commodity product, one that relies on price to make the sale, or at the other end of the scale, are you a trusted partner who collaborates for mutual success, and the sales you make are simply an outcomes of receiving an order from a purchasing system. For 30 years, I have used a sliding scale between these two points to measure the state of relationships. You easily create such a scale for yourself, but it does require some objectivity, just asking your sales reps for their assessment on a once off basis usually delivers nonsense.


5 habits of really successful B2B sales people.

5 habits of really successful B2B sales people.

Last week, I was unfortunately the target of an unwanted sales pitch from someone who would not take ‘Not today’ or ‘No thank you’ or  ‘I am not interested’ or ‘Piss off I am busy’  as an adequate response to his ministrations.

Clearly he had been to a sales training course that had at its core,  the ‘ignore any feedback you might get, plough on regardless using this template‘ school of selling. This morning I stumbled across this video on YouTube, that nailed exactly the situation, except I was not in an office.

Sales is the key function in any business, without sales, there is no business.  Why is it then that sales people are often towards the bottom of the organisational totem, why do we allow anyone but our most trusted, intelligent, persuasive, sales trained, and effective employees anywhere near our source of revenue… customers.

Really effective sales people, those who bring in business that sticks, should be well rewarded, after all, they can easily go to your competition.

What sets the great sales people apart? How can you pick them?

Seems to me there are several characteristics that make super salespeople, based on years of watching them.

They speak to you as they would to their best friend.  The bloke in the video above not only worked to a script which did not fit the situation, he was absolutely full of faux enthusiasm, a sure sign of snake oil to come. If you want to engage someone, it pays to be respectful,  to seek their permission to speak, and deliver a message, and do it with humility that implies that you are doing them a favour, as you would your best friend, just because you can.

They build trust. Trust is a vastly overused word in sales training, everyone advises to build it, then sets about destroying any possibility by being assertive and overpromising. Trust is built on performance, not promises, so demonstrate that you deliver. Humans build trust in others by actually seeing evidence that they do what they say they will do, or by having those we already trust assure us of their veracity. This is why testimonials work on websites but they must be videoed, the person specifically identified, and they must be similar to you to be trusted. You would not trust the sales manager of ABC used cars to tell you the truth about their exemplary customer service, but you might trust someone who looks and sounds like you saying that they had great service from ABC used cars.  Your prospects must feel like they are buying from you, not that you are selling to them. The hard sell is out, it can work in some transactional and low value situations, but almost always leaves a bad taste that removes the possibility of a repeat.

Only subtle Anchoring is used. Anchoring is perhaps the most used sales tactic there is, you see it every day, and it screams ‘ hard sell’. Again, it can and often does work, it generates immediacy and urgency, which is why we have legislation that invokes a ‘cooling off’ period in some circumstances. Anchoring is when you see something promoted with words similar to ‘Normally this will cost $300 but if you buy in the next 10 minutes, we will give you this once only offer of this magnificent thingo for only $39.95‘. It does sound like a bargain, only because of the contrast between the so called ‘normal’ price and the deal not because $39.95 is itself a great deal. Anchoring does not have to be about price, although it most often is. Anchoring is about contrast, good vs bad, them vs us, up Vs down, any contrast will do.

They give reasons. When you give a prospect a reason ‘why’ that is credible to them, they will feel somewhat compelled to agree with you. This is the discipline of communicating the benefits rather than the features, and the more personal the benefit the better. A reason delivered with the word ‘because’ is always more powerful. ‘I want you to have this gizmo because it will double your productivity‘ rather than ‘This gizmo will double your productivity’. People are not silly, they know you are selling something, but if they believe that the reason you are selling to them is that you are looking out for them, that it is for their benefit rather than yours that you are having this conversation, they will tend to trust you, just that little bit more. It also puts the onus of making the decision onto them, so they will have a far greater commitment to the decision, than if they feel you pushed them into it.

They sell to the heart, not the head. We all know this, but so often we sell to the head because it seems  easier, and certainly requires less work. It is clear that nobody buys an expensive sports car because it will cover the standing 1/4 in under 5 seconds, they buy it because it tells everyone else that they can. Understanding the emotional triggers that apply in any selling situation rather than relying on the rational ones, which are always more  obvious,  will make you far more effective.

Call me when I can help you be more effective.

Header image courtesy I use Hugh McLeod’s insights quite a bit

9 steps to making cold calling work for you

9 steps to making cold calling work for you

I find cold calling really difficult, while recognising the potential effectiveness when the inertia is overcome.

For me,  it takes time and emotional energy far greater than the return I have ever got from cold calling, except when I have run  out of options, then it seems to work. When the instinctive fear of failure is overcome by the necessity to take a step, when the fear of failure, or rejection is beaten by the fear of not being able to feed the kids or pay the bill on the fridge, the fear of rejection by a stranger seems trivial.

What does it really matter if you are rejected by a complete stranger anyway?

A friend of mine treats cold calling as a game, she does it for a living, and is very good at it.

Recently I sat down with her to try and extract from her routine a scalable cold calling template, and realised two things:

  1. The fear of failure was crippling
  2. Cold calling is pretty much the same as sending a cold email , which I am OK at.

Her advice was to get over the fear, and she referred me to this terrific TED talk, and to treat cold calling with just the same set of disciplines I used for cold emailing.

I have a process for developing email success that I use as a coaching outline for those I work with, and it almost always gets great results when applied sensibly. However, adding Jia jiang’s Ted talk will add greatly to the effectiveness of the following pretty standard management process to increase your effectiveness.

Segment your list.  The better you know the prospect who answers the phone, the more likely you will have a successful call. The more defined your call list, with unique messaging and value propositions developed for each segment, the better. This is as different from the completely random call you get as you are sitting down to dinner in the evening, from someone in a call centre flogging home insulation, insurance or a holiday, as it can be.

Headline. The first sentence in a phone call, or headline in an email carry the same responsibility: to pique the interest of the receiver. Fail in the first glance of a headline, or 5 seconds of a call, and it is a long hard road back. There are plenty of headline generating tools around, but the best lesson in my experience is to go to the local newsagent, and just think about the headlines on the cover of the magazines you see. They are aimed to grab attention, and direct the reader to the following sub  head, which leads into the magazine article.

Them not you. Make the message about them, and the things that interest them, not about you, as generally they will not be interested, and you will have lost them. You need to  be able to spell out exactly how you can help them.

Be a peer. Speak and write like a peer, not a supplicant sales person. There are few worse sales turn-offs than a “needy” caller. Much better to be a busy peer, making a little time in a crazy schedule because you have discovered something that you think will be of value to them.

Credibility. Be credible by providing social proof, or better yet, a referral from someone the receiver knows and respects.

Personalise. Ensure everything is personalised, anything less than a highly personalised call will almost always fail. It is necessary for you to have done the research, to know a fair bit about the receiver, the problems they face in their role, and the value of a solution you may be able to provide. Making a call to the switch of a target company and asking to be transferred to the “person responsible for XXX” is a waste of everybody’s time.

Respect. Time is our most valuable resource, so respect the receivers time by keeping it short, but to the point, ending with some sort of call to action by you or them. However, the CTA needs to be consistent with the context of the conversation. Early stages may lead to a further conversation, or the inclusion of someone else, but rarely to a sale on first contact. Generally the objective is to get some sort of positive response, a step towards a sale, but not a sale, yet.

Differentiate yourself. If you are just the same as everybody else, why should the person you are trying to engage bother with you? While the call has to be about them, and not you, it is also about articulating the way that you can help  them in ways others cannot. The necessity here is that you have done some homework, at least enough to have a shot at articulating the solution you may have to a problem they face, or opportunity they may be unaware of. Differentiation early in the conversation offers a reason why they should continue to give you their time, and builds the status you have in the conversation, you are not just another cold caller.

Follow up. And follow up again, and again, politely and with respect. Generally sales people give up at about 3, whereas all the research indicates that 5-7 follow  ups are the point at which the ability to convert increases significantly. It reflects the old advice about advertising frequency, at about the time you are getting sick of the ad, if it is worth anything, the target audience is just building awareness of your proposition.


So, what is stopping you, pick up the bloody phone!


Photo courtesy Nancy Rose via Flikr.