Tom Levers

Twitter and Sales

Posted in DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, Sales by Tom Levers on April 10, 2011

Twitter allows an easy way to sell and promote without a fancy marketing department.

We’ll…. look at how Dell does it! Dell sells computers via a dedicated Twitter feed. Dell employees don’t “tweet” what they had for breakfast or where they are going – they tweet the latest deals. Since Dell’s target audience is online – and they’re already using Twitter. So all they had to do was set up a Twitter account , and spread the word that if you wanted great bargains , follow them at Twitter. The result is Dell sales people are selling more computers using Twitter.

So I ask you, “Can you make Twitter work to help you sell more?” It can obviously do so. The real question is “HOW ?”, most of us do not work for this type of company. Of COURSE we CAN make Twitter “work” to sell , or communicate about anything – computers, cars, real-estate, and even my business of enterprise software . However, it’s more than just a question of “how do I use Twitter?” Instead, it needs to be a question of “How do I COMMUNICATE with existing and prospective clients?”

Let’s take the case of the local software person who wants to use social media tools – Twitter in this case – to educate their clients about the newest features of their product. The first step in crafting a social media sales strategy with Twitter would begin by building a foundation of Twitter followers – put twitter at the bottom of every email. So the first “key” is to be sure to build a Twitter following of the “right” people. Just as in direct email – the “magic is in the list”. In Twitter, the magic in using Twitter for attracting the “right” followers. Once again – it’s better to have 100 Twitter followers who respond than 10,000 who are not responsive.

Create a Twitter profile which explains what followers can expect and you will see your follows organically grow over time. The uses of Twitter are truly exciting.

You can tweet about:

special pricing

new products

training courses or documentation

services,

white papers,

success stories.

The list of possibilities goes on and on… so when it comes to using Twitter to communicate you value, the real “root” question is:

How are we already CONNECTING and COMMUNICATING with our prospective customers/clients?

Twitter gets frustrating as a sales tool when you don’t have a clear audience (or too many different audiences) and more than 1 clear message. Then again – that is when all sales gets frustrating for businesses of ALL sizes. The same message that “works” via other media will probably also “work” well with Twitter.

In Conclusion

This is why real professionals get jazzed about Twitter. Instead of going to the time and expense of creating a marketing mailing, Twitter allows a quick, easy and personal way to promote your products and services instantly.

Best regards,

Tom Levers

www.BridgeWays.ca

Click to follow on Twitter

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Building a new Sales Territory in a Start-Up Company?

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING, Sales by Tom Levers on March 28, 2011

Ramping up a new territory can be both exciting and overwhelming. Exciting because everything is new and you get a fresh start; overwhelming because there is so much to accomplish, often with unknown goals and expectations.

 It is really the difference between Chess and Checkers… or in current video game terms “Angry Birds” vs “Age of Empires”.

Basically, any game of reaction… make a move, and you react in the best way that you know how. On the other hand, plan moves way ahead of time. The best chess players will already know what options are open to them eleven or even twelve moves ahead of time. They think ahead about as many possible contingencies, and plan accordingly. Consultative sales management professionals are like chess players, not checkers players. Specific situations have been planned for many possible outcomes. They never simply react. Before working with a client, they have tried to anticipate many of the potential scenarios that could play out and have a course of action planned for each . This is also the approach needed build a new  territory. 

As a sales professional striving to be the best that you can be, you always need to be mindful of two types of strategies: General, and Specific Strategy.

General Strategy – You need to have a broad strategic plan. The first step to forming this strategy will be to ask yourself what type of sales professional you would like to be. Once, you have formulated the answer to these questions, you will be better equipped to develop a coherent sales plan that addresses these concerns. You now know what you want, but you still need to figure out how to get there. What types of activities are you taking part in that are helping you to achieve your goals? What types are not? Examine every sales habit that you have developed, and open it up to scrutiny.  

Specific Strategy – Having a general strategy is essential, but it should not be so rigid as to become inflexible. Be able to adjust your strategy to meet the specific challenges of each client and each territory. No two sales engagements will happen in the exact same way, so you need to be able to think on your feet. Always try to imagine every possible path that a deal could take, and have an explicit plan mapped out ahead of time for each one. This way you will never be surprised. 

There are 3 key steps .

1. Build a time and territory management plan. Starting out with a new territory is going to seem huge and overwhelming. There will be new opportunities everywhere and naturally you will want to tackle them all at once. Without a plan though, you will waste countless hours.  Failing to set up a time and territory plan in advance is the single biggest mistake salespeople make when starting a new territory. There is no right or wrong way to do this and I advise you to get someone to help you so you get a different perspective. What works best for me is to divide my territory into 4 quadrants – 1 for each day of the week. (I save the 5th day for office work and unexpected opportunities.) Then set your prospecting and appointment schedule up to coincide with these days and develop the self-discipline to stick with the plan. Avoid the temptation to run from one side of your territory to the other chasing “hot” prospects, calmly approaching your quadrants.

 2. Understand what you have. You have no guaranty that the territory you are given has the value assigned and expected since no one else has ever worked it in this specific situation. So come at everything with skepticism and take nothing for granted. If you ascertain the value of your territory independently from past predictions and experiences you will make it possible to establish realistic goals.There is nothing more valuable in your sales tool box than your prospect database. Take time every afternoon to update your CRM with new prospects, call notes, and next steps. Be religious about this and do not end the day until this task is done. Keeping your prospect database up to date is about seeing the big picture and setting yourself up for success in the future. It is about making sure the investment you make today pays off tomorrow.

3. Do a little bit every dayThere is a children’s riddle that asks, “What the best way to eat an elephant?” The answer of course is one bite at a time. You can’t do everything at once. It will take months to fully ramp up. But when you consistently and systematically do a little bit of the right things every day you will be amazed at how these activities build on themselves. Soon you will see the results in your territory grow.

Summary

Be a Chess Player! Today, tomorrow and throughout your career. Keep your funnel full and anticipate rather than react. When it comes down to it, the most important element of any sales strategy, is short or long term preparedness. The more thoroughly you are prepared for each sales day and each situation, the better you will perform. The best way to do this is by continually documenting your plan and then execute, while at the same time striving for improvement by continually thinking beyound the immediate reaction.

 

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Software Partner Relationships + Customer Transactions = Success

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, Sales by Tom Levers on October 15, 2010

WHY ALLIANCES ARE NOT EASY

The stability of an alliance depends on how well the “partners” work together… that’s right it is a relationship. Often relationships depend on maturity and their rational application of reason during changing internal and external conditions. It is the willingness to renegotiate the “bargain of circumstances” that creates longevity in a partner relationship.

It is NOT Surprising a large number of alliances never live up to their expectation

A successful alliance requires real “in-the-trenches” discussions around the business and individual sales transactions… not merely an  exchange of product and pre-sales when the transaction reveals itself.  Unless each partner places a high value on the skills, resources, products and contributions each brings to the alliance with a commitment to a win-win outcome, one party will not create the needed importance to the Partners original success criteria.

Ask yourself… is your organization in a one-sided Partnerships ?

A 1999 study by Accenture, a global business consulting organization, revealed that 61 percent of alliances were either outright failures or “limping along”.  In 2004, McKinsey & Company estimated that the overall success rate of alliances was around 50 percent, based on whether the alliance achieved the stated objectives.
Many alliances are dissolved after a few years. The high “divorce rate” among partners often are attributed to some of these reasons:
  1. clash of executives,
  2. poor execution on one side of the relationship,
  3. changing conditions making the original reason obsolete,
  4. new or more attractive business/technology into market ecosystem,
  5. no market demand,
  6. and finally competitive change.

Partners are not always built for offensive reasons.

Many alliances are built early where an ecosystem exists to help a company reduce competitive disadvantages quickly… enhancing reach, capabilities, rapid delivery and awareness.
THE VULNERABILITY OF ALLIANCE  PARTNERSHIPS
The “Achilles Heel” is that each is not willing  to exclusively rely on the partners essential expertise and capabilities to deliver strong business value. To be a market leader (and perhaps even a serious market contender), a company must ultimately understand its “Core Capabilities” to develop and own as it’s capabilities… and what not to develop as “Core Capabilities”. This is pivotal to protecting competitiveness and build success with Alliances and Partnerships. Moreover, some alliances hold only limited potential… because the partner guards its skills and expertise.
DELIVER BUSINESS SOLUTIONS NOT JUST “TECH” SOLUTIONS
Another big driver to “partner relationships” is to impact “transactions” to not just using “Tech” alone”. It will  not win sales transactions and often gets discredited in a techonly senerio. Pure techie brilliance gets undone by vendor ignorance/arrogance about the client’s business needs & people needs – or by the client’s own limitations or tech ignorance. Therefore another test of a “partner” may be that the vendor has demonstrated, by delivering business solutions NOT just IT solutions, that they understand and support your strategy & your culture – and will “raise a flag” if your own people’s actions appear to conflict with either strategy or culture.

Joint Marketing Promotion Means More Than Money

Another key area of Partnerships is joint marketing. This is driven around sales of each partner, the availability of MDF (Market Development Funds), objective of relationship by each party. The objective must be individualized. For example Leads – Relationships are always enhanced when Leads are viewed as a balance sheet. How many leads are given or received… and how many leads are jointly closed? If either Partner expends too much effort with no results the relationship will sour. The key is to review joint business objectives,strategy and tactics on a frequent basis (ie. if leads, installation, support  are considered an important KPI by one partner  the 2nd partner must define its expected return for delivering these KPIs.)

Conclusion

Alliances between companies, whether they are from different parts of the world, or right next door… are a key component to life in business today. Alliances  range from no more than a fleeting transaction where both parties have a temporary need, to a  prelude to a full merger of companies’, technologies, and capabilities. Whatever the nature of business alliances, being a good partner is dictated by the relationship between its employees and is a key corporate asset.  In the global economy, a well-developed ability to create and sustain fruitful alliances gives companies a significant competitive perspective that is a key component  to a complete business strategy.

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Mobile Apps and the Contrariness of a Serial Software Company Guy

Some contrarian takeaways…

  • Only 28% of the most successful public software companies reached $50 million in annual sales in 6 years or less.
  • 50% of these companies took 9 or more years to reach $50m in revenue.
  • Microsoft took 8 years to reach $50 million in sales; Oracle took 10.
  • “Traditional consumer PC software is dead.” Apparently, the only question mark is how long it will take for customers and vendors to realize.
  • Mobile phone applications “will be as big if not bigger than Cloud Applications”

Consider the still burgeoning world of mobile apps.

One reason there is even more Mobile App growth potential is it can be a Marketing Tactic. You could compare Mobile App development more to Website development  with new Social Networks like Twitter or Facebook rather  than Application Development. There is the front-end (Gui with Marketing Objective) and the back-end ( functionality with Value Proposition).

How to build and distribute an app for marketing is very different than simply asserting that an app is a good idea. Brand building is first and very different than traditional App development. Developing a strategy for executing app distribution around the right demographic breakdown of smartphone users IE. iPhone (Consumer), Droid (???), Blackberry (B2B) does not happen by accident.

When to use a mobile Web microsite vs an app is important. Knowing when a more easily produced and developmentally sound hybrid app is the best approach to achieve marketing objectives requires an understanding of how the process works, not just that the process is important.

Here are the essential tactics that the right mobile strategy/tactics can help guide marketers through:
  •  
    • Basic marketing experience in Consumer (Advertising, Premiums, POS)  or B2B  (Thought Leadership, ROI positioning, Trial/Demo Best Practices)
    • Segmentation and message targeting – and knowing the software that is best as it moves across mobile tactics .
    • SMS – bi-directional, targeting and personalization principles must be applied here in full force.
    • Mobile Web trends, its accessibility, and its universality. Also, tricks like software that recognizes the device accessing the mobile Web page, then renders to the device.
    • Development of apps, hybrid apps, and when apps are – and when they are not – the right approach.
    • The role of video on a mobile device.

Tactically companies should be agnostic. Of course there are many other important tactical and strategic bits of understanding that will grow and change as technology and Smartphone users grow. Of course I would be remiss not to promote the manygreat Mobile Apps for Word Press see  http://en.support.wordpress.com/apps/

So the innovative marketer is already asking themselves “Is their an application that will enhance my products and my brand ?”

Channel Partner Relationship Management

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING by Tom Levers on June 6, 2010

Using the Cloud is key for your Partners – but your Channel Size, Partner Stage and Confidentiality Requirements Drive the type of Partner Portal you may need.

For the large mature partner organization there are many tools around Channel Partner Relationship Management. TreeHouse Interactive, is an enterprise class SaaS solution with ALL the bells and whistles. TreeHouse allows vendors to keep track of leads and opportunities along side their partners but also provides information to partners on their requirements and benefits, deal registration, and links to marketing automation.

TreeHouse while expensive, allows different navigation for different tiers of partners so your top tier partners are able to see the appropriate information for them but it is blocked to your lower tier partners. MDF and Co-op can be uploaded to the system from distribution partners and channel partners can then apply for MDF and get approved. Partners can also link to marketing automation like Salesforce.

The interface is very intuitive and the ability to assign leads to partners iseasy and efficient! Of course with such a great solution comes a price and TreeHouse wouldn’t be worthwhile if a vendor doesn’t have hundreds of partners with millions of revenue dollars.

Syndication allows relevant content to be pulled from a vendor’s website and displayed on the channel partners’ websites. There is usually a container page with the partners’ look and feel around the top and along the left side and the content is updated on a regular basis. Vendors get their product and value prop information relayed accurately up-to-date in hundreds of other sites and the Channel Partners are able to inform customers on their own sites without having to send them elsewhere. How many times has a partner’s site shown the old model or the current model with the wrong image or information!?

When I was at Business Layers / Computer Associates I evaluated a company called WebCollage to make this happen. I don’t know if they’ve changed their process at all but it was incredibly manual to the point where we had requests from partners in email and would then fax or email them to our client manager to initiate the service. SharedVue’s tool Syndic8 is completely automated. Partners can even login and change their current view of products or services shown on their website.

SharedVue also provides some lead generation and tracking tools (don’t think PRM but every little bit helps right?). Using their tool Communic8 vendors can provide traditional and new media tools so partners can launch campaigns and track them all on the SharedVue tools. Partners of course get worried if vendors can see their leads (more so with some vendors then with others) so SharedVue offers a way to turn the visibility on or off.

 There are more bells and whistles that I didn’t go into here including their specific new media features (webinars, SEM, and Google AdWords). I haven’t used WebCollage in 2 years but SharedVue is certainly more user friendly and robust than WC was back then.

Are their other systems people have seen and liked? I’d love to hear about them. Drop me an email. tlevers@comcast.net

Build ROI to Create “Urgency”

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING, Sales by Tom Levers on May 28, 2010

ROI Creates Urgency

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943

At some point IBM learned Computers delivered ROI. Even when you can show convincing functional data about the magnitude of a business problem, it is not enough. The good CEO, consultant, sales person,  product manager also lights a fire, figuratively,  to move on the issue…. of ROI urgency.

This is why a product is “Hot”.

If your sales efforts are in question, take a critical look at your value proposition, presentation proposal, the demonstration… where is the ROI? If it’s pro feature-centric, generic and functional only (with regard to value delivery), it rarely lights a fire.

Prospects today are sitting on their scarce cash reserves and won’t pry open their checkbooks unless they recognize the following:

  1. their customer has a real business problem;
  2. this problem is one of their  top 3 concerns;
  3. you absolutely understand this problem;
  4. you possess a solution that will solve the problem; and,
  5. you can deliver the promised ROI

According to Forrester Vice President Ray Wang, who specializes in software ROI, a new investment in software makes sense if it does one of the following:

  1. Provides efficiency gains that reduce overhead or allow you to do more without adding resources;
  2. Puts you in compliance with legal or contractual requirements, decreases security risk or makes your technology compatible with that of your clients or customers;
  3. Supports a new strategic initiative (such as a customer loyalty program);
  4. Provides increased capacity or functionality to allow your business to grow.

Ask yourself… does your business prospect indicate that they “like” or “need” your product or service?

Many of the projects that get green-lighted are those that solve break/fix matters. Discretionary (aka nice to have) projects are the opportunities that never move or don’t get back to you, they are the ones that get deferred or shot down altogether.

Sometimes all a good service or software firm has to do is better understand the prospect and review the materiality or “heat” of the project .

The more your proposed project is seen as a break/fix necessity, the more likely it will get approved.

To learn how to create more ROI around your service or software product, send me an email. tlevers@comcast.net

Organizational Credibility and Sales

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, Sales by Tom Levers on May 19, 2010

In a recent study on reputation and its impact on the bottom line, it was concluded that companies with the best credibility get substantially more references, retain higher quality talent and partners, have better sales close ratios, can better defend negative press, and have a higher ability to attract investments.

The point is simple: When your company has built  a reputation on credibility, your sales people benefit from it. They don’t have the burden of having to “sell” the firm and themselves at every sales situation.

Credibility Makes a Difference

Research has indicated that many firms experience a 50 percent increase in new business with a positive jolt of credibility. Also, there is a drastic decline in sales and talent retention when the firm’s credibility takes a negative hit.

Credibility starts at the top. In the best-selling book, The Leadership Challenge, it explains why leadership is above all a relationship, with credibility as the cornerstone. They provide rich examples of real managers in action and reveal the six key disciplines and related practices that strengthen a leader’s capacity for developing and sustaining credibility.  A must read for those interested in integrating credibility best practices as a way of life.

Leaders establish principles concerning the way people (constituents, peers, colleagues, and customers alike) should be treated and the way goals should be pursued. They create standards of excellence and then set an example for others to follow.  It starts with:

1. Trust — confidence, consistency, integrity and authority,
2. Authenticity — real, sincere, informal, delivering as promised,
3. Transparency — open the doors and windows, be accessible and easy to discover, no secrets
4. Affirmation — playback, reinforcement, and the third-party conversation,
5. Listening — empathy, humility, putting out the welcome mat, and asking for and responding to feedback,
6. Responsiveness — speed, accuracy, correcting problems, responding to changes in the marketplace, and handling of complaints.

What is credibility worth?      Everything!

At the lowest level, it means your sales force will make more sales faster and with a higher average price. Then, your customers will accept higher level products more readily because they know it’s safe. Then, they will give you referrals and introductions to other firms. This cuts your marketing and sales expenses in both dollars and time.

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Rising to the Top in Sales

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING by Tom Levers on May 7, 2010


We have all experienced it. A good sales person, often the best, becomes sales manager.   Principals and CSOs are often disappointed in the lack of results, and the sales managers are confused and frustrated with the lack of achievement of managing a team.

A variation on this theme usually produces even more angst.  A good sales person, without any real management experience, is hired from outside the company to fill a sales manager position.  When these decisions go bad, the hurt feelings, negative attitudes and difficult situations which result can be ugly.

Not that this is always the case.  Many CSOs and executives rose through the ranks in just this fashion, contributing exceptionally at every stage.  But, these cases are generally the exception, not the rule.

The rule is that few good sales people make good sales managers. Why is that?

At the Top

Consider the unique blend of strengths and aptitudes that often mark the character of an exceptional sales person.  Exceptional sales people often have very high standards for themselves and everyone around them.  They are highly focused on the customer, often to the determent of their relationships with their colleagues.  It’s not unusual for your star sales person to irritate and frustrate the people in the operational side of the business, with a brusque and demanding attitude.  After all, they think, I’m extending myself to take care of my customers, why shouldn’t I expect everyone else to do so also?

When they become sales managers, they expect all of their sales people to be just as hard driving and achievement oriented as they were.  Unfortunately the reality is that most of their sales people don’t share the same degree of drive and perfectionism that they had.  If they did, they would have been promoted to sales manager.

That means that the sales manager often is frustrated with the performance and attitudes of his charges, and confused as to how to change them.

The exceptional sales person is often an independent character, who thrives in a climate where he can make his own decisions, determine his own call patterns, and spend time by himself.

Alas, he loses almost all of that when he is promoted to sales manager.  He’s expected to work a consistent, well defined work week, to spend a certain number of hours in the office, and to fulfill certain administrative functions.  The freedom to make his own decisions, to determine his own days, is gone.  So, he often struggles with how to adjust to this new work environment and still be productive.

Whereas before he was clearly and independently responsible for his results, now he must achieve his results through other people.  Too often, he defaults to a view of his job wherein he becomes the “super sales person,” taking over accounts, projects and sales calls from his less talented charges.  This creates frustration on all parts.

The exceptional sales person has the ability and propensity to see every situation optimistically, overlooking all the obstacles and concentrating on the potential in every account.  That is a necessary element to the sales personality.  Without it, he couldn’t weather all the rejection and frustration inherit in the sales job.

That personality strength which serves him well as a sales person, is however, a major obstacle to his success as a sales manager.  When it comes to hiring a new salesperson, he finds himself viewing every candidate through those same optimistic eyes.

Low Friction Sales… the way Customers Buy

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING by Tom Levers on April 4, 2010

Sell the Way Customers Want to Buy

Smart companies are providing their prospects with much of the information they need to make a purchase decision when they need it… but true frictionless sales allows the customer to slide into using the product before they make a major investment. When we talk to businesses people they want to be communicated with, but on their own “just in time” terms. In general the business purchase process expects that a product need can be illustrated quickly, with no strings attached, and delivered through whatever best fits the least resistance for acquisition.

Low resistance can be free for now… but does not mean free forever!!!
The more you adapt and satisfy the way your customer wants to buy, the easier it is to close. The easier it is to close a sale, the easier to scale and the faster and more efficiently you can grow.

There are various grades and limitations of friction in different selling models… but there is always more than one methodology for success. So have you honestly evaluated if you are using the most efficient approach?

Don’t know? Well take a look internally. Are you insisting on touching the customer through the A to  Z steps. This often makes you over compensate with high upfront prices because you feel only a person can communicate value, like in the old non-internet methods of sales and marketing? Business selects products that are easy to learn about, easy to use, easy to evaluate… easy to sell. How does a heavy handed sales process make things easy?

The highest friction sale is very expensive upfront, and means you need to spend lots of money on marketing, trade shows, etc and large direct sales force of expensive reps pounding the pavement for months trying to close a large deal with an enterprise customer. Follow that with a 3 month implementation process to get the customer happy.

Here’s a better way to look down the frictionless funnel. Look at how others seemed to make sales frictionless.

No Barriers to Revenue
Remember… some of the largest telecommunications customers on earth, are prolific distributors of subsidized or free handsets, but they sell the services. And free or very inexpensive doesn’t mean no revenue, it means no barriers to revenue. Or how about Microsoft, selling Enterprise Licenses in the data center with an  “All You Can Eat” method of product availability. Need 500 new servers… no problem “we have an Enterprise Agreement ” , no barriers to revenue !

Limiting “Friction” can be applied throughout the selling process… just look at how your custmer buys, not how you learned to sell! This will reduce the pain for customers to adopt and use a product and consequently reduce the cost of sales and marketing to get a customer to generate revenue… then all is needed is to  leverage the product and your new found marketshare.

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Methods of Understanding in Sales

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, PUBLIC RELATIONS by Tom Levers on December 17, 2009

Selling is one of the classic and obvious domains where changing minds is a core skill.

The skills that are part of every rainmaker can be applied by the novice if they internalize methods of understanding…  where determining motivations and distinguishing the buying behaviours of individuals who hold the keys to selling services or product can facilitate building relationships and creating partnerships to become the vehicle for providing mutual value.

Techniques that are not genuine to your personality yet imply you must follow, like mirroring and matching techniques, body language, etc were considered progressive for connecting with prospects and customers twenty years ago. Now each person when using methods of understanding can be themselves, while improving the sales process with a new power to better understand the factors in your customers making a decision.

Methods of understanding…. is a collection  of tools for thinking.

In my previous article I covered that we all instinctively lean toward some approaches rather than others, but the key to applying the principles is to internalize the different constructs, so everyone can appreciate the influences on better communication. The first four types were:

  • Attribution – we need to attribute cause, that supports our ego.
  • Constructivism – we use constructs as perceptual categories.
  • Framing – mental combinations that affect perception.
  • Schema – structure to organize and interpret the world.

Now lets finish with the final four:

  • Personal Constructs – constructs represent understanding.
  • Symbolic Interaction  – we derive meaning around symbols.
  • Objectification –  we simplify complex things into concrete images.
  • Story Models – most marketers instinctively piece together complex situations into stories to build understanding.

 

Personal Constructs

People develop internal models of reality, called constructs in order to understand and explain the world around them in the same way that scientists develop theories. Like scientists, they develop these constructs based on observation and experimentation. Constructs thus start as unstable conjecture, changing and stabilizing as more experience and proof is gained.

Constructs are often defined by words, but can also be non-verbal and hard to explain, such as the feeling you get when your football team just won the championship.

When constructs are challenged or incomplete the result is emotional states such as anxiety, confusion, anger and fear.

Constructs are often polar in that they have opposites (and are hence dichotomous). Thus the construct of good implies another of bad. Polar constructs create one another: thus ‘good’ cannot exist without ‘bad’.

Although we share the idea of constructs through words (ie Good and Bad), the detail of constructs are particular to the individual and hence are called personal constructs.

Constructs that are important to the person are core constructs, while others are called peripheral constructs.

Constructs may be expanded to accommodate new ideas or constricted to become more. An example would be ownership of an idea. I look at how the executive talks about a business division that they originally came from and consider him more focused on improving that group. All of these are constructs that I have created or learned in order to explain the behaviour of those I have met.

Using it

Listen to people. Hear the constructs they use. They will be amazed at how much you understand them. You can also lead them in building new constructs.

Defending

When you are building new ideas, consider where these have come from. Was there a conversation with an influential other person involved?

 

Symbolic Interaction  

People act based on symbolic meanings they find within any given situation. Thus interact with the symbols, forming relationships around them. The goals of our interactions with one another are to create shared meaning.

Language, math, selling methodologies are itself a symbolic form, which is used to anchor meanings to the symbols.

Key aspects are:

  • We act toward others based on the meaning that those other people have for us.
  • Meaning is created in the interactions we have with other people in sharing our interpretations of symbols.
  • Meanings are modified through an interpretive process whereby we first internally create meaning, then check it externally and with other people.
  • We develop our self-concepts through interaction with others.
  • We are influenced by culture and social processes, such as social norms.
  • Our social structures are worked out through the social interactions with others.

Using it

Pay attention to the symbols within the persuasive context and utilize them. You can place the symbols there. How people interpret them includes how you interpret them. 

Defending

Pay attention to the symbols within the persuasive context and notice how they are affecting what happens.

 

Objectification

Complex ideas are, almost by definition, difficult to understand. To help us make sense of them, we turn them into concrete images. There are three processes by which objectification is done:

  • Ontologizing gives an idea physical properties, for example by using close metaphors like the ‘mind as a computer’.
  • Figuration turns the ideas into pictures or images, for example traffic ‘jams’.
  • Personification turns the idea into a person. For example, a genius as Einstein.

The term ‘objectification’ or depersonification is also used to describe the way we treat other people as objects, in particular the way men can treat women as sex ‘objects’. By reducing other people to things, it permits us to treat them with less care and human concern, bypassing our values around this subject.

This car is like a thoroughbred race-horse. Just imagine thundering up the roads, with trees and houses flying by. People will think you are Michael Schumacher.

In war, effort is often put into depersonifying the other side, thus legitimizing and even encouraging killing them.

Using it

Explain your ideas through analogous or metaphorical things, pictures or people.

Defending

Just because the other person can explain their ideas clearly, it does not mean they are good ideas.

Story Models

One way in which we explain the world around us is to create stories about it. In particular when we are face with complex situations, we will pick out what seems to be key elements and then turn these into a story.  

For example people were shown a movie of a trial. They found that in order to make sense of the wealth of detail, the participants constructed stories about what happened. 

In another experiment, they found that when evidence was given in an order which made the story easy to construct, the participants were more likely to construct the same story. When the evidence was in story order, 78% of participants found the defendant guilty. Yet when the evidence was out of order, only 31% voted for the guilty verdict.

A common technique for remembering a complex list of unrelated information is to weave them together into a story.

Using it

Help the other person understand your case by presenting it as a logical story, pausing to emphasize and repeat the key points you want them to remember and include in their remembered interpretation. 

Defending

Just because the other person presents a nice story, it does not mean it is true.

Conclusion

The trained sales person learns the process of selling from their training courses in Relationship or Consultive Selling, Strategic Selling, Customer Centered Selling, Spin Selling, Platform Selling, and Scientific Selling… but none will better educate you on understanding people, how they think, and their motivations.

These techniques, when internalized will allow you to objectively recognize a “No Decision” earlier in the selling process, as well as, allow you to better understand yourself and how you “make or react to decisions” in your every day business and personal life.

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Sales and Methods of Understanding

LightBulb“Methods of Understanding” will get what you need done in your business.

No matter if it is working to build a “Company Culture”, or becoming a sales “Rain Maker”, or “Marketing Positioner” of the next Widget… you will get further if you apply the toolkit of how individuals use “Methods to Understand”.

You may know Sales Methodologies, but the “Rain Maker” applies Systems of Understanding. Most natural “Rain Makers” unknowingly identify how others are using these various types of Understanding Methods, they just identify these throughout all aspects of their lives… without even knowing they are using them. By identifying what individuals use when they try to understand can enlighten the situation. 

WARNING! This is not for everyone. Some people are so locked into their individual method that if you are a “hammer” everything looks like a “nail”! The “Rain Maker”, the “Corporate Motivator”, and the  “Customer Requirement Aggregator” ” all must identify which “Methods of Understanding” is being used and how to adapt to it. 

We all instinctively lean toward some of these approaches rather than others, but the key to applying these principles  is to internalize the different constructs so we can better communicate. The different types are:

  • Attribution – we need to attribute cause, that supports our ego.
  • Constructivism – we use constructs as perceptual categories.
  • Framing – mental combinations that affect perception.
  • Schema – structure to organize and interpret the world.
  • Personal Constructs – constructs represent understanding.
  • Symbolic Interaction  – we derive meaning around symbols.
  • Objectification –  we simplify complex things into concrete images.
  • Story Models – We piece together complex situations into stories to build understanding.

Lets first cover the first four in this article and try to identify after reading how you and others are using them in your professional and personal life.

 

Attribution

We all have a need to explain the world, both to ourselves and to other people, attributing cause to the events around us. This gives us a greater sense of control. When explaining behaviour, it can affect the standing of people within a group (especially ourselves).

FaceWhen another person has erred, we will often use internal attribution, saying it is due to internal factors. When we have erred, we will more likely use external attribution, attributing causes to situational factors rather than blaming ourselves. We will take credit, due to the good business skills that were applied. And vice versa. We will attribute the successes of competitive rivals to external ‘advantages’. 

When a football team wins, supporters say ‘we won’. But when the team loses, the supporters say ‘they lost’. Our attributions are also significantly driven by our emotional and motivational drives. Blaming other people and avoiding personal recrimination is a very real self-serving attributions. We will also make attributions to defend what we perceive as attacks. We will point to injustice in an unfair world. 

In practice, we often tend to go through a two-step process, where we start with an automatic internal attribution, followed by a slower consideration of whether an external attribution is more appropriate. Key to this is, if we are hurrying or are distracted, we may not get to this second step. This makes internal attribution more likely than external attribution.
Example of Use: I have no support and no budget there for I cannot do a good job.

Using it: Beware of being a complainer (i.e. making internal attributions about the situation). Also beware of making excuses (external attributions) that lead you to repeat mistakes and leads to Cognitive Dissonance in others when they are making internal attributions about you.

Defending: Watch out for people making untrue attributions.

Constructivism

We try to make sense of the world by making use of constructs, which are perceptual categories that we use when evaluating things.

People who have many different and abstract constructs have greater flexibility in understanding the world and are cognitively complex, whilst others are cognitively simple. Cognitively complex people are better able to accept both complex and inconsistent messages. They also have a greater need to understand things and will question deeply anything that is new to them. However, once persuaded, they stay persuaded and are less likely to change their minds as their new constructs will support the argument.

Example: Some people have a construct about being fat that says fat people are lazy and greedy. Others may perceive it as a medical condition. 

Using it: Help cognitively complex people to build new constructs that support your argument. Do not bother with this detail for the cognitively simple.

Defending: Do not let others take charge when building new constructs.

Framing

A frame is the combination of beliefs, values, attitudes, mental models, and so on which we use to perceive a situation. We effectively look through this frame in the way we would look through tinted spectacles. The frame significantly effects how we infer meaning and hence understand the situation.

Example: I see a holiday in the hills as an opportunity for outdoor exercise. My friend sees is as a chance for a quiet read. My son sees it as a long period of boredom.

Using it: Change elements of a person’s frame (reframing) and hence how they view the world). This is a powerful persuasive technique. 

Being able to see things through many frames yourself gives you a broader perspective and able to understand more of how others think.

Defending: When people ask you to look at something from another viewpoint, be aware that there are many viewpoints, many of which are valid and legitimate. 

ShoesSchema

A schema is a mental structure

Schemas are also self-sustaining, and will persist even in the face of disconfirming evidence. This is because if something does not match the schema, such as evidence against it, it is ignored. Some schema are easier to change than others, and some people are more open about changing any of their schemas than other people. Schemas are also known as mental models, concepts, mental representations and knowledge structures(although definitions are different–for example some define mental models as modeling cause-effect only).

Schemas affect what we notice, how we interpret things and how we make decisions and act. They act like filters, accentuating and downplaying various elements. We use them to classify things, such as when we ‘pigeon-hole’ people. They also help us forecast, predicting what will happen. We even remember and recall things via schemas, using them to ‘encode’ memories.

Schemas have inferences and appear very often in the attribution of cause. The multiple necessary cause schema is one where we require at least two causes before a ‘fit’ to the schema is declared. Schemas are often shared within cultures, allowing short-cut communications. Every word is, in effect, a schema, as when you read it you receive a package of additional inferred information.

We tend to have favourite schema which we use often. When interpreting the world, we will try to use these first, going on to others if they do not sufficiently fit. 

Example: Some people dislike police because they have a schema of police as people who perceive everyone as guilty until proven innocent. Other people feel safe around police as their schemas are more about police as brave protectors. 

Using it: Find people’s schemas around the area of interest, then either create trust by utilizing their schema or reframe to change their schema.

Defending: Become more self-aware, knowing your own schemas and why there are useful for you. When people try to change them, you can then more rationally understand whether your or their schemas are better.

This is a lot to absorbs,  so look for these in your every day business or personal life and check back for the second part of this Article after I try this myself!

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Evaluating Partner Alliance Opportunity

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING by Tom Levers on March 19, 2009
Partner Marketing

Partner Marketing

Recently a major management consulting firm delivered the final engagement  “Evaluating Partner Relationships”,these are some of the general conclusions.

Partners deliver new sources of revenue, and are the genesis of efficiency, speed and market share. Often large organizations have too many and the small have none.

The complexity of variables to facilitate relationships is daunting, but partnerships can validate a new  product or service. It is the “Divergent ” components of partners that influence the  “business natural selection” process.

There are  Six Indicators or factors that significantly impact the  success and failure of a Partnership outcome. These are:

New Partner Attractors – Sometimes partners get together because of hot topics (ie environmentalism), some because of market buzz (company success), others have “hot” technology (technical advantages), more have functional ability, and for some it is the quality of people.  The true attractor is if the Partnership delivers a  “new value” to the customer.

Technical Domain Competency – The more similar the area of domain the less divergent, the less dependent and the more an organization can rely on in-house expertise rather than the partner.  Because an organization has a strong internal technical resource the emphasis shouldn’t necessarily measure technical competency, but more important it is the experience of doing (i.e. the number of successful implementations completed or product sold), and how complex or amount of time the domain discipline requires, is really how domain competency is measured.

Professionalism – The more strategic a solution or the larger the account, the more likely the final customer will expect a high level of “Competency” and “Professionalism”. It is the combination of “Competency” and “Professionalism” or “Service Quality” that creates the reliability of the  product and ultimate service solution.

Other key values are localization, demand generation, and sales capabilities that allow their team to drive new “up-sell” and “cross-sell” opportunities. These new capabilities provide a reasons to engage with existing clients, and a new way to introduce yourself (a foot in the door) with a new client. This can be supported by:

Localization – Thinking locally, looking local, behaving like a local, while acting globally is the key. It provides client connectedness, capability relevance, and local resilience.

Demand Generation – Hot markets can create leads from the brand and be easily integrated into the existing corporate marketing, such as Webinares, Events, Case Studies, Thought Leadership, SEM (see SEM Channel Partner Methods ) and more. If a Partner Demand Generation capability is a Pull-through only relationship often a “Technology Alliance” (i.e.”Intel Inside”) exists.  So often when competitive products or services enter the market the functional differences may not retain as much value (ie. AMD shows up and the only customer difference is “No Sticker” on the PC). The Partner successes use this to strengthen divergence by delivering partner marketing programs and tactics that both Push and Pull interest.

The Sales Cycle – Partners will likely add “speed to market” and “new market opportunity ” when selling  a complete partner solution. Some brands have a huge opportunity leveraging existing sales organizations that utilize their partner sales stakeholders. By having a partner sales force that supports the different vertical disciplines and complete product solution throughout the end-user customer buying process, rapid growth can flourish. Establishing the combined partner sales process for different products and services across different kinds of markets improves touch points, cycle speed and probability.

Divergence defines a stronger Partner

This is why ideally the best outcome for a Partner Program is “all of the listed factors of divergence”. Understanding these principals ievaluating-alliance-partner-relationships2s key to creating a strong Partner / Brand. By putting together a business relationship that generates long-term Partner Alliances, the use of divergence outreach can differentiate when direct competition creates market confusion. When multiple vendors and sub brands start to appear, creating similar functional value. Building the right Partner organization can deliver the additional momentum and breadth to support confidence and expertise that sustains market leadership.

A non-proprietary summary of the final delivery of a “Partner Marketing ” Engagement, from a major Global Management Consulting Firm for their client.
*Over 50 partner interviews were conducted for this engagement. Applying Organizational Science principals of Divergence has been used to predict outcome by defining the qualitative metric  of “New” ability over the alliance “Interdependence” (N/I)  delivered. The quantitative component is composed of organizational “Quality” as a multiplier of the “Functional” execution that uses a fraction of “Market” size and forecast market potential (Q x F)/M. This is then built into an Input /Output engine to quantify the “Opportunity” potential of a Partner relationship.->

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