Your prime prospect is not showing interest – now what?

Posted on February 14, 2017 at 9:11 AM Comments comments (94)

My prime prospect is showing me their child pose.  That’s code speak for “I’m not paying attention now, so don’t bother me.”  The silence is deafening.  What are my options?

1. Get busy with some loud broadcasting activity? You know, blast them with all the channels including the phone, email, texting and social media.  Sure, I can wake them up and force them to engage with me!

2. Hoover over them and watch to see if their current position shifts in the slightest.  At that point I could quickly swoop in and hijack their attention before they nod off again.

3. Monitor and listen; wait for them to wake and regain their focus.  Use the downtime to reevaluate the environment and determine what type of content would be more relevant.

That last option is really hard for a sales and marketing person like me to consider.  It’s hard to wait, listen and reflect when you are action-oriented.  And what’s with the short attention span?  Prospects seem to enter the child pose so quickly!  Of course the idea of creating more content to build interest and keep the prospect engaged always feels childish and is exhausting.

So, under the banner of satisfying unmet needs, education and thought-leadership let the “do not call,” “unsubscribe” and “unfollow” risks be dammed.  After all, I need to pitch my solution by getting the word out because I have a sales funnel to fill.  And so the unsolicited pitches start to crank up the noise.

Except I’m not the only one pitching out there.  Everyone seems to think they are unique, but all the approaches follow the same old templates.

What is your Unique Selling Proposition?
Contact Alan See CMO Temps, LLC at [email protected]

When Ted Turner was asked for the secret to success, he said; “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.”  That’s not something that marketing people can bet their careers on anymore.  We live in a relationship-based economy.  Your prospect is looking for transparency, trust, relevance and engagement.  It’s time to step-back and listen.

Why Your Sales “Follow Up” is Not Working

Posted on November 25, 2016 at 2:22 PM Comments comments (3)

It happens all the time by email, telephone, and through social media, the fake “I just wanted to follow up” sales prospecting approach.

Large company or small, no decision-maker wants to have their time wasted.  So, they’re probably not going to visit your website to first “learn more about” your product.  In addition, executives generally don’t open their calendars for total strangers to talk to them about something they are ill-informed about, or couldn’t care less about.  In short, you are pushing a button that turns them off, so it’s no wonder they are not returning your call or replying to your digital contact.  What have you done wrong?  You wanted to project yourself as a “thought-leader,” someone the executive could trust.  But at this point they are not thinking of you as a thought-leader nor as a trusted advisor.  You are merely another account development person trying to fake a “follow up” to an initial conversation that hasn’t happened.  So, what thoughts are really going through your prospects mind?
1. Who are you?  Were you referred to me by someone I trust?  Did we meet at a conference?  Did you comment on one of my blogs or have we been engaging in conversation on Twitter?  In short, how can I trust you if I don’t know you?
2. What exactly are you claiming your solution will do for my organization? Increase revenue? Decrease cost? Mitigate risk?  How will you prove that claim?
3. What’s in it for me?  Yes, we make decisions intellectually, but we buy emotionally.  That means you also need to appeal to the emotional side of my brain.
4. What part of my budget would your solution impact?
    a. What application are we already using in that space?  Would a change be worth the effort?
    b. Does my team have the mental bandwidth to take on another application?
    c. Where does this application fit in relation to other processes?

You need to reboot your initial approach.  Take some time to gain rapport and build your credibility.  Help the executive understand how a relationship with you could reduce their risk.  Your main goal is to develop a deep level of trust.  If they trust you they are more likely to open up and let you ask the questions that would extract their pain points and determine if they can create funding for your project.  If you understand their pain points you will then be in a better position to customize your sales process to address their exact needs.  And that’s what “following-up” is really about.

You Are the Messenger and Message
Contact Alan See CMO Temps, LLC at [email protected]

8 Ways to Create Emotional Bonds with Your Customers

Posted on November 3, 2016 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (19)
People simply are not subject to the rigorous laws of logic or measurable with the precision that data-driven marketers would like.  In fact, most purchase decisions are made emotionally, and then justified, rather than the other way around.  That means it’s critical for organizations to create customer relationships through emotional bonds.  Here are eight ways your organization can help create emotional bonds that build deep customer relationships:
1. Brand:  You need to start with a strong brand identity that your customers can identify with.  Your brand must not only communicate a message, but also inform, motivate and deliver as promised.  The better your brand is at keeping its promises, the better your brand is at being trusted.
2. Learning Relationships:  Organizations that implement learning relationships are better able to understand and anticipate a customer’s unique needs.  Learning organizations understand that great customer experiences start with listening to the customer to learn instead of talking to the customer to sell.  Customers in a learning relationship experience a heightened sense of vendor awareness and are more likely to be loyal because their vendor understands their needs.
3. Use technology to connect in positive and collaborative ways:  Customer connections that engender loyalty deliver a seamless experience across channels and touch points while demonstrating integrity and interest.
4. Empower:  Ensure high quality customer interactions that demonstrate a caring attitude by empowering your employees to resolve problems.  If you want your people to act like it’s their business, make it their business.  Empowerment leads to never losing a customer over a stupid rule.
5. Great Service:  Almost every customer has a service support need at some point.  Use support incidents as an opportunity to solidify relationships.  Providing excellent service and quick resolution can build customer trust.
6. One view of the company:  Despite the desires of corporate managers, the customer ultimately controls the relationship.  If the customer is in control, don’t they need a 360 degree view of the company?  Great customer experiences start when you make it easy for the customer to do business across your entire organization.
7. Layers:  Customers have layers, and relationship layers are built on trust and dialog over time.  Customer loyalty requires the care and commitment to take the time, invest the money, and have the patience to grow the relationship.
8. Dynamic real-time processes:  Building relationships takes time; however, instant gratification has been a feature of our everyday lives for a long time.  Give your customers their rewards now, and keep your promises on time.


Can Your Company Compete with Radical Trust?

Posted on October 28, 2016 at 7:37 AM Comments comments (204)
Several years ago I heard a story about a shoe repair shop from one of their long-time customers.  It’s a small business tale about trust with a twist that might surprise you.  Like many businesses, this shoe repair shop was built on a self-service model.  That model was necessary because the sole proprietor did his cobbling at night; during the day he held down a full-time job as an employee of another company.  His customers left their shoes for repair in a converted newspaper vending machine located on his front porch.  Shoes that were ready for pick-up as well as the money folder were also in the machine.  Yes, I said the money folder.  Customers dropped off and picked up their shoes and also left their payment.  He never came up short, of money or shoes.
In the last few years there has been plenty of material written about earning customer trust.  However; you don’t see much written about trusting the customer.  Can you earn trust without giving it?  For the cobbler’s customers in that rural community it appears a key to giving trust was getting it first.
Today we would describe that type of business climate as “radical trust.”  It’s a state of trust where parties on both sides of a transaction fully recognize the greater benefits of reciprocal good faith.  The cobbler let his customers into his inner circle by trusting that he would get paid for his work.  He believed that people were inherently good and let the self-policing reputation-based honor system work.
I suspect for many businesses it would be a scary thought to implicitly trust their customers.  And yet, without trust most relationships will not move forward.  I often think of trust through the following formula:

Trust = (Rapport x Credibility) / Risk
Actions that help develop rapport and credibility, while at the same time reducing risk, will build long-lasting, trust-based relationships.  In marketing, Collin Douma describes the notion of radical trust as a key mindset required for marketers and advertisers to enter the social media marketing space.  In his opinion, the tide has turned and now marketers must radically trust the consumer in order to build the brand.
Trust is the real currency in the social economy.  Does your company trust the customer?  Small businesses typically produce nearly half of the U.S. private nonfarm GDP. You can’t help but feel that radical trust is an important part of what holds our economy together.

Through the Eyes of the Customer

Posted on September 26, 2016 at 4:34 PM Comments comments (13)

Beloit College released their Mindset List for the class of 2020.  This year’s list contains 60 items that provide a look at the cultural touchstones that have shaped the lives of this fall’s entering class.  Most of this year’s freshmen were born in 1998, just for fun; take a look at the world through their eyes:
  • There has always been a digital swap meet called eBay.
  • Grandpa has always been able to reach for the Celebrex.
  • They never heard Harry Caray try to sing during the seventh inning at Wrigley Field.
  • West Nile has always been a virus found in the U.S.
  • Vladimir Putin has always been calling the shots at the Kremlin.
  • The Sandy Hook tragedy is their Columbine.
  • The United States has always been at war.
  • The Ali/Frazier boxing match for their generation was between the daughters of Muhammad and Joe.
  • They have never had to watch or listen to programs at a scheduled time. 
  • Each year they've been alive the U.S. population has grown by more than one million Latinos. 
  • TV ads for casinos have always been permitted to mention that there is actually gambling going on in there. 
  • If you want to reach them, you’d better send a text—emails are often ignored.
  • NFL coaches have always had the opportunity to throw a red flag and question the ref.
  • Bluetooth has always been keeping us wireless and synchronized.
  • X-rays have always been digital allowing them to be read immediately.
  • Exxon and Mobil have been one company—and it doesn’t own any gas stations.
  • John Elway and Wayne Gretzky have always been retired.
  • They have never seen billboard ads for cigarettes.
  • Airline tickets have always been purchased online.
In general, the Mindset List is a statement of experiences and events that shape the views of this year’s freshmen.  It’s how they see and understand what occurs around them.  And since most people believe their views are accurate it must also represent their understanding of the truth.  Their perception is their reality.
Marketing is involved in the process of dealing with perceptions.  What makes the process even more challenging is that consumers frequently make purchasing decisions based on second-hand perceptions (friends, family and other social connections).  In short, they make purchasing decisions based on another person’s perception of reality.  If your organization views the world through a product-centric position you may be inclined to dismiss the perception challenge.  Market research facts and figures convince you that the real truth is on your side and that the best product - your product, will win.  Do you believe that all you need is to have the truth on your side?

Perceptions can be a source of strengths or of weakness.  It takes skill and discipline to overcome bad perceptions, to separate reliable signals from deceptive ones, to filter out prejudice, expectation, and fear in order to get down to the truth.  Most of us struggle to get past our perceptions, that’s why marketer’s need to embrace the phrase “through the eyes of the customer.”

Does Your Favorite Brand Follow You Back?

Posted on September 26, 2016 at 12:53 PM Comments comments (0)

At the beginning of the 2014 NFL season I posted a short article related to NFL teams Follow-to-Follower ratios on Twitter.  That score card showed that most NFL teams, like most major brands, don’t follow-back their fans or customers: 

As you can see on the 2014 score card, the average NFL team was following back just 0.46% of their fans.  That ratio now stands at 0.27% which means the odds of your favorite team following you back are actually decreasing.

“This Copyrighted Broadcast is the Property of the National Football League”
Most major brands, including NFL teams broadcast on Twitter; they don’t follow-back for purposes of personal engagement.  That strategy doesn’t seem to hurt them either.  For example, the Dallas Cowboys follower base grew from 900K to 1.9M over the past two years and they went 4-12 last year!  Does the brand manager for “America’s Team” even need to show up for work?
“Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”
~ Vince Lombardi
Winners never follow, and followers never get followed; unless it’s the Broncos.
When it comes to sports we like to follow winners.  The Panthers follower base grew over 550%, although they still lost the Super Bowl last year.  The Super Bowl winning Broncos grew over 320%.  Surprisingly, they follow back over 6K of their fans ranking them third in the league.  Deflatgate or not, the Patriots at 12-4 last year grew 275%. 
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”
~ Mark Twain
We don’t follow losers, they follow you; go Chargers!

The Chargers finished 4-12 last year.  They also continue to lead the league by following back 5% of their fans which comes to over 29K profiles.  That’s less than half the capacity of Qualcomm Stadium but it’s far better than any other team.


The executive you’re targeting isn’t going to tell you their “biggest challenge.” Learn why.

Posted on August 23, 2016 at 11:34 AM Comments comments (141)
“What’s your single biggest challenge?”
I wish I had a dollar for every time I was asked that question because I’d be able to retire immediately.  It’s right up there with:
“What keeps you up at night?”
And let’s not forget:
“What’s your burning platform?”
Why do executives cringe every time they’re asked those questions?  Because just about every solution-based qualification call on the sales training planet includes one of those questions, and that means they can see your sales prospecting pitch coming from a mile away.  You’ve just shown them all they need to know.  You aren’t really interested in earning your place as one of their consultative trust-based partners.  That type of relationship nurturing would take way too much time and patience.  You merely want to quickly qualify them as either in or out of your sales funnel for your month end report.

Hey, that’s fair enough, they understand that time is a valuable and non-renewable resource.  They don’t want to waste your time, but nor do they want you to waste theirs.  Look, I’m not saying executives will never answer that golden question.  It’s just that your timing is terrible because you’re asking too much, too fast.  Think about it; do you really think an executive is going to open up to a total stranger and disclose their biggest challenge?  I don’t care if you do work for one of the Fortune 500; they don’t KNOW you PERSONALLY, and that means they’re not ready to TRUST you with their greatest struggles.  That would give you too much power and let’s face it; executives like to stay in control.

To be able to get an answer to that question you need to take your executive prospecting strategy out of microwave mode and learn how to build personal trust over time.  Smart sales and marketing people pursue this goal of becoming the “most trusted” source, expert, or problem solver in their industries and here is how they do it:
1. Trust takes time. Trust may sometimes be forged in moments of great drama, but it is more likely to be formed by many small, moment-to-moment, encounters.  If possible, connect with your targeted executive across more than one social platform in order to increase your trust-building exposure.  If your target is on Twitter focus there first.  Twitter is designed for quick moment-to-moment encounters and is less formal than LinkedIn.

2. Is your social media content consistent or erratic?  If your posts are confusing, indecisive, or inconsistent, your targeted audience is going to have a hard time taking you seriously.  Remember, when it comes to social media, you are always on and first impressions count.

3. A key to getting trust is giving it first.  Recruit your prospects to be a part of your inner circle.  Get serious about leveraging authenticity and transparency to help your contacts build confidence in you as a thought-leader.

Don’t sell alone. Build your network early.

Posted on August 15, 2016 at 2:56 PM Comments comments (0)
To: Sales Manager
Ref: No Network Connection
I am writing in response to your request for additional information.  In my sales pipeline report, I put “no network connection,” as the cause for my sales pipeline miss.  In your email to me, you said that I should explain more fully.
I was prospecting alone on a new account.  During my visit, I discovered I had competition, and lacked access to the decision maker.  Rather than research potential networking connections that might provide an introduction to the decision maker, I decided to dazzle my contact with the feature functionality of our solution.  I presented our company and product information talking slowly to make sure my contact was clear concerning our value proposition.
Due to my surprise of their lack of interest, I lost my presence of mind and recommended we move forward with a demonstration.  Needless to say, the meeting came to a rapid end and I was escorted out.  On the way out, I met our competition coming in.  Not taking this lightly, I broke into a rapid dialogue reiterating our product functionality, not stopping until our competitor had passed.
Fortunately, at this point I regained my presence of mind and was able to suggest a special deal hoping to skip right to a proposal.  At approximately the same time, however, we reached the lobby.  Without access to the decision maker I was on my own and time was running out.  As you might imagine, I began a rather rapid dialogue concerning after-sales support fearing my opportunity was slipping away. 
In the vicinity of the front door, I met a well-connected consultant walking side-by-side with the decision maker.  This encounter with the consultant and decision maker slowed me enough to realize I needed help.  I’m happy to report, as I walked across the parking lot, unable to continue my sales call, watching the consultant walk off with the decision maker; I had the presence of mind to make a networking request with the consultant.  Once I develop a joint value proposition with the consultant I should be back on track.
I hope I have furnished the information you required as to how my sales cycle stalled because, “I’ve been trying to sell alone.”

Are High Pressure Closing Methods Ever Justified?

Posted on March 15, 2016 at 3:56 PM Comments comments (0)

“Alan, you’ve been a real professional during this process; I’ve grown to trust you, and I honestly like you. You’re going to get this order. That is, if you don’t mess it up at the end.”


It was early in my sales career and I was sitting across the desk from my client, a bank president.  It was a complex solution situation that had been playing out for months.  He was finally holding my sales contract, valued at over one million.  This deal would make my numbers for the year, secure a promotion, and I was replacing a competitive system, making the win as sweet as they come.  As you might guess, my mind set was in “closer” mode.  I was now trying to force my will on him.  I wanted him to sign the contract right then and there in order to make it official.

NCR Corporation account executives had always been known for their sales ability.  The training received was second to none, and I was now leveraging that education for all that it was worth.  I wanted the deal to close, but my client was pushing back.  Actually, he was trying to coach me.  He was letting me know that an aggressive closing strategy was not going to overcome his objection and make him sign that day, and that I needed to turn the pressure down.  Thank goodness I got the message and made the right adjustment.

When you’ve been working a deal for months and are moving towards the close it can be difficult to resist the urge to apply some pressure.  In fact, lots of pressure; because by the end of a long competitive sales cycle your brain (and sales manager!) is screaming enough already!  After all, you want to close the sale before something happens to cause the deal to fall through.  Big deals derail all the time and no one fights you harder than a major solution provider who is about to be thrown out.
So, what was the hang up?  As it turned out, the president had decided to bring in a new VP to oversee operations.  That meant he still did not have everything quite lined up the way he wanted.  But I still had fears with that type of objection.  What if the new executive wanted to start the operations review all over again, and in the process change the decision?
In the age of social networking this is where I would normally explain how my online skills saved the day by immediately reaching out to establish a relationship with the incoming executive.  But this situation occurred long before LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.  In fact, Google wasn’t even around.  Then this story is ancient history!  What could we possibly learn from it?  Well, first of all, that this isn’t a story about overcoming objections, high pressure sales tactics or reacting to the introduction of new players during the sales process.  However; it does present a lesson on why it can be useful to establish a solid relationship at the highest point possible within an organization.  Are you building rapport, developing credibility and establishing trust at the highest-levels within your targeted accounts?  If not, you should probably consider it.
So, did I finally get the order signed?  The president didn’t sign it.  He had his new operations executive sign it.

Why your teleprospecting efforts are failing

Posted on February 25, 2016 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)

A mulligan, reload or redo; who wouldn’t like to have a second chance?  Sorry, when it comes to getting the ear of your targeted executive prospect you’re often lucky if you get a single shot.  That’s why I’m often amazed by the number of phone calls I receive in which the caller’s goal is to “set up a time to chat.”
If your targeted prospect actually answers your call are you prepared to initiate a conversation that will capture their attention and generate immediate interest?  Are you sure?  Here is how many of my conversations sound:
Targeted prospect (phone is ringing): 
 “Good morning, this is Alan.”   

Sales person: 
“Oh… Alan, hey thanks for picking up.  My name is John Smith and I’m with ABC Company. We are a one-stop blah, blah, blah solution company and I wanted to know if I could set up a time to chat about your needs.”

Targeted prospect: 
“Well, you’ve got the decision maker on the line now, so hit me with your best shot.  What’s in it for me? What can you say in the next 20 – 30 seconds that will keep my attention?”  (Yes, I say those lines.  I’m actually coaching them on how to efficiently and effectively talk to me.  I never act like a jerk, or sound sarcastic.  I’m totally sincere.)   

Sales person: 
(I can’t see them because it’s a phone call. But I imagine they now look like a deer in the head lights.)  “OK… sure…. Like I was saying we are a full service organization and I was hoping to schedule some time so that my support team and I could explore your current and future projects and see how we might help you.  We’ve done work for companies like Blah Company and More Blah Company.  Look, I know you’re busy, so if you have someone else on your team you want me to work with I’d be happy to do that.”   

Targeted prospect: “Well John, thank you for respecting my time, but I also like to be respectful of my direct reports time.  By that I mean if I can’t immediately see the strategic value then I certainly don’t want anyone on my team spending time trying to force something to fit.”  I’ll tell you what, I appreciate your call, and I’ve made a note of your company.  I’ll let you know if we run into something you might help us with.”  

Did I really “make a note?”  Have I ever called back the sales person after a conversation like that? Well, no, because there are no mulligans when it comes to first impressions.  Besides, I’m still not completely sure what they can do for me, and I’m not going to spend my time trying to tease out the value.  Let’s face it, their prospecting call fell short and I chose to end the conversation, I just wanted to be polite during the exit.  What’s that? You don’t agree that I was being polite?  Well, what if I agreed to a day and time for another call, and then just cancelled the appointment later?  I think we both agree that would be worse.
Do all prospecting calls flow this way?  Of course not, there are going to be occasions when additional time needs to be set up and other team members (for both buyer and seller) brought into the loop.  The main point here is that you need to be prepared, just like you were going on a job interview, when it comes to initial prospecting conversations with executive level decision makers.  Here are some of my internal thoughts to consider:
1. Yes, I do answer my phone quite often.  That’s why having an “appointment setter” call me is never going to work.  Look, if that business model helps your organization get productive business meetings then keep using it.  If you are in the business of selling that service and business is good, then continue selling it!  For me personally, it’s a waste of time.  The appointment setter might think they can “qualify” me as a prospect, but I won’t be able to qualify you.  The call is over if I can’t probe for your personal credibility or feel some level of trust developing.

2. Yes, I really do ask “what’s in it for me” type questions.  I don’t care what companies you are already doing business with or that your organization environment is a “Best Place to Work.”  I may care about those facts later on, but to initially get my attention you need to hook me with a story and touch an emotion.

3. Stop trying to close me on the initial call.  Yes, I understand, you have a monthly quota that needs to be retired.  I know that your boss has made a commitment to the executive office concerning your organizations quarterly results.  And that your marketing department would love to mount my brand logo on your “Our Customers” sales presentation slide.  But what keeps you up at night isn’t what keeps me up at night.  So start out by building a relationship that will open doors for me, not close deals for you.