As we kick-start the new year, it is evident that politically 2009 is the year of change, and commercially this is the case too. This is the year of pocket change. Trying to find a way to sell more with less, stretching less of last year’s marketing dollars to meet more of this year’s sales. Welcome in the New Austerity. We can try to run from this, or we can choose to embrace it. I suggest as we have no option, rush up and give the New Austerity a big hug. You don’t need to do lunch on a diet of curried squirrels cheeks, deep fried in ginger aspic and tricolore organic wild mushroom risotto washed down with California’s finest. There’s nothing wrong with hamburgers, or simply McDonald’s for that matter. Dunkin Donuts makes perfectly good coffee, begone no-fat, half-caffe, semi-tepid, sugar-free, vanilla substitutes, no foam, soy lattes. Begone I say.
The Siberian Winter has arrived and is here to say. At least for the next couple of Quarters anyway. So let’s make the most of it. We cannot enjoy unfettered budgets if we don’t at first accept and enjoy fettered, ham-strung, tiny budgets. Think TinyURL but for budgets. We must hunker down and find new ways to sell to people. We must get creative and find ways to sell more with less.
Here are some ideas for working within today’s new market.
1. Requirement. Spend less yet make more leads. This always sounds great, especially on a slide set for Senior Management. It is an interesting dilemma, embrace it in which case we may as well run the halls stating we were wasting money historically, or we can reject the idea which will quickly result in someone else sitting at our desk with the aforementioned PowerPoint.
a) Option A. Sit in the basement of your building with an alchemist’s wand and a large cauldron of boiling, mystical goo. Stay here until you have converted lead to gold, water into wine, and Contacts into Sales Qualified Leads.
b) Option B. The challenge with many businesses today is they seek a silver bullet, one thing that will solve everything. In this case, focus in on the lead generation activity you delivered in the past that directly produced the greatest return. It would be great if you had a system like Marketbright and could press a button to find this data. More companies do not have Marketbright than do (hurry up and fix that, it saves time later on), anyway chances are you can’t press the Marketbright Easy button. Sit down with sales, track it back, trust your instinct. Spend on those programs that generated the majority of business last year. (Seems obvious? Do any of your budgets show trimming of activities you know should in your heart should be stopped altogether?)
2. Requirement. More better (thank you GW we will miss you in 2009), qualified leads passed to sales people. The problem with this is we usually allow Marketing to define what they see as qualified. Then we allow Sales to decide whether it was qualified or not dependant on whether the lead closed, sales’ mood, whether the Sun was in Uranus, or if Punxsutawney Phil sees his own reflection (or something like that. I am British after all. At least I can spell Punxsu……..once is enough).
a) Option A. Let only Sales define what is and what is not a Qualified Lead after the close. That way we can declare victory and the sales team can go to the local bar, drink beer, eat meat and start fires.
b) Option B. Sales and Marketing sit down together and jointly decide what the end of the funnel should look like. Work their way back toward and initial contact both acknowledging and accepting some prospects will qualify out, some will be lost and there will not be a 1:1 close ratio. (Seems obvious? Please forward to me the document that Sales and Marketing both signed up to detailing the lead pipeline metrics and the expected conversion rates. I will issue a prize for the best one. N.B. both means Sales AND Marketing, not just sales declaring Independence and calling it done.)
3. Requirement. Accelerate the pipeline. (Blame Marketing for Lead Quality if any sales cycle goes beyond 31 days). Every sales cycles takes too long, in fact every business cycle takes too darn long. How long did it take you to interview your last hire? Then how long did it take you to get the offer letter out? Too darn long. We simply to have to move faster.
a) Option A. Prove the New Improved Sales Cycle has a 48 hour pipeline close time (as in, you have 48 hours and then it’s your badge). This can easily be achieved by taking the time from when the sales person starts working on the final order form, adding two weeks, then adding a week for safety, then adding a Quarter just in case. Start counting from there. You will not be far off and Senior Management will be amazed at the truncated pipeline. (You can also try putting buckets of oil over the door to the sales office. I have found this doesn’t do much to grease the pipeline but it sure is funny.)
b) Option B. Work with sales to identify those accounts that have the greatest propensity to move through the pipeline. Get ProSultative. (For those whose Christmas was a void due to the artful book ProSultative Selling being sold out on Amazon, this is when you are proactive with the delivery of information during a consultative sales process). Find out what is the minimum amount of information you need to give to a prospect to make them a customer and give it to them proactively. (Seems obvious? When did you last sit down with your counterpart in Sales or Marketing and really understand what was the least you had to do to covert a prospect to a customer?)
There is no point in anyone pretending 2009 is not the year of the New Austerity, therefore we may as well make the best of it. This does not mean buying all your work clothes at the local good will (though I have seen some start-ups where apparently this is a requirement), it does mean accepting the situation and applying your best judgment as to how to become more agile, more creative, and above all not to ignore the data that is sitting in our businesses. Find out what worked, do more of it. Accept what didn’t. Don’t do so much of that.