Thursday, May 16, 2013

We Have Moved!

To keep all of our content in one place, we have consolidated to! You should be redirected to the new blog site automatically. However, if you are not redirected, please click here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Will You Be My Valentine? The Keys to Your Prospect's Heart

Sales and Marketing is not unlike online dating.  In any marketing or sales interaction, the goal is not just to make a sale, but also to build an ongoing relationship, one that will last year after year, budget after budget; you want to weather the storm together. Forever. True and lasting love.  This means starting with some really basic communication skills that can push you towards that lasting relationship and not just a first date with no call back. Turns out, a lot of marketers are thinking the same way: HubSpot just came out with a slide share presentation that has thought leaders talking about the kind of relationships that we, as marketers, and as sales should emulate in order to reach our love connection.

Let me take you back to the blizzard weekend. I was searching for some light and quick reading and stumbled upon Brian Donavan’s latest book, It’s not a Match: My True Tales of Online Dating Disasters.  Mr. Donavan has been on over 100, so at this point one would imagine that he has the entire system down. From how he wants his profile to look, to how he crafts his first emails, to what outcomes he foresees from each date.

Although this quick read was rather amusing, one part struck me: how he decides to craft his opener emails.  He has this down to a science.  Remember, he is marketing himself and he only has one email to do it in. And as sales and marketers, the same applies for us.

I thought I’d share some of his advice for crafting emails as I think there are a few things us B2B marketers could learn:

“Part 1: A Little About Them” – Donavan recommends writing TWO sentences about something that interested you about their profile.
In terms of marketing: Hint guys – This is the personalization part.  You don’t want to act like a stalker, but show you have spent a little time. Another hint – there are technology tools to help you discover this and even automate it.

“Part 2: A Little About You” – Donavan admits that this can be the form part of the email.
In terms of marketing: Fine, this can be your repeatable content or value prop.

“Part 3: Say Goodbye” – That’s it. Say goodbye and sign your name” 
In terms of marketing: Good sales people know not to talk through the close, so as marketers the same applies: don’t draw out the close of your email, reemphasizing “your value” where as most won’t even get that far before they delete.  You can, however, dangle the carrot with your CTA, which may lead to a demo; I mean, next date.

I’d like to tell the 30 various companies that emailed me today, that it wouldn’t hurt if they mentioned one little thing about me, before they launched into whatever product that I am never going to buy from them. EVER. 

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Add Attributes to Predict Football...Or Anything

Nate Silver and Predictions
Nate Silver is the guru when it comes to predictions.  If you don’t know him, he is famous or infamous for predicting the elections, sports games, and financials with his impressive statistical models. 

The Superbowl is pending, and here in Boston, we may not have our team competing, but that doesn’t stop us from watching and making predictions about who is going to take home the trophy.  And it certainly hasn’t stopped Nate Silver from predicting that the 49ers seem to have the odds in their favor.

Applying Attributes to Make Predictions
How does Nate Silver add attributes in order to predict that the 49ers are going to seal the deal? He builds models that scour historic data, behavioral data, any data that he can get his hands on. His algorithms are some, if not the best.  But, just like in his book, The Signal and The Noise, all predictions aren’t always right, but with the right data you risk being right more of the time. 

Prediction and Sales
Of course, I was going to bring this back to Sales.  Now all sales people may not be the Nate Silver’s of the world, but they certainly do try. Because that’s their job.  Sales is trying to add attributes to opportunities in order to predict which deals are worth focusing on.  But instead of building statistical models, every day they are using, both technology and also existing relationships to narrow in on which deals to pursue and prioritize.  Dare I say that sales are the bookies of the business world.  They must place their best bets in order to yield the most profitable results. 

Use Attributes to Change Information to Knowledge
In The Signal and the Noise, Silver states: “We think we want information when we really want knowledge.”  Information is  raw data before it is filtered and processed to best suit the sales reps’ needs. It is the relevant knowledge that IBM just had a security breech that might drive a sales rep to reach out based on the security products they sell. Timing is everything, as we all know.  These temporal attributes quantify information into knowledge, which dictates, which “bets” sales reps are going to go after.

We may not know for sure who is going to win the Superbowl, but by adding attributes we most certainly have a more realistic prediction to rest on our laurels.

And for our beloved Pats – You will gettem’ Next year!

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Add the Correct Attributes and Complete the Sales and Marketing Puzzle

In iLantern’s last post, I discussed the science versus the art of selling. Our fundamental belief is that the role of sales and marketers is to add attributes to create a holistic view of leads and to determine their position in the sales cycle in order to move them through the funnel.  If you believe in that statement, then you are open to seeing what tools help to add attributes so that sales and marketers can do their job more effectively.  There is no clear path to nirvana, no magic bullet that will do the work for you 100%, but there are tools available to make it easier. 

How does sales add attributes now and are they asking the right questions?
They get on the horn and start asking questions to the person that they have identified as the decision maker or someone who can point them in the direction of the checkbook holder. They should have a list of questions that help them to complete the puzzle of their seemingly nebulous lead. Here are some of our questions?

1. Do they have budget?
2. Do they fit the firmographic profile for our target base?
3. Are there compelling events that have occurred that could alter the decision process?
4. Have we located the decision maker?
5. Do they have a need for our services or product?
6. Do we know who else is bidding for the project?
7. Do we have any existing relationships that we can foster?

There are more questions even, but first and foremost, the bottom line is: do they have the budget?  Your lead can love your product, but if they don’t have the deniro– they ain’t buyin’.  Even though that is the most important question, like I said in the last post, it can come across as rude if asked straightforwardly, and furthermore; we all know that “buyers are liars”. Even if they didn’t have the budget, they don’t need to tell you. A good sales rep will do their best to gather information, triangulate and test the boundaries of questions that have been answered – testing the validity, and then make a proper assessment of whether to keep pushing or can the lead. A process that takes longer than watching water boil. Sales reps don’t have that luxury. The clock is tickin’.

Do marketers add the right attributes? Or are they still batch and blasting?
Marketers have a different role.  They aren’t getting on the horn; they are supplying the collateral, the content, the events, the buzz around the product to move people from cold to warm, warm to hot, and hot to sales. They have the luxury of automation to help communicate the right message to the right person.  But even though everybody claims to focus on segmentation, do many businesses actually implement segmentation based on the entire picture? Do they have one message and just spam it to their entire list still, even after everything written about the reasons not to do that?  Is the answer as simple as adding event data to help complete the puzzle, so the message actually resonates and helps to segment a list based on earnings and whitepaper downloads, bankruptcy and webinar sign-ups?

Adding attributes can be automated. Why, then, are we using our sales and marketing teams to make these discoveries and not prioritizing their time to act on the information that is easily spoon-fed with the right tools? Their role is to add attributes, so why not give them the tools to do it? Then, sales and marketers can focus on what humans are really good at: building trusting relationships.  Knowledge is power – a cliché we all know. By having the right tools, knowledge can come easily, completing the puzzle that much sooner, leaving more room for marketers to send the correct message and sales to use their people skills to close more deals because the right questions were asked and answered, truthfully. The data doesn’t lie.

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Friday, January 4, 2013

The Science of Selling vs The Art of Selling

There is an art to selling. A good salesperson knows how to use finesse when listening, talking, and triangulating—all skills that separate the champions from the lack-luster. But the art of selling is waning and the science of selling is waxing.

If you were a salesperson fifteen years ago you were given a laptop and a list of manufactures and were told to have at it.  As a salesperson your job was to discover attributes of any given lead or opportunity and legitimize if they were in a position to buy.  They were given the burden of the entire selling process; they had to discover which was a lead from the massive list and then, who was the key decision maker, what type of revenue, company size, reported earnings, or whether they had an M&A that may slow down the buying process.  An overwhelming amount of research for one salesperson for one opportunity.  Those with the personal network and refined selling skills still had to put in the time. An art, indeed.

Things are different today, if you want them to be. The science of selling moves to center stage.  Much of the research that sales previously had to do to qualify an opportunity can now be down with technology. 

All along the way the use of technology in the selling process helps to check the boxes that qualify the lead/opportunity.  Selling processes have been in place for a long time. Through each stage of the selling cycle certain criteria needs to be met in order to more thoroughly predict whether or not a deal is going to close. One of the most important criteria is: do they have budget? In the past, the only way to know, was to ask. That’s a pretty rude question to ask upfront. But, with the use of technology you can discover that information and drive a more meaningful business conversation: “I saw that you have had record earnings this year.  And your CEO mentioned that X is a priority.  Does this mean you are budgeting for X?”

The salesperson doesn’t need to add attributes independently, the role of technology can provide those missing attributes, letting the salesperson artfully deliver the right messaging at the right time.

Let’s say that marketing is responsible for adding in 50% of the needed attributes to qualify a lead on their end.  In the past, sales had to dig around for the additional 50% needed in order to tip the scale and fulfill the pipeline.  With the use of technology, sales may only need to add in 25% of the needed attributes. (Not an exact science, but moving closer). The tools available in CRMs and Marketing automation make it easier to qualify leads/opportunities by discovering the necessary attributes needed to glean an accurate picture of whether or not your forecast has attainable goals.

Now go take the art of selling baton to carry the last 25% of the race.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Event Data: You Complete M...y Marketing Automation

One of Hubspot’s latest posts recently landed in my inbox called: 3 Ways You’re not Using Marketing Automation (But Should be).  Immediately, my eyebrows rose in curiosity because at iLantern we have been thinking of so many ways that we could enhance the data within marketing automation.  So I clicked. Getting nearly giddy when I saw what their recommendations are for improving marketing automation.  We agree whole-heartedly, but wanted to add in some additional points.  We want to make your marketing automation more complete. Does Jerry McGuire really ever get old? I think not.  Repeat after me: ”You complete me.”

Here are Hubspot’s 3 additional usage tips for marketing automation:

-       This means set up nurturing campaigns and when we talk nurturing campaigns, we mean put your leads into the appropriate buckets dependent on their behaviors.
-       Enter iLantern. Behavior is just one data point, knowing event data about the companies that those leads are affiliated with makes your lead even more dynamic and viable once they get scored and eventually passed on to sales.

-       This really means setting up lead scoring algorithms.  When your lead has hit enough touch points they become qualified enough to push them through to your CRMs so your sales reps get notified of different actions to take.
-       Enter iLantern.  Our mission is to solve the sales and marketing divide.  How do we do that; well, we provide irrefutable data that sales and marketing teams can share and decide on appropriate messages based on that real-time event data.  It’s hard to argue with data, whether they have downloaded an ebook, listened to a webinar, and oh btw – they reported good earnings for that quarter, determines the messaging that you send to them.  I bet your sales rep would love to know that info so they can shoot them off a quick congrats and get a more solid foot in the door.

-       This means that the lead has hit all the necessary touch points and are ready to be contacted by a sales rep.  Providing the most vital firmographic information will make it that much easier for the sales rep to act immediately.
-       Enter iLantern – When we said diminish the divide we weren’t lying.  When you make it so your sales reps can do less work because you’ve used data to do all the legwork and provided easy ways for the rep to dive in, you have a happy rep. You can provide real-time event data as well as firmographic data. As a marketer, data has made your job easier too.  Event data is not only a boost to behavioral data, but a confirmation of what next steps should be in the nurturing process.

Hubspot’s suggestions for utilizing your marketing automation to its’ greatest potential is vital and will ultimately create a solid marketing and sales dynamic; but, our point is not just what to do, but what how to do it.  And to achieve your automation’s greatest potential, means incorporating event data/triggers as a boost to the other data that your automation systems are already retrieving.  The bottom line is let data be your agile guide through the marketing funnel and the sales pipeline.  Let data be the mediator between sales and marketing, so you can be on the path to not just great communication, but to more revenue. Go team!

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