Apr 22 2019
Each April is a critical anniversary for Divining Point. This year we join the ranks of businesses who made it past the three-year mark. It’s a dubious distinction born from a grim reality. 30% of businesses fail in the first year.
Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t much better for the second, third, or fifth years. In most cases, the demise of a company is directly related to management and leadership failures that lead to poor decisions. Funny thing is…
We’re Actually 6 Years Old
Divining Point started in 2013 as a consultancy. Like many startups, we had something we wanted to share with the world. After 3 years of hustling in this gig we call marketing, we formally launched as an LLC in April of 2016. For us, that’s the birth date of our agency, even if we act a little older.
We reached the important one year mark in 2017 and shared a story about the lessons of being a nimble little shop. One year later, we felt pretty sure of ourselves and revealed a formula that seemed to work for us. A series of missteps in the summer of 2018 left us nursing our wounds and brushing dirt off our chins. Through it all, we can confidently say that staying true to our values is what keeps us in business today.
There are lessons worth learning from anyone still in operation after three years. We certainly don’t corner the market on business wisdom. Our simple goal here is to continue the tradition of sharing what we do so that others may find success.
Don’t Have All the Answers
Our clients come to us because they need a solution to a problem. Since each case is unique, we come to the table as a partner in search of the answers. In that regard, there’s no merit in being a “know it all”. Biases, assumptions, and preconceptions are completely unproductive.
At Divining Point – both internally and externally – we acknowledge we don’t have all the answers. If you’re looking for a marketing agency with “silver bullets”, we’re not your team. For starters, silver bullets don’t even work that well. Secondly, a silver bullet really only works for one problem (werewolves and monsters) and isn’t helpful for those of us in the real world.
It may be frustrating to work with a person who happily says “I don’t know” or “maybe” when asked tough questions about pernicious marketing challenges. It’s even more disappointing to put your faith in a team who fails to deliver on the promises they made during the sales phase of an engagement.
If you want to stay in business, our advice is don’t sell a bag of goods just to close a deal. There’s no quicker way to lose a precious client and earn a bad reputation. You can’t afford to do either. You’re better off taking a different approach.
In our case, we’re convinced that the best way to deliver value is to employ the scientific method to marketing. In fact, our process is broadly summarized like this:
- We ask questions.
- We do research.
- We develop a plan.
- We test the plan.
- We document performance.
- We analyze the results.
- We optimize.
Along the way we discover all the answers. In most cases we let the data tell us what works and what should change. In some cases, we depend on research, intuition and experience to guide our decisions. It’s not as quick or easy as the claims made by people with a “proven process” and “guaranteed results”. However, in the end you can rest assured that we’ll find a solution that works reliably for you.
Professionalism Is Not an Option
Austin is known as a fairly casual city. “Keep Austin Weird” is not just a catchy slogan. It’s a mantra to do things on our own terms in the spirit of individualism. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find shorts and sandals sitting at the same conference table with suits and ties. That’s quite alright with us.
Dress codes and corporate protocols are up to each business owner. What works for you could be a disaster in another industry. We recommend ignoring the universal standards of “professionalism” in all ways but one: your actions.
Acting professionally is not an option. It’s a mandate.
It’s become quite common for companies to take a lax attitude with the treatment of their clients. Some days it seems like the rules of decorum were scrapped in favor of “what’s natural”, “what feels good”, “what’s convenient” or “what’s in my best interest”.
The result is a broken dynamic of relationships that were once built on respect, trust and integrity. We’ve seen this first-hand with vendors and customers who’ve been burned too many times in the past by marketing agencies that ignored and disrespected them at every turn.
The rules of professionalism vary depending on the source. In some cases, there is an emphasis on professional attire. But as Austin illustrates, great business can occur regardless of the clothes. Professionalism is an intangible set of behaviors that looks something like this:
- Treat your customers with respect, even when they behave poorly.
- Follow through on your commitments.
- Address people properly.
- Practice quick, responsive communication.
- Avoid drama.
- Be competent.
- Practice empathy.
Even if you have a casual business model, a reputation for professionalism will always win you more fans and referrals. People want to be heard and supported. Acting like a professional will build faith in you and contribute to the long term success of your business.
DO Take No for An Answer
We take issue with the old saying “Don’t take no for an answer”. It’s an audacious way of making people yield to your will. This tired motivational phrase is especially common in sales, where inexperienced salespeople waste time and energy trying to force a “no” into a “yes”. Why even bother? There are hundreds of other customers who are ready, willing and able to move forward.
Let’s analyze what happens when you indiscriminately overcome all objections.
What if a person isn’t qualified or capable of doing what you want them to? You force them to act. They fail. They blame you. You’re left with the decision to continue supporting them or, even worse, walking away in shame.
What if you’re actually making a bad recommendation? They put their faith in you, despite their better judgment. Your plan fails. You’ve lost the trust and respect of the other person, and you’ve most likely created some costly consequences for you and them.
What if you’re forcing a deal with a difficult customer and they accept? Congratulations, you’ve got the sale. Guess what? You’re stuck with them now. You have no one to blame but yourself.
What if your plan is good but an even better one exists? You’ve lost an opportunity to demonstrate competency and deliver outstanding value to the customer. Businesses with a reputation for mediocrity don’t last long.
There are plenty of hypotheticals you can explore here, but ultimately you run the risk of jeopardizing your relationships, your business and your long-term success when you “don’t take no for an answer”.
Here’s a better alternative: be objective, be humble, and be open to the possibility that you may be wrong. Don’t be a fool. Sometimes “no” is a good thing. It may not serve your immediate goals or stroke your ego, but your needs matter less when it comes to doing great work for a good client in a healthy business relationship.
Beware of Fire Ants
Every business has to decide who they want to serve. Our advice is to be cautious of the “low value / high needs” client that doesn’t appreciate your time, your quality, or your worth. We call them “Fire Ants”.
For those of you outside of the South, fire ants (also known as the Red Imported Fire Ant) are an invasive species known for their aggression and destructiveness. They’re little. They’re unpleasant. They bite like hell. Sound familiar?
Fire Ant clients typically have a large amount of needs with very little budget. They scrutinize every single expense in an attempt to get you to lower your price. Conversely, they expect you to give them a higher level of service that doesn’t correlate with your negotiated agreement.
With Fire Ants, communication is poor, sometimes non-existent. Many of them micromanage your project or, even worse, are completely uninvolved until after you’ve performed your service – at which point they want changes. Every request is urgent. Every revision should be free. Every project turns into a spiraling cycle of scope creep that leaves you and your business in disarray.
To be fair, these clients have genuine needs. They should work with a team that can fulfill them. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be you. The perceived opportunities associated with Fire Ants are not worth the cost and headaches they bring. The best way to avoid being bitten is to prevent them from getting close in the first place.
Don’t take offense if you’re a Fire Ant. From what we can tell, most clients don’t recognize how destructive their behaviors can be. They just want the service or product “they thought” they were going to get. Therein lies the rub. Despite the best efforts of many businesses to clearly define the terms of engagement, Fire Ant clients have unrealistic expectations and an unwillingness to accept anything less than their demands. They don’t take no for an answer.
Bigger Things To Come
On this anniversary we’re blessed to work with terrific clients throughout the United States, including Alaska. Our footprint has expanded along with our team size and service offerings. We practice all of the learning lessons we espoused in our previous blogs, and it continues to serve us well. We’re optimistic that our best days are ahead of us.
While we work with businesses of just about any size, we look for the characteristics we think will bring about success and a long-term partnership. Our clients appreciate the power of a good brand. They value quality service, and they conduct business in a way that inspires loyalty with their clients. Are you a business like that? Contact us today. We’re here to help.
Dec 27 2018
Every year we look back at what we’ve achieved and what we have to look forward to in the new year. In 2018 we experienced growth that allowed us to bring on new team members, and we’ve vastly expanded our abilities to deliver real results for our clients. As 2019 comes rushing in, we’ve decided to share the 5 business lessons we learned in 2018.
Be Forward Looking
In 2018 we learned the true value of maintaining revenue projections and doing weekly bookkeeping meetings. New business sales are the lifeblood of any company, and continual cash flow analysis keeps the bottom line in check. We developed strict discipline with watching “cash in / cash out” always with an eye towards the future. It helped us achieve a YOY improvement that didn’t seem possible this time last year.
If you’re still trying to maintain your books, manage payroll, and crunch all the numbers for taxes and expenses, do yourself a favor and immediately invest in a good bookkeeper. As a business owner you have much better things to do with your time. Divining Point partnered with a bookkeeper (Greeley Street Consulting) who handles all things related to accounting, payroll, and taxes. It’s made all the difference in keeping us solvent.
Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster. It’s always moving forward over hills and troughs. If you’re still in business today – and you’re not heading for certain dissolution – then you have much to rejoice. But if you’re not executing a proactive strategy for future sales, then you’ll experience dips in your cashflow that could sink your chances for success.
Celebrate Your Failures
Sure, your achievements are opportunities to move forward, but your best learning experiences come from failure. In the second quarter of 2018 we made a conscious decision to part ways with some clients who needed a level of service we couldn’t (or wouldn’t) provide or who no longer met the criteria for our ideal client.
Two months later, two of our larger clients terminated their relationship with us.
The client-agency relationship with these clients was cordial (and appreciated), but they had an underlying cynicism about marketing – and a reluctance to communicate – that hindered our ability to solve their problems.
Suddenly we were thrown into a tailspin that presented real risk to everything we’d worked for in the first half of the year. We were immediately forced to do two things:
- Conduct a thorough postmortem to see what happened and why.
- Find new business fast.
What we learned during the postmortem was not only cathartic, it also helped us quickly generate new business opportunities.
In retrospect, the loss of clients was the best thing that happened to us in 2018. We were freed from unhealthy client relationships delivering services that drained our time and resources. At the same time, we were given the opportunity to fine tune all of our processes from top to bottom, which in turn enabled us to find success with other clients who needed us. It is a business lesson that made all the difference for our future.
The unintentional bloodletting of the Summer of 2018 breathed life into our company. It confirmed something we knew all along: an unwilling client isn’t worth the effort. As our favorite prophet of marketing, Don Draper, once said, “You already know about Jesus. He either lives in your heart or he doesn’t”.
Divining Point prides itself on producing measurable results for companies who believe in the value of a rock solid brand and who work hard to deliver great service from beginning to end. We don’t want to work with a company who scoffs at these concepts or thinks that marketing is just an expensive set of bells and whistles.
Our greatest success this year was going to market with a new attitude.
We won’t waste time your time or ours if you can’t see past your biases, honestly communicate with us, and eagerly embrace the change we bring to the table. By replicating this learning, we’ve expanded our client portfolio and improved our service delivery along the way.
As you can see, your failure can be your greatest success, and you can achieve remarkable growth if you learn from these experiences. Look at your business objectively and see how you can replicate success so that it builds up your company. Don’t dwell on failure. Get better.
It’s rare these days to have the same team for longer than a couple years. The US is experiencing all time lows in unemployment, and employees have more job opportunities available to them than ever before. Couple this with a young workforce that naturally drifts from position to position until they find their place in the world. It’s natural to experience turnover, but it adds disruption and significant costs to the operation of any business.
In 2018 Divining Point experienced turnover for a myriad of reasons. In one case we had to remove a toxic presence from the company. Another employee left for personal reasons during the summer when we changed our industry focus. Two other employees accepted generous offers from competitors. We wish them all the best in their future endeavors!
In every case we amicably ended our relationships. At no point did we have to terminate a position for financial reasons, for which we’re thankful. Each time we replaced these employees with new team members who further strengthened our company.
The lesson here is be prepared for turnover. It happens. It’s not very fun. It temporarily introduces disorder into the efficient process you’ve worked hard to create. But it’s a hallmark of good leadership – and teamwork – if your company can gracefully and respectfully handle turnover while continuing to deliver results for your customers.
Complacency Is A Luxury You Can’t Afford
There are hundreds of cliches you can use to describe entrepreneurship. Expect the unexpected. When life hands you lemons make lemonade. Don’t rest on your laurels. You get the picture.
Your business is a living organism that is always moving, always evolving, always experiencing setbacks you didn’t predict. You can’t afford to sit back and count money, even when sales are hot and profits are setting records. As soon as you stop hustling you stop growing – and your company begins to crack.
In 2018 we experienced all the growing pains every company encounters in critical growth years. We never allowed ourselves to be complacent or take anything for granted, and we’re better off as a result.
2019 is set to be another great year for us.
We strengthened our SEO capabilities to achieve top rankings through on page and off page techniques. We added a new Creative Director who will take our visual storytelling to a whole new level with exquisite photography and engaging videography. We expanded our capabilities to include email marketing, public relations, online advertising (outside of just social and search), and enhanced our reporting and research methods.
Need a team to take your business to the next level? Give us a call. We’re here to help.
Apr 06 2017
The Internet is full of articles from seemingly successful entrepreneurs dispensing valuable lessons from their first year in business. I recommend that you read them. Leaving the security of a job to start your own business requires confidence, determination, and all the free advice you can get. Hopefully what follows here are more useful kernels of wisdom to get you past the hard times as an entrepreneur.
A little backstory is in order. Divining Point is not my first rodeo. My first business was an unfocused mess of a company that helped me pay my way through college, taught me invaluable life lessons, and pushed me into a career path that inevitably brought me here today. In that regard, the first business was a success. But truthfully it resulted in me having to get a job and reconsidering whether I had the mettle to be an independent business owner.
Fast-forward to four years ago, Divining Point started off as a consultancy, like so many other companies do. I juggled roles. I took full time contracts and after hours freelance projects in order to keep pushing forward with the vision of doing my own thing. I delivered as much value as possible within each 24-hour day, and I did my best to do right by my clients. In April of 2016 I decided to refocus 100% of my efforts on the company and formally give it a name. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way that might be useful to you.
Nearly four years ago I left the stability of a good-paying job working with a team of professionals who challenged me, made me laugh, and treated me as an integral part of the organization. To complicate matters, just months before I left my job, I learned that my wife and I were expecting a child. Two weeks later my wife was laid off from a position as a chemical engineer that she’d held for 16 years. I had very little capital and almost no financial safety net. Most people in my shoes would have immediately postponed their plans. And yet, I still left.
Having been in sales and marketing for over 20 years, I knew I could hustle. I also knew I could help clients get on track with their companies and provide them with valuable strategies for sales and marketing. All I needed to do was push forward and get over the fear of failure. Really, the worst thing that could happen would be having to get another job.
Embrace the possibility of failure. Accept the risk of financial setbacks. Stay organized and don’t get distracted by the worries in your stomach. Running your own business is an exercise in taming your fear while continuing to work nonstop at peak performance. If you’re not brave and if you’re not focused you’ll get off course and your business will die.
Redefine Yourself… Often
If you’re like most people your business will change frequently over many years. The opportunities to service clients and deliver useful products will inevitably evolve. Your company will pivot. Your focus will shift. Technology will change. You will suddenly find yourself making money in ways that didn’t seem possible before. That’s a good thing. In fact, we believe transformation and growth are critical components of success.
While this change is healthy, what is absolutely disastrous is the failure to redefine your company IN CONJUNCTION with the shifts in your operations. You may identify new opportunities and develop a plan to capitalize on new revenue, but your long-term success will be capped without a roadmap that guides your decision-making.
To use a more personal analogy, the person you are today is uniquely different than who you were ten years ago. Your core values may be constant, but the way you manifest and embody those values isn’t. What you do, who you speak to, who you service, these are all fluid. As your company grows you should redefine your brand strategy, identity, messaging, and positioning… even your website. Do it often and stay ahead of the changes in the market.
Be Passionate About Your Business
Love what you do and whom you do it for. It seems simple enough, but it’s much harder in practice. New entrepreneurs do things they really don’t want to do in order to make money in the early stages of their company. These mistakes are easy to shrug off if you see them for what they are: short term sacrifices.
The trap comes from repeating these “mistakes” over and over in the pursuit of consistent revenue. You take on too many projects that don’t fall in line with your core competencies. You work with difficult clients in segments outside of your area of expertise. You work long hours in pursuit of poorly fitted “money makers”, and before long the once bright vision of your company is now cloudy and grim. You may as well be working for someone else.
Don’t take the bait. At some point you need to say No. Do it as a commitment to your company. Be crazy in love with your business in ways that prevent you from cheating on yourself. Find those things you enjoy doing the most that bring the greatest value to your ideal clients – and then stick with it. Be faithful to this vision.
Don’t Pretend To Have All The Answers
One of the best lessons I ever learned happened on accident. About 12 years ago I met with a GM of a local auto dealership, and he stumped me with a question I couldn’t answer. I froze for a moment and then gave him the truth: “I don’t know”.
He nodded and said, “I respect a man who isn’t afraid to say he doesn’t have all the answers.”
Truth of the matter is no one has all the answers. Having the humility to accept this fact can actually lead a person to greater success. In most cases it’s better to ask questions in pursuit of the truth[nbsp_tc]instead of coming to the table with a ton of preconceived ideas or solutions.
To extend this even further, not having all the answers can lead to greater collaboration within your organization, better connections with your clients, and more meaningful discoveries. Surround yourself with smart employees, contractors, partners, and clients. Be the conduit that guides all of these energies towards great things instead of being a controller that eventually burns out and turns everyone off.
A very wise friend by the name of Steve Reilly once told me, “Every new opportunity is a bridge to the next stage in your business. Early in your business the bridges will be small, but they’ll become bigger and bigger over time.”
As I mentioned above, short-term sacrifices make sense early in your company’s genesis. They are bridges to take you to your next destination, but eventually you’ll need to build bigger bridges in order to go further and reach the places you want to take your company. That means saying No to bad deals and saying Yes to deals that challenge you to stretch outside of your comfort zone – but still within the industries, services, and client types you’ve identified as ideal fits for your company.
Building bridges also means partnering and networking with people and companies who share your ideals and visions for success. These personal bridges become channel partnerships, referral sources, and cool collaborations that bring about wonderful case studies. Be generous in sharing opportunities with these key allies… and pretty much with everyone you meet. Life rewards people who operate from a position of abundance.
Building bridges includes managing client engagements with the intention of establishing long-term relationships instead of short transactions. No matter if you sell a commodity or a complex solution, the customer experience should always increase brand loyalty. The client’s needs should always be in mind as you conduct with your daily business.
If you think you have what it takes to start your own business, do it. Get out, get hustling, and start building those bridges that will take you to where you want to go. The upside is huge. You work for yourself. You work with great employees and contractors. You establish good relationships with clients, and you make money. The worst thing that can happen is you have to go get a job. As a person on his second go round as an entrepreneur I can tell you that’s a perfectly okay outcome, too.
Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.
Mar 15 2017
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
The sales department is frustrated because the leads coming in are unqualified and unprepared to pay the rates set out by upper management. This in turn affects their ability to hit their sales goals. They blame the marketing department for not listening to their feedback about the services and products qualified clients are buying. Even worse, when the sales team closes a deal, marketing tries to take some of the credit.
The marketing department is frustrated because they are building demand for the services and products defined as top objectives by upper management. They blame the sales department for not converting more of these primed opportunities that come through the funnel. Even worse, when the sales team closes a deal, marketing gets none of the credit. Even upper management questions their value.
See the problem? A disconnect is causing significant friction and a toxic environment.
Upper management is handing down goals, objectives, and rates that appear removed from facts on the ground.
Sales sees Marketing as disconnected from the reality of the marketplace.
Marketing sees Sales as inept and unable to close qualified opportunities.
In this example there is no cohesive set of guidelines or principles guiding the various teams in the organization. Moving forward is like herding cats. Everyone is running in different directions. The consequences of this dynamic are obvious.
Sluggish sales performance occurs in key service and product areas that results in missed revenue targets
The company experiences turnover from frustrated and unsatisfied team members
Company culture deteriorates and begins to affect other areas of the organization
Even the brand itself starts to lose equity with customers
How On Earth Did We Get Here?
There are countless reasons why an organization dissolves into tribalism and internal competition, but the process of disintegration happens so slowly that most teams don’t recognize the breakdown happening around them. Teams fracture and drift apart into independent silos free from distractions from the other departments.
You may recognize many of the attitudes that occur inside the silos.
- “This is the way we’ve always done it!”
- “I don’t trust .”
- “I don’t want anyone messing with my . I’ve worked hard to get things running smoothly!”
- “What if we miss our goals?”
- “They have no idea what they’re talking about.”
Once an organization loses touch with one another it takes a seismic change to bring the various components back into (buzzword alert!) synergy.
Get the Band Back Together
Say the word “synergy” in a room full of your best employees and watch their eyes roll back in their heads. The mere thought of cohesive communication conjures up images of fruitless meetings, memos, and inaction; and for good reason. The old “Death By 1000 Meetings” phenomenon can be just as unproductive as internal tribalism. Or worse, companies talk a good game about bringing teams together, but then no one really follows through. Within a couple months things return to how they were before.
It doesn’t have to be that difficult, and it doesn’t have to devolve into feigned kumbaya team building. Start by reexamining the company’s brand strategy. What are the company’s values, mission, and overall plan for connecting with clients? Explore these together as a cohesive team. Encourage each member of sales and marketing to consider how their current activities propel the company forward towards revenue goals, or conversely how their silos hold the company back.
Establish channels of communication and strategies that allow sales and marketing to give valuable insight and guidance to one another. This may come in the form of joint sales and marketing meetings during which productive conversations can occur about goals, training on new products/services, methods of reaching customers, and how each team can contribute to the success of the organization. These meetings could even act as a brainstorming session that provides valuable feedback to upper management or other departments in the company.
Note: these meetings don’t have to occur all that frequently. They just need to happen.
Another activity is to map the customer journey together. Explore how each team engages the customer as she moves from Awareness to Conversion. Provide updated information about buyer personas, buyer behavior, and what truly motivates the buyer to make a purchase. Sales and marketing teams have unique perspectives on this, which can be incredibly informative for the other team.
The aforementioned process should also include an exercise that defines a qualified lead versus an unqualified lead. This is a helpful characterization for just about everyone on the business side of the company. If you can’t identify a qualified lead you will find yourself dedicating time, money, and resources to people who have no intention of buying. This activity alone could reduce headaches and heartbreaks across the company.
Embrace New Tools And A New Future
I expect many leadership members to read this next section and say “AHA! Let’s buy new software!” But it’s not quite that simple.
Don’t be afraid of new technology or new methods of reaching customers. If your company holds the mentality of “This is the way we’ve always done things”, then this definitely applies to you. The fact of the matter is that society and buyer behaviors are changing very rapidly thanks to technology. For better or worse, old tools may still “work”, but they may also be inefficient, provide no security, or (even worse) don’t adapt quickly to changes in the market.
Embracing new tools may mean investing in updated software like CRMs, marketing automation, or interdepartmental communication platforms (like Slack…. We LOVE Slack). But before you open up your wallet and throw money at the problem, think critically about what bottlenecks occur in communication and with executing a cohesive sales and marketing strategy. Compare that with the brand strategy and the buyer journey. If you see pain points that prevent you from motivating buyers or converting leads in ways that are consistent with your core values, then find solutions to fix those kinks. That may also include replacing team members that are toxic to the overall mission.
Finally, don’t accept mediocrity. Your customers deserve better, and frankly so do you. The silos in your organization may be delivering “just fine” for now, but better teamwork is always a good thing. We may not have covered your unique problems within this article, but that shouldn’t be grounds for giving up and accepting the status quo. Eventually your silos will run out of grain and your company will be just another rusty relic on the horizon of the past.
Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.
Sep 21 2016
You’ve heard it said before, often with a smug tone and a noticeable air of relief:
COLD CALLING IS DEAD!
All you need is research, a handful of online marketing tools, and a strategy to attract leads to you. Inbound marketing killed the cold call.
But did it really?
Let’s say you’ve identified a company who fits the criteria of your ideal client. We’ll call them “Company A”.
What happens when “Company A” doesn’t respond to your marketing? They don’t see your social media. They don’t open your emails. They don’t click on your ads. They don’t respond to your well-placed content and blogs. They’ve effectively tuned you out. What happens then?
Some marketing gurus would tell you that “Company A” isn’t qualified. They aren’t a warm lead. They haven’t opted in for messaging about your product or service, so they’re most likely not ready to buy. You are wasting time pursuing “Company A” when there are other qualified leads to push into the funnel.
They might even tell you to rethink your strategy and invest in better marketing.
COLD CALLING WORKS BEST WHEN YOU KNOW HOW, WHEN & WHY TO DO IT
Let’s acknowledge something here:
Marketing and advertising DO produce results.
They work especially well when you know how, when and why to use them. The same holds true for cold calling.
Marketing and advertising bring interested leads into the funnel and enable your sales team to gracefully convert warm opportunities. Who doesn’t love that? But this model takes time, and it’s still not 100% effective at capturing all of your ideal clients. There is no silver bullet.
With marketing, your sales success relies on one critical prerequisite:
“Company A” knows they need something, they want to buy, and they know you have it.
Cold calling quickly solves a tougher problem:
“Company A” doesn’t know they need something, they don’t want to buy, and they don’t know you have it.
Some people call this an unqualified lead. The truth is, it’s an uninformed and misunderstood lead.
Good salespeople assess the market and understand their offering well enough to know which kinds of clients derive the most value from what they sell. They can quickly qualify a prospect during a brief conversation.
Good salespeople also know that the time will come when inbound leads dry up and their network will fail to deliver referrals. That’s when they pick up the phone.
BUT COLD CALLING IS BAD
Think about the last time you received a call from a telemarketer.
It interrupted your day. You could hear the sounds of a call center on the other line. The sales rep hastily stuttered through a script, and – CLICK – you hung up on them.
If you were kind enough to stay on the phone, you were treated to a pitch designed to get you to buy something. They may have even told you there was no obligation to buy, but you’d never be able to tell. They goaded you and used pushy techniques to “overcome objections”. Then they tried to “close” you long before you were ready to buy.
At no point was the call focused around your needs. At no point were you given control of the conversation. In the end, you felt annoyed and manipulated.
This approach to cold calling has created an environment so toxic that people today are averse to any kind of direct, unsolicited sales outreach that actually involves talking to a stranger. You can call it social awkwardness or a reluctance to interrupt a person’s day, but more likely, it’s the result of head trash that says, “Cold calling is a nuisance” and “Cold calling is bad”.
Walk into a room of sales people and ask for a show of hands: “How many people like making cold calls?” 99% of the time, no one does.
It’s no wonder why people celebrate the death of cold calling.
Weak salespeople always take comfort in the news that cold calling is dead. They eagerly stick their hands out ready to catch warm leads they can easily convert. These people deserve some credit for doing their jobs, but many companies will struggle without a quicker outreach strategy – especially during hard times.
Anyone with experience closing millions of dollars in new business will know that one of the greatest strengths of an outside salesperson is their ability to pick up the phone and go directly to the Ultimate Decision Maker. It takes very little research, very little time, and it cuts to the chase.
STOP SUCKING AND MAKE THE CALL
We’ve heard companies say, “We’ve tried cold calling. It doesn’t work for our business.”
Okay. Does your business involve decision makers? Do the decision makers have phones? The answer to both is almost always, Yes.
Most likely, the reason why cold calling doesn’t work for your business is because you don’t know how, when, or why to do it. And when you try it, you’re just not very good.
How do you measure success on a cold call?
What is your success rate on the phone?
Are you calling the right person?
Do gatekeepers constantly shoot you down?
Are you asking the right questions?
Do you have an outreach strategy?
Have you turned over control of the call to the prospect?
Have you ever recorded yourself on the phone?
If you’re confused about any of the questions above, you should call someone to help. There is a time and a place for cold calling, and when executed properly it will create the immediate results you need to see real growth and transformation for your company.
Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.
Jun 01 2016
You’ve seen it before. Grand Opening! Grand Closing… Sometimes within a year.
Right as a company is soaring to its greatest heights, in comes an unexpected storm, and down it goes. In many cases, the demise of a company is predictable and preventable. Danger is apparent long before the drop in altitude occurs, but the pilots of the plane (the CEO and/or management team) ignore the signs until it is too late.
The Internet is chock full of articles listing how and why companies fail. Here is another one. This list is by no means comprehensive or the final say on the matter. In fact, there are a wide variety of reasons why companies fail. Listed here are the common challenges we’ve witnessed first-hand – and done our damnedest to prevent – for small to mid-size companies.
Not Being Prepared
“Success is when opportunity meets preparation”. Remember that old trope? Well, it’s true.
Businesses that plan and prepare are better suited to capitalize on favorable circumstances when they arise. Those that don’t prepare – or stay prepared – are certain to die. But what does “preparation” mean?
Preparation can be something incredibly basic, like commercial insurance or cash reserves. Are you prepared for a lawsuit? A major liability claim? An unexpected expense? Are your books in order? Have you prepared for a slowdown that is beyond your control? All too often companies slide by and take risks that would sink the business if their gamble doesn’t play out positively.
Preparation also means seeing the changes in the industry before they happen. Is there a lean and hungry competitor quietly eating up market share? Is your product or service about to be disrupted by technology to the point of irrelevance? Or is your line of work suddenly cheaper to fulfill with an overseas firm?
We empathize with busy business owners who are so far in the weeds they can’t see the horizon. A second set of eyes and an impartial opinion are invaluable for the future of a company.
Not Listening To Customers
This is as critical as having a plan – maybe even more. To put it plainly, you attain a dangerously high level of tone deafness if you don’t listen to your buyers. They know your brand from the perspective of a “user”, and they’re ordinarily frank with their feedback. They can tell you all the strengths and weaknesses of your product or service, and (most useful) they can also alert you to opportunities and threats.
Every engagement with a client should be followed with some feedback process that informs and educates you on ways to improve. This could be as simple as an email campaign or a built-in functionality that solicits ranking and reviews. For a more personal approach, a post-contract interview will help you discover invaluable criticism.
Ignoring the needs and concerns of your customers is a sure way to see your company decline precipitously. Just as the needs of your business have to be met, the needs of your customers go way beyond the benefits of the tangible product or service. They want to be appreciated, understood, and treated as an important part of the entire business model.
Getting Price All Wrong
Are you priced correctly? Is your rate too high or too low? Does your model appropriately cover all of your fixed costs, variable costs, and surprises? How are you priced relative to your competitors? What is the perceived value of your product to the buyer? These are critical questions that must be regularly explored.
There are obvious traps with getting this wrong. Pricing too low leaves money on the table and creates supply challenges – not to mention potentially damages your brand. Pricing too high could kill demand and drive away strategic opportunities at a critical time.
Companies need to carefully collect sales data to discover a greater understanding of how their pricing strategy affects their success. All too frequently we see established companies (who should know better) pushing forward blindly with a pricing structure that does not account for costs, historical demand, competitive data, or a reasonable amount of profit to support future business initiatives.
The three traps above eventually affect sales, the lifeblood of any company. If you’re not running a sales organization your company is either dependent on charitable contributions or destined for doom. Even fundraising (of the non-profit variety) is a type of sales process – with a prospect, a pitch, a pipeline, and a close.
All too often companies focus on private capital to keep their plan in motion without ever determining if the market will even buy their product. A well-written market analysis and carefully selected focus groups can tell you there is opportunity in the market, but at the end of the day, you still have to sell.
Let’s hit pause for second.
Sales is both a science and an art.
For many people, sales is the absolute least enjoyable part of running a business. Some CEOs do a great job promoting their own company and autonomously closing deals. And yet they don’t appreciate or fully understand the effort a salesperson puts forth to sell something they neither control nor own. Conversely, some small business owners would rather do anything besides sell their own service, which ends up forcing them to make deals that jeopardize the company.
Whether you’re a CEO of a growing company or a single-member business owner, you could probably benefit from sales training. We’re big fans of the Sandler selling system and SPIN selling, but there are plenty of great methods to explore. Just remember to stay curious, fully explore your customer’s needs, present compelling value to the buyer, and ask for the business.
Failing to Evolve
We’ve saved the best for last.
If you’re reading this you’re most likely over the age of 25… and if you’re not, congratulations! You have way more sense than we did at your age. Think about how many companies, products, services, and solutions have disappeared over the last 5 years. 10 years. 20 years. 30.
We don’t want to call out names, but you’ve seen more than your share of outdated models that keep hanging on for far too long.
The most sustainable and successful companies learn ways to evolve over the years. Whether it’s an important pivot to meet client demands or a massive marketing investment to position a product to new buyers, evolution is a healthy process that opens up more opportunities in the long run of a successful company.
Being prepared and listening to your clients will help you establish an effective price that drives sales and supports all the necessary transformation your company needs for long-term success.
Now go out and do good things!