Category Archives: Planning

Marketing’s Role In The Selling Process

Managing Your Role In The Selling Process Is Key To Marketing Success

You have all seen this before – the classic “Selling Process” (aka “the Sales Funnel”.  Any marketer you come across should be able to explain to you how this works – in theory.  The challenges happen when the marketing team’s idea of how this works does not align with upper management.  Unfortunately, this is a very common occurrence.

The Selling Process

 

What happens when the board or C-Suite have a different view of Marketing’s role in this process than you have?  At a minimum, you end up wasting precious resources.  At a more serious level, this can lead to some pretty tough discussions.  This can all be amped up if sales results are not meeting expectations.  So . . . getting alignment is key.  But how do you get there?

Aligning Expectations on The Selling Process – Three Simple Steps

Achieving alignment may not be easy, but you can get on the right track by following these three simple steps.

  1. Get to know how your sales team interacts with customers.  There is no substitute to seeing this live in the field, preferably right in front of the customer.  Are there things you could provide them with to accelerate this process?  Are they calling on true qualified leads, or are the “customers” glorified cold calls?  Ask your rep:  How do you define a qualified lead?  It is crucial you perform this first before jumping to step 2.
  2. Ask Executive Management what they expect from Marketing. Yes – you need to ask them.  Ask them to describe (in detail) how they see marketing’s role in this Selling Process.  This is not a 15 minute discussion.  It might not be completed in a single meeting.  Be sure you are asking many questions, and taking good notes.  Let them know you will be doing a lot of “capturing” and will need this great input from them as you develop your marketing strategy.
  3. Re-Define Your Marketing Strategy.  You are now armed with very valuable information from the market as well as the company principals.  Your marketing strategy will be centered on alignment.  First you include recommendations for changes in how you equip the sales team to drive new business.  Then the tougher one.  You have to point out areas in which executive management has to “modify” their expectations.  They will be far more accepting of this when you wow them with your field research.  Along with your updated marketing strategy and planned activities.

Having these valuable conversations with the field and executive management will begin the alignment process.  You will likely discover other nuggets/ideas in the process that should also help drive results.  Time to start having those conversations – and asking questions!

 

 

 

 

Launching a New Initiative

New Initiative - VisionLaunching a New Initiative?  Start with a Clear Vision

It sounds cliche, but it is surprising how often things get started in an organization as a “groundswell effort” instead of a properly planned new initiative.  If you think this is happening to your latest project, take time to reflect.  Without proper planning, the new initiative will stall out and will not reach its full potential. You need to take corrective action. Here are five tips to make sure your launch is smooth and that it continues to progress once you have launched it.

  1. Have vision. The reason many new efforts fail is not because they are not inspired or ultimately helpful—it is because they do not have vision. What they are designed to do, the purpose behind the effort, and the benefits to the organization are not clearly defined. Without these three aspects being clearly articulated, you may not be able to sell your initiative to relevant stakeholders, nor actually get it off the ground if it is given the green light.
  1. Get support from the organization. Trying to launch a new initiative without the support from your organization is nearly impossible. Make sure that they are committed not just to the idea, but to long-term implementation. Like giving birth to a baby, your effort needs nurturing, not just at the start, but over its entire life.
  1. Build a great team. The right team can make all the difference. Someone needs to be the champion of the cause. This person should be a great leader and they should have a firm grasp on the initiative’s vision and its direction.  You also need to recruit team members with varied backgrounds for the various elements you need to address.
  1. Make your objectives clear. Only when you have clear objectives will you really be able to give direction to your new initiative , keep it on track, and measure your success. Before the launch, you should have a hypothetical timeline with specified dates as to when you are going to deliver certain things and when you are going to achieve certain goals. This doesn’t have to be a concrete plan, but you must have general guidelines spelled out upfront.
  1. Be flexible. A common reason new projects fail is because they are not prepared for when things do not go as originally planned. Prepare to be flexible, so that you can easily adapt to any changes or shifts. It is not impossible for the initiative to be quite different in final form than was originally planned.  That’s OK.  It means you got something started, made proper adjustments, and now have provided something valuable for your firm.

If you follow these basic guidelines, you will be on track with your new initiative.  Be patient, and seek small victories.  You will keep the team and your firm engaged.

Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation:  Seek Company-Wide Commitment

Virtually all organizations are striving to be more digitally enabled. As with anything, a small minority are true leaders, some are pitiful laggards, and most are somewhere in the middle.

Digital TransformationThe digital leaders have woven digital elements into virtually every aspect of their organizations, not merely in their Web presence. Elements such as integrated call centers, connected sales reps, and seamless customer experiences are all indications of digital savviness.

If your firm is on the wrong end of the bell curve when it comes to digital integration, you are probably experiencing some form of “digital envy”.   While serious, this condition is treatable given a firm commitment to widespread change.  In short – you need a “digital transformation”.

Here are a few actions you can take to initiate a digital transformation at your firm:

  1. Point to the competition:  Do a competitive site analysis that shows your competition is beating you.
  2. Obtain customer feedback:  Nothing speaks louder to c-suite management than the views of top customers.  Some pointed comments from key customers can be very impactful.  This can be very powerful.
  3. Point out some glaring problems.  Should not be too hard to do.  If you are feeling bold, as some key executives if they are proud of various functions.  Don’t just point out the problems.  Have a solution in place.  (See #4)
  4. Create a high-level plan: Explain of how the digital-transformation could work including theoretical timelines, expenses, resource allocations, etc.
  5. Recruit some influential change agents:  These key individuals will help you “fight the fight”.  You can’t fly solo on this.  Think CMO, key sales team executives, CIO etc.  Feel free to share the customer feedback as you are recruiting support.

If you take these few steps (simple, not easy) you probably have a “ticket to admission” to have an initial conversation with executive management.  Don’t expect rapid success.  Change is hard, and requires that your key leadership get out of their comfort zone.  Your job is to raise their collective consciousness.  Be aware, they are likely to resist at first.  Remember – it is a digital transformation.  Not a digital “overnight makeover”.

Be patient and keep chipping away.  You will get there.

Digital Project Planning: Beware The “Magic Wand” Syndrome

The “Technology Challenged” Often Think The Technology Itself Can Make Up For Poor Project PlanningDigital Magic Wand - you still need proper project planning

There is a fairly prevalent situation that occurs in which technology savvy team members are asked to transform a half-baked idea/concept into some digital solution.  Unfortunately the non-technology folks are under the false impression that the technology itself (like a magic wand) will correct poor planning, faulty assumptions/bad logic etc.  This can cause strife and lead to friction among team members.

How do you combat this problem?   There are a few simple things you can do that help minimize (not prevent) this from occurring:

  • Require that a “project sponsor” be assigned to the business side of the project.

It is key that the project has one main sponsor who is the lead and has overall responsibility for project success.  If one is not evident, ask that one be appointed before moving forward.  The sponsor is vital because you will need a “go to” person for various circumstances and without one lead you are subjected to group decision-making which is ill-advised.

  • Start the project planning process with a “concepts discussion” meeting with project sponsor.

Prior to the formal requirements gathering, it is beneficial to get an “elevator pitch” from the sponsor that basically answers the question “what are we trying to do here?”. It is surprising how often the sponsor cannot clearly put into words the concepts of what they are looking to accomplish.  If the sponsor can’t do this – the project is doomed from the start.  Send them back to think it through and schedule another meeting when their thoughts have matured.

  • Ask the project sponsor many questions up front (in writing if possible).

This may sound quite obvious, but it is surprising how often this does not happen.  It is a crucial error to “get started” on a project without complete understanding of the requirements/framework.  Make sure the sponsor understands that pre-planning is necessary and the project will not start until sufficient background information is obtained.What you are seeking is a commitment on the part of the project sponsor to provide adequate background prior to starting the project.  Just like you wouldn’t ask a builder to start work on your dream house without plans – same applies here.

Here are a few starter questions:

Who is going to be using this digital tool?  How will they access/find it? What do you expect them to accomplish by using it?  (If dynamic, who is going to be responsible for maintaining the data that feeds it?

  • Don’t fall into the trap of estimating timelines too early.

Eager project sponsors will try to solicit a time commitment for the project, well before the requirements gathering is in full swing.  If asked for a completion date before the requirements are complete, there is a very simple answer to the inevitable question “When will it be done?” The proper response “I cannot tell you when until we know “what” it is and “how” we will build it.

While you cannot immunize your team from getting involved in misdirected projects, proper due-diligence on the font end can help minimize the number of times you have to re-group and restart the project.

Proper project planning prevents poor performance!