Case Study: Is the Problem Marketing or the Marketer?

Lead Generation and Lead QualificationThe Phone Call…

“Am I going crazy?” Having just answered the phone, I had no idea who was calling and asking such a question of me. I responded with a courteous, but cautious chuckle saying, “Well…I think I’ll need a little more to go on. With whom am I speaking?”

She paused, told me who it was, laughed rather distractedly, then proceeded to dive right into describing her dilemma from today’s meeting with the Marketing Director from her “problem division.” She is the Sales Director of a firm in which I knew a bit about, particularly with the company’s background and this particular division’s struggle.

In summary, sales were strong across all of her other divisions and lines, each of which had their own marketing leader, while she led the Sales across all divisions. Things were great, that is for all but this one division. Sales continued to decline year over year and had high lead dependency from Marketing, thus her concerns.

The Rest of Her Story…

The sales model is B2B with an outbound sales team that sells consumer products ranging from $200 – $1,000. As described earlier, they are highly dependent upon Marketing to deliver leads.

The Division Head and Marketing Director were both new to this division in 2011 and had stepped in with a new, radical, $1M cost-reduction strategy for marketing. The new marketing mantra became for the next two years, “Less Quantity, More Quality!”

This strategy resulted in lead reduction of 60% in 2011 compared to 2010. In 2012, the leads dropped another 40% from 2011. Not surprisingly, sales had correspondingly declined steeply, more so than any other recent period. While sales did have a dramatic decline, it was nowhere near the rate of decline for the lead volume.

The Sales leader saw neither quantity nor quality from marketing, and as she describes it, the numbers supported her version of the story. Despite the numbers, the Marketing Leader and Division Head remained committed to defending their original strategy a year and a half into it with major revenue losses, and subsequently showed no openness to a different, or better strategy.

Towards the end of 2012, she managed to get a commitment from Marketing for substantially more qualified leads in 2013, although to the Marketer, ‘qualified’ apparently meant email, number and “Request for literature.”

Additionally, the Marketer’s commitment was simply to an aggregate number of leads on a monthly basis, but not by geography, firmographic, demographic, product type or other. His tactic? Email marketing….it’s part of the ‘cost-reduction’ plan.

Today, prior to the call and after her meeting with the marketing team, she made her plea for more qualified leads as the current lead quantity left her outbound team with capacity in excess of 60% going into their largest quarter of the year.

After her meeting, she shared that in addition to the quantity of leads being a third of what they needed, 80% of them were for two of  their 10 product lines. This meant that they had on average  a half-lead per rep to call on each day for the remaining products….not enough to meet the sales plan.

“A Lead is a Lead is a Lead!”

Through frustration, the Marketer responded to her plea for more balanced and qualified leads with saying, “A lead is a lead is a lead. We know that regardless of what product type we market, more than half of the prospects will want something different anyway. We could collect leads on just one of our products and it wouldn’t matter. All that matters is that you have leads of any type, then your team can determine what they really need.”

Again, the sales exec says to me…this time through tears…“Am I going crazy? Do I have my expectations set too high? Is it unreasonable to ask marketing to know the customer well enough to hit who they’re aiming at? Maybe I am the problem. I don’t feel like I am but it just seems like we need to change our approach to marketing.”

I responded, “Being crazy and unreasonable is not your problem, although your 2-year tolerance may be a part of the problem. It sounds to me like there is a much larger issue at play here…”

Change the Marketing, or the Marketer?

I speak with people in Sales and Marketing roles from all over the country. From executives to analysts to reps. Lead generation and qualification is by far, one of the most common frustrations I hear.

No matter who I am working with or from what field, I am pretty quick to keep the responsibility and accountability with each respective group I am working with. Most companies needing my help typically don’t have their respective ‘houses in order.’ Therefore, I keep Sales concentrated on their own responsibilities and Marketing, theirs so I don’t create an all out Game of Thrones. I work with the executive leadership on cross-departmental improvements before circling back to the departments.

For these reasons, offering up an anecdotal recommendation to this Sales executive to “change the Marketer” after merely an hour-long conversation would be ill-advised, no matter how apropos that may seem. There is always more to the story, especially when it comes to Sales and Marketing alignment.

What Advise Would You Give?

Given the very limited facts we all have here, what advice would you give and to whom would you target your comments? The Marketing Director? The Sales Director? The Division Head? Who would you love to spend 15 minutes with and what would you tell them?

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Team Exercise: Giving your best

Meeting exercise with tapeRecently, at a Sales Team meeting, we were reviewing the metrics and performance, and addressing the inherent problems with “giving your best efforts.”

The team works hard, and subsequently believed that they were giving their best in one specific area of their performance. Despite their belief, they were stuck in familiar patterns and routines that needed to be reframed, or seen differently.

Following is a quick exercise that we did to break open their thinking to get different results. By the way, we have seen a 50% improvement for several weeks straight, due to new thinking, focused efforts and solid coaching from their sales leader.

Exercise: When giving your best is not your best

We began by framing our discussion around how giving our best feels like our best, but limits the options to truly give a breakthrough performance.

We then voted for a volunteer – the criteria this particular day was for the most athletic person – but you can choose any criteria for this exercise.

Brian was voted in. I gave Brian a colored piece of tape with very specific instructions. “I want you to give your very best effort, by jumping and sticking this piece of tape as high as you can on the wall in front of you.”

Brian truly is an athletic individual, and his result was remarkable. At approximately 10′ high on the wall stood a lone piece of tape. I asked how he felt with his effort. He said, “Good!” I then asked if he had truly given his best effort. He confirmed he had.

I then gave him a different colored piece of tape and simply said, “I would like you to beat your best.”

And he did…by nearly 3 inches. His comments afterward were, “Wow! When you asked me to do my best, I thought I had already done so, but apparently I was wrong.”

We debriefed the exercise together as a team, which led them to even better insights than what I had planned for them. I won’t pass those along so as not to predetermine how this exercise can and should be used with your teams. In short, what we saw was Brian adjust his whole approach to beating his best.

Sales Meeting Exercise

If you choose to do this exercise with your team, I would love to hear the results your team’s experience.

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

1 Minute Leadership Test…Will You Pass?

The role of the leader is a difficult one, to be certain. Done well, it is one of the most rewarding professional and personal experiences for the leader and those they lead. Done poorly, and at best, your team may achieve incidental success from time to time…despite their leader.

After two decades of working in leadership and developing leaders, I continually see one common area in which leaders often fall short. This one minute video clip sums it up as King Leonidas asks Daxos’ men one simple question. After playing the clip, see how quickly you can spot the problem?

Leadership Test: If those you lead are asked about the organization’s or team’s top priority, would your team answer like the Spartans or more like the Arcadians?

If your team is lacking a “WAR! WAR! WAR!” response, time for the mirror test. How they respond is your responsibility. For additional tips on how to create more intentional, predictable and repeatable results, see this post on Vision.

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Diagnosing Misdiagnosis in Business

Diagnosis and MisdiagnosisIn the medical field, a doctor’s misdiagnosis can prove fatal. Have you ever considered the consequences of misdiagnosing a sales, marketing or business issue?  In the metaphorical sense, a wrong diagnosis can prove fatal to your career or business as well.

According to the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF), misdiagnosis occurs in the medical profession up to 42% of the time.

When you consider that doctors, being highly educated and well-trained in their field, still misdiagnose symptoms for 2 out of every 5 patients, how much more susceptible might the everyday sales or business professional be in proffering a wrong diagnosis? Yet for many business professionals, they cavalierly forge ahead with untested hypotheses of their business issue, and a firm course set for remediation.

“For most diagnoses all that is needed is an ounce of knowledge, an ounce of
intelligence, and a pound of thoroughness”

HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?
Try to recall a recent business result that fell short of expectations, and subsequently required diagnosing the problem. What was the process you used to identify the problem, and identify a remediation plan?

For many people, they follow an inherently flawed two-step plan:

  1. They compare their result to their expectation, then
  2. They work backwards from the result, looking for a plausible explanation for why they fell short

While this is a common approach, the problem is that beginning with the comparison as your starting point for diagnosis is far too late. All you can do at this point is learn for next time…if fortunate enough to have a next time. The second problem is that working backwards from the result only serves to explain symptoms, but not address the root cause. If we want to avoid bad results or avoid repeating bad results, we need to get at the root.

HOW DO YOU GET AT THE ROOT?
I used to live in a neighborhood where there were a lot of very large, mature trees with roots that would buckle the sidewalks. Imagine a city planner tasked with inspecting the damage and evaluating a remedy for the current problem, to serve as a model for future neighborhoods.

Imagine how preposterous it would be if the City Planner recommended a ‘root-redirection’ program when sidewalks started to buckle? In other words, if the proposal was to address the point of the visible problem by digging up the damaged sidewalk, and working to redirect the roots downward, we would laugh at the foolishness of such a plan.

Common sense suggests either planting trees farther away from sidewalks or changing the type of tree altogether. Stated differently, we would need to change what we do on the front end to get better results, not work from the point of the buckled sidewalks backwards.

Yet, this serves as a picture of how missed expectations are often addressed. A person does a comparison, sees the variance and looks for an explanation to the problem. When taking this approach [from the end rather than the beginning], the tendency is to stop searching once you believe you have reached a conclusion.

“A conclusion is the place where you got tired thinking.”

Those were the words of the German-American physician, Dr. Martin Fischer (1879-1962).

PRESCRIPTION FOR PREVENTION
Dr. Denis Burkitt said, “Diseases can rarely be eliminated through early diagnosis or good treatment, but prevention can eliminate disease.” Most would agree, prevention is much better than prescription.

In order to prevent a career full of missed results, followed by faulty diagnostics leading to more missed results, we need to look at a new process that will enable one to succeed intentionally, predictably and repeatedly. Doing so will prevent a career full of regret.

The best way to do so is to have a repeatable structure or process for achieving results, so that you can quickly identify and detect problems early.

Following are a list of steps to get you well on your way:

  1. Long-term goals should be front and center as your starting point
  2. Connect all shorter term goals into your long-term goals
  3. Identify specific activities/tactics necessary to achieve your goals on weekly basis
  4. Plan specific times each day/week to achieve the tactics leading to your goals
  5. Evaluate each day/week how you performed according to what you planned to do
  6. Adapt your approach as necessary based on your evaluation and insights

Do not let the process scare you as this not only is guaranteed to improve your results, but literally only takes 20 minutes/day and increases the success rate significantly. I do steps 1-4 in The First 15 Minutes of each day, and steps 5-6 in the last 5 minutes of each day before I leave. I jot quick notes of my observations for what did and didn’t go as planned and as a result, have a written record of how to repeat success.

What steps do you take to create intentional, repeatable and predictable success?

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Do You Have the Right Decision Strategy?

Decision StrategyAs a business professional who has dedicated my career to identifying the behaviors that create intentional, repeatable results…or what I call Succeeding on Purpose, there is one area I see commonly connected with poor business results. That is in the area of decision strategy.

More specifically, this refers to the tendency of professionals to make decisions based upon current, unexpected results they encounter. On the other hand, those that consistently create intentional, repeatable successes expect occasional ‘losses’ and remain committed to their time-tested strategies and processes to guide their decision-making when a loss occurs.

Reams of materials have been written correlating successful companies with excellent decision-making processes, so no need to add to the contributions of legends like Jim Collins and Ram Charan. My aim is to provoke thinking around your own decision strategies and test how well they are working for you.

In Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, he discusses how at one point he took up the game of poker and studied it intently to learn how to master the principles. Following is an excerpt from his learning experience:

“One of the most interesting things about playing poker was learning the discipline of not confusing the right decision with the individual outcome of any single hand, but that’s what a lot of poker players do. If they win a hand, they assume they made a right bet, and if they lose a hand, they often assume they made the wrong bet.”

One of the key points Tony drives at is that adjusting the bet based on an individual hand is a losing strategy because it is reactive. That type of short-term thinking often compromises longer-term results. Rather, it is better to be disciplined in making the right decision where the odds of winning are more favorable in the long run.

What does your decision strategy look like?

The principles that Tony articulated in his book are excellent, but as you may have perceived, if you don’t have the right decision strategy, then remaining disciplined to the wrong strategy and process can commit you to failure. That said, it is important to note that simply reacting to results is most typically the approach with the ‘poorest odds of winning.’

Not convinced? Consider it from this perspective – Imagine starting an exercise program. You know there are a myriad of exercises that can bring results, but you need to stick to the program in order to see results. If you simply use a mirror, which represents current circumstances and results, as the primary feedback of your results, you will likely react in the wrong ways based on what you see. That is simply because the mirror does not reflect the long-term results of what you are working towards. It merely reflects your present reality, and for many, they don’t like their present day reality. So they react to do something differently, thus disrupting any momentum that may have started to build.

How do I know if I have the right decision strategy?

As a basic litmus test to know if you have the right strategy, ask yourself this question…When I see things getting off track, how do I respond?

If your first response is to review your strategy for misalignment or derailment, that is an excellent sign. On the other hand, if you more typically find yourself reacting to circumstances or unexpected results (e.g., Missed a monthly sales goal,  weak marketing campaign response rate, etc.), without orienting to your strategy to calibrate what you are seeing in your present reality, you may respond prematurely and even inappropriately.

For example, I recently saw an organization struggling to recover from sales declines in one of its areas by switching strategies to start offering aggressive discounts to bolster sales for the current month. The results? Cannibalization of future customers. Sales from future months were borrowed for the current month’s performance result. My understanding is that the organization has yet to recover from the short-term decisions made many months earlier.

How do you respond when unexpected results occur in your business? Are you betting based on winning or losing the individual hand, or are you betting on the process that delivers success in the long-term?

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Time Management: 15 Minutes Can Make or Break Your Day

15 Minutes a DayDo you ever find that you spend a good amount of time coming up with fantastic goals, that meet all the criteria of a S.M.A.R.T. goal and if achieved, would make a significant difference, but somehow you fail to give it the attention necessary each week and month to actually achieve it? If the answer is yes, it is a more common response than you might think.

I too, struggle now and then with this, and whenever I catch myself feeling “too busy to devote time to my goals,” I know where the problem is and what to do next. You may have systems that you use with success when this occurs and if so, great! However, if you are finding less success in your process, consider the following system. This is a system and practice I came up with based on some long-standing and timeless principles to address issues I was experiencing.

The process is what I call The First 15. The concept references the ‘first 15’ minutes of everyday that I dedicate to planning the most important things I can accomplish within a week’s time frame. While there are simply three primary steps to the plan, it is the last action I take that makes all the difference in my process. The process is as follows:

Step 1: Weekly Goals –I identify the top 2-3 goals that I should be focused on that are tied directly into and support my longer-term goals. I write these front and center at the top of the page.

Step 2: Daily Actions – This is important in making sure that the actions I will take Monday through Friday are not merely things-to-do, but are the most important things that will accomplish my weekly, monthly and longer-term goals.

Step 3: Schedule Actions – After having identified my weekly goals and the daily actions to achieve my weekly goal, I use my planning time each day to make sure I know specifically what time slot I will be working on these daily actions. I use a 1-page template that includes the following components:

  • Longer-term goals (1-3 years)  – These are written at the top of the page so that I am always orienting to those
  • Goals for the week - I identify specific actions to take this week to move closer to my longer term goals
  • Daily Tasks – Next is a 5 column table (M-F) that lists the specific actions I need to take to meet my daily tasks; I write the specific day I will do the task and the time I will do it using my Outlook calendar
  • Weekly Calendar – The last element on my 1-page goal planner is a screenshot of my Outlook calendar. I do this after planning when I have time for each daily task, then I schedule time for the task in Outlook with a reminder

By planning in advance specifically what is most important, what actions I need to take to accomplish the goals and when I will actually get this done, I find that my odds go from wishful thinking to success. At the core though, is my commitment and discipline in following the process.

Important to remember is, whether using this process, or any other, the process itself is less often the issue. More common is not having a process and self-discipline to follow your own process. Typically at the heart of these matters is a personal discipline to slow down and evaluate what has been done and how effective, or often times, how ineffective the actions taken were in producing results.

More common is the pursuit of activity to feel that we are actively pursuing the results we seek, which takes the form of sporadic bursts of activities for short periods. These activities result in feeling increased pressure for the goals you are not achieving and the rest of your responsibilities that seemingly take the back seat while you are busy “trying to accomplish your goals.” The result is ending up overwhelmed and exhausted.

Sound familiar? If so, consider evaluating your process and level of discipline in consistently following your process. You are likely to find the answers in this area.

One note of caution is that as you start any new process that is foreign to your daily/weekly routine, it is inevitably going to feel a bit onerous out of the gate. It will require focus and discipline to stick with the process and reorienting yourself to why you committed to taking more control of your success. The answer for why you are doing this, of course, is to establish a long-term structure for how to accomplish goals consistently. After all, a lot is at stake when you consider the consequence of repeatedly missing goals. What approach will you choose?

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.