Content is King (as found on the wall @ Joes Coffee in East Atlanta)

A successful harvest

Here at Dreamland we are always discussing new ways to adapt what we do to better fit our clients’ needs. During these discussions there always seems to be one or two new bits of jargon that seem to stick around. This week there is one that I just can’t seem to shake and it’s probably for a good reason. Harvesting content.  It’s something that almost every individual struggles with when it comes to creating a digital extension of themselves. Yes, you have your Facebook, your Linkedin, YouTube, blog, etc., but how much content is truly of value to anyone? If your last blog post was 6 months ago is it really doing you any good?

Harvesting content is not a simple task. I liken it to a farmer raising his seasonal crops. The first challenge for that farmer is to simply select the crop that will grow best given his soil, region and other variables. The same rules apply for growing your own content. You must first select what type of content is going to help you best achieve your objectives. Whether it be a strong blog, a podcast series, or a channel on YouTube, all of these media have outputs whose efficiency on delivering the message varies greatly depending on the message you are trying to convey.

Growing your content

Let’s use the example of a farmer trying to decide between mass production or growing organically. Both have their benefits and drawbacks. Mass production will probably result in less work for the farmer because he will be able to reduce his labor through using pesticides and other modern techniques to assist with his harvest. However, at the same time organic produce sells for much more per pound and also is a hot item. Once again this concept translates directly to how you want to grow your own content. What is more important quantity or quality? Can you achieve both at once?

I believe that you can. The strongest harvest of content is grown organically. Content that is developed organically is original and nearly impossible to duplicate. Does it take work? Yes!  Are there efficient ways to develop a large quantity of quality content? Yes!

We have found that when it comes to growing strong quality content, one of the most effective means is through a radio show or podcast. Think about it. Every 15-20 minute podcast averages almost 6 to 10 different blog topics. That is a massive quantity of quality content grown organically in almost no time at all.

What spooks the sales profession? How about the phrase “Social Media”

It’s time to get over it.  Time to quit hiding behind the cliches and myths keeping us from leveraging the BIG LEAGUE selling power of social media tools.  If for nothing else, use their monitoring capabilities to put that first chink in the exec’s gate-keeping armor.

Fire all the sales managers?

It’s not a totally crazy idea.  It might even be where we’re inevitably headed.  In any case, it’s worth pondering, if for no other reason because doing so would remove so much expense from a business.  (Anybody need some extra cash to invest?)

In fact, what got me thinking about the possibility of eliminating sales management was being told by the CEO of one of my clients that he was going to ignore my suggestion to hire a sales manager.  “Don’t need one,” he said.  “My CRM system is my sales manager.  “Hmmmm…  Since I had a hand in designing their sales process, and helped map it into their CRM, and preached incessantly how a good process supported by a solid CRM system ensured great discipline and accountability in the sales force, it was a bit tough to argue.

To that, add the power of today’s technology-based collaboration tools.  This  company has an internal wiki for sales best practices and tools that the sales team continuously updates and uses.  It’s like an electronic mentor.  No, it IS an electronic mentor.

And there’s more.  This outfit is also hell-bent on using  technology-based collaboration tools (dare I say e-Rep) to sell more.  This led them to learn a lot about blogs and social media.  Lo and behold!  Things like LinkedIn groups and the comment streams on sales blogs provide a whole ‘nother universe of sales mentorship.  It’s not only huge, it provides a perspective that is vastly better, broader and more innovative than even the best sales manager/mentor.

I won’t claim to have just presented a bullet-proof rationale for firing all the sales managers, BUT… I am convinced that well-designed, properly used techno tools CAN indeed be applied to ensure effective discipline, accountability and mentorship.  Tell me again the three key tasks of a sales manager.

What do you think?  Am I on to something here?

Yet Another Signal That “Every h-Rep Needs An e-Rep”

Dreamland Interactive, a business partner of The YPS Group, took a major step in its ability to deliver e-Rep content development services.  Their new radio studio in Atlanta, GA was specifically designed to support business talk radio and help clients solve the prospecting problem.



It’s no secret that I am a huge believer in the 24 X 7 X 365, deal-closing power of a e-Rep – an electronic alter-ego – a repository of a sales rep’s knowledge, insights and perspectives.   I’ve also come to realize that interviews of knowledgeable industry constituents are perhaps the best source of blog content.

This type of sales/marketing approach is a must-have in the B2B world.

 

e-Rep Strikes Again!

Here’s the chronology:

  • 11/25/04 – Initial telephone contact with company president
  • 12/17/04 – The one and only face-to-face meeting (…with the president mainly, plus a brief conversation with the founder)
  • 12/21/04 – Original proposal for a Sales Excellence Council
  • 01/10/05 – Opportunity recorded in my CRM as “Closed-Lost”
  • 01/10/05 through 04/18/11 – Not a single conversation or e-mail for over 6 years
  • 04/18/11 – Phone call from president
  • 04/24/11 – Proposal for Sales Excellence Council
  • 05/06/11 – Opportunity recorded in my CRM as “Closed-Won

That’s a sell cycle of 2,353 days.  Let’s just call it 6 years, 5 months for clarity.  That’s a new record!  (Hurray!!!! or Ughhhh…..?) (FYI – 80% of these things close within 13 to 17 months)

Or can I call this an 18 day sell cycle?

As I recall, I did a pretty good sales job on this opportunity back in the November ’04 through January ’05 time frame.  The timing just wasn’t right.  Then my h-Rep (i.e., me personally) initiated execution of a really lousy sales job from February, 05 through the first half of April, ’11.

My e-Rep, however, was hard at work that whole time.

That company president received 88 issues of The YPS Group’s Ideas! e-newsletter through that 6+ years.  Starting in the Fall of ’09 he was also exposed to 366 blog posts, 98 videos, 49 podcasts and who knows how many e-mail forwardings, Google searches, tweets, re-tweets, LinkedIn postings, etc.  My trusty e-Rep was out there pluggin’ away 24 X 7 X 365 beating the old Sales Process Engineering drum.

No, my e-Rep didn’t have the wherewithal to close the deal.  So what?  Between the two of us, we won.

How many deals are you not getting because building an e-Rep is too much trouble?

I Said It Wouldn’t Happen. I Was Wrong

I can get away with telling Todd Schnick he’s out of his mind because he’s my partner and my friend.  (…and the fact is, sometimes I really do think he’s nuts.)  He’s also, as Anthony Iaanorino has said, “wicked smart.”

He’s broken a significant chuck of the code on how to use social media to engage decision makers and influencers in an intelligent discussion.  Less than a month ago, we he told me he was going to get Guy Kawasaki as a guest on Intrepid Radio.  (One the original members of the ’84 Macintosh marketing team, best selling author and all around uber-successful entrepreneur.)  “Good luck, goober,” was my reaction.

Crow-eating time!

He pulled it off . That seals it.  Reaching out to, and establishing a relationship with that “key person” is eminently doable – for anybody.  Not that it’s quick or easy.  Schnick’s just one more example of busting butt for 10 years to become an overnight success.  Ya’ probly’ oughta’ learn more about how he thinks though.  Google him…

“Death Of All Sales Reps”

Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman has been one of my personal favorite plays for years.  The tragic figure of Willy Loman has always been inspiring to me in an “anti-hero” sort of way.  Someone as sharp as me can easily spot Willy’s weaknesses and flaws of course, and avoid them!

Then I read Have We Been Witnessing The Death Of Professional Selling? on Jonathan Farrington’s blog.  He and I exchanged perspectives, and now I’ve got this “Death Of All Sales Reps” theme banging around in my head.  The more I think about it, the more I become certain that sales as we know it is about disappear – evaporate – go the way of the dodo bird.  And it’s going to happen in the not too distant future.  Like over the next three to five years.

While the examples in Jonathan’s post refer to items toward the commodity end of the scale and are B2C, it doesn’t take much imagination to see the trend.  (…and trends tend to pick up a lot of speed quickly!)  Ten years ago not one of the transactions described would have been possible.  More and more stuff can purchased online every day.  You could easily add 10 or 20 examples of your own.  The B2B examples are pretty easy to dream up aren’t they?  (Assuming of course you’re willing to take your head out of the sand!)

Want to scare yourself?  Take thirty minutes.  Think about your biggest, best customer and begin to list all the products and services they buy.  Put a check-mark next to each item that could potentially be intelligently purchased with nothing more than information made available on the internet.  It’s not the least bit outlandish to check virtually every item.  Especially if you consider the use of not only text, but also images, audio and video.

Right now, I see only two intelligent paths for sales professionals who intend to survive and thrive to pursue.  (The best and brightest will pursue both!)

  • Become a trusted, respected (albeit honorary) member of the customer’s senior management team
  • Create, maintain and continuously improve an electronic version of yourself, an “e-Rep” (i.e., Get out in front of the inevitable trend.)

To achieve the first, executive-class strategic planning, leadership, financial, communications, political and analytical skills are required.  Most times a lot of practical business experience will also be a prerequisite.  It’s one heck of a tall order; and one that to a significant extent leaves younger folks out in the cold.  Ouch!  I won’t go so far as to say that a formal MBA will needed, but MBA-level knowledge and a commitment to ravenous, continuous learning are different stories.

Achieving the second is easier, but entails development of a whole range of non-traditional talents.  Writing heads the list.  (Writing skills, at least in the US, are generally abysmal.)  “King Writing” is followed closely by the ability to very succinctly articulate extremely highly customized value propositions not only in written form, but also in recorded audio and video.  Obviously, audio and video production skills (including talk radio style interviewing skills)  will be essential, along with the information systems savvy to publish it all.  That in turn implies a deep understanding of blogs and the growing range of social media tools.

Too extreme a view?  I don’t think so.  What do you think?

Dunbar 150 – Dreamland 45,000

Two colleagues and I have decided to profoundly change the way B2B sales is executed.  (Really… We did…)

It all started last November at a barbecue joint in Birmingham, AL.  (Read about our Dreamland experience.)  At the time, none of us knew the other two also had the Don Quixote gene, ever-ready to embark on a grand quest.  It’s been a fascinating ride so far, and the windmills keep getting interestinger and interestinger.

E-Rep – the electronic alter-ego of the “H” or Human Rep – is at the core of our vision.  We convinced a real, live client to buy in.  They’re paying us real, live money to build one.  More accurately, to build them a set of E-Reps; one for each of their H-Reps.  This train has left the station…

There are lots of reasons we think we can pull this off, one of the main ones being Dunbar’s Number.  Based on lots of anthropological data, Dunbar says a single person can maintain a stable relationship with at most 150 others.  We can’t prove it (yet), but we think a rudimentary E-Rep can maintain stable relationships with 45,000.

For just a moment, assume we’re not insane.  Assume it’s actually possible.  You could enter the business battleground backed by an army of 45,000.  Your competitor enters with 150.  The poor slob brought a knife to gunfight.

Might be worth your while to keep an eye on Dreamland Interactive.

A Selling With Social Media Example

OK, sales rep or manager, you tell me what, if anything, is wrong with the following scenario:

  • The Situation:
    • A host and co-host interviewing an executive about delivering customer value
    • Streamed live on the web and recorded for podcast and on-demand streaming
  • The Players:
  • The Target Audiences:
    • Manufacturing companies …all of whom extensively need and apply Control System Integration (The executive’s target market)
    • Control System Integrators (The CSIA’s target market)
    • Both of the above (my target market)
  • Who Got Value & How?
    • Executives, managers and professionals at manufacturing companies; they got insights into the power of “Overall Equipment Effectiveness”
    • Avanceon; Marty did a great job of demonstrating his expertise and how his customers can derive value from working with his company
    • Control System Integrators Association; Bob provided an on-demand marketing vehicle for Marty & demonstrated how the CSIA can do the same for any of its current or prospective members
    • Me; I sure hope Marty & Bob give me some brownie points for orchestrating the whole thing and helping them sell a bit more, a bit faster

Unless you’re into manufacturing, you won’t necessarily care about the actual content of the interview.  If you’re responsible for selling something though, I think you might want to listen to a bit of it.  More importantly, think about how you can use this scenario to establish and/or develop relationships with customer executives, while at the same time providing a valuable service to them.

Marty Michael talks about Overall Equipment Effectiveness

NOTE: I need to acknowledge Stone Payton and Todd Schnick of The High Velocity Radio Show.  Those two dudes introduced me to and taught me the concepts above.

That Would Be Too Hard And I’m Already Too Busy

To get into the proper mindset, re-read the title of this post in the most weepy, whiney tone you can imagine.  Got that annoying eeeesssssshhhhhh feeling?  Good.

Because that’s the feeling I invariably get from sales managers and reps when discussing E-Rep for the first time.  That’s “E” as in “Electronic.”  Every “H” or “Human” rep needs an electronic alter ego on duty 24 X 7 X 365 sharing valuable knowledge, insight and information on-demand.  We all need the help.  We all need to get a lot more efficient at delivering our message to keep up with the ever-increasing pace of business.

There’s an implication though.  The heart and soul of anybody’s E-Rep is a blog; a blog that gets updated multiple times per week.  Cue the whine-chorus …a blog that gets updated multiple times per week???

Yes!!!

That’s what it takes.  Think about how over time, you’ll build up an electronic body of work – your work – your expertise – your value – that is on display and available to everyone with internet access.  It’ll be out there prospecting for you.  You’ll be able to follow up a sales call with an e-mail containing links to 2 or 3 or more of your posts that reinforce the points you discussed.  I could, and have, and will in future blog posts, go on and on and on about the power and value of an E-Rep.

But, for you it’s too hard and you’re already too busy…  Well, I’m neither the smartest nor hardest-working sales guy on the planet, but I’ve averaged 3.9 posts per week year to date.  Anthony Iannarino, whose blog I follow and with whom I recently met for dinner, has averaged 7 posts per week year-to-date.  And his posts run 1,000 words!

It’s not that friggin’ difficult, so do it!

Can’t think of anything to write about?  Cue the whine-chorus again.  Give – me – a – break.  You think of hundreds of things to talk about every day already.  Write some of it down!  Or get a video camera and talk to it.  (Video blog posts just might be more powerful anyway.)  Or do what Todd Schnick does; read a book every week.  Or do what I do and listen to business-oriented podcasts while you’re driving or working out.

So…  Are you with me?  Or are you with the whine-chorus?