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An entrepreneur's guide to lead generation

May 21, 2014 by Marc Duke

An entrepreneur's guide to lead generation/ Lead Generation sign{{}}Lead generation is vital for any business. I have tracked with interest the evolution of marketing automation companies and lead tracking technology providers. Lead generation software gives marketers incredible power to scale marketing to thousands and to track, nurture and ultimately convert interested followers into paying customers.

But while technology is great, when it comes to start-ups and small firms, I am concerned that lead nurturing technology actually confuses rather than helps. You don’t need a Ferrari to collect your groceries when you can walk around the corner to the supermarket or order them online.

Sales vs marketing

There is always the classic sales/marketing schism which runs like this: sales find that the leads they are provided with by marketing are no good, while marketing feel the leads were great but sales can’t close them. Entrepreneurs don’t have time for this.

I remember working with the ceo of a start-up who needed 12 trial customers within three months. I sat down with the sales director and asked how many leads they had in the pipeline. I also asked about the sales process. I then asked what key collateral was needed to help them close deals — case studies, fact sheets, press coverage, advocates. In this case, if marketing didn’t support sales then after 12 weeks neither would exist.

Meeting revenue targets

I also worked for an enterprise workflow start-up vendor and the ceo asked me to draft the business plan to help secure funding. I was delighted, as I knew that the revenue targets would shape how many leads marketing had to generate which would, in turn, flow down to a series of tactics I could deliver.

It’s not just about brand, share of voice, tone of message — it’s about leads. Yes, you need to get the other metrics right. But my experience has told me that we must be united about leads. As Bruce Springsteen puts it, “If you don’t stick together you won’t stick around”.

Once we have the leads, we need to work out which ones are really worth pursuing and which ones are time-wasters that will stall you. As entrepreneurs, we can’t confuse interest with commitment.

Ultimately, we are after customers and once you have a lead you need to know what to do with it — play or pass. The other point to remember is that going for glory — and the time, effort and resources involved in chasing the one big name account — may not be worth as much as the lower hanging fruit, the deals that are easier to close and will generate cash more quickly.

Marc Duke is a marketing consultant.

Posted in Sales | Tagged lead generation | 1 comment

Why it pays to admit you don't know

May 13, 2014 by Andy Bounds

Why it pays to admit you don't know/ 3D graphic illuminated question mark{{}}So, what’s the most useful business technique I could show you?

Well, I don’t know. It depends on all sorts of things — your personality, your skills, your priorities, your current challenges. But if I could just ask you a few quick questions, I’d be able to tell you exactly what you most want to know.

Using the words “I don’t know” in response to someone’s question can often help you. It gives you the chance to ask more questions first — ones that will show you the best way to answer their original question. It also stops you saying the wrong things or losing the power in a conversation.

Here are other situations where saying “I don’t know” could be extremely helpful:

  • When you’re asked “how much do you charge for X?”, say: “I don’t know yet. It depends what you want. Let me ask a couple of quick questions so I fully understand. I’ll then be able to tell you the exact price.”
  • When someone says “what will you cover in your document or presentation or workshop?”, say: “I don’t know. It depends what you want the reader or audience to do after it. Let’s discuss that first, and I’ll then be able to answer your question.”
  • If a friend is going for a job interview, and asks “what should I focus on?”, say: “I don’t know. It depends what the interviewer is most interested in. Have you asked enough questions to find that out yet?”
  • When pitching for work, and a colleague asks you “what are our best selling points here?”, say: “I don’t know. It depends on what the prospect will find most valuable. And, to establish that, we’re going to have to ask them more questions.”
  • One of the questions people often ask me is: “’I’m going to an important meeting. Should I use PowerPoint or not?” My answer always is “I don’t know. It depends what you’re looking to achieve, and what your colleagues want. Have you asked them yet?”

Take charge of the conversation

All these examples help you regain control of the conversation. After all, if you answer their question before you have enough information, you’ll be guessing. And guessing increases the chance of your answer being too long or irrelevant.

This is especially important for people who sell. The instant you give your price before discussing your value, people think you’re too expensive. They’re already thinking, “can you reduce it?”.

A price doesn’t make sense on its own. Here’s a question for you: “Is £10,000 expensive?” It’s impossible to say, isn’t it? It depends what it’s for. It’s cheap for a Bentley; but exorbitant for a sandwich. So you first have to discuss what they’re buying, and establish the value they perceive is in it. And the only way to do this is? Ask them what they perceive as valuable.

Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.

Posted in Sales | 1 comment

The ten biggest communication errors

May 01, 2014 by Andy Bounds

The ten biggest communication errors/ Borred businesspeople at presentation{{}}Here are the ten communication “errors” that I see most often. Do any feel depressingly familiar?

  1. Back-to-back meetings. When there are no breaks in between meetings, when exactly are people supposed to prepare or follow-up? I guess there are only two answers: at home or never.
  2. Pointless communications. You know all those communications — the reports, meetings, conference calls, emails — that achieve nothing? The ones that nobody would mind if they stopped?
  3. Too irrelevant. Sometimes you do need to communicate. But messages often contain content you just don’t need — pointless agenda items, unnecessary chapters, too many background slides and so on.
  4. Too boring. Ever been on a conference call that was tedious? A meeting that dragged on? Presentations where the presenter read their wordy slides to you?
  5. Too long. Preparation isn’t finished when your communication is as thorough and long as possible. It’s finished when it’s as short as possible.
  6. Too selfish. You know the type of thing… “Here’s my content, with all the detail I care about. My time is so important that I haven’t had time to remove the slides you don’t need. And now I need you to do X. And I mean right now”.
  7. Wrong channels. People often email when they should chat. They hold big meetings to discuss topics that should have been done one-to-one.
  8. Wrong person. When Person A wants to impact Person B, they should speak to them directly. Asking Person C to act as a middle-man is rarely as effective. It dilutes A’s passion and clarity; plus, B’s questions are rarely answered as well/at all.
  9. Poor cascades. One exception to the previous point: middle-men can be good for cascading info from on high. But only when the middle-man adds something to the message — their own experiences, personalising it for his team. If he adds nothing, he serves minimal purpose in the chain. In fact, he can make things worse if he does something as dismissive as: “FYI — read this”.
  10. Onerous pre-reads. Giving people too much to read for a meeting is… well, too much. The pre-reads are supposed to enable decisions, not be a rant about everything.

Do these things happen in your business? If so, the solutions are simple:

Back-to-back meetings — stop having them, finish early.

Pointless communication — stop creating yours. Stop reading others.

Too irrelevant — when preparing, ask people what content they want you to include.

Too boring — always ask yourself: “what can I do to make this more interesting?” and include it (you’d be amazed how rarely people do this).

Too long — put detail in the Appendix and irrelevancies in the bin.

Too selfish — look at your communication through the recipient’s eyes. If you don’t think they’ll like it, they won’t.

Wrong channels — consider the best channel for this communication; don’t just do “what we normally do”.

Wrong person — go to Person B, not through Person C (and, whenever possible, don’t let other people use you as a middle-man).

Poor cascades — don’t include/be a middle-man unless the middle-man adds value.

Onerous pre-reads — strip them right back. Aim for one page; two as a max. Remember: they’re not just reading yours.

Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.

Why all your staff should be involved in selling

April 03, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Why all your staff should be involved in selling/Teamwork and corporate profit with red statistical{{}}You may have a fabulous sales team but if you don’t encourage the rest of your people to sell and support the sales process, you’re missing a golden opportunity. It’s not just your sales people who should be selling!


A good marketing department should directly influence your sales. They should identify new and fruitful markets for you to approach, helping you to find and convert prospective clients. Marketing can also influence product development, helping you to devise pricing strategies and prepare all creative collateral.

Customer service

By listening to customer feedback, your customer service people are in a prime position to identify customer frustrations and turn negatives into positives. What’s more, they can listen out for suggested improvements to products or services based on customer feedback. In addition to influencing sales, your customer services can encourage clients to return if they’ve had a positive customer experience.


Indirectly, other departments in your company can also influence sales. Your accounts team can free up your salespeople’s time by chasing up invoices and purchase orders for them. They can also provide salespeople with information on customer spending patterns as well as keeping costs under control so that prices can be competitive.


You may initially think that your IT team can’t boost sales, but key tasks in that department can play an important role in influencing them. Your IT people can Identify and invest in software to support your sales team, such as CRM. They’ll also be responsible for providing the hardware to support the sales team and may be involved in providing reliable remote access so sales teams can work whilst on the road.

Delivery team

Any delivery department will be able to ensure the quality of your product as well as its availability. They can provide a positive experience when liaising with customers and, like the customer service department, they can listen out for suggested improvements. What’s more, if your delivery team isn’t delivering on the sales team’s promises, then you won’t be getting any repeat sales.

So, whilst your sales department may do a fabulous job, they shouldn’t work in isolation. Make explicit the contributions made by other departments, so all your people can appreciate their involvement in the selling process. Selling is an activity that almost everyone can be involved in, and should be involved in.

In the words of Mark Cuban, American businessman and investor, “I still work hard to know my business … and I'm always selling. Always.”

Heather Foley is a consultant at ETS, a UK-based HR technology specialist.

Posted in Sales | Tagged Sales management, sales | 0 comments

Seven ways to stay ahead of the competition

January 30, 2014 by Andy Preston

Seven ways to stay ahead of the competition/123 track to get ahead in business{{}}Whenever I’m talking to business owners, a question I’m often asked is, how can I ensure I stay ahead of my competitors? So here are seven things that you can do to ensure you stay ahead of your competition for 2014 and beyond.

1. Ring-fence your existing accounts

The first thing you need to do is ring-fence your existing clients. More and more businesses are looking to replace lost revenue and profitability through acquiring new clients — and some of the new business your competitors are targeting will include your existing regular clients.

As a lot of businesses have got complacent. They’ve tended to neglect existing accounts — and those are now the ones that have been taken by their competitors, or the ones most at risk.

What are your relationships like with your existing accounts? What about the ones you haven’t spoken to for a while? The ones you don’t get on as well with? Would they tell you if they had been using a competitor’s services? And if they did, would you keep the business at the same price or would you have to price match to keep it?

2. Target your prospecting

The quality of your prospecting will be one of the biggest factors in how successful you are (or not) in 2014. As the individual salesperson is asked to do more and more, it’s vital that the time you spend prospecting is time well spent.

That means knowing who is a good prospect for you. Most people think they know. But often they don’t. There will be certain specific criteria that make certain prospects more ideal than others. If you don’t know what they are, you need to find out — and fast. Take a look at your existing client base. What was it that made them stay with you at the moment they did?

3. Increase your activity

The next thing you need to do is crank up the volume. I’m a big fan of a high level of activity — as long as that activity is good quality and is done with the right mindset.

The more deals you have in your pipeline, the more you can afford to lose. If you only have just enough in your pipeline (or close to), then you’re always going to be struggling as you’ll be counting on every deal converting, and it’s devastating when any of them drop out.

Just by increasing your activity, you increase your chances of success — and therefore increase the amount of money you can earn.  Who wouldn’t want to do that?

4. Become a valued resource

Some of the best salespeople I know are a valued resource for their clients. They’re someone whose opinion their clients respect and who they turn to first to get information about purchasing decisions. They’re someone that has a high level of credibility and clients trust their advice.

Not all salespeople are in this position however. A lot of salespeople complain that their clients ignore their advice; that they don’t listen; that they don’t take their calls or see them when they pop in. What bigger signs do you want that clients don’t see you as a valued resource?

In order to be seen as a valued resource, you have to earn it. You have to give value first. You have to get updated on industry trends, technological advancements and understand the impact that these could have on your client’s business. You have to be able to hold a business conversation with the level of decision makers you’re meeting. Invest the time to do things like this, and it will pay you back tenfold.

5. Plan your attack

One of the best ways to get ahead of the competition in 2014 is to win some customers from them. This is a great way of distracting them from their own new business efforts, plus it’s a great motivational factor for you and your team.

If you’re in field sales, why not map out competitors’ accounts in your territory? Then create a call plan for getting to see them and focus on winning their business.

If you’re in internal sales, make notes on the prospects that are currently using your competition, then filter the data by competitors name. Then you can create a phone campaign designed specifically to convert their customers to your customers instead. Dedicated and focused approaches have a far better chance of success — and they put a big dent in your competitor’s confidence.

6. Develop consistent motivation

We all know that motivation is important for a salesperson. But it’s the salesperson’s ability to be consistently motivated that will help them stand out from the rest.

In order to be motivated on a consistent basis, the salesperson has to take charge of their own motivation, rather than waiting for other people (or things) to motivate or de-motivate them. They need to have compelling reasons for doing what they do, especially the tougher jobs such as cold calling.

7. Sharpen your sales skills

If you really want to stay ahead of your competition in 2014, you’ll need to sharpen your sales skills.  This means getting up-to-date, relevant sales tips and advice from trusted sources.

Internal training at your company is great and hiring an external trainer or motivator is even better. However, you don’t have to spend money to keep your sales skills updated — there are articles, videos and podcasts that are free to access and there are plenty of seminars you can attend.

Just make sure you put into practice what you learn.

Andy Preston is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a leading expert on sales. His website is at

Why communication is the opposite of competitive sport

January 23, 2014 by Andy Bounds

shutterstock_125840186.jpg/tennis ball on net{{}}One key rule when playing competitive sport: do what your opponent least wants you to do.

So, when Andy Murray plays someone with a weak backhand, he makes them play lots of backhands. It’s the obvious thing to do if you want a win, yes?

With communication, it’s the opposite: do what your audience most wants you to do.

So, if they like to be involved, ensure your communications are interactive by asking lots of questions. It’s the obvious thing to do if you want a win-win.

Here are a few simple ideas, to make sure you’re doing what others want you to. Some of this list might sound obvious. But how many do you actually do? And more importantly, how many do others think you do?

  • People like to feel understood, listened to, and that your agenda ties into theirs.
    So, ask good questions upfront, so you can then tailor what you say to their perspective
  • They like to be entertained.
    So, be entertaining. Think of things they will find enjoyable — stories, examples, trivia…anything — and include it.
  • They don’t want to be worried about anything.
    So, ask if there’s anything they’re worried about. Then remove it.
  • People don’t enjoy having challenging conversations, where you both go over old ground, blaming each other (remember: persuading someone they’re wrong is never a good way to win an argument).
    So, explain that you would like to find a mutually acceptable solution that improves things for you both. Then work with them to do so.
  • They don’t want to read/hear content that’s irrelevant to them.
     So, ask them upfront what they want you to include/exclude.
  • People despise going to meetings they didn’t need to attend.
    So, when it’s your meeting, ask yourself whether any of your attendees needn’t be there, and suggest to them they don’t need to come. You can always send them any actions arising, of course.

Unlike sport, with communication, your aim is to get a mutually acceptable outcome as quickly as possible.

Action point

Identify one or two things others would most like you to change; then, think of easy ways to do so.

Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.

Posted in Sales | Tagged Business communication | 0 comments

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