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Tell me what I need and hurry up already

By on Sep 17, 2014 | 0 comments

Every week I field anywhere between five and 15 sales calls. Folks from all over the country (and sometimes the world!) that are trying to sell me all kinds of things. Off the top of my head, here are the phone calls I have received this week: Search engine marketing software Business intelligence software Marketing automation Telemarketing services and software Fielding all these calls is a distraction; I’m usually in the middle of client work, helping to manage our growing team or reading The Oatmeal when I need a moment to recharge my batteries. These phone calls interrupt all the things I mentioned above. So I finally took the time to put together a cold-call script for the recipient of the call that helps move the conversation along. It goes a little something like this. Step 1: “What are you selling me?” Control the conversation from the get-go: it’s your time, don’t allow them to bumble around with it. If I smell a long answer coming to this question or they don’t acknowledge that they are selling me something, I cut them off and ask one of the following: “Hold on there. Tell me in one sentence or less what you are selling me.” “Hold it right there. Yes or No; did you call me today to sell me something?” I call this my “Tell me what I need and hurry up with it” response — it puts me in control of the conversation and focuses on closing out the conversation. Step 2: “Why do I need what you are selling?” This is an invitation to take between 10 and 30 seconds to deliver your “elevator pitch”: the few sentences that describe your product, the pain it addresses and the benefits my company will see from investing in it. Step 3: “Great! Let’s take this conversation to email.” At no point will I ever allow a cold-call to take more than 60 seconds out of my day; it simply isn’t time I have to give to a stranger trying to open my wallet and pluck out the contents. The reason I immediately push to email for professional conversations is because: The Value of a Written Conversation: I want all the facts recorded in front of me through our first few conversations. An email thread will do that for me. Can I Shake This Guy/Gal?: Oftentimes, a sales call without a positive ending (“I’ll take it!” or “let’s do a demo”) will get categorized by the salesman as a bad opportunity in Salesforce; they simply don’t want to deal with you anymore. That’s great for me — I’m actively trying to see if I can get you to go away! I’m Busy: Contrary to popular belief, I do not sit around on Facebook all day waiting for sales people to call me (shocking!). So thinking that your conversation is more important than whatever you interrupted me doing is definitely not true. An early sales mentor in my life taught me this one liner: If they have something fantastic to sell you, then they’ll keep following up. Over. And over. And over. It may take weeks. It may take months. But eventually my cognitive recognition of your email handle, phone number and sales pitch will take over and I will actually talk to...

Thoughts on Career Change From a Guy Who’s Never Changed Careers in His Life

By on Sep 2, 2014 | 0 comments

I received an interesting email this morning … A contact I made a few years back was interested in making a career change. The victim: His current advertising career. The opportunity: A job that allowed him to work in product or project management. … he asked me for some advice … “Do you have any advice on how to make a career change and/or anyone in those types of fields/roles I could talk to as well?” It took me a few minutes as I thought on his question: What advice did I have (if any)? After I compiled my thoughts and sent an email response, he thanked me for my time and mentioned the tips were super helpful and I should share them with others.  … which brings us to to this point … I’ve copy/pasted my three tips from that email. In no particular order, they are: Find Similarities & Connect the Dots Discover what type of company you want to work for “Become a PM with a focus on [insert job function here]” Tip #1: Find Similarities & Connect the Dots For example, my girlfriend is in revenue management at hotel companies. But honestly, once you know pricing and revenue strategy and get some experience, in that field you could work at a hotel company, restaurant chain, retail company (Old Navy, for example), etc etc the list goes on! Basically, find the foundational elements of what you do now that could be transferred to a new industry, field or career path. Tip #2: Discover what type of company you want to work for It’s really important to discover the industry or company (by name) that you want to work for. This leads into #3 and is critical because you want to really love what they are doing before you approach them with an offer to “make them skinnier”, “make you happier”, “make you more money”, etc by bringing you on as a FTE. Tip #3: “Become a PM with a focus on advertising” I have a friend in Los Angeles who used to work at a large ad agency in town. He didn’t necessarily love being at an agency, but he did love the advertising elements of his job. Ipso facto, he marketed himself to large companies who needed global advertising experience (as a PM) and got hired at a Fortune 50 legacy software company to run their North America advertising division. What does this mean? He basically oversees all FTE/contractors/agencies that support advertising for HP. In english: he’s a boss-man director who does very little work but gets to lead advertising processes, strategy, needs and performance reviews by leveraging his ad agency experience. In Closing: What did I miss? There are surely other tips that I failed to mention in this story. Drop them into the comments section and I’ll make sure to pass them along to my...

How to Hang On to Your Most Talented, Rock Star Employees

By on Aug 27, 2014 | 0 comments

There is tons of research available to help companies craft employment opportunities that attract and retain the best-and-brightest in their field. This article will not be adding to the clutter. Instead, I wanted to share a personal experience about managing our talented (and growing) team here at MKG Media Group. My Number 1 Rule to Retaining Rock Star Employees: Specific Recognition A recent Society for Human Resource survey found that a major source of employee happiness comes from being recognized for all their hard work from the management team. Additionally, a story from Graham Winfrey on found that one of the top reasons rockstar employees are annoyed with their company is from a lack of recognition for their hard work. So why aren’t companies recognizing their team members more often? I won’t even begin to attempt to make a blanket statement for all companies across the globe, but I can share a few of my own personal struggles in recognizing the rockstars here at MKG: Eventually Superman becomes … Just a man: What I mean by this is that after you get used to your team doing amazing things, it almost makes it tough to recognize how awesome they are on a regular basis. It becomes the norm! Unfortunately, this means your brain only recognizes when a mistake is made and a discussion is needed, which is not a great practice for leaders to get into. Busy = Head Down: Sometimes I get so busy that I mentally recognize something amazing, yet don’t have the wherewithal to congratulate the team member Specificity and Recency is King: Expanding on my second issue, if I don’t give the feedback immediately and as specific as possible, it’s less likely that I will pass along the praise. Okay, okay: I’ll give my rockstars some love. But how do I avoid doing it the wrong way? There’s a great Forbes article that breaks this down into a few problems with type of feedback: Wrong Recognition: This is defined as recognizing team members in the wrong way. For example, praising shy team members who would prefer a private ‘good job for …’ by sending an all-office email and standing them up at the quarterly company meeting in the middle of their peers. Non-Specific Praise: While giving a ‘way to go!’ comment is nice, leaders need to be specific in the praise that they deliver. ‘Great job drawing up [specific example] for [example client]…’ is way better than ‘good job’. Recognition is a “Check the Box” Exercise: It’s almost become a boring routine for leaders — wake up, check email, say good job to ‘check off the box’ on your daily to-do list. Two examples from the team here at MKG: Our team is filled with creative marketers who never cease to amaze me. Every day I literally catch myself say ‘Wow! Now why didn’t I think of that…’ — it’s amazing! While we don’t have too many processes here, there are a few ways that we recognize our people for their accomplishments. Recognition Practice #1: Praise During Friday Stand Up Meetings Every single day the team stands up (physically) and we discuss what we are going to accomplish that day. Don’t mistake this for a long meeting: we literally speed through everyone’s day and anything that requires more than a 10 second conversation is scheduled as a meeting at a later time or date. On Friday’s, we take the opportunity to say what we are grateful for; this can be anything personal, professional or otherwise. That being said, often one of our team members will speak to a specific event that happened earlier in the week and thank a team member for their support.  This is a great way to recognize teammates accomplishments in a public setting and has worked out well for us over the past three years. Recognition Practice #2: Digital SWAG and Badges Earlier this summer, one of our teammates did something totally above and beyond their pay grade and everyone was blown away. Almost on cue, somebody created a fun little MKG ‘badge’ to recognize their hard work and posted it in HipChat, our group chat tool, and bragged on them. Immediately the following things happened: Everyone burst into laughter and jumped on a group Skype call to talk about how cool the badges were The team member who went above-and-beyond blushed and thanked everyone for their recognition We were left with something tangible for that teammate to recall their hard work The MKG badge resurfaced this week when our Content Strategist Adam Bullock completed something he’s been working on for the past few months:   Post by MKG Media Group.   Recognizing rockstar employees is critical to growing your company I’ve stated my case above about the benefits our team has seen with regular praise and recognition processes. What is your opinion about recognizing your team members?...

Establishing Values to Guide Personal and Business Decisions

By on Aug 25, 2014 | 0 comments

Let me tell y’all a little story … This week we met with two really exciting companies who found our work on the web and reached out to see if our agency could amplify their marketing efforts. One company was self-funded and is extremely profitable, boasting great margins and a really keen eye for where they wanted to expand within their market. The second company is a HOT startup based in Mountain View that has raised nearly 9-figures worth of venture funding and expanded into more than a dozen geographies in the past three years (talk about hockey stick growth!) … both of these companies told me the same thing … As we began our introductory conversations, both of the companies told me the same thing about our teams initial assessment of their products: “Wow, you’ve actually tried our service. Nobody else we’ve talked to yet has done that yet.” This statement absolutely blew me away: how could you pitch a business partnership without ever trying the prospects product or service? By simply signing up and trying their service, we got a first-hand view of the user experience. Not only that, taking a moment to sign up put us ahead of our competitors because we’ve actually used their product and came into the meeting speaking their language. … which made me really happy about one of our companies values … Our company has values; they help guide our decision making processes for both big and small decisions. The value that came into play this week was this: Never ask somebody to do something you haven’t tried yourself. It’s a value we’ve practiced for the past three years and read about constantly from entrepreneurs such as Neil Patel, and it’s served us well over the past week. Which leads me to ask … … what value(s) do you have? How have they served you well...

Negotiating Past a Speed Bump in a Business Deal

By on Aug 21, 2014 | 0 comments

This negotiating advice was given to me many moons ago (too many to count …) The first, and still to this day best, sales advice I ever heard was: “There are only 2 good answers in sales: ‘yes’ or ‘no’. ‘Maybe’ is a waste of your time.” If you’ve never heard this expression before, you may be experiencing the reaction I first had when I heard it: “What are you talking about? Maybe isn’t a no … so that’s good right?” Wrong. After working my tail off for the past three years starting MKG Media Group, I’ve learned how to break down the three answers you may receive: Yes is pretty self-explanatory; as in “yes, I’d like to give you a pile of money or valuables to perform XYZ…” No is a little bit more nuanced. No can be “no, not right now”, “not ever”, “not until you prove that you are better than your competitor at doing xyz” …. You get the picture. The list goes on. No is really just a great time for you to say “Thank you for your time, what was it that threw you off if it’s not too much to ask?” Maybe is a whole other beast; one that I have gotten to know (too) well over the past three years. If I were to sum up my top two ‘maybe’ experiences they would probably go something like: “Maybe if you reworked the numbers and then re-presented to my entire team a few more times” is the same as “we sort of like your ideas and are going to actively rip your creative thinking and execute this ourselves or literally hand it off to our existing supplier/vendor/partner/what-have-you” “Maybe you should talk to our colleagues in the other department” is the same as “we’re going to try and get them to buy this with their budget but we will totally use the product/service when they do” Why is maybe a huge problem? Because ‘maybe’ doesn’t get you close to a yes or a no; that is, a definitive answer. ‘Maybe’ results in you doing a bunch of extra work to try and get to a no or a yes. ‘Maybe’ often means you didn’t do a thorough enough job during the preparation (stage 1) and exchanging of information (stage 2) stages of the sales process (see chart below)   Last but not least, maybe is often used as a negotiation tactic: “Maybe we can move forward, pending you reducing price by x% …” or “…delivering the service faster” or (my favorite) “billing us on accrual for services rendered on a net 60 payment cycle” (in English: you have to do all the work and then wait 60 days to actually receive a dime). How do you get past ‘maybe’? By no means should you follow these ideas to a T — I’m just a normal guy like yourself and no rainmaker like Rick Robarge (or insert other stud sales guy/gal’s name here), but here are a few tricks that I’ve picked up over the years. Contract term length Payment schedule Deadlines & Ultimatums Contract Length I’ve experienced prospective clients asking our company to do more work for proposed costs/less money quite a few times. Oftentimes, these are clients who say things like “I’d love you to prove yourselves; if you can bring me $XYZ amount of revenue we’ll increase your budget no problem.” (side note: uhhh duhhhhh) In this scenario, I usually ask them to guarantee a certain length of the contract. I’ll use a line such as: We are happy to consider your request, but in return would you consider guaranteeing us 180 working days to hit our agreed-to success metrics? Notice how I didn’t agree to anything; it’s important in conversations or written communications never to agree to anything (I call this the Japanese ‘yes’, which I’ll write about in a different post). I’m simply asking that in return for considering this request, I’d like something in return. Payment Schedule Particularly for brand new clients, I’ll ask them to pay the first month of the contracted amount (or a larger portion, depending on the circumstances) entirely, 100% up front. What does this tell me? It shows our team that they are ready to invest in the proposed services and, quite frankly, gives me confidence that they are serious about their needs. Deadlines & Ultimatums Deadlines and ultimatums are helpful for a few different reasons: Deadlines inherently imply urgency; they force the hand of your negotiating partners timeline so that they get serious about making a decision *this lifetime* Ultimatums are great when price is a real sticking point; an ultimatum such as “what is the number you are willing to spend?” cuts through the clutter and tells you what they are willing to spend on a given product, service, etc. Once you have “their number” you can align the exchange accordingly on your side of the table. Those are just a few of my favorite tactics: What tips have you found helpful in the past to get from ‘maybe’ to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ during a negotiation?...

What Are You Shipping This Week?

By on Aug 19, 2014 | 2 comments

It’s opinion time … I was flipping through my Twitter feed when I saw Justin Jackson post this update: Start and ship something this week. — Justin Jackson (@mijustin) August 18, 2014   Which leads me to ask the question … If you had a banana gun to your head, what would you create and ship this week? Let the group know in our comments section below.