Monday, December 21, 2009

Open for Business or Hoping for Business?

The leading indicators are encouraging – FedEx Corp recently reported higher shipping volumes and raised its earnings forecast. Oracle announced both higher top and bottom line results for its most recent quarter. Corporate IT buyers are once again starting to talk about strategic initiatives rather than cost cutting. Marketing organizations are spending left-over year-end dollars and sales organizations are once again hiring new sales people.

2010 is promising to be a challenging year even as the economy slowly improves. Few analysts are expecting a return to robust growth anytime soon; those organizations that wait for calm waters and steady winds in this market will find themselves left on the beach.

The winners in 2010 will continue to hone their market definition, development and selling processes. Market leaders are:

  • Defining markets more narrowly
  • Prioritizing opportunities more systematically
  • Building deeper intelligence about individual organizations
  • Targeting marketing and sales assets more precisely
  • Analyzing the interim and final results more carefully

Measure What You Manage

The net effect of this work is two-fold. First, these organizations are finding higher ROI on their marketing and sales investments. While not all investments provide equal and high returns, the increased inspection of the process and results provides better and faster opportunities to modify and improve. Secondly, the organizations conducting this level of analysis and management are outdistancing their peers. Simply put, the right sales resource delivering the right sales conversation to the right prospect at the right time is vastly more compelling than a rep reading from a script or dragging a prospect through the corporate presentation.

As a buyer, which would you prefer – a sales person who talks about your purchase in the context of your use case or one who assumes that his or her product is right for you just because of your physical proximity?

We’ve all been there – we’ve been in both buying and selling situations in which everybody clicks and the process goes smoothly and quickly to the benefit of both parties. We’ve also suffered through situations in which it’s clear to almost everybody that the conversation is going nowhere.

Some marketing and sales executives have told me that they have chosen not to undertake this work because the underlying data is not available or that the process development and management appears difficult. They’re partially correct – the data is not easily available and the work is hard. This is what separates the leaders from everyone else. The leaders have chosen to take on this work and they are already enjoying the results.

Approximately a dozen technology companies have deeply invested in this work. Another couple of dozen are in some stage of investigation and implementation. These companies will be rewarded with higher top line revenue growth, profitability and customer satisfaction.

What Will be Different?

I’ll leave you with a challenge – what will you do to improve the efficacy of your marketing and sales activities in 2010? Do you still believe that what you did in 2008 and 2009 will work in 2010? What are you willing to do differently in 2010 to improve your results?