ISA’s “Preparing Sales to Sell a New Solution” Webinar

On January 31st, ISA’s Marketing & Sales Summit hosted a (virtual) standing-room only crowd for their webinar, “Preparing Sales to Sell a New Solution.” Matt Leary, Principal at Solutions Insights, and Dr. Peter Martin, VP at Invensys Operations Management, wow’d the crowd with practical advice and been-there-done-that examples.

Thank you to our speakers and also to the attendees. We received rave reviews during and after the session. As requested, we are making the slides and video available as follows:

Sales presentation slides

Sales presentation video


The 8th Annual ISA Marketing & Sales Summit is being held September 11-13, 2013. This year we’ll be at the gorgeous W Hotel in New Orleans. You’ll hear speakers like Matt and Peter on a wide range of marketing and sales topcis. Find out more at

We have a full schedule of webinars planned between now and September. The next ISA Marketing & Sales webinar is:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013, noon – 1pm eastern
“Do You Know Why Your Customers Do What They Do? Qualitative Research is Your Best Friend,” by Joy Ward. Details coming shortly.

Is Google Making Us Stupid? A Marketer’s View

This isn’t just an attention grabbing headline. Something’s going on with the way our brains work and it’s especially prevalent with the younger generation. Is Google making us stupid? it’s a great question first asked several years ago by tech author Nicholas Carr in The Atlantic. Now he’s got a whole series of books on the subject.

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

I can relate. And so can many people I’ve talked to about this. These days I find I’m much better at skimming. It takes more of an effort to go deep into a book or article. I don’t think that’s an age issue (I hope!) as much as a retraining of my brain issue. To be fair, it’s not just Google’s fault. There are many forces at work on our brains.

USA Today had a major impact on writing styles since it first appeared in 1982. Readers gravitated to their shorter articles, bullet points, and data-filled graphics (today they’re called “infographics.”) So we marketers started to get to the point faster in our writing and used bullet points…lots of bullet points. Unfortunately, USA Today may be at the end of its days thanks to the Internet.

The Internet’s effect on our brains is best exemplified by Google. Google’s value proposition is helping people find the right information, quickly and easily. As they improve their algorithms to track personal preferences and reduce search spammers, they’ve gotten pretty darn good at it. I can usually find what I need with a few quick searches. I just wish I knew what Google isn’t telling me anymore, now that they know me better. But I digress…

What does this have to do to our brain? Well, the more we use search engines (and the Internet), the more we improve our ability to skim short bits of data quickly…looking for that savory nugget that tells us we’ve found what we need. Then we click on a link, quickly skim the first paragraph or an image or a few bullet points on a web page or PDF doc, or we watch a couple seconds of a video and make a go/no go decision. Eventually we find what we need and start to read.

I spend most of my time marketing in the tech world, dealing with engineers and scientists and manufacturers. Marketing to us techies is different…we want more info, not less. But even that’s starting to change. The days of producing a 20 page white paper on a technology topic are long gone. No one has time to read it. So white papers are now 5 pages, max. Better yet, turn it into an interesting visual story and you’ll get a lot more people reading it. Try an infographic, like this one on Lean Manufacturing uploaded to Pinterest by Bishop Wisecarver.

Yesterday, I told my Entrepreneurial Selling class at WPI that it’s critical to be proactive — it’s better to be a trusted resource that helps the customer write the RFP than to be an after-thought that receives the RFP once someone else has influenced the specs.

Today’s customers have access to tons of information thanks to the Internet. But thanks to the Internet, they are better at skimming information than reading lengthy soliloquies. This has a direct impact on what we marketers produce for which portion of the buying cycle.
• Short, sweet, to-the-point ads and problem-solving pieces in order to get the customer’s attention in the early awareness-building stages. At this point, customers still may not be sure how they want to solve the problem they have.
• Tech articles, customer success stories, short white papers, and reviews as they move into the consideration phase.
• Access to trusted resources like your sales or business development teams BEFORE they start generating the RFP.
• Community forums and knowledge bases after they purchase to build loyalty.

Here’s a good visual from Lee Odden that shows examples of how marketing comms change over the course of the customer lifecycle:

Getting back to Nicholas Carr and “Is Google Making Us Stupid…” There is no doubt that those of us who use the Internet a fair amount are seeing a change in how our brains work. Our brains are “massively plastic,” constantly in flux and ever changing to our circumstances and behaviors. The more we do something, the more our brain will change in response. This is how people who lose one sense are able to compensate with another sense. It’s also how we develop habits. This neuroplasticity is one of the reasons Carr is concerned about the effects the Internet is having on us.

At what point do we all start showing signs of Attention Deficit Disorder?

Oh man, am I going to have to learn how to produce those mind-numbing TV ads that change scenes every second just to keep the viewer’s attention? This Mass Effect 3 video game trailer is a good example. Wait! Did you even get to the end of this post? 🙂

The Changing Nature of Sales & Selling

I have lots of friends who work in traditional sales roles. The interesting issue is that fewer and fewer have traditional sales titles. The ones that do — inside sales, telemarketing, field sales, sales rep, etc — have to work extra hard to overcome the bad vibes of the stereotype.

Daniel Pink, author of a great new book, To Sell is Human, surveyed people’s attitudes about sales and selling. The top 25 word cloud probably won’t surprise you. It reads like the description of, hmmm, maybe a used car salesman? (Apologies to my friends in vehicle sales 🙂

PUSHY – AGGRESSIVE – YUCK…In general, people find selling distasteful. Why? Because for as long as we can remember, sales has been about information asymmetry. The seller knows more about the product/service and, in many cases, takes advantage of that information to get a higher price out of the buyer. Pink calls it…caveat emptor — BUYER BEWARE!

But look around you. The 21st century is noted for its globally connected economy and abundant, accessible data. As of 2009, Google was processing over 24 Petabytes of data per day. That means the average buyer knows a heck of a lot more about what they are about to buy; in some cases, they know more than the seller. Pink has some great examples in his book.

So the days of dramatic information asymmetry are over. Pink says we’ve entered a new stage: caveat venditor — SELLER BEWARE! What does this mean for sales and selling? Not surprisingly, a number of companies are transitioning away from traditional sales organizations.

My favorite example is Factory Five Racing, a sports kit car company.

I met CEO Dave Smith recently and he talked about sales and marketing. He said the only thing he knows about marketing is a bit about the 4P’s of the marketing mix: product, price, place, promotion. (Good for him as that is the core of any good marketing program.) He also notes that he has never had a sales team. Yet here he is decades later, a successful company. What’s his secret?

Turns out, Factory Five has a huge sales team…they just don’t have sales titles. They have tech support and customer service and, most importantly, their customers are selling for them. Just check out the Factory Five discussion forum and all the customer likes and shares on their Facebook page.

There will always be a need for a selling function (sales and non-sales selling). In fact, Pink’s analysis shows that more people are selling than ever before. But today it’s about understanding your customers and helping them find the right product/service that will help them do their job.

I’m about to teach Entrepreneurial Selling at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. We’re going to talk business models and customer value propositions, the buying cycle and strategic selling. My how sales and selling have changed!

Being Grateful and Thank You!

Some may have heard by now that I am stepping down from my post at Telesian with my partner-in-crime, Shari Worthington.   I was offered a spectacular new position at a company in Rochester, New Hampshire, and I could not resist the opportunity to try something new.  For those who are curious, the company I am going to is eCoast Sales.  I will be their Vice President of Marketing starting Monday.

Over the past ten years, I have worked with Shari and we have done some amazing things together.   We have had many travel adventures, from lost wallets and hobbling around airports with crutches to finding every Starbucks known to man along our routes.   I’ve so enjoyed working for all of our clients at Telesian, each situation presenting its own opportunities to make a difference.   And it is all Shari’s fault that I’ve become so involved with ISA and became their Social Media Community Manager – another post I will surely miss.

The good news is….that I will remain involved with ISA as a volunteer leader so I will not completely disappear.  And, ISA has contracted for a new social media community manager starting December 1st, so there is more exciting news on the horizon there.   But I won’t divulge the official news until next week on the ISA Interchange…

Beyond saying goodbye, I wanted to share some final thoughts about what I’ve learned as ISA’s Social Media Community Manager:

    1. Social Media Shapes Your Brand Perception.  I’ve had so many conversations about social media, its value, and whether or not it will last as a viable method to communicate with customers.  So far, I have only seen evidence that this medium is here to stay, it has a huge impact, and needs to be taken seriously.All too often I have seen companies assign junior staff to be the face of their brand.  While social media is something many folks do personally and young generations do it quite well, performing this activity for a brand requires a higher level of  marketing expertise with brand positioning experience.   Why? Well, remember that whoever is doing this role is the face of your company to not just customers, but to all market influencers.  Behind every profile and status update is a person who could influence a buying decision or make one.  Should you assign that role without a lot of thought?And then there’s the fear factor.  Brands are afraid of brand backlash.  Many of the biggest mistakes made in social media are from either pure stupidity or a lack of response time from someone who can make a difference in an outcome.   So, again, what kind of person do you want in line of fire? A junior staff person who is not versed in handling crisis communications?  Or someone who can handle a social-something-gone-wrong?

      Just some food for thought.


    1. Having Customers Does Not Equal Having a Community .  Everyone is talking about building community.  I want to challenge companies out there – are you truly serious about building one?   Just because you have customers does not mean you have a community.  A well working community is self-supporting, self-correcting, and works from the outside in vs. the inside out.   And it takes time to build that kind of trust in a community that offers true collaboration and problem solving.  ISA is an example of a group working at developing a self-sustaining community, as well as Emerson and a few select others.   It’s important to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.  If you are unsure how to do it, take a look around at the companies who you think are doing a good job, and emulate their behaviors (as a starting point).  Then figure out what works for your audience and serve it up their way.


    1. Always be experimenting.  So much comes and goes in the half-life of a marketer, so it is essential to try out new marketing approaches to see what can work, what needs tweaking, and how to get the most out of the technology that is available.  Everything else outside of experimentation or proven methods are just conjecture at best.


    1. Know the right place for social media.  Can social media drive business?  Absolutely.  But is that the only role?  Heck no.  It actually plays a much bigger role in the dating process of buying vs. the final buy in the B2B space.  Perhaps in the consumer space it might lead to more direct purchase action based on offers.  B2B can get there, but in many cases, as brands are incorporating social media in their communication mix, it tends to be part of a “dating” process that builds trust over time, and allows a prospect to learn more about your company, the products, and the people.  Both customers and prospects need to feel a level of comfort before they invest with you.  Finally, social media plays a HUGE role in customer service, so be prepared for all sorts of questions about how to find information and connecting experts who can answer questions in a timely fashion <stressing this point>.


    1. Serving up Content:  It’s Really Not About You.  My final comment is that customers do not want a steady stream of information focused just on “you” – meaning your products, your events, your this, your that.  What you need to do is give them what THEY want, not what you think they want.  Go outside of your own walls to procure useful information from a market perspective.  And have fun, throw some humor in there too.  If you can make someone smile during their day, then that can never be a bad thing, right?   Nothing like a little positive brand building through good feelings and smiles.


Overall, being a social media community manager was a very enjoyable role for me. I really liked being the point person for the members of the community, and helping people navigate the answers they were looking for.  I feel so lucky to be able to experience that position and know how it can play a huge role in developing brand preference from a marketing perspective. And how it can eventually drive real business.  But that cannot be the only goal, because you are always dealing with people.  Behind every profile is a person who has issues, feelings, and their own problems.   Never ever forget that.  You will know that moment when you do.  And you will hear about it.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being part of my last ten years at Telesian.  It’s been a fun ride and I’m so grateful.  I encourage you to stay in touch.  Connect with me on LinkedIn if we have not already.   I’ll see my ISA friends at the next Spring Leadership Meeting.

I look forward to seeing what the next ten years has in store for me and for the marketing profession.  One thing I know for sure… I will need to buckle my seat belt because there are few dull moments!





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