CEO Conference Concepts Debrief: Creating Demand in 2021

December’s CEO Conference set out to answer the following question: “As a leader in my organization, what can I do and what can I have my company do to gain or reclaim our ability to win business next year?”

This conference focused on empowering leaders and sales teams to generate demand through a few simple concepts that we’ve observed and tested throughout our years as sales & marketing advisors.

 

Concept: Change Your People, Places, or Things

One of the key steps for turning around your revenue trends is to stop playing a losing game. If what you are doing is producing results, great. If it’s not, it’s not time to bite down and keep swinging. It’s time to change the way that you play the game. Focus on changing your people, places, and things.

As sales and marketing experts, we’ll only comment on this in the capacity that it relates to sales. But we’ve progressed to a civilization so advanced that we can change people, places, or things around us and our business if they aren’t working for us. Don’t be afraid to mix it up in 2021.

 

Let’s start with people.

One of the most common things we hear right now is “our target market isn’t receptive to us… they aren’t responding… they won’t listen.” As a leader, it’s easy to say “you just have to keep trying. Get them on the line.”

And if you were to say that, you are right to a degree. Human beings are always looking for the next move that will benefit them. Your target market isn’t asleep. They’re more wide-awake than ever during the survival state that this pandemic has created. But you have a hard-working sales team and they wouldn’t be purposefully self-sabotaging their quota progress and company revenue– so let’s assume that the people they are targeting today just are not receptive. Change them.

When changing who you are targeting, you have a couple of choices.

You can change the industries you are targeting if that’s feasible for you. We recommend conducting an opensource investigation on the PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental) factors of each industry you are considering before committing marketing and sales budget and attention on a new course of direction.

You can change the geographies you are targeting if that’s feasible for you. Again, make sure to conduct an investigation to determine if the states or countries you are theorizing working with contain/follow indicators that would make it more likely that they are attempting to achieve the outcome that your product/service delivers.

You can change the companies you are targeting (or focus more heavily on companies that you aren’t today) if you compete in a landscape that has more organizations you aren’t currently targeting today. Make sure to conduct an investigation on the firmographic variables you are considering as the defining criteria of your new market.

Chances are you’ve already made changes like these, or at least considered them. So before going so deep into your alterations and launching a new market plan, we recommend at the very least changing the decision-maker that you are targeting.

 

Choosing a New Decision-Maker to Target

When changing the decision-maker, you only have a few options. You can target somebody at a lower-level than you are today that you theorize may be the technical, hands-on user for the offering you provide. You can target somebody that is at the same level as the person you are targeting today. Or, and this is what we highly recommend, you can target somebody at a higher-level than you are today.

We recommend targeting higher because in times where there is more budget scrutiny, tension over strategic direction, and where incorrect decisions are much more costly – a higher-level person in the company will have the power and responsibility to make strategic sourcing decisions.

Here’s another note on that – don’t just target one-level higher, experiment with targeting many levels higher. Let's say you sell a prospecting technology that would make the prospecting portion of a salesperson’s job more efficient – it’s likely most companies would start their sales cycle with a targeted sales manager. But in 2020 sales managers weren’t making purchase decision so you’ve read this article and are deciding to give the VP of sales a shot. It’s a fair thought – the VP of sales has revenue responsibility and your product is designed to aid with revenue production. But why not go right to the top? Why not go right to the President/CEO who is 100% responsibility for the company’s revenue and profitability? That’s what we’d like you to do in 2021. Instill the directive and courage for your team to target right at the top.

Don’t hold yourself back from higher-level targeting because you think that you can’t get the attention of these people. They are paid to study what’s happening outside their firms and make insightful decisions for furthering the corporation. They will listen to what you have to say if you reach out correctly. And how do you do that?

How do we reach out to someone so important like a president or CEO? We’ll discuss this later in this article.

 

What should we talk about to Decision-Makers?

When targeting higher-level stakeholders in an organization, your company should use higher-level messaging. If you don’t, you’ll get ignored or routed down to someone in the company that doesn’t have the authority to make a decision and isn’t trusted with the strategic vision in times of uncertainty.

So, what should you change your messaging to be about? That’s simple. You change it to be all about the people you are talking to and the things they care about.

Business Outcomes vs TCO

High-level decision makers that can make a purchase care about improving their organization’s business outcomes and reducing its total cost of operations. Take a look at what we define as a business outcome:

  • Increase Customer Acquisition
  • Improve Customer Retention
  • Topline Revenue Growth
  • Improve Cashflow
  • Improve Operational Velocity
  • Profitability GP/Bottom Line
  • Meet Diversity Requirements
  • Environmental & Social Compliance
  • Improve Transferable Value
  • Focus on Core / Outsource Non-Core

 

Now take a look at what we refer to as total costs:

  • Acquisition Costs
  • Facilities Costs
  • Labor Costs
  • Operational Costs
  • Maintenance Costs
  • Replacement Costs
  • Reduce Operational Risk: Customer, Employee and Occupant Safety
  • TCO Reduction Approaches – Reuse, Minimization & Standardization

 

A business objective is not “three reasons why you are better than XYZ competitor”. It’s certainly not a networking call. Yet this is still what sales teams structure their outreach around. They often forget that they are promoting & selling a desired end-state, and instead attempt to push their product.

 

What should my organization say to a decision-maker?

Luckily, we are in a virtual selling environment that sanctions digital communications more than surprise face-to-face visits, so you sales team will have ample preparation time to decide how to reach out to a decision-maker and what they should say. Go ahead and give this one to your team to try out.

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Decision-maker name,

I work exclusively with leaders in the _______ industry to improve _______ (business outcome) results by providing _______ (brief description of offering)

In many situations this can be accomplished within a _______ timeframe.

If you are focusing on this now or in the near future, I would like to talk with you about:

  1. If it’s possible to achieve business results within your specific environment
  2. An estimation of potential results and the unintended risks
  3. If we are the right fit for your organization

I hope to have the opportunity to meet and learn more about you. To learn more about me on LinkedIn, please visit my page: (your LinkedIn URL)

You can call me, text, email or schedule a meeting using my calendar link: (insert calendar scheduling link)

 

Sincerely,

Your Name and Company

Your Email

Your Phone Number

 

How Should I Reach Out to a Decision-Maker?

Remember when we said that you could change the way that you reach out to a decision-maker if the way you were in 2020 was not working? Now we are going to get into how.

We often get the question of “What’s better – an email, LinkedIn message, phone call, etc.”

The simple answer is they all work. They all work, and they all don’t work. So, we have to use them all.

Servicing and Uncovering Existing Demand through Prospecting

 

The graphic above refers to the outreach approach (channels and cadence) you should deplore when initially reaching out to your targeted stakeholder. It encompasses an intensive approach for gaining the attention of your recipient which contains 26 unique touchpoints across email, LinkedIn, phone, and direct mail. After the introductory messages, these communications should contain your recommendations for their achievement of positive business outcomes and reduction of costs and disruptions. Recipients that have an immediate problem or goal will respond to you during this time – that’s why we call it servicing existing demand. These people already have a need for your service and your outreach simply uncovers that need.

Creating Demand through Prospecting

 

This graphic refers to the approach (channels and cadence) you should deplore when continuously reaching out to your targeted stakeholder. It encompasses a consistent approach for staying in front of your recipient with 28 touchpoints every year. These communications should contain your recommendations for improving their business results and reducing their total costs. You should include marketing resources such as ebook and whitepapers, and your reflections on relevant trends in your industry. This approach is designed to slowly turn those that initially didn’t need your product/service into customers – which is why we call it creating demand. This is the approach for total market domination as you are educating prospects and capturing their attention prior to their search for a provider. This approach ensures that once you’ve identified a right-fit prospect that you never concede your pursuit of them.

 

When They Answer - Focus on the Positive

Who’s ever heard of The Change Curve? It’s a model developed by Kubler-Ross and is a framework that describes the emotional journey somebody experiences when faced with change and transition.

The model states that when the individual is met with new information, they experience a shock or awakening that triggers their survival instinct. From there, an individual will experience negative emotions such as denial, anger, and depression before they begin experiencing the positive internal processes of acceptance and change. Many salespeople are trained to perform like-processes on their prospects by “probing for pain”.

After years of looking at this, we’ve realized that all probing for pain does is make the prospect feel like they are having a 50+ year old sales process rammed down their throat. Salespeople don’t get the the time and respect from prospects because they don’t want to tell a stranger about the “things that keep them up at night.” In reality, all this probing does is make the sales cycle stretch longer and reach indecision.

If you focus on the positive with your client and are focused on helping them improve their position, you will find that client leaders are more likely to talk with you and take action timely. By focusing on catching your prospecting doing something right and offering ways for further improvement and cementation of their progress, you become a positive in their corporate life instead of a negative. In today’s environment where depression, anxiety, and other negative emotions have progressed well beyond our historic averages – leaders want somebody that’s going to help them move up and forward rather than reminiscing about past/present failures.

 

Last Tip: Think Positive

You’d be amazed to learn how often we end up manifesting our own beliefs about ourselves, others, and the outside world into our words and actions even when we don’t intend to. In our B2B consultative selling class, we have all attendees take the Objective Management Group sales assessment to measure the beliefs that the participant has about elements that would affect how they sell. We then work with them to identify ones that are unnecessarily negative and change their thinking so they can present to the prospect effectively.

The same concept applies when you are leading your team. Do your best to think positive about them, your offerings, your customers, the market, etc. Yes, there is always going to be negativity and risk in the modern business environment, but that does not mean that we should allow it to reduce our ability to strive for and pursue new ways of winning and prospering.

Market domination is a long-term game that stems from the belief that you can get there. It stems from the belief that you have a highly-competitive product in your marketplace and that you are the best positioned to help your target market improve their business performance. Though it may take time for your marketplace to realize you are the leader – don’t ever let it faulter you. It’s 2021. We just got done with tightening up and holding on through the pandemic. Now it’s time to experiment. Take some risks, think positively, and accept whatever is handed back to you.

Best of luck in your new year and if you ever need help or an extra set of eyes to ensure your marketing and sales progresses successfully – we’ll always be here.