I never thought I’d feel sorry for a company with a $160 billion market value, but I’m really feeling sorry for Google. Increasingly I watch what they do and I cringe.
In February 2007, I wrote a post called, “Why Google Wins.” I shared: “They do not expose you to advertising or direct you to content (what’s in it for them) until the viewer has gotten something of value (the response to their search). They create value before they receive value in return– that’s a rule we should all live by.”
Back in 2007 Google was the poster child of innovation. Stories were written about how Google required employees to spend 20% of their time just creating new things and exploring new ideas. The result of these efforts – a company increasingly creating solutions where problems don’t exist, and a company struggling for relevancy.
- Google Voice
- Google Wave
- Google Plus One
What do these have in common? Lot’s of hype and no relevancy.
Now Google’s trying to come up with their next version of “the social network.” Here’s my question – why? Does this really play to Google’s strengths, or are they just trying to protect their turf?
Think about it – in 5 years Google has tripled their revenue and their stock has gone nowhere! With the most successful advertising business in history and the introduction of the second best (okay, I couldn’t help myself) mobile phone OS – their stock has performed just like the index.
Personally, I think they’re heading on a downward spiral. I think they’ve forgotten their highly successful formula.
What can the rest of us learn? When you stop focusing maniacally on creating value – you lose plot, and tough times won’t be far away.
Last week I wrote about how the counter-intuitive idea is often the right one. Yesterday I read one of my favorite bloggers share was of the best counter-intuitive sales thoughts: The best sales leads are people who are already happy working with someone.
Anthony Iannarino, author of The Sales Blog, shared this thoughts:
- You don’t want leads who are easy to get in.
- You don’t want leads who aren’t loyal.
- The best leads always have a partner.
- The best leads are hard to penetrate.
He advises that you play The Long Game.
“The long game means nurturing and developing relationships with the most difficult leads you have been given over a long period of time. It requires that you continually call and continually find ways to create value. You have to pay for your dream client in advance of winning their business, and that means you have to be waiting in the wings—and they have to know it.”
While I don’t fully agree with his third point, I completely agree with his conclusion.
Look, selling is hard work. It’s why the best get paid so much to do it. It’s why CEOs everywhere long for a salesperson who can “get the job done.”
Somewhere along the way, maybe in the late 90s and late 00′s, when the fish were jumping out of the water and there was more than enough fake growth for everyone, salespeople started thinking that sales was supposed to be easy. More often than ever I’m seeing salespeople turn away at the first sign of resistance,
Let’s not forget, a salesperson’s job is to sell. Selling doesn’t mean pushing or peddling. It means constantly:
If you want fast growth (and big commission checks) the long game is the only game in town.
One of the things that I love about competitive sports is the ability to measure success. Wins and losses…Hits…Errors…Goals scored…Goals given up…Averages…and on and on.
Those are the obvious ones. If you’ve ever read the book Moneyball you know that the obvious numbers aren’t always the best measurements. Too often numbers like hits, runs or home runs measure correlation with success rather than causes.
Anyone who’s spent any time analyzing the sales function quickly makes connections to the sports world. We talk about wins, home runs etc. But, how often do you really think about the value – the true value – your salespeople are creating for you? Last year I wrote about an idea I called salesperson alpha. Recently I’ve been thinking about another number.
In baseball (any surprise I’m referring to baseball Beth?) they use a measurement called wins over replacement(WAR). WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?” More and more, WAR is being used as a key measurement when negotiating player contracts. And you’d may be surprised by some of the big names that have low numbers, and some anonymous names that have high numbers.
How often do you ask the question, “If I were to replace my current salesperson with someone else – would I lose anything?” Or, “What would I lose if I replaced an existing salesperson with someone paid less?” My experience (since been backed by a study conducted for Harvard Business Review) is that most companies wouldn’t lose much.
This is NOT an argument to pay salespeople less. Quite the contrary, I think one of the major obstacles small and mid-market companies have in growing their business is that they underfund their sales function, and, as a result, get salespeople that don’t drive real results and end up commoditizing themselves.
This IS an argument for maniacally assessing your people and acting upon those assessments. We all need to take advice from Netflix’s management philosophy:
Last weekend, while coaching my son’s baseball team, one of our pitchers asked me about some of my coaching advice to him. I had been advising him that he needed to slow his body down to maintain more control and pitch better.
He listened and went on to pitch his best game of the year. After the game, he asked me if the speed of his pitches stayed up when he slowed down. I told him that not only did he maintain his speed, he actually increased it. His response, “Huh. Weird.”
It’s counter-intuitive to think that if I slow myself down, the result will speed up. It’s one of the things that makes pitching so hard.
I’ve learned that, most often, counter-intuitive is the key to success.
- Want to speed up the sales cycle? Don’t go to the close it too fast.
- Want to increase your sales? Focus less on “selling.”
- Want people to think you are the best? Don’t talk about yourself.
- Want more control? Delegate more.
What are some of the counter-intuitive lessons that you’ve learned?
In bowling, if you want a strike you don’t focus on all ten pins; you focus on only one or two.
In business, if you want growth there is much to be learned from The Bowling Alley.
It is way too difficult for any company – and especially small and mid-market companies – to try to be a whole bunch of things to a whole bunch of people. While this is, in essence, the approach that 90%+ of businesses take; it results in a commoditized message, a failure to resonate and a life lived in The Commoditization Trap.
It is far more effective to isolate your message, your sales approach and your execution of those few things that make you indispensable to your core customers. This enables you to stand out, as you stake the ground of BEST. This approach allows you to allocate the necessary resources – time, money, energy – to the limited opportunities that provide the opportunity for disproportionate rewards.
Figuring out where can you be the best, and who can serve the best is what I call defining your Headpin Market™.
The beauty of this approach is, like a set of bowling pins, when you succeed in your Headpin Market, it builds the momentum allowing you to succeed in other markets and growth scales as a result.
So take the time now and define your Headpin Market:
- Who are they?
- What do they do?
- What are they trying to accomplish?
- What do they worry about?
- Why are you indispensable to them?
When your Headpin Market is clear, growing a business becomes much simpler.
- Hey, let send out a email blast.
- Let’s host a webinar.
- Why don’t we open a Twitter account?
All three tactics work – they just don’t work as one-offs.
The new world of communication provides tremendous opportunities for small and mid-market companies to connect, engage and influence. It can be the great marketing equalizer; allowing SME’s to share their knowledge and demonstrate their capabilities – toe to toe with larger companies. For me personally, it has been instrumental to allowing Imagine to grow, creating millions of dollars of documented benefit for me.
That said, it only works as part of a coordinated effort. The value of a single blog post, article, newsletter or webinar is virtually nil. The value of each increases as the number increases. It creates a network effect.
The goal is to:
Get rid of the campaign mindset. Sending out one email won’t make selling easier. Hosting your first webinar won’t fill your funnel. Letting people know you’re at booth 132 won’t make the trade show successful.
Doing all of them – constantly and consistently – will allow people to understand:
- Who you are.
- What you do.
- What you matter.
Send out that email. Host that webinar. Just don’t lose excitement if the first one (or five) don’t live up to your expectations.