‘Tis The Season To Be Campaigning

Selling into the US and International market from India the festival season starts in early November and carries on in fits and starts through till the middle of January – over a career in sales I was often conflicted by how to approach the holiday season. While this was a time of great personal joy I used to struggle with ideas to keep the sales effort going. The conventional wisdom is that no one takes any decisions then anyway and given the number of days off even when people were at work it would be a challenge to get any meaningful “face time” from any prospect. It is, of course, not possible to “give up” on this period given that many organizations finalize budgets for the upcoming year. The end of the year often coincides with the end of the Financial Year bringing with it all the attendant pressures of sales targets to meet.

Here are some ideas for campaigns that I have personally found to have a fair chance of working over this season:

  1. By far the most effective campaign that I believe could be run is to reach out to your own network. In most cases, the true extent of one’s network is larger than one imagines – what is needed is a systematic approach to reach out to them with a well-designed, targeted message. The fact that most people shy away from campaigns at this time works in favour of this tactic because it reduces the “noise”. The campaign objectives should, of course, be well calibrated to reflect the limitations of the period – don’t expect too many “hot” leads but aim to get in front of people and set yourself up for the busier period coming up.
  2. This may also be a good time to try and revive dormant contacts – people you have been in touch with in the past where the discussions have stalled. Reaching out to such contacts to catch-up, offer some new information or an update on where you and your company may be just the thing. This may not necessarily serve to revive specific sales opportunities but can definitely help revive relationships. In the long run, these could prove more profitable than a single sale.
  3. There’s perhaps some cosmic significance to the holiday season in the US starting with Thanksgiving – I would suggest this is pointing us towards a campaign to give thanks. There’s no time better than this to thank all the stakeholders – current and past customers, partners and associates and also employees. A simple, heartfelt message to give thanks to them for their support and reminding them that this support is extremely valued goes a long way to cement the relationship.
  4. One email campaign that I recommend to everyone is an end of the year campaign focused around “Seasons Greetings”. This is a wonderful platform to recap the significant achievements of your company over the year that has gone in a subtle, non-salesy manner – who could ask for more? Companies, their range of offerings and capabilities grow with time and sometimes this is not visible to everyone – current customers are more fixated on the immediate needs being serviced and old customers may still hold an image of you as you were “back in the day”. An end of the year email outlining the most recent events of importance could provide substantial evidence of this growth and help change this impression.

That’s the list of things that usually make it onto my own “To do” list for the holiday season – sometimes with good results. What do you think? How do you fill the time over the holiday season and what results do you get from these efforts? Oh and before you leave – please accept my best wishes for the holiday season wherever in the world you are!

Prospecting for Contact Gold

An ancient Chinese saying goes that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. While it is unlikely that Lau Tzu was thinking of Lead Generation when he said that in the best traditions of timeless wisdom it leaves us free to draw from it what we will. I look at this to mean that in the long sales process a considered first step is of critical importance to ensure success. Especially in B2B sales that first step being the creation of a prospect list of-course. Whether you call it a contact list, a prospect base or a database its quality will ultimately determine how effective your contact efforts are. You want a database populated with names, contact and all other relevant information of decision makers and other influencers from your target organisations and here are a few rich seams that can be mined for these nuggets of information.
1. Company Website: Once you have identified the organisation you wish to target, the first port of call is its website – obvious I know but you would be surprised how many “contact discovery” efforts ignore this basic first step. The “Management” tab on the website offers up a complete list of the officers for you to pick those most likely to be receptive to your specific message.
2. LinkedIn: The inevitable next place to look in this age of social selling. There’s been enough and more written about the search capabilities within LinkedIn – I will just add that I have found LinkedIn most valuable in seeking information about middle-level contacts and perhaps not always so when looking for the “C” level contacts. These mid-level managers are the people not usually represented on the company website or other such sources. The well-known capabilities of LinkedIn to search for an extended network of connections allows an almost organic growth in the contact list once the first few contacts are unearthed.
3. I have personally found events a great source to mine for contacts and information. The list of “speakers” has double value – not only can you get information about the speaker (name, title, role in the organisation) but also their specific area of expertise.
4. Company Publications: This is a great place to look for people in your target companies with very specific areas of interest. Given the emphasis on Content Marketing, most companies have an abundance of publications in the public domain like Papers, articles, technical papers & filings, blogs and the like and these will almost always be credited to specific individuals. If their area of expertise coincides with yours then an obvious match-making opportunity exists with a ready-made opening line to go with it.
5.  Other social media channels: In building a contact list LinkedIn is no. 1 to no. 10 in the top 10 social networks to consider but there are other channels also that can be useful on occasion most notably Twitter. Looking down the list of people who follow your target company’s official Twitter handle or are listed as contributors to the Twitter feed could throw up some names worth researching and adding to the contact database.
6. Something I have found useful sometimes is “News” from your target companies especially about things like product releases. Such news is often accompanied by quotes from the officers directly connected to the product line – useful from the point of view of being able to pin down a name as well as a likely area of interest.
While these are great places to look for names of decision makers in your target companies that’s just the first step (there’s that first step again) – there is a lot of good practice associated with keeping the database accurate, fresh, updated and, well alive but let’s leave that for another day. For now, let me end by asking what do you think of this list? Are there any other sources not listed here that you have mined productively while building a prospect list?