I had a laugh regarding a web inquiry one of my customers received recently.  The inquiry was the first one the company had received “in 8 months.”  When the salesperson emailed the contact to set up a call, the contact said he was a victim of identity theft and had not submitted the inquiry.

You know, some days just go that way.

If you are not familiar with poker parlance, a tell is a subtle but detectable change in a player’s appearance, movement or expression.  In essence, it is a clue as to the strength of the cards they are holding.  Poker players are masters of reading body language and movement for these signs.  I find this information fascinating in the context of hiring.  When is a candidate lying?  What signs can you read to know when they are stretching the truth?

I’ve seen a new tell that I think has legs – marketing approaches of decision makers.  Here is where this thought developed; the top executive at one of our customers is dabbling in the marketing plan for his company and has reworked the marketing message.

This executive is…well, cheap.  His revenue is down and he wants to role out new services.  This company is woefully inept on the marketing side so they have no market data or feedback.  In essence, they are marketing in a vacuum.  So this executive designs his new offering based solely on price.  No understanding of the price point in the market, no understanding of their differentiating value, no understanding of the market demand – a total shot in the dark.

Unfortunately, this is the second time he has made a move like this in the past 6 months.  The first one was an absolute failure – it literally generated no revenue.  Now he is back with a lower offering.  I’m afraid the results will be the same.

The tell here is that he is cheap so his automatic assumption is that the market is price-driven (i.e. cheap).  I’m no expert in that market, but price has not garnered any success recently, if ever.  However, you cannot contribute to this executive.  He is convinced it is a pricing issue.

My thought is that a person’s first move in an unverified/undefined/unknown market is to assuage their own style hence the “tell.”  Watch their decision making and see where they move first.  This approach will reveal their hidden weaknesses.

I picked up a business card this week from a business associate that had this tagline on it:

Were Quality Is #1

Absolutely not kidding.

There is an elegance to simplicity that often gets belittled, mocked or dismissed.  That condescension can blind one’s eyes to an cost-effective marketing campaign.  I give you Google Video from Germany (via SalesHQ.com):


I love the simplicity of the entire clever campaign.

Ask any salesperson and they will likely tell you that good leads are the most important aspect of successful selling.  I’ve worked for companies at all different levels on this topic – from absolute garbage leads (the company thought they were good) to golden leads (that were often ignored!).  The golden leads are money if you have salespeople who can effectively qualify.

To that point, Miller-Heiman has released their annual Sales Best Practices Study (h/t Managesmarter.com).  One of their many interesting findings:

Organizations in which sales and marketing are aligned
regarding their target market, customer profile, and lead
definitions are in a much stronger position to produce
quality leads. Maintaining a consistent and highly visible
process to qualify opportunities will be critical in the
coming year when resource allocation will be highly
We found that a company’s ideal customer profile will
likely change as market conditions change. New criteria
may emerge or current criteria can increase in importance.
Strong sales and marketing alignment supports lead
quality by preventing marketing from focusing on targets
that are no longer a priority.

Many truths in that small excerpt.  Clearly companies will be hunting smaller deals in order to keep revenue flowing.  This economy can dry up revenue streams in a matter of weeks so constantly turning over rocks and looking for any deal will be critical.

As they say, read the entire thing.

…of the past 30 years is a topic I posted on last week.  The top 30 list was unveiled this week.  Here is the video link to the story regarding the top technical innovations.  And here is the overall list:

30. Anti retroviral treatment for AIDS

29. SRAM flash

28. Stents

27. ATMs

26. Bar codes and scanners

25. Bio fuels

24. Genetically modified plants

23. RFID and applications (e.g. EZpass)

22. Digital photography/videography

21. Graphic user interface (GUI)

20. Social networking via internet

19. Large scale wind turbines

18. Photovoltaic Solar Energy

17. Microfinance

16. Media file compression (e.g., jpeg, mpeg, mp3)

15. Online shopping/ecommerce/auctions (e.g., eBay)

14. GPS Systems

13. Liquid Crystal Displays

12. Light emitting diodes (first real devices in 1960s; in products in mid-70s)

11. Open source software and services (e.g., Linux, Wikipedia)

10. Non-invasive laser/robotic surgery (laparoscopy)

9.  Office software (Spreadsheets, word processors)

8.  Fiber optics

7.  Microprocessors

6.  Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

5.  DNA testing and sequencing/Human genome mapping

4.  E-mail

3.  Mobile phones

2.  PC/laptop

1.  Internet/broadband/WWW (browser and HTML)

Ok, the push here for alternative energy is a stretch in my opinion.  Bio fuels?  Please!  I live in an ethanol state (MN) and I can tell you that it is an inefficient waste of food.  That shouldn’t be anywhere near this list.  Wind turbines and solar power?  No, not top 30 material.

However, I will agree completely with the top 10.  That is a solid list.

It is a travel day for me – back to the cold of Minnesota – so may I suggest a thought-provoking article from the Killian BrandAid email newsletter?  Finability:  Catch The Fourth Wave is a must read.  First a taste:

Buyers, not sellers, control all transactions.

That’s a sweeping generalization, but let’s sweep together: Your prospects feel entitled to do their own research, given that they believe they have the information resources to find you (and, of course, find your competitors). Since a brand’s first duty is visibility, it’s essential that every organization with competitors (let’s spell that out: You) must engage in findability engineering. Your future depends on it.

Provocative, don’t you think?  The gist of the article involves branding as you might expect, but it is an excellent read on the fundamental change that has occurred recently in the business world.  Salespeople need to have a general understanding of this sea-change.

We receive many media alerts at Select Metrix, but this one caught my eye.  PBS’ Nightly Business Report is airing the 30 Most Important Innovations from the Last 30 Years.  Here is their description:

In 1979, the first spreadsheet software was introduced, Sony rolled out the Walkman, ESPN began broadcasting sporting events to cable TV companies, and on public television, Nightly Business Report made its debut.  To celebrate their three decades on the air, PBS’ Nightly Business Report has teamed up with Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, to select the 30 most important innovations from the last 30 years.

The criteria upon which the innovations were judged:

1.  Did it have a direct and/or material effect on quality of life?

2.  Did it address a compelling need?  Did it solve a compelling problem?

3.  Was it a fresh, new breakthrough?   Was there a “WOW” factor?

4.  Did it change the way business is conducted?

5.  Did it increase the efficiency of how resources are used?

6.  Did it spark an ongoing stream of new innovations on top of the original innovation?

7.  Did it lead to the creation of a vast, new industry?

The first spreadsheet was introduced in 1979?  I was going to vote for Microsoft Windows, but now I suspect that may have existed in some early form before 1979.  The list will be revealed tonight in a special 30 min. program and I already have my TiVo set to record it.

Was there a cell phone in 1979?  I can’t remember.

Here is an interesting post from one of Inc.com’s blogs.  This one discusses the importance of a company’s name for branding purposes.  The short post contains something simple, but profound:

In fact, only one of the 12 — Jeff Taylor, founder of Monster.com — felt the name he selected was indispensable and key to branding his company. Surprisingly, not even Starbuck’s co-founder Jerry Baldwin felt the name was essential.

Some of the other business leaders I consulted with — such as Ben & Jerry’s Homemade founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cosmetics expert Bobbi Brown, Wally “Famous” Amos, Kate Spade, and David Oreck — named their companies in part or entirely after themselves. While this group felt it helped bring brand accountability and provide some level of differentiation, they did not believe the company name was essential in creating the brand. They unanimously agreed the best way to build a powerful brand identity is to offer unmatched quality, exceptional service, and consumer-centric products or services that focus on their customers’ needs and wants.

Isn’t this the mantra of sales?  I have worked for many companies where we tried to push this point through to marketing with little success.  The meetings continued and the brainstorming reached a fever pitch as they attempted to select the “right” name for a new product.

Sometimes it is as simple as listening to the customer and delivering what you promise.